The journey toward a truly cashless economy might be best envisioned as the laying of thousands of individual bricks to create a complete path, and Walgreens and Apple Pay have just laid a major building block of mobile payments.
Walgreens announced Thursday (Nov. 5) that it had integrated its Walgreens Balance Rewards program into Apple Pay, allowing customers to earn rewards without remembering to swipe a cumbersome card at checkout. Sona Chawla, president of digital and chief marketing officer at Walgreens, explained that the move is entirely focused on making the process of earning and checking on rewards less burdensome for consumers.
“We’re excited to be the first to provide our customers with increased ease of access to their Balance Rewards account and information when using Apple Pay,” Chawla said. “This offering supports our commitment to removing friction and enabling a simple and convenient customer experience.”
9 To 5 Mac explained that this makes Walgreens the first retailer to fully integrate a rewards program into normal Apple Pay functionality. While other merchants have made use of Apple Pay’s QR scanning of rewards cards as a stopgap solution, the release of iOS 9 added NFC capability to rewards cards, so customers simply have to link their Walgreens accounts with their Apple Pay profiles and tap away. Most Apple devices, including the new line of iPhones and the Apple Watch, will work with Walgreens’ integrated rewards program.
The news should not come as a complete surprise, as rumors were swirling days ago when some Walgreens customers found they could suddenly add their rewards cards directly through the retailer’s app. With the official announcement, though, all iOS users among Walgreens’ 85 million Balance Rewards members will now be able to pay and earn savings all without so much as reaching for a physical card.
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