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Farmville Prepaid Card Lets You Harvest Virtual Rewards

Marcia Frellick

May 29, 2012

Tired of rewards cards that offer only the predictable miles, cash, luggage or hotels? How about one that pays you in virtual livestock?
Well, sort of. American Express and social games giant Zynga teamed up to offer a prepaid debit card that lets users earn virtual dollars for the online game FarmVille every time they make purchases with AmEx in the real world.

FarmVille is the social network sensation with more than 22 million active monthly players, according to Adweek, who accumulate cows, pigs and sheep, develop crops and sell the produce at market, plow fields to earn farm coins and trade chickens and trees with their friends.

The partnership is strategic for both companies. American Express gets access to a younger demographic with lower incomes than the company usually attracts. That’s also the segment the company is going after with its Campus Edition Prepaid Card launched earlier this month. It also requires customers to get acquainted with its payment method called Serve, which debuted last year to better compete with PayPal.

For Zynga, the advantage comes in getting much-needed revenue from AmEx and linking itself to the megabrand.

Here’s how the new American Express rewards system works: FarmVille players plant an interactive Serve Money Tree which will let them advance in the game and earn Zynga Farm Cash. Once players plant the tree, they are prompted to register for the prepaid card. Once they get the card in the mail, they can add money to the Serve account through a bank account or credit card or by using a Green Dot MoneyPak.

Cardholders get virtual cash they can spend in the game when they activate the card, when they make purchases of a certain amount and when they transfer money onto the card.

There are some doses of reality amid this virtual fun. FarmVille fans will get a real-world slap if they use the prepaid card to get cash from an ATM. The first withdrawal each month is free, but after that it’s $2 per withdrawal.

This isn’t the first time a credit card company has cross-pollinated with FarmVille. Discover and Capital One have linked up with the game for promotions as well. Currently FarmVille is the only game linked to the prepaid card — but stand by. Zynga says it plans to expand the rewards program to “CastleVille” and “CityVille.”