SAN FRANCISCO Zynga Inc., the social games publisher, has reached a partnership agreement with American Express to issue a prepaid debit card that could be used to redeem virtual credits, the two companies said.
The partnership will help increase use of American Express' digital payments platform Serve as the credit card issuer competes with online gateway Paypal, a unit of eBay Inc, which is pushing to process transactions by mobile phones.
Zynga, whose shares have fallen as user numbers for its most popular games decline, aims to boost the profile of its partnership programs with major companies and also to retain users, who will be rewarded with in-game credits for swiping the American Express card.
"This is the first rewards program for a pre-paid card, and Zynga and American Express have the opportunity to bring value to Zynga players, while connecting and expanding American Express' customer base," Jeff Karp, Zynga's chief marketing and revenue officer, told Reuters.
The two companies declined to disclose financial details of the partnership.
Beginning this week, cardholders who make purchases exceeding $25 will collect "Farm Cash," the currency used to purchase virtual goods within Zynga's FarmVille game.
Zynga said it will roll out similar rewards for its CastleVille and CityVille in the coming months.
"This enables us for the first time, in a fully integrated fashion, to link everyday spend that you would do online or offline to in-game virtual currency rewards and special offers," said Daniel Schulman, group president of enterprise growth at American Express.
In the future, Schulman said, the program will be expanded so Zynga players can receive real-life discounts for in-game activity.
Zynga shares have shed almost half its value since April 1 amid investor doubts over whether the company can sustain its revenue growth.
The company's stock has been battered especially in recent days, as Facebook's poorly received initial public offering has tainted some Internet stocks.
Zynga shares closed down 1 percent on Monday at $7.09.
(Reporting by Gerry Shih; Editing by Ryan Woo)