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Citi and Amazon.com in rewards program partnership

A box from Amazon.com is pictured on the porch of a house in Golden, Colorado July 23, 2008. Financial services company Citigroup said on Wednesday it had teamed its customer loyalty program with Amazon.com in what an executive said was the largest-ever rewards program. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Financial services company Citigroup Inc C.N said on Wednesday it had teamed its customer loyalty program with global online retailer Amazon.com Inc AMZN.O in what an executive said was the largest-ever rewards program.

The partnership gives 13 million Citi card members who use a variety of Citi cards the ability to shop online at Amazon, the Seattle-based Internet retailer offering a broad range of merchandise.

The program, which also allows members to accrue points by booking travel on Expedia or using Smith Barney debit cards, is part of a long-term strategy to inspire loyalty by providing more rewards selection and better customer service, said Nancy Gordon, executive vice president of Citi’s rewards program, called ThankYou Network.

“Compared to a lot of other programs, it’s like rewards on steroids,” said Gordon.

The stakes are higher for credit card issuers now that consumers are increasingly choosing cash over credit in the midst of the global credit crunch.

At the same time, rising credit card defaults have spurred more stringent lending practices and spending limits on credit cards, which are key profit centers for banks.

Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Gary Hill

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