Walgreens Taps into NFC Loyalty for Android Pay
Walgreens on Aug. 22 became the first retailer to enable customers to earn loyalty points via NFC tap with Android Pay. The pharmacy and convenience giant’s Balance Rewards members now can load their rewards card onto Android Pay and hold their phone near the PIN pad to earn points when making a purchase. Users then tap again to pay via Android Pay—or pay using another method. Previously, Balance members had to show the physical rewards card or have the cashier scan the card from a smartphone. The new process still requires two steps, but offering loyalty points via tap speeds the process, Walgreens said.
The loyalty integration with Android Pay is the latest in a series of pioneering mobile payments initiatives by Walgreens, which in November 2015 announced a similar deal with Apple Pay, becoming the first retailer to offer NFC loyalty integration with that service. Android Pay and Apple Pay both enable users to manage loyalty program cards—but for both services, Walgreens was the first retailer to enable users to earn rewards via NFC tap rather than a scan. And in 2014, when Apple Pay was facing resistance from other many other retailers during its initial rollout, Walgreens was among the service’s most vocal merchant supporters.
Tighter loyalty integration could be a theme for Android Pay moving forward. The service’s latest version—released in June—enables users to sign up for new merchant loyalty accounts from directly within the app, with details auto-filled using information from their Android Pay profiles. Previous versions only supported existing accounts created outside Android Pay.