By

This month, American Express started a new social media program that gives cardholders the chance to earn special offers from national merchants just for tweeting about them.

Customers with Twitter accounts who also hold a valid U.S. American Express Consumer Card or Business Card from American Express OPEN may participate in the program. Cardholders can sync their cards at the American Express/Twitter website (http://sync.americanexpress.com/twitter). Once the card is synced with the holder's Twitter account, they can find different offers on American Express' Twitter feed.

To take advantage of an offer, the customer tweets about it any way they want to, using the #hashtag listed in the offer. The hashtag signals the cardholder's interest to American Express and enables the activation of the offer. Once activated, the offer gets loaded directly onto the credit card. To use the offer, the cardholder makes the qualified purchase either online or in-store using the synced credit card. The deal shows up as a statement credit within days of redeeming it.  

"American Express is turning Twitter content into commerce by connecting cardmembers to merchants and delivering real world value to both," said Ed Gilligan, vice chairman, American Express, in a statement. "With the continued convergence of online and offline commerce, our closed loop continues to enable us to bring seamless, relevant ways to connect our cardmembers and merchants on the most powerful social and digital platforms."

The program is free for cardholders. It is an effort by American Express to build customer loyalty with its merchant partners, and it also gives cardholders a way to use coupons without having to deal with a piece of paper or let anyone else know they're using one. The service works through American Express' Smart Offer APIs. This system works through @amexsync, an automated notification handle. Whenever someone tweets about one of the offers using the hashtag, the handle is activated. It then can confirm the cardholder's actually enrolled in the program, and if not, provides a link for him to do so.

Merchants who are participating in the launch of this service include 1-800- FLOWERS.COM, Best Buy, Century 21 Department Store, The Cheesecake Factory, Dell, FedEx Office, FTD, Gulf, H&M, McDonald's, Seamless.com, Sports Authority, Ticketmaster, Virgin America, Whole Foods Market and Zappos.com. Participating merchants also receive data reports from American Express about their customers' in- store and Internet spending patterns.

American Express lists the offers as "favorites" on its Twitter feed. Recent offers include getting $50 back on one $100 purchase through Ticketmaster.com, getting $5 back on one $5 or more purchase at McDonald's and $10 back on one $50 or more in-store purchase at H&M. Each offer comes with different terms and is available for a limited time.

"Every day, millions of people use Twitter to get special offers from the brands and retailers they care about," said Adam Bain, president of global revenue at Twitter, in a statement. "Now, American Express is making it even easier for people to act on those offers simply by sending Tweets with special offer hashtags from retailers. It's exciting to see American Express build on Twitter in a way that benefits both consumers and retailers."

This is not American Express' first foray into social media-based offers. A year ago, American Express launched a similar service with Foursquare, in which cardholders can unlock offers by checking in at participating venues. Like the Twitter program, offers are loaded onto the card and redeemed through statement savings.

Last July, it launched a savings application on Facebook called "Link, Like, Love," that offers deals, entertainment access, exclusive content and special events based on a cardholders Facebook likes, interests and friends.