Social apps from CardSpring and American Express link credit cards to coupons

Attendees at this year's SXSW tested CardSpring, a new service that links credit cards to discount deals without requiring coupons. To participate, users register their account details online or through a smartphone application. When shopping at participating merchants, point-of-sale systems connected to CardSpring's database recognize a user's registered credit card number. The POS device deducts the promised discount from the total before passing the transaction through a merchant's payment terminal.

For the SXSW trial, CardSpring's developers partnered with coupon website RetailMeNot and a collection of Austin food trucks. According to USA Today's Hadley Malcolm, RetailMeNot's mobile application encouraged conference attendees to sample local cuisine with deals that deducted $2 from a $5 purchase. CardSpring's developers envision their system working seamlessly with vendors' websites or through central deal clearinghouses like RetailMeNot.

American Express offers social deals on Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook

CardSpring's developers aren't the only coders trying to remove physical coupons from the "daily deals" phenomenon. The social media and marketing teams at American Express have expanded their Smart Offer API service to Twitter, offering similar deals to Cardmembers willing to share their savings stories online.

The Smart Offer API first appeared in 2011, enabling AmEx customers to link their cards to discount deals through a Facebook application called "Link, Like, Love." With the Twitter extension, participants can register for promotional offers just by retweeting a sponsor's message or by tweeting a trigger hashtag. American Express broadcasts features promotions from the Twitter handle @americanexpress, while the @amexsync account verifies user eligibility.

Unlike CardSpring's offering, the Smart Offer API requires no special POS hardware or software. Participants see their savings as an American Express statement credit instead of a discount on their merchant receipts. Merchants can manage their own Smart Offer promotions on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare through AmEx's "Go Social" vendor portal.