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Walgreens Officially Launches First Apple Pay Loyalty Rewards Program

Popular retailer Walgreens today announced that its Balance Rewards loyalty program can now be linked with Apple Pay and used by its customers across the country. The partnership will allow Apple Pay users to link their Balance Rewards card with the mobile payments service so they can earn and redeem loyalty points without having to scan their physical Walgreens card. Following Kohl's launch of Apple Pay support for its store-branded credit card, Walgreens is the first retailer to support a loyalty rewards program within Apple Pay.

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“We’re excited to be the first to provide our customers with increased ease of access to their Balance Rewards account and information when using Apple Pay,” said Sona Chawla, president of digital and chief marketing officer for Walgreens. “This offering supports our commitment to removing friction and enabling a simple and convenient customer experience.”
Users simply need to add their Balance Rewards card into the Wallet app, going through the same process as adding a traditional credit or debit card, to be able to use the new feature at Walgreens on an iPhone and Apple Watch. The announcement comes just over a week after NFC abilities were discovered alongside Balance Rewards cards in the Wallet app, hinting at incoming loyalty rewards support from Walgreens.

Related Roundup: Apple Pay
Tag: Walgreens


Top Rated Comments

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9 months ago
So how will this work exactly? Will you have to use apple pay to enter your rewards card and then again to pay? Although this is still cool, it would be awesome if there was a way to do this where one Apple Pay "swipe" is needed and takes care of both the rewards and payments. Of course Kohl's does this by having the rewards and the credit card all in one, but I am thinking about all the other reward cards that are not part of a credit card. Anyway, glad to see progress.
Rating: 9 Votes
9 months ago
Walgreens continues to keep up with the times, I love it.
Rating: 8 Votes
9 months ago
I wish more companies would get their acts together and implement Wallet. Especially the ones who already have apps that support their store cards
Rating: 4 Votes
9 months ago

So how will this work exactly? Will you have to use apple pay to enter your rewards card and then again to pay? Although this is still cool, it would be awesome if there was a way to do this where one Apple Pay "swipe" is needed and takes care of both the rewards and payments. Of course Kohl's does this by having the rewards and the credit card all in one, but I am thinking about all the other reward cards that are not part of a credit card. Anyway, glad to see progress.

It's not possible.

Walgreens enabled EMV for NFC transactions, and EMV requires the final purchase amount sent to the "card" (in this case, your phone) for the transaction to be authorized. This is why the NFC reader isn't enabled on the PIN Pads at Walgreens until the cashier finishes scanning your stuff and totals the transaction. Also the same reason why when paying with a chip card at an EMV enabled retailer, you have to wait until the cashier's done before inserting your card whereas before you could swipe while the cashier was scanning. So what this means is ApplePay/Walgreens can't combine the rewards card and payment card into one tap. It needs the rewards card first, then the register has to subtract any discounts you have from it to get the final amount, then that needs to be sent back to the phone to authorize the payment.

Some (okay, most) other retailers are still using MSD mode for NFC transactions. That allows you to tap before the transaction is totaled as it more closely mirrors swiping a card to the terminal and processor and you could theoretically combine rewards and payment into one tap, but MSD is supposed to be going away eventually in favor of EMV. The big difference is EMV NFC, if implemented correctly (and that's a big if because retailers are stupid), will not require you to sign (or enter a PIN for debit) for your purchases because the phone can tell the PIN Pad that you used the phone's fingerprint scanner or PIN to authenticate yourself and you don't need to do it again on the PIN pad
Rating: 3 Votes
9 months ago

No more carrying around those stupid reward cards: Albertson's, King Soopers, etc. Now I can see the potential in Apple Pay!

Too bad King Soopers is not on Apple Pay. (or is it in your area?)

I saw that, but I still don't think it's clear. The wording of the announcement leads me to believe that they've just replaced scanning a rewards card (or looking it up by phone number since I never carry mine) with an Apple Pay NFC transaction (but not necessarily a payment transaction).

So to me it seems that the user can use Apple Pay to get provide their rewards program information but then must still execute a payment transaction - NFC or other method.

I'm close to a Walgreens so I will test it today. I'm sure someone else will stop by one first but I still want to try it out.
Rating: 3 Votes
9 months ago
In practice, do the rewards program and payment NFC transaction occur simultaneously? Or must the user:

1) select the rewards card from Wallet
2) then execute the rewards NFC transaction
3) then execute a payment NFC transaction

The two-step method isn't horrible, but a simultaneous transaction would be preferred in my opinion.


Edit: Cuban Missles beat me to it.
Rating: 2 Votes
9 months ago


Gotta agree with the "because retailers are stupid" part. I was in Crate & Barrel this last weekend, and they have a tap to pay terminal. I asked the woman if it was active, and she said she thought so. I said, "Let's see" and used my Watch. It gave me that satisfying vibration and ding, followed by the friendly checkmark. "How cool." I thought. Then...


TIL Crate & Barrel turned on their NFC terminal!


Clerk: "Sir, I need the last four digits of that card."
Me: "I don't have the card with me. It's Apple Pay. You know? Secure. Can't use it without it actually being me?"
Clerk: " ..... "
Me: "Sigh. Let me pull out another card and swipe it."


You _do_ have last four digit. For the Watch, it's a bit trickier though as you have to go to the Watch app on your phone, to Wallet, and then click on the card. It'll be under "Device Account Number".
Rating: 2 Votes
9 months ago

No more carrying around those stupid reward cards: Albertson's, King Soopers, etc. Now I can see the potential in Apple Pay!

I don't use any rewards programs that don't at least let you just enter your phone number. It's better that way.
Rating: 2 Votes
9 months ago
I'd love to have all rewards cards go this way. I never bother to carry 99% of them as it makes no sense to carry so many cards in your wallet that you may use just once a year.

I saw that, but I still don't think it's clear. The wording of the announcement leads me to believe that they've just replaced scanning a rewards card (or looking it up by phone number since I never carry mine) with an Apple Pay NFC transaction (but not necessarily a payment transaction).

So to me it seems that the user can use Apple Pay to get provide their rewards program information but then must still execute a payment transaction - NFC or other method.


This is exactly how it works. Apple Pay functionality can be used in place of scanning your rewards card. You will still have to use it again if you want to pay using a credit card with Apple Pay or swipe another card.
Rating: 2 Votes
9 months ago

Walgreens continues to keep up with the times, I love it.

Agree, they were the first with apple pay, and now this. CVS is falling behind and I'm choosing to go to Walgreens so I don't need to worry if they get hacked like CVS did and I needed to get my cards changed. CurrentC is dead, move on CVS
Rating: 2 Votes

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