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The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 14, 2012 • Issue 12:05:01

Plastic Jungle unlocks new meaning of money

sellingprepaidA new partnership between gift card exchange operator Plastic Jungle Inc. and U.S. Bank allows the issuer's cardholders to convert the balances on closed-loop gift cards into credit card reward points. The initiative highlights how currency is being redefined.

The service enables FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature cardholders to exchange gift cards for FlexPoints – U.S. Bank's popular reward points program for such reward goals as airline tickets, car rentals and charitable donations. Plastic Jungle facilitates the exchange of gift card dollars into reward points via its payment processing engine.

Cardholders can utilize the service by visiting the FlexPerks Visa Promotion Center online, where they log in and enter gift card details. Plastic Jungle determines the value of gift cards and translates that value into FlexPoints, which are added to cardholders' accounts. The more popular gift cards, such as for major gas station operators and big-box discount retailers, are worth more FlexPoints.

The new solution is an example of how Plastic Jungle is continuing to build on the core functionality of its platform – helping consumers exchange gift cards they wouldn't use for ones they would. "It's always been about trying to create more liquidity options for the consumer," said Bruce Bower, Chief Executive Officer at Plastic Jungle. "In this case, what we've done is we've sort of jumped a barrier so that you can now earn a form of currency with a completely different form of currency."

From plastic to liquid

In June 2011, Plastic Jungle collaborated with ChargeSmart Inc. to expand the exchange platform to include bill payments. The implementation allows cardholders to use retailer-specific gift cards to make utility, car, mortgage and student loan payments, with up to 92 percent of gift card value going toward paying those bills. The U.S. Bank partnership represents expansion into another realm, but is taking advantage of how all electronic currencies are basically structured. "Facebook credits or Zynga points or gift cards are really very similar," Bower said. "To us, those become all different flavors of the same thing." Plastic Jungle simply allows one electronic value to be converted into another, he noted. That functionality is helping to drive a change in how consumers view money.

"If you look at it from a consumer angle, there's a little bit of magic there, because they have these currencies and they don't really think of them in terms of their utility," Bower said. "Now they can begin to."

The changing face of currency

Changing that mindset is accomplished by consumers using the service and amassing FlexPoints to attain goals. Bower gave travel as an example: if an airline ticket costs 20,000 FlexPoints, a cardholder who has reached 17,000 points can close that 3,000 point gap in "one fell swoop" by redeeming an unused gift card that was previously thought to be useless.

Plastic Jungle is working on further expansion of its service to increase consumers' choices for how they use gift cards and to create a kind of critical mass. "You give the consumer the ability to experience it in different kinds of contexts, and all of a sudden it catches on," Bower said. "The more utility you add to currencies, the more valuable those currencies are, and more consumers will do the thing that you hoped they'd do to earn the currencies. And that's good for everybody." end of article

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