American Express Co. has struck a deal with social-game developer Zynga Inc. to enable AmEx cardholders to redeem Membership Rewards points for virtual goods, the card brand announced Nov. 30.

AmEx cardholders also may use points for physical and virtual game cards for Zynga’s games, which include such Facebook games as FarmVille, CafeWorld and YoVille.

The deal makes possible for the first time the ability for cardholders to redeem reward points for virtual games and goods, AmEx and industry observers say.

Cardmembers may buy such limited-edition Zynga goods as FarmVille manors and windmills, Café World fountains and stoves, and YoVille roadsters and robots. Specific redemption offers start at 200 points. Consumers may use Zynga game cards for multiple games, including FarmVille, FrontierVille, PetVille, YoVille, Treasure Isle and Café World.

AmEx plans to expand the redemption offers on Dec. 6 to include 20 more types of virtual goods, the company said in a news release. AmEx did not return PaymentsSource calls seeking comment.

AmEx may be making a good strategic move by adding virtual goods to its redemption options to capture the young-adult market, which includes fervent users of social-media networks such as Facebook, one analyst says.

“This is a really smart way for the traditional payments industry to get involved in social networks to attract younger people,” says Megan Bramlette, director at New York-based Auriemma Consulting Group. “This virtual-economy thing is a very real market force because billions of dollars are being spent in these virtual economies. It’s not something to be discounted.”

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