JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s role in mobile payments is getting more interesting.
The New York-based financial giant invested $10 million in Boston-based LevelUp, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal, which suggests Chase is much more interested in LevelUp's technology than the partnership the two companies originally announced.
Mobile payments startup LevelUp seemed to plateau after five years of trying to gain broader traction beyond its East Coast base, but Chase came to the rescue last fall when it announced it would integrate LevelUp into its fast-spreading Chase Pay app.
LevelUp is available now through Chase Pay at dozens of quick-service restaurants around Boston and will be phased into the Chase Pay experience over the coming months. The deal plays to LevelUp's strength with smaller merchants; Chase Pay has so far attracted primarily larger corporations like Starbucks and Shell Oil.
LevelUp also brings a more intriguing loyalty dimension to Chase Pay, with a well-established rewards program that drives business to local merchants. That value proposition is what’s been conspicuously absent from big third-party mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Android Pay.
Samsung Pay already recognized the loyalty gap in its wallet and recently introduced a rewards program that compounds users’ rewards the more they pay with the app.
Apart from LevelUp, Starbucks is also tying in its rewards program with Chase Pay, enabling customers to earn "stars" (the Starbucks reward currency) after funding their Starbucks account with Chase Pay.
Chase did not respond to queries about further plans for investment or partnerships in mobile payments or loyalty schemes.