CARS HOMES JOBS

Facebook Card might earn a ‘like’

Thursday, February 7, 2013
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Space is harder to come by these days in my wallet. It’s not that I’m rolling in dough but in plastic.

And I don’t mean just the usual plastic — credit/debit, health insurance and library cards — but gift cards and merchandise-return cards and store loyalty cards.

I prefer a billfold to a clutch wallet — the former aptly named because it folds paper money in half as it closes. Clutch wallets keep the bills tidy and straight, but to me they’re just too big to bother with.

So as I groused about where to stuff my latest piece of plastic, I was heartened to hear about the Facebook Card.

It’s the latest move by the social networking site to monetize its popularity — Facebook Inc. boasted an average 618 million daily active users in December — so as to keep both shareholders and Wall Street smiling at its balance sheet.

The company dipped a big toe into e-commerce last fall when it introduced Facebook Gifts on a limited basis. By December, it threw the doors open to all U.S. members, offering them the ability to send physical presents to friends, including wine, cupcakes and iTune gift cards.

Last week, that was expanded with the addition of the Facebook Card, a reloadable plastic swipe card that can be used at four retail partners: smoothie-and-wrap purveyor Jamba Juice; the restaurant chain Olive Garden; cosmetics-seller Sephora; and discounter Target.

What’s nice about this piece of plastic is that one card serves all four retailers and multiple accounts can be kept and accessed there. So, for instance, a cardholder could have balances at one or two of the retailers or at all four — $100 at Sephora, $75 at Target, $50 at Olive Garden and $8.25 at Jamba Juice, according to the example Facebook provided in announcing the card.

Each account is separate and distinct, and gift balances can be viewed on Facebook from smartphone or computer. The site also will send real-time phone notifications when balances change.

The card, which the company said “will roll out gradually” to U.S. members, was announced a day after Facebook reported fourth-quarter and full-year results for 2012. For the year, the company saw net income of $53 million on nearly $5.1 billion in revenue.

In a conference call with analysts on the results, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he wanted “to temper near-term expectations a little bit” on revenue coming from the e-commerce line, according to a transcript of the call posted by the company.

“I think these can be big opportunities for us long-term, but for the foreseeable future, the

most important thing for us is to continue building out great consumer experiences around these products,” he said.

That sentiment was reiterated by Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman as he answered an analyst’s question on why the company anticipated limited revenue from gifts in 2013.

“The focus for right now is trying to figure out what the right product is,” Ebersman said. “… [J]ust figuring out how the product needs to work, what the interfaces are, what the selection of products is, how the payment process works — all of that stuff is what we’re going to have to optimize to make the product grow as you’re asking. … That’ll be something that we work on in 2013.”

Hooray! I say. Here’s one wallet owner grateful that someone is looking to tame all that plastic.

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at marlenejkennedy@gmail.com.

 
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