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Posted at 12:14 PM ET, 08/16/2012

Has China created the world’s first social credit card?


In this photo taken on Aug. 1, 2012, employees work at their desks at a Sina Weibo office in Beijing. (Alexander F. Yuan - AP)

At a time when most U.S. bank credit cards seem to be stuck in a competitive rut, Sina Weibo, China’s popular micro-blogging site, may have just created, as The Next Web reports, the world's first "social" credit card. able to link a user's online social identity with his or her financial activity.

Here’s how it works: After a user has confirmed their identity, provided a mobile phone number and profile picture, and established that they have a minimum number of followers, they can start receiving offers related to their online interests or begin leaving real-time direct messages to the merchant about their most recent shopping experience.

The idea is not entirely novel, since both Citi and American Express have experimented with "social" credit cards that give users offers and discounts after they’ve linked their Facebook or Twitter account to a credit card. In fact, as WUSA9 has reported, "going social" is now a big push among credit card competitors, with recent deals involving Facebook, Zynga and Living Social. However, with Sina Weibo’s card there’s a twist in the form of a “shared bonus system”as TechRice has termed it, which allows users to earn credit card rewards faster by being active on Weibo. Or, put another way: The more you tweet, the faster the rewards pile up.

Users can also automatically check-in with their card and pick up discounts. They can even receive benefits if they pay with cash by just showing their card. And Sina Weibo cards will be imprinted with the user's Weibo URL, Techrice reports. That’s basically equivalent to printing your Twitter handle on your bank credit card.

That’s right, the credit card becomes an identification badge in addition to being a payment mechanism. And the identifications are reportedly going to be validated via DaRen, the online identification system, which, as The NextWeb reports, is similar to the one used by the Chinese government.

So, imagine paying for a meal at a restaurant, and the waiter or waitress automatically knows exactly who you are and how your review could impact the restaurant.

Now, imagine you’re a Chinese dissident.

It’s easy to see how this could augment Beijing’s surveillance capabilities, but the card also serves as the latest proof that China is close to challenging America’s top financial services innovators.

If there were a credit card that rewarded you for all those hours spent being “social” in front of a computer screen, would you sign up for one?

Disclosure: Washington Post Co. Chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook's board of directors, and LivingSocial co-founder and chief executive Tim O’Shaughnessy is Graham’s son-in-law.

Dominic Basulto is a digital thinker at Bond Strategy and Influence (formerly called Electric Artists) in New York. Prior to Bond Strategy and Influence, he was the editor of Fortune’s Business Innovation Insider and a founding member of Corante.com, one of the Web's first blog media companies. He also shares his thoughts on innovation on the Big Think Endless Innovation blog and is working on a new book on innovation called "Endless Innovation, Most Beautifuland Most Wonderful."

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By  |  12:14 PM ET, 08/16/2012

Categories:  Business, Dominic Basulto, Technology

 
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