Sunday, August 7, 2011

The New LevelUp

We were the only food blog to be invited inside the War Room at SCVNGR headquarters recently to research and learn more about the new version of their mobile app LevelUp. If you are familiar with the old version, which rewarded you for loyalty at merchants with deals that got better and better up to three levels, then you will really like the new version. Now I am decidedly NOT a techie but the new technology used here is the first of it's kind and pretty amazing even to someone like me.

By downloading the free app and linking it to your credit card a personal QR Code is created for you. You can then use your smart phone to actually pay for purchases at participating merchants. Why would you want to do this, you may ask? Well, firstly, if you are always looking for deals, like me, you will typically get an immediate credit to apply to your purchase. Then, you can rack up more credit as you continue to patronize the merchant. So, it's still a loyalty program that pays off, just in an easier, more fun way.

Simply call up the LevelUp app on your phone and hold it up to this LevelUp "register" at the merchant and you have paid. At a restaurant? Easy. They will just scan your code and you've paid. You can even set the amount of tip you want to leave when you visit your favorite eateries.

You get an immediate confirmation of the purchase you have just made.

Visit a favorite restaurant often? It gets even better. At Floating Rock, for instance, you get an instant $30 credit for every $300 you spend. Again, it pays to be loyal.

In addition to the on-screen confirmation you also get an email confirmation with all of the details. Some people like to keep track of the pennies, you know. It's an added security feature.

My next challenge was one that any All-American criminal, or journalist, would instantly think of: so what's to stop me from scanning your phone with my QR Code scanning app and getting instant access to your credit card information? When no one was looking we tried it. What happens is nothing. As you can see from my phone, on the left, the scan resulted in a useless string of numbers. The QR Code and all the credit information is fully encrypted. Suddenly, I realized that this is even safer than a credit card, which any waiter could copy and steal the minute it left your table.

But, wait a minute, isn't this very elitist, making all this only available to those who, firstly, own smart phones, and secondly, to those with scanning apps who are savvy enough to know how to use them? Seems technologically snobbish. Au contraire. In fact, you don't even need to have a smart phone. LevelUp will be happy to issue you a card with your own QR Code to use to take advantage of all the same offers.

The benefit to me? Goodbye to all of those punch cards and loyalty program cards I pull out every time I visit my favorite cafe, retailer or merchant. In fact, I even envision the day when I will say goodbye to my wallet. Who needs cash or cards anymore? And, from our research on other mobile apps, the keys, too!

A few days later we decided to stop by, unannounced, to a merchant currently using the system. You may remember Chin Kuo and Tanya Kropinicki of Saus from our review earlier in the year (award-winning BEST fries in Boston and one of the cutest damn websites we've seen, by the way). They get about a dozen or so people using the LevelUp payment system each day and LOTS of others asking about it. Benefit to the merchant: an instant, turnkey, paperless loyalty program. With tracking of all the analytics!

Stay tuned. We've got more exclusive stories about interesting, new food-related apps and technology coming up all this week.


  1. I used LevelUp for the first time on Saturday at The Local in Newton. It worked great! You can assign a passcode to it so that if you lose your phone, someone can't just open the app and use your QR code (presumably you've got a passcode for your phone too, so this just adds another layer of protection!). Also, I read somewhere on the LevelUp website that the merchant also saves on the fee normally charged by MasterCard/VISA because LevelUp is acting as middleman here. Sweet!

  2. Great article! Just downloaded and used it at Four Burger!

  3. Karen, great insight! Thanks for sharing. I hope you enjoy using LevelUp everywhere soon.

  4. I used LevelUp for the first time last week...have already used it to pay for a haircut, dinner and to buy some clothing. It was so fast and easy to set up and use. As a consumer I LOVE the loyalty credits I am earning...(paperless receipts are pretty awesome too). Great article Boston Foodie!