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Spend money in the real world, get cash in the Zynga world

American Express and the game company have teamed up for a program that rewards users with virtual currency when they spend money in the real world.

A look at the Farm Cash that can be earned from the Serve program.
A look at the Farm Cash that can be earned from the Serve program.
Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Zynga and American Express have come up with a plan to combine physical and virtual commerce.

The companies today announced a program called Zynga Serve Rewards. The program allows FarmVille players to earn rewards after making purchases with a prepaid card from American Express.

In order to take advantage of the offer, users will need to jump through some hoops. To kick things off, FarmVille players will need to plant a Serve Money Tree on their farms. After doing so, they will need to register for Zynga Serve Rewards to receive the prepaid card in the mail. After adding money to the card and activating it, they will be able to make purchases wherever American Express is accepted.

For now, Serve cardholders will get 50 units of Zynga's Farm Cash back on the first five purchases of $25 or more. Over time, the companies expect to extend the Farm Cash offer to all purchases. In addition, users can earn Farm Cash for signing up for a Serve account, activating the card, and harvesting their tree.

American Express' Serve program, which launched last year, is designed to increase the ways in which consumers pay for products, and send and receive money. The service is somewhat like PayPal, but according to American Express, it is really the "next generation" of digital payments.

Zynga Serve Rewards is available only to FarmVille users for now. Over time, the companies expect to bring the offer to CastleVille and CityVille.