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Alexa's voice assistant will tell AmEx card members their balance, recent purchases and more.

By Leena Rao
May 11, 2017

Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, is getting a financial upgrade with a new skill from American Express.

The skill lets AmEx card members check their balances, access discounts and offers, pay bills and hear recent account information with the help of Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, which powers popular home automation device Echo. A card member can simply ask Alexa, “Alexa, tell me my American Express account balance,” and the assistant will provide the information using its voice.

The Alexa skill update is part of a broader push by AmEx to offer more way its card holders can access information about their account outside of their AmEx mobile app or website. It’s also a sign of how consumer companies are increasingly tapping emerging devices like Echo to reach their customers.

Amazon’s two year old Echo is the early leader in the voice-controlled speaker field with a 70% share of the market, according to research firm eMarketer. Rival Google Home is a distant second with 23.8%.

Amazon’s Alexa “AMZN” has gained a growing following for its ability to answer questions, turn on lights, order items like diapers, and even call an Uber directly through home devices like Echo. Users simply utter a command instructing Alexa, like “Alexa, order an Uber to home.”

The e-commerce giant has been encouraging more companies to develop their “skills” as Amazon looks to make the service more intelligent. Currently, Alexa has 10,000 skills.

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American Express “AXP” isn’t the first financial services company to integrate with Alexa. Capital One debuted an Alexa skill for its credit card holders in 2016. Visa and MasterCard have yet to follow suit.

AmEx card holders who enable the skill will be able to access information about their American Express Card account by saying “Alexa, open Amex.” They can then check their account balance, review recent charges, or make a payment. Within the Alexa app, AmEx customers can search for the skill and activate it by logging into their American Express online account using their password and ID. Once linked, American Express will also ask the customer to create a four digit code that they have to repeat every time they use Alexa to ask for their American Express account information.

“We never want to put a user experience roadblock,” said Luke Gebb, senior vice president of enterprise digital for American Express, referring to the pin code. But Gebb said that in early user testing of the skills, card members asked for an extra layer of security because there are often other people in their homes who use Alexa through their Echo devices or Fire TVs.

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Gebb said Thursday that Amex is also updating its chatbot for Facebook “FB” Messenger so that it understands more questions. The bot, a small software program that uses text to communicate, can now answer questions like, “What is my balance?” or “I have a question about a pending charge,” or respond to statements like “I lost my card,” explained Gebb.

Last year, Facebook started letting companies like American Express create bots for Messenger.

 

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