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Rumor: Apple Pay loyalty program could launch in time for Christmas

With the Apple Pay launch complete in the U.S., Apple may now turn its sights toward launching a new store loyalty rewards program in time for the lucrative holiday shopping season.

Citing unnamed sources, Bank Innovation reported on Tuesday that Apple appears on track to debut its loyalty program before the end of 2014. It was originally thought that Apple would introduce this feature next year, but "market demand" is said to have accelerated the plans for launch.

The loyalty system is expected to use Apple's iBeacon technology, which can deliver targeted location-based content to iPhone users through a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Using iBeacon will allow Apple to provide more data to users than a near-field communication connection, which is used to initiate Apple Pay at supporting kiosks.

Apple's loyalty program would reportedly be tied to the Apple Pay system, making exclusive offers or discounts to users in exchange for using their iPhone to make a payment.

In one example, a user at a store might receive an push notification via the store's app, initiated over iBeacon, informing them that an item is available for buy one, get one free. The shopper could then go to checkout with the items and earn the reward by using Apple Pay.

Retailers reportedly view Apple's rumored rewards system as a great opportunity, allowing them to market consumers while also helping to drive both consumer and retail adoption of NFC-based e-wallet systems, Apple or otherwise.

Apple Pay was unveiled last month, but officially launched on Monday with the release of iOS 8.1. Its retail tap-to-pay functionality is exclusive to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but will expand to the Apple Watch when it debuts early next year.