American Express Travel Related Services Co. said it has made a minority investment in SaveSmart Inc., a privately held company that develops on-line merchant promotions.

In June, the two started a pilot test giving American Express card members Internet access to discounts at 1,000 restaurants and retail stores in the San Francisco area.

The Amex investment-its size was not disclosed-"will allow us to leverage SaveSmart's expertise as we plan to expand the service to other markets in 1999," said Larry Kutscher, American Express vice president of interactive enterprise development.

American Express joins Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Data-Card Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., and Softbank Technology Ventures among the investors in SaveSmart, which is based in Mountain View, Calif.

SaveSmart founder and chief executive officer Ashok Narasimhan, formerly of Verifone Inc. and Electronic Payment Services Inc.'s SmartCash venture, said the American Express investment "strengthens our position as a leading provider of interactive promotions on the Internet."

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