The near inevitability of Apple's entry into mobile payments in some form continues to fuel speculation. According to Investors Business Daily, Apple's first foray into mobile payments is already ramping up: a loyalty program called iPoints that will launch this year.

The information comes via a report from RBC Capital analyst Dan Perlin, IBD said. According to Perlin, Apple is looking to leverage accounts held in its itunes store, reportedly around 400 million card accounts. 

"We believe Apple will introduce a payment management and loyalty program within iTunes," said Perlin in the IBD report. "The loyalty program, in our opinion, could be called iPoints and likely be a closed-loop loyalty program — redeem for Apple products only."

If correct, that last point is important as it means Apple isn't looking to take on the card brands, at least not yet. Instead, the company will only dip its substantial toes in the mobile payment waters at this juncture. 

Depending upon one's vantage, Apple is already dabbling in the mobile payment market with its Passbook app. With Passbook, Apple provides a handy mobile container for other applications, relying on other companies like Fandango and Starbucks to provide the development as well as the processing relationships.

Additionally, Apple customers can make purchases at Apple stores using giftcards stored in their Passbook applications. 

For more stories like this, visit the mobile wallet research center.

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