It wasn’t long ago that Google pulled the trigger by offering check-ins with the Latitude service. Now, the company is stepping up the game one more notch by offering rewards for those check-ins, starting in Austin for SXSW.

Akin to what you see with Foursquare, Google is offering status gains (from Regular to Guru), depending on how often you check in with the service. There’s even a progress meter that will show how far away from your next rung of success. What’s really interesting though is the next paragraph in the blog post:

In addition to pride, you can now unlock check-in offers that places have created for your status level. So, a restaurant or shop can give their Regulars a reason to keep coming back and their Gurus an awesome reward for their loyalty. Check-in offers can be as creative as places want for any of the three status levels. You can find places where check-in offers are available in Google Maps for Android search results and Place pages.

Are you reading that the same way that we are? Loyalty-based check-in rewards sure does seem like a direct shot at Foursquare to us. What’s unique though is that you’ll be able to pre-view loyalty rewards directly from Google Maps, so you can better plan where you want to go, instead of just having a happenstance reward.

2google status distro fix cropped Google fires a shot at Foursquare with check in rewards and titles [Updated] 1google placepage checked in fixed Google fires a shot at Foursquare with check in rewards and titles [Updated]

Check-in offers are launching in Austin, but should move out to the rest of us soon. Want to make sure you’re in for the best? Here’s a list of 5 from the 60 places where Google will be launching the service:

  • Free coffee for Regulars at Frank
  • Free sundae from the cafe for VIPs at Toy Joy
  • Buy a slice and get one free during certain hours for VIPs at East Side Pies
  • 10% off any upcoming event book for Gurus at BookPeople
  • 20% off select merchandise for Gurus at Waterloo Records

There’s a handy map for all of the rest. Now, maybe Patrick and Hermione can afford to eat…

Screen shot 2011 03 10 at 3.17.57 PM Google fires a shot at Foursquare with check in rewards and titles [Updated]

Update: paidContent states that Google’s Marissa Mayer is refuting the idea that Google is entering the daily deal space. Mayer states that Google is simply “experimenting” with Latitude during SXSW. We shall wait and see…

startuprally2 Google fires a shot at Foursquare with check in rewards and titles [Updated]