Card-linked marketing can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on who you ask. For merchants, it is a blessing in disguise. On the other hand, those targeted by these ads might not be too happy about what some might consider another form of marketing intrusion.

Regardless of how consumers may feel about this new platform, it’s here to stay.

In this article, we will be talking about:

What is card-linked marketing?

Have you ever made a purchase using either your debit or credit card and received ads afterward that were relevant to your purchased items? That’s because card-linked offers retargeted you. This type of retargeting platform uses bank statement information to serve better ads to consumers based on their purchase history.

Card-linked marketing, on the other hand, adds more layer to that model to qualify as card-linked marketing and not just card-linked offers.

Kasey Byrne, SVP of Cardlytics, defines card-linked marketing as, “a new digital media channel for retailers, restaurants and other consumer-facing brands which uses actual past purchase information to create targeted, relevant advertising for consumers, presented through the consumer’s mobile and online banking application.”

What does all that mean? It means banks partner with advertisers to provide consumers with exclusive offers to “load” on their debit or credit card before the purchase. Their previous purchase history determines which exclusive offers to display. Also, these offers are only available through personal online and mobile banking applications. Loading offers beforehand is what separates the two, along with card-linked marketing, which is exclusive to banks.

Let’s look at how Bank of America is utilizing card-linked marketing in their program BankAmeriDeals:

A user logs into their bank account and views multiple merchants and deals. The user must activate each offer they plan to use before purchasing the items. A discount will be made and credited at the end of the month.

Bank of America is one example, but other major banks also participate in card-linked marketing, such as Chase. With the addition of Chase and other major banks, Cardlytics is working with a collective total of 2.3T of consumer spending.

Cardlytics is the patent-holding leader in transaction tracking without leaving the bank’s firewall. The company analyzes debit, credit, and pre-paid card transactions to gain deep insights into customer purchase behavior.

There are plenty of third-party, card-linked offer marketing companies in existence, such as Cartera, Cardspring, and Augeomarketing.

How effective is card-linked marketing?

You now know what card-linked marketing is and how it is applied to marketing. Now let’s move onto how effective it is. First, let’s talk about the reach of this marketing technique because of the most significant player in the game, Cardlytics. The company partners with over 2,000 financial institutions, from which it collects purchase data. In 2016, the company analyzed over 18 billion transactions across more than 94 billion bank accounts in the U.S.

Using the massive amounts of data collected, Cardlytics can analyze their data to serve consumers with better ads. Now, look at how 62% of card-linked offer users that responded to a survey saw a 100% increase in transactions in a year.

The apparent reason for such a high increase in transactions is due to personalized offers to consumers. According to Cardlytics, “The bigger draw for banks is customers’ increased use of their cards; the boost is about 9 percent.”

Take a step back and look at how advertisers learn where consumers spend their money online and offline. One customer can buy a plane ticket, then buy lunch, and finish the day with a high-ticket purchase item like a sofa. Looking at this example, you can imagine the process of this person going online and offline purchasing items with their debit card. Next, imagine tracking the spending habits of this particular person, analyzing that data, and advertising to the relevant products for being a loyal customer.

“Research shows that when consumers pay for something and then automatically receive cash when they weren’t expecting it, a positive stimulus gets triggered neurologically,” according to Dosh CEO, Ryan Wuerch. Dosh is a startup company bought out by PayPal that offers its users card-linked offers.

Pros of card-linked marketing

Let’s talk about the advantages of using card-linked marketing.

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    Consumer Experience

    First, we must talk about the consumer experience. After all, if the consumer is not happy, then your ROI will not be as profitable as hoped. Everything comes down to the consumer and whether they are happy or not. Considering that this marketing technique takes a big-picture approach to spending habits, we can look at how and where consumers are spending money.

    We see where people shop and precisely which ads benefit the consumer directly. The incentive is saving money on what a person would already purchase. Let’s expand on the customer experience by eliminating the hassle of coupons.

    Searching, clipping, collecting, and remembering to use coupons become a thing of the past. Customers save time by digitally collecting their savings, and by having discounts applied at the point of sale. Transactions become streamlined on both sides of the register.

    Aggregation of offline purchase information

    Although the trend of online purchases continues to grow due to the existence of giant companies like Amazon, people will always make purchases offline. For example, a person stops into a Subway to grab a sandwich. In the future, they will receive retargeted ads for Subway. Grocery shopping at Wal-Mart is another example of everyday offline shopping.

    Before, these purchases were sitting online inside a bank statement collecting digital dust. Card-link marketing is bridging the gap between online and offline. The benefit is two-fold for both advertisers and consumers.


    Going back to the retargeting example, think of how we create the campaign to reach that individual within that audience. Before you can think of the individual or the audience, you have to think of how to select them for a group. The process of selecting your audience is through accurate segmentation.

    Specific segmentation is only possible with accurate metrics. Fortunately for you, that’s what you get with this marketing platform – accurate data straight from the source. You have access to insights, including purchase frequency, location, and volume, among other metrics. As a marketer, these various metrics will focus on individuals or groups, however, needed.

    Better targeting

    You might be asking yourself, “What does accurate segmentation mean?” It means better campaigns, which in turn results in higher ROI. It’s possible to create better campaigns because all the information you need to create your target audience accurately is there.

    Keep in mind; this is a broad audience for you to segment. As mentioned previously, Cardlytics analyzes over 94 billion bank accounts. More accounts equal more opportunities to convert that were not possible in the past. Not only do you have plenty of targets, you also have better ways to advertise to them. You know exactly where they make purchases.

    Advertisers are always looking for ways to efficiently increase engagement with customers. Currently, purchase-driven targeting is yielding high returns, which motivate marketers to continue this trend of targeting.

    Better ad spending

    But, how does this all relate to the cost of advertising? Small gradual purchases are what drive card-linked marketing. It’s these small transactions that, over time, tell advertisers where consumers are spending their money.

    There is another indication of where consumers make purchases. As you read above, to receive the discounts or offers merchants make available, they must be “loaded” onto the card before purchasing.

    We have a strong indication of where people are spending their money. They are telling us exactly where they shop. How does this benefit an advertiser? It allows advertisers to pay only for the ads that are making a profit because of CPC, or cost-per-click. Optimize ads to target the high potential, active buyer who is buying in your target markets.

    You focus on those who are purchasing. You do this so that ad spending is reduced on the other performance metrics, like engagement or impressions. With this in mind, you can ignore them altogether.

    Closer connections with consumers

    Unlike before, the data given to advertisers using card-linked marketing paints the whole picture of how people are spending their money. What makes this possible is tracking offline purchases.

    You get to take a look at the whole wallet. As a matter of fact, you are displaying ads in your audience’s digital wallet – right next to where they put their money. You can’t get any closer. On top of this, you track the performance of your campaigns based on people clicking on your ads – a distinct indication of what is or is not working to serve your audience better.

    Cons of card-linked marketing

    Card-linked marketing sounds perfect. You connect directly to your audience. You also get insights on almost every purchase they make – excluding cash, of course. So, what possible cons are there?

    Loss of loyal customers

    How do you lose loyal customers? By annoying them with irrelevant ads. It happens when marketers ignore their campaign performance and continuously send advertisements that will perform poorly. People will discontinue using the service if they don’t think they are benefiting from it.

    Data breach

    When talking about banks, the topic of data breaches can’t help but pop up. It’s understandable why considering the fact that Capital One was hacked and one person obtained the personal information of over 100 million people.

    Unfortunately, in this current digital age, data breaches have become something we must all deal with. Nothing is perfect, especially when we are creating defenses against cyber-attacks. As time goes on, the frequency of such attacks lessens as we learn more about how cybercriminals behave.

    The person that hacked Capital One was apprehended. The FBI followed that person’s trial and understood the steps he took. Computer engineers learn from these breaches to prevent future attacks. As a marketer, this is a major con to think about. In the long run, however, this con may not exist in the future.

    Final thoughts

    How can card-linked marketing help you as an advertiser? By merely being in front of your audience right next to their money. You get an understanding of exactly where they make their purchases and what motivates them to spend. Through analytics, you have a look at what offers or deals drive consumers to buy.

    All of the data processing is within the firewall security of large major banks. You have access to more than 94 billion accounts to create closer relations with your target audience. With the help of card-linked marketing, you have a complete view of consumer’s wallets that you didn’t have until now.

    If you’re interested in our card-linked marketing and advertising services, contact us to discuss your campaign goals and learn more about our card-linked marketing solutions.