Credit Card Companies Sell Your Personal Shopping Data

February 21, 2012
By

Think twice about what you buy with a credit card because your personal
shopping is collected by Visa, MasterCard, banks, credit card issuers, and
smart wallets, and then sold to advertisers and marketers.

Like it or not, advertisers and businesses want to know about your
spending habits so they can target you to buy their products and services.
Credit card networks and issuers have enormous databases of purchase
and shopping data which they aggregate, package and sell.

“Every purchase you make says something about you,” says Bill Hardekopf,
CEO of LowCards.com. “This data is collected and you are grouped with
others who have similar interests and spending patterns. Businesses then
deliver ads aimed specifically to your group.”

For years, “cookies” have been used to gather information about your online
behavior to create a personal profile and target ads based on that profile.
Access to credit card transaction data fills in the gaps with purchases
you’ve made in the offline world.

Your name, social security number and bank account are never disclosed to
the business or merchant. Customers are represented by numeric codes so
individuals remain anonymous.

Through third parties, banks and credit card issuers can partner with
retailers to offer you deals based on your purchase history. These offers
can appear with your billing statement or pop up when you log into your
account. You may receive an offer by text or email.

CNN reported that merchants pay banks an average fee of 10% to 15%
of the purchase price of a product each time a customer uses a discount
that is generated from the bank’s data. The bank takes nearly 25% of
that fee and pays the rest to an intermediary that works with both banks
and merchants, like Cardlytics. So if you purchase a $500 item, the merchant
pays a fee of up to $75; the bank receives about 25% of this or $18.75.

In their terms and conditions, credit card issuers disclose that they can
share personal information about people with outside companies for
marketing. Visa has filed patent applications for ways that will use
credit card transaction data to target digital ads and personalize other
content. Visa’s profile generator will include non-transaction data from
your address as well as information from social network websites, credit
bureaus, search engines, insurance claims and even DNA databanks.

MasterCard lets people opt-out from these kinds of programs by filling out
the info at www.mastercard.us/privacy under “Data Analytics Opt-Out” and
“Web Analytics Opt-Out.”

Shopping with smartphones, like Google Wallet, is an easy way for companies
to gather information. Google Wallet describes its broad use of data in its
privacy policy:
When you use the Processing Service to conduct a transaction, we collect
information about each transaction, including the transaction amount, a
description provided by the seller of the goods or services being purchased,
the names of the seller and buyer and the type of payment used. We may also
collect transaction data from your use of the Mobile Wallet. For example, if
you use the Mobile Wallet Application to make a purchase at a merchant or
download a merchant coupon, we may obtain information regarding that
transaction from the Mobile Wallet Application, from the merchant and/or a
partner, as applicable. The information may include the date and time of the
purchase, the store location, the amount of the purchase, and the offer
associated with the transaction.

Google Wallet says it uses this information to:
Provide offers, coupons and other similar products to you for goods or
services that may be provided by merchants, partners and other third parties
alone or jointly with Google; to provide products and services, including
the display of customized content and advertising; to perform auditing,
research and analysis in order to maintain, protect and improve its services
and develop new services.

LowCards.com ( http://www.lowcards.com) simplifies the confusion of shopping
for credit cards. It is a free, independent website that helps consumers
easily compare credit cards in a variety of categories such as lowest rates,
rewards, rebates, balance transfers and lowest introductory rates. It also
gives an unbiased ranking and review for each card. The LowCards.com
Complete Credit Card Index ( http://www.lowcards.com/CreditCardIndex.aspx)
is the most objective and comprehensive resource on the Internet which
allows consumers to compare rates for over 1000 credit cards offered in this
country. Created by Hampton & Associates, the company has been analyzing
the credit card industry and supplying objective websites on various
consumer expenses for twelve years.

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