The deals and loyalty industry in the United States have matured. In Canada, not so much. Case in point: Cardlinking.

What is Cardlinking?

Card Linking technologies enable an offer to be linked to a credit card purchase. The consumer can receive offers specifically based on their buying patterns or likely buying patterns. That credit card purchase is tracked and consumers are automatically rewarded right back on their cards. No paper, no uncomfortable “I have a deal voucher” conversations with merchants, all is automatic.

This technology and maturity of the customer loyalty and deals industry is getting a lot of traction in the states. There are several companies in the card-linked offers space. Among them are: Cardlytics, Cartera, edo, FreeMonee, Linkable Networks, Plink, PlaceCast, and Bync. These companies are all in a race to partner with leading banks and retailers.


Here are some reasons why Card Linking is a valuable service:

1. Card-linked offers are simple. Deals, offers and digital coupons are loaded straight to a consumer’s debit or credit card. Consumers shop as usual, and the consumer will see the discount applied on his or her card account statement. Notice, NO awkward interaction with the merchant or pulling out the calculator to determine what you owe. Consumers and merchants love this type of transaction.

2. Card-linked offers help with merchant administration. The merchant benefits from the ease of tracking the performance and payment of the offer. The credit or debit card acts as a broker of the transaction.

3. Consumers avoid paper and administration of offers. There are many offers that are not redeemed by consumers. About 10-15% actually. That is a lot of wasted money. With card linking, consumers avoid all printing of paper coupons, avoid mail-in rebates and avoid having to forget to redeem. Did we mention there is no awkward interaction between merchant and consumer at time of redemption. The merchant doesn’t even know that the consumer is redeeming an offer. Thus treating them as “normal” consumers.

4. Merchants can selectively target consumers. Retailers, for example, could offer a 20% off deal to any shopper who spent $75 or more  during the last 3 months. These selective campaigns can be more effective for the merchant in terms of targeting the exact type of customer they want for that promotion.

5. Great for competing merchants: For instance, if you frequently buy at The Bay, you might be offered a great deal the next time you shop at Target. Buying at Starbucks? Get a free coffee with purchase of a muffin at Second Cup.

6. It is effective marketing. The customer database is the crown jewel of card linking programs. Using the credit card and purchase history data, banks can help merchants tailor offers that are far more effective than any shotgun approach presently used. The result is improved customer loyalty and promotion effectiveness. Traditional coupons or daily deals are unable to target customers based on purchase history and patterns. Traditional loyalty programs typically take very long to achieve results. Some of which are rather limited. Card linked offers, however, do not have these issues. Consumers can be targeted, extremely valuable data is generated and loyalty or sales results are seen a lot sooner.
So, if this technology and service is so great, why is it NOT in Canada.

A few points to think about for Canada:

  • As more and more retailers sign up for card linking services, will credit card companies essentially replace Daily Deal and Coupon sites as the broker of deals for consumers?
  • As investment in the daily deal and couponing space has dried up, VC money into cardlinking has skyrocketed. In the USA, Cardlytics has raised $51 million in funding, and edo raised $50.5 million, Cartera Commerce raised $43 million, and SavingStar with $18.3 million in funding. Canada? Nothing.
  • In Canada, there is no technology operating a Card Linking program. We have spoken to some US card linking technology firms and they also view Canada as a market they would love to enter but complicated to crack given that the industry and relationship s in Canada for Card Linking to work are to immature compared to the USA.
  • For Card Linking companies to work in Canada, partnerships with banks, credit card companies, retailers and government regulators and agencies need to occur. Bottom line, Canada will NOT see Card Linking in 2013, and doubtful for 2014.  Our guesstimate? 2016.Unless Cardlinking is focused on one credit card company or one banking company. Then it can launch in Canada a lot sooner.
  • The service will come to Canada, but boy are Canadian consumers and merchants missing out. It will take a technology company or a Bank with strong connections to get this done quicker than anticipated.


  • The banking and retail  associations in Canada and the credit and debit card associations in Canada should have discussion revolving around how best to deliver this technology in this country. It is a matter of process, operational and regulatory issues.
  • I would strongly recommend that a Bank partner with a leading Deals provider such as Tuango, Teambuy or Wagjag in order to deliver a dedicated program. ScotiaBank and both VISA and Mastercard have been strong proponents of offer/deal marketing in Canada. American Express also plays in this industry, but mostly on the Airmiles or cash back side.

There is a tremendous amount of interest and activity in this space, which presents opportunities for Bank, Credit Card, Retail and Manufacturer marketers. So although Canada has credit cards and banks working together, the full suite and benefit of Card Linking is just not available in Canada yet.

Let’s see where the conversation and strategy goes from here. We will do our part.