Visa to exploit cardholder information
VISA Europe have revealed plans to offer analytical services to shops who want to know how cardholders are spending their money.
The company holds approximately 11 billion records of European transactions on its servers.
To use that data to turn a profit, the company recently became a minority partner in London based consumer insight group Beyond Analysis.
The President and CEO of Visa Europe, Peter Ayliffe, said, "This investment in Beyond Analysis reflects Visa Europe's commitment to redefining its relationship with retailers, helping them to build stronger relationships with customers and secure increased market share.
"Enhanced data analytics forms a key part of our vision for the future of payments, alongside new technology such as mobile payments and e-wallets."
As part of the deal between the two companies, Visa Europe's Chief Marketing Officer, Mariano Dima, will join the Beyond Analysis Board, presumably to ensure that the company carries out an appropriate amount of Visa related work.
Credit card spying?
So, is this credit card spying?
Not so far: Visa Europe intends to initially provide documented reports on what cardholders buy but will move towards a system where merchants can see where else a cardholder has spent their money.
Yet, while the company is boasting of its, "unrivalled insight into consumer spending patterns" a spokesperson said that it will not provide any analytical data that includes cardholder's personal or private details.
Indeed, selling individual data without consent is illegal under UK data protection law.
Still, since Beyond Analysis says that Visa's records of cardholder's transaction histories will be used by banks and retailers to "better segment and target their marketing efforts and drive brand loyalty, purchase behaviour and traffic", which presumably involves targeting individuals, it's unclear where the line is.
It was previously mooted in 2009 for example, when credit card providers started sharing more data on their customers, that the increased information could be used to increase profit.
Visa Europe's service will undoubtedly prove almost irresistible to UK merchants.
One pound in every four spent in the UK is via a Visa branded credit, debit or prepaid card.
This is expected to further increase when Visa's proximity payment scheme - known as Pay Wave - springs into action.
And the link between near field communication (NFC) payments and marketing is, perhaps, even closer than that.
Visa Europe's move forms part of the increasingly heated push to lead the next generation of payment methods which will, by their very nature, allow brands and consumers to keep a closer track on their spending.
Contactless and mobile payment technologies are widely predicted to signal the end of the credit card but they could be the start of a new age of targeted marketing.
Paying on phone
In January, Barclaycard NFC and Britain's largest mobile phone network, Everything Everywhere, which includes T-mobile and Orange, signed a partnership to allow iPhone users to pay by swipe at 40,000 tills.
Barclaycard Consumer Europe's chief executive, David Chan, predicted 'explosive growth' in payments via mobile phone.
George Peabody, the director of emerging technologies at Mercator Advisory Group, agrees.
"We're going to start seeing more and more people leaving their homes without their wallets," he said recently.
"I definitely believe that the mobile wallet will eventually replace the plastic card," agrees Jane Cloninger, director at Edgar Dunn & Co., a consulting firm specialising in financial services and payments, "but it's going to take some time because consumer habits take a long time to change."