Syncing Up Your Credit Cards
Last week I posted about a service called BillGuard. BillGuard scans your credit card bills for questionable transactions so you don’t have to. It’s a great service. One of the things you do when you set up BillGuard is you connect your credit card(s) to the BillGuard web service. It’s straightforward and easy. Once you do that, the magic happens.
I did the same thing yesterday. I connected my Foursquare with my American Express card. Once you do that, when you check in at places that have Foursquare specials, you get automatic credit when you pay with American Express. Foursquare calls this “load to card“. You can do it here.
I really like the idea of syncing my credit cards with web services. I’m not so into the social value of sharing my transactions with everyone (where Blippy started), but I am very much into the personal value of leveraging my transaction history into various web services I use frequently. And I am also very into the idea of getting the benefit of offers and deals automatically credited to me via my credit card account.
I think we have just scratched the surface of what is possible when you sync up your transaction activity with other services in your life. There is great opportunity in this idea.
Quite likely that it’s not that far in the future when your phone WILL BE your credit card. No more “syncing” needed.
It is here already. This concept of convergence is going to be happening at an accelerating rate.I recently switched from and iPhone to an ATT Infuse Android for just this reason. Not only is it big enough to actually read my e-mail but it is faster and now approaching the same level of cool.Just wish there were more apps.
I just got the Starbucks iPhone app today after a bad experience yesterday–a manager was rude to my wife. When I wrote in to Starbucks customer service, I realized that I would have had a lot more leverage if they knew how much of a regular I was.So fast forward to today and I loaded it up with $ and boom it scanned my purchase and that was that. Faster and so much cooler than a credit card. And now I get to build points–the same thing I loved in school and love in turntable.fm applied to buying things. It seems like a real win for merchants in that regard! Customers trying to compete to show how much they buy!This is definitely the future. It made me look at my credit cards as these artifacts of some backwards era… The saga continues.
“but I am very much into the personal value”I think this is a key point that a lot of start-ups miss – especially in early stages. Sure social can be the big flywheel that builds your user base but few consider what value they you deliver a user, without dragging the user’s social circle into it. When I think back to the web-based services I’ve used the longest & paid for, it’s the ones that drive value for me personally.I always look at the comparison between Tripit & Dopplr as an example of this. Dopplr fit a need for a very specific set of circumstances for a person with a specific kind of social network (travelled enough & had friends in many different cities around the world) whereas Tripit, whether you traveled once, or a hundred times per year, delivered personal value with every transaction and then added to that value with inclusion of your social circles. (Edit: small tweak for clarity)
I like this. I think you are stressing the importance of creating value with each transaction. Would you mind saying a bit more about Tripit? I do not use the service.
Dopplr’s premise was ‘tell us where you’re going & we’ll tell you who’s nearby’Tripit started out as ‘send us your itinerary, we’ll keep everything organized for you’ and quickly added ‘oh yeah, and add your friends & we’ll tell you if they’re nearby’To add details to tripit you just had to forward your itinerary + hotel, to an email address and they’ll create the trip & add all the details by parsing the email. Painless & now all your trip details are stored in one spot, accessible anywhere & easily shared w/friends/co-workers if you wanted. The social circle benefit was the secondary goal of tripit, each interaction with them delivered value to me immediately. Dopplr on the other hand required a good dose of serendipity & the right social circle to get value from.It’s telling that many simply pulled their trip-it calendar into Dopplr to populate it. Sent on the TELUS Mobility network with BlackBerry
if only it integrated into a calendar.
TripIt does that.
What do you think of Klout? Foursquare and Klout while completely different services on the surface have an interesting overlap. One measures your loyalty (checkins) while the other measures your social influence (klout score) but in both cases they are providing the merchant with additional information about the customer allowing them to customize their response. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Klout also announce integrations with credit card companies in the near future.
i am underwhelmed by my klout profile
thats because I am higher than you.
you got that right
“I like services where people do not have to change their behaviors” paraphrased from Fred during a roundtable discussion with some students. I agree, and consider myself pleasantly absent minded, which makes adopting new habits more difficult. I wish I used coupons, or Groupon, but I don’t (even though I subscribe to Groupon).
i dig Bill Guard so far, but the last service i synced to my credit cards (Mint) just became a painful reminder every Friday night via text and email “you’re broke and in debt.” 😉
yeah, but you got equity worth millions!
hahamore importantly i have job satisfaction worth billions**
that too 🙂
i agree…certain products’like quicken’ and ‘mint’ are great utlity but make me sad…I want products that make me optimistic…
@fredwilson, i could not agree more. In the turkish market, CC co’s had been at this for a while, but now hopefully the monopoly is being lifted thanks to consumer internet co’s like @grupanya. Excited to see US incumbents like AX at it, as well.
That Amex/Foursquare service is very creative. But how does it work between merchants and Amex? Does Amex manage these programs and interface with FS or the merchants have to set them up themselves with FS?
I think you need to look at Amex’s strength. They have both the transactional infrastructure and most likely the broadest small biz network in the country.They’ve been selling access to this biz network though sponsorships and advertising and mail drops since forever.My bet is that the value they bring to FS and to FB is both and that they are the power player in these deals.
This Amex/FS or FB partnership answers very well the WHY of “Why should I check-in?”. As it turns out, it’s not to brag about it, but to get real monetary value. This almost looks like a virtual loyalty program that’s run implicitly on top of social networks.
First row of big church! The church of $$$.Well played!
Indeed. Money talks. There’s an implied emerging business model forFoursquare, modeled after the Loyalty Programs. I’m stretching by asking: IsFS destined to become the first global loyalty program provider?But I’m struggling a bit with the bragging and privacy parts. I may not wantto disclose all my check-ins publicly.What I want is a private check-in option, where the merchant knows I’m there(and maybe an inner circle), but not the public at large. (a bit [email protected]’s inner circle or private options). If so, I would use FS moreoften as a standard everywhere.
Credit companies could totally do this on their own with outFoursquare.. except for those pesky data privacy laws they have to follow. Credit companies have so much more data thanFoursquare. Foursquare knows you were inthe proximity of the place. Creditcompanies know exactly what you bought, how often from where. So is the Amex/Foursquare deal just a way around the credit data laws?
Very intriguing thought(s) to ponder.
FS already provides private check-ins
I didn’t know. Thanks for pointing it out. I’ll check it right away.
@adam smith – very interesting thoughts.
Not certain I agree completely on this on.I like that there is an efficient economic tie in. But honestly, I don’t think that this $$ value to the user is the kicker, the ‘why’ of FS.I think that the fun factor. The social wonder piece. And unexpected instances of serendipity go a long way and are the core ‘must have’ first.That plus a inherent loyalty and deal engine are a winning formula potentially.
I didn’t mean to over-emphasize the dollar reward as being the kicker. Agreed, it’s a pleasant add-on.
Understood…didn’t mean to jump on that so hard.
problematically, that isn’t necessarily driving behavior on foursquare – like it or not, people use it in other ways
Interesting that Am Ex is really an innovator here playing to their billing and small biz network strengths. Facebook/Am Ex announcement @ http://t.co/ldWQGmR
Amazing what can happens when you have millions of users on either side and you do some real match-up of interests.
believe me they are looking at all options that help to further build their brand with the merchants.
Makes sense. When all the merchants at the Farmers Market are like many at the Flea Markets and have Square, which brand are the customers remembering? Not Amex for certain. They are playing from a position of strength today…but as you say, this is not the status quo forever without action. Maybe this is the motive behind the FS and FB deals.
This is an interesting first step but what you really need is a central “payment clearing house” that has an api that developers can plug into and then the information really starts to flow.
It is a truly neat idea. Indeed, we’ve barely scratched the surface on leveraging the social graph. Heck, we all just realized there even WAS a social graph. Examples like this are just the first infant steps. In short order, the products and services will be much more aware of our preferences and we’ll discover them more easily because they’ll find us rather than being bombarded with offers that don’t interest us. If you stop and think about how massive the potential is of this one idea, it will make your head spin. Seeing things like this that have only just started to happen is why I’m so bullish on the future of the tech sector. There are three or four inflection points right now that have just gotten started but are brimming with massive potential. It is actually very exciting.
My only concern (and this is not a new one) is that once offers are perfectly tailored to our interests, there will be little need or motivation to, ahem, try something new. We’ll stick to what we know and hunker down, content with our fully-formed habits. I still believe in the internet as a truly democratizing force, but some of these initiatives seem to run counter to that ideal at first glance. I hope I’m wrong though.
Intriguing thoughts Bryan.
Of course you are perfectly correct. But I was in business before the personal computer was even invented and you never, ever stop learning.I am just amazed at how the world has changed. My grown children do not believe my story of having seen television in its infancy complete with 2 hours per day and a green screen and a test pattern.I sit w/ my 93 year old Dad whose mind is as sharp as a tack — perhaps sharper than it has ever been — and discuss the changes he has seen.They are huge and yet I think the biggest changes are yet to come.
i remember dialing a phone with a pencili am sure you know what i am talking about JLM
You bet. The sound of the phone dial turning was one of the iconic sounds of our times. Like the Apple finger twitch.I paid $3.5K for an Apple IIe and another $1.5K for Visicalc and another $3K for an impact printer.I was on the bleeding edge once upon a time.I just jumped ship to an ATT Android Infuse after being a pretty loyal iPhone user.The world is changing at an accelerating rate and the convergence of everything is happening before our very eyes.Is this a great time to be alive or what?As CC says — hey, this Internet stuff could really be something!
god i remember that too! grandmother would walk in to the hallway where the phone was located – pick up the reliever and scream “HELLO” in a pucker English accent!
That’s a fair point and we shall see.Here’s a factor I’m counting on that I believe will prevent that:Marketers of products are ALWAYS going to want to reach the biggest market possible for their product. The more mass appeal your product, the more unit sales. Simple math. So while some marketers are going to have extremely niche products and maybe be lazy and only market to those expressly and acutely interested in their wares, there will be still others looking to experiment to get crossover results with varying success. Look at it this way… We have lazy marketers now who interrupt our daily lives with offers we don’t have the remotest interest in. If my version of reality is correct, there will be mostly targeted things mixed in with the occasional “change of pace” or “have you considered” offerings. I still favor a future where action and distraction are sorted and separated rather than intermingled like they are now. Let’s see what happens.
Thanks Robert, I agree, there will be much less “marketing chaos” so to speak and that is a good thing for those of us who have less time than money. I am not much of a marketer, so I’m sure these questions are being addressed as we speak/type. It will be interesting to see how they balance targeting and volume.
Hey Robert / Bryan – very interesting stuff. technology will most definitely remove alot of interruption marketing in our lives.
Agreed, but problematically is that i don’t share all the same interests as all of my friends – and to make it worse, my interests and friends seem to change
In my mind, transactions are the purest form of preference.Most web services seek to approximate these preferences through implicit action (click-throughs, mentions, follows, and check-ins). These all have various correlations to actual purchases (i.e. for the moment, checking-in to a restaurant has a pretty high correlation to spending). That said, it’s very difficult (currently) for the merchant to gauge my level of loyalty without knowing my transaction history.This is why I think the Amex+Foursquare partnership is really valuable – bc it will allow merchants to not only gauge the frequency with which a person visits their venue – but also the amount of money an individual spends. Ultimately, I think this will provide them with better metrics to gauge ROI on marketing spend, deals, loyalty rewards etc…I’d love for more web services to start using my transaction history to curate my online experience.
David, FYI – was on your Spark website looking at your various portfolio companies and I keep getting a 404 error when trying to view the various companies. http://www.sparkcapital.com….
Thanks for the heads up – will look into it!
Should be fixed. Let me know if you see problems elsewhere. Thx again.
They seem to work now. That was quick.
QA’ing the Spark website on AVC!!!!
I think it was you that said that you love it when an entrepreneur finds that his technology is being used for something good other than what was intended. AVC.com is proving you right.
but it only works if you have amex. Since there are multiple credit card companies out there (and people who use debit, which involves multiple banks) – there has got to be a better way of surfacing that data.
There is a big opportunity you allude to if you look from outside the box re information/data on all sides. There is a way to do it keeping in mind privacy and truly useful information for the vendor.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain confidence that my data is being kept secure by third party software. I’m wary of not being able to see the authentication methods or secure data handling of other software developers. There really are no guarantees that your data is safe, as you have no way of knowing just how that data is being stored.
I was thinking this too. Even a company with the right controls/processes in place can make mistakes. Seems like the risk would go up as the data gets shared across more 3rd party web services as well.
Well said, it does not have to be a malicious event that causes a problem … just a mistake.
Agree with this 100%. I think VC’s have no seat of the pants knowledge of security concerns and are relying on what they are being told as far as how secure things are. I’m really surprised about that lack of any disparaging comments on this blog when things like this are mentioned. Your comment and joesiewart being the exception.
we advocate that all of our portfolio companies do security audits and invest in security. we are well aware of the issues. many of our portfolio companies do invest heavily in security. some do not. we don’t control the companies we invest in but certainly try to make them aware of the risks as we see them
In the Facebooking of America, I am convinced there is NO security for anything. I cannot tell you the number of instances in which my identity has been compromised by a bank or governmental entity.It is really frightening but thus far not costly.
Agree about the increasing importance of providers not just saying your data is safe but need for users “to see the authentication methods or secure data handling of other software developers.” I agree w/ @a3d2a690c882556468add2fdc643018a:disqus KUDOS to you for bringing this up.
assume it isn’t – and assume your data isn’t valuable unless compared to other data.I guess the whole “data exchange” thing is when all of this starts becoming interesting. And that is only starting – it will be interesting to see what happens when people buy and sell data like a commodity
We at Toshl obviously expect great things to come with 3pp-s on top of billing systems. Banks need to open, though, so do billing providers. Not something that will happen overnight, but it will happen. Until then, developing a technology that scrapes data will continue being an absolute pain.I love BillGuard as well. Smart idea on top of “platform providers”. Exactly what banking sector needs. What it doesnt need is protecting its wall gardens. Even though that is still the case, even with Amex&4sqr connection.andraz from Toshl.
Great post, Fred. As you suggest, there are multiple opportunities for web services that sync credit cards; one great example is the deals and rewards space.A major fear for merchants when they run a customer acquisition deal (say, 40% off) is that the consumer would’ve bought from them anyway — they don’t want to lose 40% of their margin if they don’t have to.The merchant is usually happy to run a loyalty deal (say, 5% off) for that consumer. The challenge is that deal sites don’t do a good job of deciphering new customers from existing customers. As a result, many merchants are leaving money on the table when they run these acquisition deals.This is where syncing credit cards back to web services (deal sites/e-commerce sites) can help immensely. By syncing a credit card with a deal site, merchants can give different rewards to different consumers post-purchase; i.e. 40% back for first purchase or 5% for every purchase or 50% for every 20th purchase. This could work for seasonal deals as well (i.e. 10% back for all purchases during a merchant’s slow months).Syncing credit cards allows merchants to run far more efficient and flexible marketing campaigns (deals), and creates a huge market opportunity for web services that can facilitate them. As these services get smarter, I think we’ll see more and more merchant margin going towards dynamic and flexible ‘deals’ and away from traditional marketing
The discrimination between “tryers” and “loyal customers” is a critical consideration for any retail oriented business.The cost to acquire a new customer or tryer is spread out over the life of that customer and is well understood by most folks.What is less well understood is the value and efficacy of “one more visit” or “one more purchase” from a single loyal customer.It is much, much, much easier to get a 10 x per month customer to become an 11 times per month customer than it is to acquire a tryer.This is something I am wrestling with right now and I do NOT have the answer.
Agreed. I don’t have the answer either. But I do think that giving intelligent and innovative web services access to the data (by syncing credit cards) is a step in the right direction towards an answer. Huge unmet need here.
Agree completely from a couple of clueless guys who are still looking. Of course, you never ever find anything if you stop looking.
There is the issue of consumers free money to spend and that is not so hot right now.It is a natural cap to certain businesses and the overall economy.
Help me, I don’t understand what you are saying, Tom. Please enlighten me. Thanks.
My point was about getting customers to spend more or your 11th time.If consumers are strapped, it creates a natural economic ceiling.That’s it.
Got it. Thanks, Tom.I agree with you more than you agree with yourself.I share this observation — the 99 weeks of unemployment insurance is starting to run out and this is going to really impact the economy.This is a silent killer.
LITTLE PUNCH CARD, GET FREE ICE CREAM ON 10TH VISIT. ME SAY IT UNDERSTOOD PRETTY WELL.SOMETIMES PAPER JUST AS GOOD AS FANCY INTERNET MOBILE 3.0 BLAH BLAH BLAH.
JLM,What we did, which worked for us (your product makes a difference) for our loyal customers we issued “loyalty cards” which gave them a member number which they used whenever they ordered (87% of our customers order twice a year) thus our focus with them was to get them to buy something new, rather than what they normally buy twice a year.For the “newbies” or you call “tryers” we followed up at 30 days with a specific promotion…second purchase got you a loyalty card.To attract “tryers” we basically ran landing pages on the same keywords our three major competitors use/get their traffic – and we had them register with us for a free product (people love games of chance) every 10th registration was a winner. Then the ones that didn’t win got an email promotion with their notification.Around here it was called “systematic chaos”
We should talk.We have been doing that for the casino business for more than 15 years.We work with most of the best brands in one capacity.You have nailed what “loyalty” marketing is. It really is just a value exchange between a company and an existing customer.If it is more profitable to get an existing customer to buy more, why are you spending all of your marketing dollars on finding new ones?? Spend it on your existing customers. Add value, not discount.
JLM,Great reply on a great post. I’d like to offer that syncing of credit cards has been around for decades.I state the obvious because I believe what is less well understood is the value of identity for the individual.In Fred’s post he talks about BillGuard scanning your credit card bills for questionable purchases. Notice it’s after the fact that it has happened. What if an individual knew they (identity) were protected even before the transaction occurred?With regards to the Foursquare/Amex deal – What if a loyal customer didn’t have to check in with anybody or have to use a specific form of payment in order to get a discount from the retailer – online or off?It seems to me that once we solve the Identity issue, once we can merge an individual’s online & offline worlds, customer acquisition, retention, and a merchant’s cost of doing business drops dramatically.The individual can then, really and truly, live their lives the way they want to in an abundantly more enriching way. (Hint – It’s about the little data and not the big data)(Hint2 – It’s not just for retail, it’s for everything)
Of course what you describe is the ultimate solution. I predict that within the next 3 years, credit cards will converge w/ “identity” and you will be able to transact a credit card transaction with your fingerprint or iris.Already player loyalty programs which are card based have multiple inputs of the card, unique phone number, fingerprint and iris. These are all $150 additions to the system.I suspect we will see a system in which the restaurant itself will sense that “you” are in the store without any input and that they will be able to completely personalize the transaction by knowing you better than you know you.When you get ready to check out, you will simply verify that you are you and everything will be done automatically. Already this can be done with one of those white square scanning devices.The possibilities are unlimited.Very exciting times.
Very exciting times. Notes:- You’re about 3 yrs off. ;-)- Those “white square scanning devices” from Square are not automatic or secure.- Wish I had a way to get in touch with you directly.
great point. one of the reasons i like foursquare vs daily deals is that i don’t like coupons but i love being rewarded for my loyalty
why don’t you like coupons?
Shana, men are naturally “anti coupon” Men cannot stand going in with a coupon and “begging for a discount” but if they get one “automatically” for being loyal then they get to thinking they are “big shots”….I call it the Archie Bunker Syndrome….I have found, time after time, that if you give a consumer a link for a discount or a discount code, the address will be a woman. With guys you have to “know” them and give them their discount based on your data base at checkout….It makes a 20%+ difference in sales and I know from personal experience. Women will attempt to use expired codes and will call you to apply the code. Men will place their order and then call you and remind you that they are a “loyal customer” 🙂
See, you may be right – I don’t see it as begging for a discount. Though Iam surprised that even with brands they are loyal to (say food brands) theydon’t get into coupons….
Just go to a grocery store and watch the check out…guys never have coupons and women always do.Its a macho thing; I am no professor of psychology…and I will acknowledge that my customers are usually 30 years old or older…Another interesting point…we bought a database of 5,000 names to test a simple postcard mailer directing the consumers to our website… 3.5% of the mailing ended up being carried to a retailer because the consumer wanted the retailer to carry our products.They wanted our products but they did not want to go on line….
ONE TIME GIVEAWAY NOT MAKE LONG TERM GAIN.
See the response above – it may be a gender issue – I coupon with brands Iam loyal too (and shop sales with them too)
they are a hassle
Coupons are more of a girl thing.But I don’t like them either, you buy stuff you wouldn’t have bought.
exactly. Coupon reek cheap and sadness. Checking in now has a payoff. Finally.
finally is right. i’ve said that foursquare is an example of a social mediaservice that benefits from monetizing early because the business modelclearly improves the service for everyone
I think we need ways of testing methods that work to keep coming back. Most methods we have now just tell you if someone is showing up
I agree. I think the value of social apps like foursquare linked with credit card offers is real. It will enhance engagement for foursquare and provide users with real world savings. A good match! Hope to see more of this happening between Amex and other apps.
There are things which are cool.There are things which are fun.But then there are things which are cool, fun and make you a few bucks.
I could have used this the other day. Restaurant had a discount for checking in. I checked in but forgot to ask for the discount. This would have been perfect. Wonder if this is and opportunity for Open Table. Tap into the @foursquare API and capture the checkins for the restaurant and automatically apply the discounts to the table?
i’d love to see open table and foursquare do more together
I was thinking the same actually. One completes the other.
Open should have bought FS. its a perfect match to really and i mean really drive revenue.they’ll surely buy another player – although i don’t see them as that acquisitive and they were (last i checked) focused on automation of merchant operations.
What if you didn’t need to worry about checking in or forgetting to ask for the discount? What if it happened automatically and securely?
yes. I agree. I am no fan of checking in either as a social gesture or any other intent. Opentable is web 1.0 social not 2.0 FS is too “cool” for them.
OpenTable doesn’t need to tap into Foursquare to know when you are there – they already capture the check-in data through their reservation system.OpenTable automatically checking you in via Foursquare/FB is more interesting. Help restaurants acquire new customers by increasing brand awareness through social channels.
I didn’t make a reservation.
There’s always a loophole some where in the system.www.1800homealarm.com
IT GOOD WAY USE OLD TECHNOLOGY EVERYONE KNOW FOR MAKE BRIDE TO NEW TECHNOLOGY.REPLACE “TECHNOLOGY” IN WORDS ABOVE WITH “BEHAVIOR”, WORDS EVEN MORE TRUER.
Here’s my brain crack for the day, a credit card sync payment processor, like paypal, that calculates the cheapest card to use on the particular purchase. So it figures out the best card with the best APR for the purchase
Love this. I wish I did not hate Amex and Capital One so much.
i F***** despise them. really thats how i feel.
Still security could be a problem.http://black1blue.blogspot….
Interesting post.I know syncing up with Credit Cards can provide valuable data. Problem I have is how some can talk about Privacy/Securtiy one day then exclaim all things mana the next. What are the borders between open/closed?Merchant X should already know your transaction history with them. In the case of the newbie customer, that would be done by whichever promotion. Otherwise, it is a matter of empowering the merchant with the affordable way to use that data in real time.Completely agree with the reward loyalty stance. This is a gender issue somewhat (guys don’t use coupons) though the paper coupons are going to go away with print newspapers/books. There is a way to up the ante in rewarding simultaneously overall loyalty and how much the person is spending at Merchant X that day.The bigger concern to me is what happens when the headlines occur regarding security breach at Card Company X and so on?
how do you view google wallet play in this arena? It has mobile payment, custom royalty reward, coupon etc all built in.