25 Mar 2024

Card linked offers in loyalty programs: A deep dive

Reza Javanian

Mohammadreza Javanian

Talon.One loyalty expert


5 minutes to read

Card linked offers in loyalty programs are booming in popularity, and it’s easy to see why. By allowing consumers to connect their credit or debit cards to a store's loyalty program, retailers have a huge opportunity to streamline and increase program uptake.

For consumers, the appeal of card linked offers lies in their simplicity – meaning there’s no need for additional loyalty cards or unnecessary steps to redeem or spend rewards.

With 82% of adults in the U.S. owning at least one credit card, and 73% expressing a preference for cards with linked offers, brands like Virgin Atlantic, Europcar, and Nando’s are leveraging this approach to offer customers extra avenues for earning points and enhance their interaction with the brand.

In this blog post, we’ll look at the definition of card linked offers, benefits for consumers and businesses, an integration workflow for card linked offers, and security and privacy measures to bear in mind. We also spoke to Dan Currell, CEO of card linking alliance Digital Commerce Alliance, for his expert insights.

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What are card linked offers?

Card linked offers are digital offers from brands and retailers linked directly to a payment provider like a debit or credit card. The offer is redeemed by the consumer when the linked payment card is used at the point of sale (POS).

A common type of card linked offer is cashback, which gives customers real money back depending on the amount spent. However, card linked offers have the potential to redefine loyalty initatives by providing unique incentives beyond traditional cashback and discounts. For instance, users can accumulate loyalty points or gain access to exclusive deals from affiliated brands when using their linked payment card.

Travel perks, subscription upgrades, personalized experiences, cross-promotions, educational content access, fitness rewards, and gamification elements further enrich the card linked experience, creating a seamless and rewarding relationship between consumers and brands at the POS.


"Card linked offers have to date been super-charged coupons that, in most cases, lacked SKU specificity, As we see more SKU-specific capabilities coming online as a result of open banking, receipt-scanning and other technologies, we will see a broader set of applications for card linked offers."


Dan Currell

CEO of Digital Commerce Alliance

Key benefits for consumers and businesses

The appeal of card linking lies in its win-win for both consumers and businesses. For consumers, it means a hassle-free experience where rewards accumulate organically without extra reminders or steps. Other main advantages include:

  • Omnichannel rewards: Card linked offers play a big role in a brand’s overall omnichannel strategy, as they allow consumers to use their rewards across all offline and online channels. 

  • Larger reward ecosystem: Through card linking technology, customers can freely use their points and choose rewards from a network of connected brands rather than being limited to a single brand. This integrated ecosystem enhances the flexibility of reward selection, offering customers a broader range of options and a more interconnected experience.

  • Personalization capabilities: Most commonly, these offers come in the form of cashback rewards which are especially valuable during tough economic times when budget-consciousness rises. Yet, the variety of options ensures there's something for everyone, from cashback to special deals on purchases like travel perks and dining rewards.

Businesses, in turn, stand to gain by enhancing customer engagement and retention through card linked offers seamlessly fitting into omnichannel environments. Brands also gain a deeper understanding of consumer behavior, offering access to detailed purchase data and analytics. 

What industries benefit from card linked offers?


"In truth, card linked offers came along at a time of upheaval that confounds any effort to do a clean before-and-after comparison. There are many examples of retailers who have used card linked offers to efficiently do rewards and promotions in a way that may not have worked before. For example, Fanatics used card linked offers as a channel to reach a narrow slice of high-margin consumers."


Dan Currell

CEO of Digital Commerce Alliance

Card linked offers work well in industries where:

  • There is a tendency towards repeat customers but in a market competitive enough that loyalty programs have strong ROI.

  • Products are high-margin and there is enough competition that consumers can easily switch between brands.

  • Loyalty and rewards programs have traditionally been effective or necessary to compete.

This is why the retail, dining, and travel sectors are a good fit for card linked offers: competition is fierce, margins are high, and loyalty programs play a pivotal role in driving business growth.

What does a card linking integration workflow look like? 

The following diagram shows how the integration between a business, credit card, card linking provider, and a promotions and loyalty engine like Talon.One works to enable card linked offers for a customer: 


What a card linking integration workflow looks like

Image source

Card linked offers in a cookieless future

A significant advantage of card linked offers is their independence from relying on third-party cookies, especially with the introduction of new privacy laws in four U.S. states, ongoing scrutiny of GDPR enforcement in the EU, and Google's rollout of the Privacy Sandbox for Chrome users in 2024.

As the marketing landscape undergoes this shift, it's time for businesses to focus on developing their zero-party and first-party data. Card linked offers prove to be a reliable alternative. Using real transactional data and purchase history, these incentives offer a more accurate approach compared to cookie-dependent methods. 

Security and privacy measures

Addressing security and privacy concerns is paramount in financial transactions, especially considering that card linked loyalty programs involve the use of transactional data at the point of sale (POS). Businesses must ensure their chosen solution provider adheres to strict data security and privacy policies.


"In the early years of card linked offers, there were concerns about security – but the technology functions without transmitting full customer card information, using secure proxies for identity to prevent security issues. Card linked offers have been a secure channel for well over a decade, and continue to evolve in ways (including technologies that rely on open banking) that preserve security as threats continue to evolve."


Dan Currell

CEO of Digital Commerce Alliance

The advantage of card linked offers lies in their ability to prioritize user privacy. Unlike other promotional methods that rely on third-party cookies, card linked programs provide customers with a greater level of privacy on their devices. This approach not only enhances the overall user experience but also underscores a commitment to respecting user privacy.

It's clear that card linked offers are reshaping the loyalty program landscape. To learn more about how the loyalty technology landscape is evolving, check out our report, The Loyalty Toolkit.

And to learn more about how card linked offers deployment drive customer engagement or preserve an existing customer base, check out Dan Currell's Commerce Code podcast series. 

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Loyalty & promotion expert at Talon.One

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