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2020 Foresight Report: Merchant-Funded Rewards - Challenges and Opportunities for Retail Banks

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Published Date : May 2013

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No. of Pages : 47 Pages


The report provides market analysis, information and insights into merchant-funded loyalty programs. The report also includes:

  • Comparisons of merchant-funded loyalty program business models
  • In-depth analysis of trends and drivers for merchant-funded rewards programs
  • Detailed analysis of various players involved in the value chain of merchant-funded loyalty programs
  • Best practice case studies

Executive summary

With the emergence of payment cards and their increasing adoption by consumers and acceptance by merchants, banks and other cards issuers have been making significant efforts to make consumers use their cards over those of their competitors. In line with this, banks have been at the forefront in issuing cards with benefits and features offered through loyalty programs. These programs allow banks to distinguish their products from the basic services offered by competitors by offering attractive deals in a variety of product categories. 

However, it has become apparent that bank-funded reward and loyalty programs have lost value and impact, from both the banks’ and consumers’ points of view. Banks and card issuers have introduced similar loyalty programs in the recent past, which have become mutually almost indistinguishable. This has compelled banks to carry out other expensive promotional initiatives to set themselves apart. Banks and other card issuers have also realized the benefits of merchant-funded loyalty programs and consider these programs as replacements for traditional loyalty programs.


  • This report provides a comprehensive analysis of various merchant-funded loyalty program business models
  • It provides insight into the merchant-funded loyalty program value chain and the role of the service provider
  • It details merchant-funded reward program strategies adopted by key market players
  • It profiles major players active in the value chain of merchant-funded loyalty programs

Key highlights

  • The business model of merchant-funded products has changed as the roles of the stakeholders associated with merchant banking have altered: the risk associated with expenses has shifted to merchants and is not borne by card issuers or program managers.
  • In countries such as the US, Canada, Brazil, Russia and some other European countries, adoption levels of programs are high among leading banks such as Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, Royal Bank of Canada, Sberbank, Barclays, Standard Charted and HSBC.
  • The implementation of an effective marketing campaign is key to the success of any loyalty program.
  • Different promotion and advertising channels can be deployed to access a larger consumer base; advertisements on the company’s website, email and newsletters are highly cost-effective modes of advertising a loyalty program.

Reasons to buy

  • Gain insights into creating and improving a merchant-funded rewards model
  • Gain an understanding of industry best practice
  • Learn about the most effective business models
  • Get advice on improving merchant-funded rewards programs
  • Understand the value chain of merchant-funded loyalty programs
Table of contents

1 Executive Summary

2 Emergence of Merchant-Funded Loyalty Programs
2.1 Comparing Merchant-Funded Loyalty Program Business Models
2.1.1 Traditional bonus-point and cashback programs
2.1.2 Premier merchant-funded programs
2.1.3 Member coalition and registered card program
2.1.4 Online-only merchant-funded programs
2.1.5 Proprietary merchant programs
2.2 Merchant-Funded Loyalty Program Adoption Levels
2.3 Merchant-Funded Rewards Programs – Value Chain and Parties Involved
2.3.1 Financial institutions and other card issuers
2.3.2 Merchants
2.3.3 Consumers

3 Trends and Drivers of Merchant-Funded Rewards Programs
3.1 Business Drivers for Merchants
3.2 Challenges
3.2.1 Challenges from through branding and marketing
3.2.2 Financial challenges
3.2.3 Other challenges

4 Merchant-Funded Reward Program Strategies
4.1 Merchant-Funded Loyalty Program Marketing Strategy
4.2 Customer Targeting Strategy
4.2.1 Customers that should be aggressively targeted
4.2.2 Customers who should be lightly targeted or not targeted at all, but are still eligible

5 Building a Merchant-Funded Loyalty Program
5.1 Case Studies – Impacts of Merchant-Funded Rewards
5.1.1 Case study I: Smart Chip Technologies
5.1.2 Case study II: Fifth Third Bank
5.1.3 Case study III: the Bank of Montreal debit card reward program
5.1.4 Case study IV: Dunkin’ Donuts improving sales through merchant-funded loyalty program
5.1.5 Case study V: A loyalty program adopted by Exxon Mobil to drive sales
5.2 Best Practice Framework for Program Implementation
5.2.1 Preparation of a complete roadmap for the loyalty program
5.2.2 Alliances with a number of merchants to offer customers a diverse shopping experience
5.2.3 Developing a multi-tier loyalty program
5.2.4 Adoption of effective marketing strategies
5.2.5 Effective segmentation to provide personalized offerings
5.2.6 Frequent infrastructure upgrades

6 Competitive Landscape and Industry Dynamics
6.1 Industry Structure
6.1.1 Affinity solutions
6.1.2 FreeMonee Network Inc.
6.1.3 Truaxis Inc.
6.1.4 Cardlytics
6.1.5 Welcome Real-time
6.1.6 Edo Interactive
6.1.7 Cartera Commerce, Inc.

7 Appendix
7.1 Methodology
7.2 Contact Timetric
7.3 About Timetric
7.4 Disclaimer

List of Table

Table 1: Level of Competitiveness in PLC Industry in Singapore
Table 2: How the Loyalty Program of FreeMonee Works

List of Chart

Figure 1: Consumer Expectations from Banks’ Loyalty Programs (%), 2012
Figure 2: Traditional Bonus-Point and Cashback Programs
Figure 3: Premier Merchant-Funded Loyalty Programs
Figure 4: Member Coalition and Registered Card Programs
Figure 5: Online-Only Merchant-Funded Programs
Figure 6: Proprietary Merchant Programs
Figure 7: Merchant-Funded Loyalty Program Adoption by Country
Figure 8: The Merchant-Funded Loyalty Program Value Chain and the Role of the Service Provider
Figure 9: Factors Driving the Growth of Merchant-Funded Loyalty Programs
Figure 10: Expenditure Incurred for Merchant Funded Programs
Figure 11: Merchant-Funded Loyalty Programs – Key Challenges
Figure 12: Royal Bank of Canada’s Merchant-Funded Loyalty Program Site
Figure 13: Alpha Bank’s Bonus Loyalty Program Portal
Figure 14: MasterCard Solutions Loyalty Program Website
Figure 15: Dunkin Donuts’ MFL Program with Plink
Figure 16: Framework of the Loyalty Program Adopted by Exxon Mobil
Figure 17: Merchant Funded Loyalty Program – Best Practices
Figure 18: Merchant-Funded Loyalty Programs – Industry Structure
Figure 19: Affinity Solution’s Loyalty Program Business and Retail Partners
Figure 20: Truaxis’s Merchant-Funded Loyalty Program Website
Figure 21: Cardlytics Strategy for Customer Privacy and Information Security
Figure 22: Welcome Real-time Key Stakeholders in Merchant-Funded Loyalty Programs
Figure 23: Edo Interactive Merchant Funded Loyalty Program Website
Figure 24: The Cartera Card-Linked Offer Platform
Figure 25: Cartera Merchant-Funded Loyalty Program Client Base

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