Data hunter Payback

2 min
Tags: Payback data hunter points bonus system personal data advertising purposes transparent

Data hunter Payback: What does the bonus system operator know about its users?

It’s so easy: Show your payback card at the checkout, a short beep and points will land on the user’s personal payback account. The operator of the bonus system rewards the use of the card with bonuses and value checks that can be redeemed for the points.

But consumers pay for the minimal discount offered by using the card with a currency that is as valuable as gold to retailers: personal data.

A gift that is not a gift

Payback's success in Germany is based on consumers' basic need to get everything at the best price. This "greed-is-cool" mentality has not only existed since a large electronics retail chain articulated it in a commercial years ago. Bargain hunting is a real sport in Switzerland’s neighbouring country.

Bonus system operators such as Payback have an easy time of it in this environment. Points are credited with every purchase. There are bonuses and occasional discounts at retailers. For 1,999 points, for example, you can get a digital kitchen scale. Value in the online department store: 11.99 euros.

It feels like the big corporations are giving a piece back to their customers, as a thank you for years of loyalty, so to speak. What sounds like a gift, however, is not. In order to get their hands on a supposedly free knife block, backpack or mood light, Payback card holders disclose all their personal data.

What data does Payback collect?

The fact is that the more frequently the customer card is scanned, the more accurate the image that the company behind Payback (the U.S. company American Express) has of the consumer. Which products were purchased when, how often? How often was the brand changed? What might the customer be interested in in the future? All data has already been stored and merged before the shopping is stowed in the cupboards at home.

Already when registering to participate in the Payback bonus program, consumers must provide their name, address, email address and date of birth. What many users do not know: This data may also be used for advertising purposes without an express declaration of consent. This applies until the customer objects. Payback transmits this basic data to the partner company from which the card originates (DM, REWE, Aral, Sixt, etc.).

The transparent customer

In connection with their purchases, Payback card users become transparent customers. With every purchase, they drop data packets that are meticulously collected and analyzed by Payback. Which data is stored varies, depending on the partner company. Savings banks and pharmacies do not keep records of services and sales.

According to its own information, Payback does not trade with the data of its customers. From the company side, it means that there is no sale or trade of customer addresses and customer data. The personal data therefore remain with Payback and the partner companies.

What is the value of privacy?

Of course, payback is not the only data hunter. Anyone who is an Amazon customer, uses Google as a search engine or uses the streaming service Spotify also reveals their personal data. Those who do not want this can only counteract it by consistent refusal and passivity.

In the case of payback, however, responsible consumers should ask themselves whether their own privacy is really only worth as much as a steam iron, a spice mill or an annual "Brigitte" subscription.