Your Credit Card Data Is Up for Auction

Your Credit Card Data Is Up for Auction

April 23, 2013         Written By Bill Hardekopf

Did you know that your credit card data is constantly being sold to online advertisers who want to target you with specific ads? Companies like American Express and MasterCard have been doing this for years.

Credit card companies are not selling your identifiable data–the buyers don’t know you spend $200 a week on knickknacks on eBay. What they do know is that you are among a certain number of people in your area who buy similar knickknacks in a given week. Advertisers want to target people who will logically buy their products. Credit card companies have a history of your purchases and they have found a way to cash in on that.

These companies compile credit card spending data by region to show advertisers where the “hot spots” are for their industries across the country. Then, those advertisers bid for a chance to promote their products in those areas.

The credit card companies make money, the advertisers get better leads, and you potentially see ads that will convert you into a buyer. There is no harm done, but your buying habits play a part in the growing wealth of top-name credit card providers. Whether that bothers you or not, it happens every day.

There are some security concerns about this process as some people fear the advertisers are being paired with buyers based on a cookie system. Companies like MasterCard deny these claims, but this practice as a whole is under constant scrutiny. It does provide more accurate reflection of online purchases than simple page visits because it shows what people actually spend money on.

There does not appear to be a security problem with this system, at least at this point. But you should know how those ads on certain websites seem oddly similar to things you might be looking for. It’s all part of an elaborate plan that you unintentionally helped create.

The information contained within this article was accurate as of April 23, 2013. For up-to-date
information on any of the terms, cards or offers mentioned above, visit the issuer's website.


About Bill Hardekopf

Bill Hardekopf is the CEO of and covers the credit card industry from all perspectives. Bill has been involved with personal finance for over 15 years. He is a frequent contributor to Forbes, The Street and The Christian Science Monitor.
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