You'll find discounts and deals at the new online credit card malls
As Groupon, Living Social and other online deal-of-the-day websites gain traction, credit card companies are getting into the mix.
Visa and MasterCard have virtual shopping malls, where you can shop online for special offers and discounts from brand-name retailers.
In most cases, cardholders can shop in these malls without paying any additional fees. And the discounts you'll earn can be attractive.
So what's the value for the credit card companies?
The issuers are trying to figure ways to be more attractive to their customers and the banks that issue these cards, says Mark Beccue, senior analyst for mobile commerce at ABI Research.
Offering online discounts is one approach.
Of course, if credit cards are of more value, the issuers hope you'll charge more to your account. And you'll have to give up a bit of online privacy as you provide personal data to the card companies.
Here's a look at the two major virtual malls:
MasterCard’s shopping site, MarketPlace (www.marketplace.mastercard.com), offers personalized shopping deals from 28,000 merchants across a variety of categories, from computers and clothing to travel and entertainment.
Recent offers on MarketPlace’s homepage included a 61% discount at Omaha Steaks and up to 50% off on Macys.com.
But you have to enroll in the program to get the deals, and not all offers are available to everyone.
Once you’re enrolled, MasterCard uses your ZIP code, selected favorite retailers and activity on the website to offer you tailored discount offers each week.
The Basic Level program, free to all MasterCard cardholders, gives discount offers from 5% to 20% off.
The Premium Level program offers discounts averaging 20% to 50% off, plus deeper discounts, limited-time offers and invites to special in-store events.
The annual fee is $29.95 to join, but it’s waived for World MasterCard cardholders.
All MasterCard customers can try for "Overwhelming Offers," which are discounts of at least 50%.
Recent deals include Nintendo Wiis for $99.99 and Lenovo netbooks at half off.
But these offers are in limited quantities and by reservation only, meaning you have to link a MasterCard to your MarketPlace account in order to hit the "Reserve" button on the item you want to buy. (MasterCard offers "Overwhelming Offers" apps for the iPhone and iPad so you can track them from anywhere.)
MarketPlace also offers WOWPoints, a kind of cash-back program for online shopping.
Buy from participating retailers, and you get reward points that can be redeemed toward future purchases anywhere on the site.
A hundred WOWPoints are equal to $1. Some retailers let shoppers earn multiple WOWPoints per dollar spent.
That Macy’s offer for 50% also came with five WOWPoints on every dollar spent at Macys.com.
RightCliq (www.rightcliq.visa.com) is Visa’s online shopping tool, free for everyone to use, a browser add-on that helps you create your own personalized shopping mall.
Go to nearly any retailer website, click on the photo of an item you like, and add it to your "Wishspace" in the RightCliq tool.
You can organize the photos into specific bundles, like back-to-school clothes or Christmas gifts.
And, using the social media aspect, you can use RightCliq to ask people for advice on your desired items via e-mail and Facebook.
In terms of bargains, RightCliq alerts you if it has a discount available for any of your stored Wishspace items.
Once you want to buy an item, click on it in the Wishspace to be directed to the retailer website for checkout.
RightCliq auto-fills the personal, payment and shipping information you’ve previously stored there with one mouse click. It also monitors and tracks delivery of your purchases and keeps a history of them.
Other card companies and banks that issue credit cards offer discounts as well, just not in the form of an online mall.
American Express used to offer Daily Wish, a daily-discount shopping site similar to MarketPlace, but closed it down July 1. It now offers a Facebook-driven discount program called Link, Like, Love.
And Discover offers ShopDiscover, which lets you get a cash-back bonus of between 5% and 20% when shopping at 175 online retailers.
What's the catch?
Other than the $30 annual fee to join MarketPlace’s Premium Level, there’s no other charges or fees for using these sites.
Another valuable thing the credit card issuers are gathering is your data.
While they’re gathering your personal information and shopping preferences to customize discounts on deals you really like, they’re also likely to sell that information on you to retailers they’re partnering with and others they’re not.
Credit card issuers typically don’t give names of specific customers to retailers but rather a batch of customers who share certain characteristics, like they have young children or incomes greater than $100,000.
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