Big brother coming to your bank statement
Are you ready to receive merchant coupons with your online bank statement?
This week, a company called BillShrink will begin affixing its bonus bucks and BOGOs (that's buy-one, get-one offers) to the once-sacrosanct customer bank statement at 2,000 U.S. banks that have agreed to sell out your spending habits for a minuscule piece of the action.
The so-called Statement Rewards program allows merchants to tailor their offerings to their best customers on a daily basis. Thanks to geo-location technology, the service can even drop a Starbucks coupon on your smartphone when it notices you're strolling by one or remind you that you're just one double low-fat macchiato away from earning a freebie.
It's totally "The Truman Show."
It's also a sign of the times. Put in the form of a personal ad, it would read: "Hungry merchants seek struggling banks for mutual profit, maybe more."
Banks are on the prowl for new income streams to help recoup the fees they lost to financial reform. If they can do so through programs that: a.) don't cost them money, b.) jump-start some synergy with their commercial customers and c.) appear to benefit their customers, what's not to love?
OK, as a consumer, I'm torn on this one.
On the one hand, I'm troubled by the big brother aspects of yet another bunch of marketing yahoos drooling over my spending habits. Further, it creeps me out that these same yahoos plan to track my movements and pounce with a text temptation every time I round a corner.
I mean, isn't that cyberstalking or something? And I'm more than a little concerned that my bank may be selling me out to keep their lights on.
On the other hand, sure, I'm game to save some money, especially on the things I typically buy anyway. Who isn't?
What's the harm of accepting a few discounts, especially if I don't have to take a survey or otherwise interact with said marketing yahoos to do so?
BillShrink promises you'll be able to opt out of its merry marketing matrix should your bank decide to take part. Knowing what I know of human nature, I'm fairly certain of two things: Your bank will almost certainly take part sooner or later, and most of us won't be sufficiently troubled by this development to opt out.
After all, we've been conditioned by our credit and debit card issuers not to worry about the sanctity of our financial information any longer.
In zero-liability land, the mantra is: spend, baby, spend.
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