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Digital coupons via plastic

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Monday, November 14, 2011
Posted: 3 pm ET

A new service allows consumers to embed coupons on a debit or credit card. Sounds convenient, but your privacy may be at stake.

A partnership between Linkable Networks and 24/7 Real Media last week unveiled its Linkables service, where consumers can link their debit or credit cards to online and offline promotions.

It works like this: Simply register a debit or credit card at the Linkables website, click on Internet retail offers that have the Linkables logo and the discount automatically loads on the card. When you shop at the retailer, either online or in the store, you will receive a credit for the discount within 30 days when you use the linked card.

The service supports more than 95 percent of all credit and debit cards in the U.S. The company plans to announce partnerships with two big banks that will automatically sign up cardholders for the Linkable program, Linkable told The Wall Street Journal.

Of course, this means Linkables will have more insight into your shopping habits and how well you respond to certain kinds of advertisements, which is an invaluable resource for retailers.

The company told the WSJ it will keep card numbers and other financial information under lock and key, but it plans to create "tokenized profiles" using email addresses that will become profile histories.

This comes as credit card issuers think of new ways to use customer information for profit.

This summer, a report from Aite Group found that many issuers are selling your purchase histories to retailers, who are then giving oddly appropriate discounts through the issuer via text, email, mobile apps and online bank statements.

And last month, the WSJ reported that Visa and MasterCard were exploring methods to sell targeted online ads using consumer data. The frightening part is that Visa is seeking a patent to tap into DNA banks, credit reports and social networking sites to generate better consumer profiles.

So be careful what you sign up for. It could end up in a massive Big Brother database.

Do you have privacy concerns?

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron

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