Groupon’s shares slid 9.87 percent September 17 down to $4.75, off the release of a new study that found that 39 percent of merchants said they were not likely to run another Groupon deal in the next few years. The same survey found that a third of Groupon merchants were also “unsatisfied” or “very unsatisfied” with their experience.
After a slight rebound, Groupon’s woes continued the next week as well. The Chicago-based daily deals giant saw its stock drop again on September 25, down 7.21 percent to $4.82. What caused the steep decline? A new article by the Chicago Sun-Times on Groupon’s brain drain again sapped investor confidence in the long-term viability of the company. Groupon’s been accused of being a Ponzi scheme frequently in the past, so consumers have every right to be concerned that the daily deal site won’t last forever.
So what’s next for shoppers? If Groupon stumbles, the company’s huge discounts will be missed, but there are other, easier ways to save.
Enter the card-linked offer. Card-linked offers are coupons loaded directly onto your debit or credit cards. When you swipe your card at checkout, your savings are placed directly back on your card’s account. There’s no confusion at the register, no holding up the line, no clipping paper coupons, and no printing online ones.
Because of the growing popularity of the card-linked offer, the industry is littered with high-growth companies and new programs. Here’s a list of some of the interesting programs currently out there, along with some tips on how to best take advantage of these discounts:
1. Ally Perks
This is one of the originals. Launched in summer 2011, the Ally Perks debit rewards program allows users to get cash back on qualifying purchases at participating retailers. “Ally launched Ally Perks at a time when many other banks were completely eliminating their rewards programs,” says Beth Coggins, an Ally Bank spokesperson.
There’s no need to sign up, either—just swipe your Ally debit card at the store and wait for your money back. Regular users of the program might also find additional offers targeted just for them on their online accounts. According to Coggins, “Approximately 70 percent of Ally Bank Checking Debit Card users have earned at least one Perk since the launch of the program.”
Why has the program been such a success? “Ally Perks has offered more than 500 offers from more than 170 retailers,” notes Coggins. If you’re an Ally cardholder, there’s no excuse for not knowing your weekly perks—you never know when just the right offer will come along.
2. Bank of America Deals
Bank of America recently partnered with Cardlytics to offer their own version of the card-linked offer. If you’re a BofA cardholder, go into your online banking account, click on the “Cash Back Deals” tab, and select the deals you want to use. Once activated, shop like normal. You’ll see your savings credited back to your account the following month. The program is simple, easy to use, and best of all, it’s free.
BofA claims that the more you shop, the more targeted your offers will become. You’ll start seeing offers from your favorite restaurants and retailers, including both local and national merchants. Use your offers before the holidays, and you might find some great Black Friday deals in your online bank account.
Cartera Commerce’s program for local merchants will come in handy for if you have a Wells Fargo, Barclays, or CitiBank credit card. Use your qualifying card at an eligible local merchant and a reward of airline miles, cash back, or points will be automatically applied to your account.
4. Link, Like, Love
American Express’s card-linked offer platform is a Facebook app that delivers the best deals to you. When you use the Facebook app, found on the American Express Facebook page, you’ll get a personalized dashboard. Based off your Facebook likes and interests, your dashboard will fill with relevant experiences, content, and deals. Like Macy’s store page and you might find Macy’s coupons sitting in your dashboard. You can also share these deals with friends.
To redeem, all you do is use your American Express card as usual. You don’t need to pre-purchase anything, and your rewards will appear as statement credits on your account.
The card-linked offer has made its way into the all-important world of grocery coupons. “SavingStar works with over 100 supermarket and drug store chains nationwide to offer grocery deals linked to store loyalty cards. Register your local store loyalty card on SavingStar.com and select the eCoupons you’d like. Use your card [at] the store and the value of each eCoupon is deposited into your SavingStar account,” says Josh Grossman, director of marketing at SavingStar.
Grossman is quick to point out, as well, that the card-linked offer isn’t just a more convenient way to coupon—the digital card-linked offer creates new coupons that couldn’t be offered before. “SavingStar has introduced a unique product called ‘One or Many’ that enables shoppers to get high value savings over ‘one or many’ shopping trips at ‘one or many’ retailers in the network. For example, buy 15 Kraft macaroni and cheese boxes, get $5 back. SavingStar tracks the purchases made and then rewards people after the threshold is met,” Grossman says.
In the past, getting $5 off the 15 boxes of macaroni and cheese meant buying 15 boxes at once—also known as “extreme couponing.” Could the card-linked offer knock off both the daily deal and extreme couponing? It’s possible. For now, however, register a couple cards and enjoy the discounts.
Matthew Ong is a strategy analyst at NerdWallet, a website dedicated to helping consumers save money. His latest project is tracking the biggest discounts and the best Black Friday deals.