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A big milestone was reached last week when Bank of America launched its BankAmericaDeals loyalty and rewards product to many of its 59 million customers. The launch of the product, a partnership with Cardlytics, suggests a coming of age for the new card-linked loyalty space. Indeed, more than 20 card-linked companies are vying to take deals and other marketing to the next level by taking credit or debit card information and producing ongoing, targeted ads and offers.

The companies ostensibly give an “in” to banks and other financial institutions, who otherwise might have been left behind in the emerging ewallet environment. Among the leading loyalty companies partnering directly with banks are Cardlytics, Cartera Commerce, Edo Interactive and FreeMonee Network. Bank relationships are also being pursued by Linkable Network and TruAxis. Each provides merchant offers and technology platforms, including merchant analytics.

It is hard to say who is leading — or even best positioned among these companies — leadership metrics might include the number of merchant accounts, average spend, conversion rates and reward participation. Several companies claim leadership based on different criteria. But Cardlytics has raised the most money among the players — $58 Million — and Bank of America, of course, is a major prize (but so is JP Morgan Chase, which has partnered with Cartera).

In a new report for BIA/Kelsey’s Marketplaces clients, we spell out additional details on Cardlytics and the card- linked space. The big questions are whether card-linked companies like Cardlytics, Cartera, Edo and others will use the ability to scale faster to bring new lines of success to their bank partners and whether they can be nimble enough to beat out vertically integrated players such as Google, eBay, Facebook, Amazon, Groupon and Living Social; and independent alternative payment services such as Square, LevelUp and Swipely. All in all, it is an intense, complex space that goes well beyond the simple daily deals environment that burst out just four years ago.

Leading execs from Cartera, Edo, Belly, Groupon and Local Offer Network will be speaking at BIA/Kelsey’s SMB Digital Marketing event Sept. 17-19 in Chicago. Sign up here.

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