Online payment, transaction amounts, purchase details…what banks know about us

It’s a small plastic rectangle that knows us by heart: a bank card records a lot of data about our purchasing habits or our movements, which can be reused by banks or other players.

But does your bank really know everything you buy? What can the recorded data be used by your bank? Are banks the only ones who can know this information? We evaluate everything banks know about us thanks to our card payments.

Registered “Payment Data”

When paying by card, the bank records “payment data”: the amount of the transaction, the date and time of payment, the identity of the merchant, etc., however, it does not have access to the details of the purchased products called “data” of purchases.

When paying online, things get complicated because the purchase data can be scattered among many players, including banksEmeric Pontvien, finance and innovation advisor at the National Commission on Computing and Freedoms (Cnil), explains.

“But they have no interest in making the history of this data.”He thinks, because their customers expect strict banking service and “It would definitely be a very bad reaction.” Seeing that their bank keeps track of their purchases.

“Trusting banks to manage data is huge capital, and we don’t want to play with that”Sophie Heller, Head of Commercial, Retail and Services Banking at BNP Paribas confirms.

In addition, traders are jealous of their customers’ purchase data because sharing it with banks will give a lot of indication of their performance.

data exchange

Aymeric Pontvianne believes that data sharing can take place between the distributor and the bank player in a specific case: the case of loyalty cards that also function as a payment card. Generally, distributors, to operate this type of card, must have an affiliate of the bank with which they can share data without fear because they are part of the same pool.

However, the consumer must give their consent first, as required by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

And beware of those who are not clear on the subject: Carrefour and its banking branch notably in 2020 were fined €3 million by Cnil for failing to fulfill their duty to provide information on the pass. However, the data policeman indicated that the set was made after ‘big effort’ to comply.

Expense assessment

Historically, banks have had access to payment data to allow their customers to assess and advise their spending and for anti-money laundering purposes. This data is protected by banking secrecy. Subject to specific consent from their customers, they can also use it for marketing purposes.

In this case, the bank can analyze the customer’s payment data to promote certain services of its affiliates in a targeted way. For example, if a person spends a lot of money on insurance or fuel, they can offer them their own insurance or their own electric car rental.

The bank does not have the right to create a “profile” of its customers from their data which may risk depriving them of certain rights: for example, refusing credit or insurance because the customer regularly makes purchases in the pharmacy and is therefore likely to be affected by an illness.

‘least predictable’ data movements

Banks are not the only ones with information about our habits, as payment methods have multiplied in recent years and the creation of digital purchases More unpredictable data movementsAymeric Pontvien notes.

Some startups, bank account aggregators or major digital platforms developing payment methods can access a large amount of data, sometimes without being transparent about it.

For Cnil, the only solution to maintaining anonymity in its payments is cash, which is used less and less on a daily basis and instead for small purchases.

Online payment, transaction amounts, purchase details…what banks know about us

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