A Q&A with Fidel, opening doors to totally new card-linked rewards programs

Fidel is a payments API platform that allows developers to build personalised products on top of payment cards, providing real-time transaction data from major networks. It enables businesses to deliver seamless card-linked offers, driving value to end users without the need for physical cards, and has seen increased demand for innovative rewards programs, especially post-pandemic.

Opening door
Andrea Añez
Read time: 6 min

Fidel is a groundbreaking payments API platform for developers, providing the tools to build frictionless, real-time, and personalized products and applications on top of payment cards. The mobile and web applications that build on Fidel APIs benefit from a secure connection to granular, real-time payment data from all three major card networks: Visa©, Mastercard©, and Amex©. Thanks to Fidel’s extensive documentation, developers can often integrate in an afternoon and begin creating card-linked offers (CLOs) across multiple retailers or merchants, via a single connection point. Consumers simply link credit and debit cards to programs that appeal to them. 

Impact’s Strategic Partnerships Director, Andrea Añez sat down with Dan Jones, Partnerships Lead at Fidel to find out more about what makes Fidel tick, how they operate, and how they benefit from partnership automation. 

Andrea: Can you provide a quick overview of the whole idea of card-linking and how it’s different from a typical cashback program you might have by, say, using a branded credit card issued by a retail store?

Dan: To put it very simply, Fidel provides the means to securely connect a program directly to a customer’s payment card. Our API provides a single integration directly into the major card networks, allowing developers the opportunity to build on top of real-time transaction data. The data our clients can then build on provides the foundation to deliver seamless, and personalised offers — ultimately driving more value to end users. The service is complementary to any payments-led program and amplifies benefits by removing unnecessary friction. It’s as simple as: link card — start spending — get rewarded, regardless of whether a transaction happens in-store or online. 

Unlike a co-branded card, the merchant, or advertiser, can offer the same or even better benefits but without needing to fight for wallet space or — even worse — issue another plastic card! 

Andrea: Your client roster seems to range from miles-based loyalty programs to networks of local merchants; is there a common denominator for businesses who want to work with Fidel?

Dan: Yes, we’re very proud of our client range and our ability to service customers of different sizes and maturities, from start-ups to enterprise-level clients. However, there are a few common denominators amongst our clients. Firstly is the need for speed in bringing their product to market. With Fidel, the complexities of PCI compliance and the potential time and cost required to integrate with the card networks are solved before you even start building. 

Secondly, all of our clients are focused on driving value to their users. Avios and British Airways are issuing frequent flyer points, Perkbox and NextJump are giving their employees cashback and points and Mi-Rewards are giving shoppers in town centres a chance to win a prize every time they spend in the local economy. 

Andrea: A simplified, secure connection to multicard, geolocational spend data is a big advantage of working with Fidel. How are your customers using that data, and what is most valuable about the way you provide it?

Dan: Correct, we are one of the few plumbers of real-time, transactional data — and by data, we’re talking about over 35 data objects such as spend, date, precise location, longitude and  latitude, to name a few. 

Our clients use this data to power their loyalty programs and drive a more personalised, unique proposition to their users. I would say the most valuable aspect of how we facilitate that data is the way Fidel, and our clients, take data management and customer privacy extremely seriously. All clients sign a data processing addendum and data sharing agreement with us that outlines what they can and cannot use the data for, so their customers and advertisers can connect with confidence.

Andrea: You opened your New York office this summer; what’s the status of your U.S. expansion?

Dan: Fidel is now live in the U.S.— meaning, we can now provide infrastructure for payment cards issued in the States. We are quite keen to extend the successful playbook developed and deployed in the UK to other developers across the pond.

Our colleagues in New York are focused on building and servicing the U.S. client base as well as deepening our ties to the major card networks. In doing so, we very much hope to provide even more opportunities for developers to connect to and innovate within the world of payments. 

Andrea: Fidel opens the door to totally new kinds of card-based rewards programs and user experiences — like what Fantastic Fanatics did to raise money for sports clubs during the pandemic. Can you give some other examples of really innovative things entrepreneurs and developers are doing based on your technology?

Dan:  We pride ourselves for supporting innovation in the payments space. Fantastic Fanatic is a great example of how card-linking is being leveraged as the means to support your sports club. Percent are another example of how an aggregated view of your favourite High Street brands in one platform can benefit from using our APIs in the card networks. They enable their users to give to their favourite charity and can help change consumer behaviour based upon the CSR strategy of the brand.

Mi-Rewards is another client of ours that uses our technology to drive footfall and spend for local businesses, BIDs, and town centres. 

We are also powering employee benefit platforms such as Perkbox and NextJump; frequent flyer programs like Avios/BA Executive Club app and Easy Cashback (part or EasyJet Group); and cashback platforms such as TopCashback. We are supporting programs across the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, and in the Nordics with plans to expand into APAC. 

Andrea: Here at Impact, we’ve seen how cashback, deal, and coupon partnerships have played an important role in keeping cash flowing during the pandemic. Consumers are looking to save money, and retailers are looking for steady sources of revenue. How do you see Fidel contributing to the post-pandemic rebound and beyond?

Dan:  Fundamentally, we see ourselves as enablers of payments-led innovation — in this case, allowing publishers to reward their users’ behaviour with the brands that want to incentivise their audience. Our APIs sit behind and power the services that enhance the customer interaction with a brand. The customer is paying full price in-store and being rewarded for the action immediately post-sale. For the business, it’s a chance to track and actively drive in-store sales, with tailored and targeted rewards of greater value for money to their loyal customers. This is a far more preferable and effective form of customer reward, as opposed to random discounting or coupons with little guarantee of encouraging genuine brand engagement.   

I think it’s clear – certainly now, more than ever – that advertiser spend needs to justify every dollar spent moving forward. One of the greatest advantages of running a card-linked offer is a brand can see the full lifetime value of the acquired and retained customers. 

We are beginning to see that change and, according to a recent study by the CardLinx Association, marketers are spending more on promoting card-linking. Those investing 5% to 10% of their total advertising budget on card-linked offers grew from 37.8% in 2019 to 64.3% in 2020. This growth reflects increased demand by consumers for the programs that are making purchasing goods and services easier and more rewarding using the frictionless experience that CLO can offer.

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