Visa and AMEX Jump Into Attention Payment Game

NEW YORK | September 29, 2022 8:01am EST

(REUTERS) -- American Express announced today that it would be offering "American Express Prewards" attention payments, in a move seen as a response to Visa's introduction of "Visa Prebates" on September 3...

This is not an actual Reuter's headline, of course, but one like it will appear if Paybuyer's attention payments achieve proof of concept. Credit card networks and issuing banks will provide their own attention payments, i.e., cash-back rewards for paying attention to advertisers before purchases.

Card companies will enable attention payments because, like conventional cash-back rewards, they will incent people to use their cards.

Moreover, they may be more appealing to credit card users than conventional 1% rewards because buyers will normally receive more than one attention payment per purchase. Attention payments combined can total over 5% of a purchase amount.

Here's one way it could work.

AMEX could provide an online keyword-based ad directory. Imagine a user, Vic, goes to the "flowers" page. Each time he views a florist's ad, he would receive a provisional payment of, say, 1% of his planned purchase. He might collect five such payments.

The payments would only be deposited in Vic's AMEX rewards account if he actually made a flower purchase after viewing the ads. So, some period of time after he has viewed the ads, AMEX's software would check whether Vic bought flowers with his AMEX card. If he made the purchase with his card, the payments would be transferred as cash into his AMEX account. The payments would be definite rather than probabilistic.

Card company competitors could collaborate in creating such an ad directory, to make it more efficient for customers and the card companies themselves.

When it's not practical for software to verify that a purchase has taken place, a human may need to be involved. In this case, probabilistic processing is efficient. Thus, a system operated by credit card companies might combine definite and probabilistic payments.