Do I need a tin hat?

Might be me being paranoid here, but here goes;

I bought a beer from a supermarket the other day. I’d never heard of the beer before, I didn’t know anything about it. It hadn’t been on my radar at all and the only reason I bought it was because I liked the packaging. The beer was bought as part of a normal shop, £50 or so.

However, when I got home and popped on Instagram, suddenly I was seeing adverts and content from the makers of the beer I’d just bought using my Monzo card.

Seemed like a funny kind of coincidence to me, or is this how Monzo make money? Are they collecting data on us and selling it? I wouldn’t be surprised, just hoped they were better than that.

Monzo don’t get details of the items you buy from retailers, and have promised they wouldn’t do anything like that.

It’s most likely just a coincidence. Think about it - you see thousands of ads every day. If you hadn’t bought this beer, you’d have still been served the ad, but wouldn’t have registered the ‘coincidence’.

If it was targeting, it could be the supermarket linking your loyalty card etc to an ad profile, but then why would they spend money to sell you something you’ve already bought?


Happened many a time to myself but you likely bought it as they are promotional items placed in your eyeline which is the start of an advertising campaign.

Just happened to be on the same day but as Casper said above Monzo doesn’t get an itemised bill of your transaction just that you spent money at a merchant and that data isn’t sold on.

It’s likely that Instagram picked up you were in a supermarket tracking your phones location and they have set a geofence around the supermarket as that is where they have started a campaign for that beer.

Would be the same if you had bought it with a high street banks card.

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It’s the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon :slight_smile:


Cue spooky music.

Maybe you subliminally registered the advert which is filling your feeds, bought the beer, then finally started to notice the adverts everywhere which have been bombarding your subconscious and made you buy the beer!


Thanks for the replies. Im a typographer so kind of work in advertising and understand how all that works.

I suppose it’s the supermarket geo-targetting. I definitely hadn’t seen the beer before I literally bought it because I liked the design!

Good to know Monzo aren’t selling my info.

Thanks again,

Whilst I am sure they’d never feed them to advertisers (OP - is it possible you googled the beer after buying it?), I’m not totally sure Monzo doesn’t get details of items you buy.

See, enhanced data is provided by some (many) merchants for commercial cards, and providing this data saves the shop money on interchange fees. There’s no incentive to collect this data for consumer cards, but what I don’t know is - does it happen anyway? E.g. is the data just… there? Or does Mastercard strip it out for non-commercial cards? Or do merchants not collect it in the first place for non-commercial cards?

Enhanced data is the one area I’m probably most fuzzy about. I used to think it didn’t get forwarded for consumer cards at all, but then once I had details of a plane ticket show up on my (consumer, US market) Discover (or maybe it was Amex…? I can’t remember which) statement. So it does for Discover (or maybe Amex, sorry I can’t remember for sure), at least. Discover isn’t Mastercard, though, so it may be different.

I don’t believe the card issuers get the details of what was actually in a transaction - especially for a supermarket style shop (as the transaction data would be massive). They’ll know you spent (say) £150 at “Anon Supermarket”, Somewhereville on 25/12/2017 at 1500 for the description line “Groceries” but that’ll be it (the description line can only be around 70 characters if I remember correctly).

However…The merchant (“Anon Supermarket”) may be able to read your name from your Monzo card (I know it’s normally in the magnetic swipe data, but I don’t know about chip and pin transaction) and if you used a loyalty card they’ll know who you are (DoB, address along with name). The supermarket themselves may then sell that transaction to a data broker who then works with an advertising agency (see and : remember Instagram is owned by Facebook: added - see also / about “Customer Lists”)

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It’s the Beerder-Meinhof Phenomenon


If it is a product from a huge/multinational company then you can guarantee the product launch is supported by an all-out assault on all marketing channels. Price promotions and product positioning (within your eyeline) coerce you into trying it and then tv ads, social media etc build up understanding of the product and tell you this is something to trust and support. It can seem like a strange coincidence if you just bought that product and it is now on your social media feed, but that is what happens to many people at the beginning of a product launch.

Was it Bud Light by any chance? I have always preferred strong beers and watched American TV thinking how pointless a beer that weak could be (just have a tasty soft drink if you don’t fancy a beer!), and now that it’s hit the UK it is all over the shelves, on TV, social, radio - everywhere! I cannot get it out of my face.

I don’t think Monzo have bought your data. They are building a brand based on transparency, they are also pretty much pre-revenue and have a very simple early business model so I don’t think they would dabble in these dark arts to make money.

Whilst dismissing Monzo as the culprit, I definitely think there are unscrupulous techs out there who do use underhand and creepy methods to sell you advertising. Until recently my other half had a Samsung S5. When she ran Facebook it would come up with adverts about whatever we had just talked about. e.g. if you said “i’d love to go to Disneyland” and load up facebook then hey presto - targeted ad from Disneyland. Talk about crisps and hey presto Walkers are on your feed.

Many people have accused Facebook of this and they publicly deny they use your background sound to target ads at you. Having played around with that phone I am highly doubtful.

Some shops definitely do send line item detail for commercial cards, they get cheaper interchange if they do.

Contact chip - yes, your name is in there. Contactless - per network rules it’s replaced with a placeholder name to protect your privacy.

This is rumoured to be one reason many shops in the US with contactless terminals refuse to enable contactless (Walmart, Target, CVS, etc - though CVS technically does have it enabled and displays ‘contactless not allowed’ when you tap - though that seems to be more an anti-Apple thing, as they added that message the day after Apple Pay came out and they supported contactless until then). Is that the real reason? Who knows, it’s probably not the only reason.

Those merchants were also all part of a former alliance (called MCX) where they are rumoured to have had to pledge not to support contactless as members (since it would support competing mobile wallets, though some members like Meijer did support contactless, and the actual contractual details were obviously private).

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I definitely hadn’t heard of the brewery before. It was just a small UK based micro brewery and I did no searching for them before, or after buying the beer. I literally bought it, got home and went on instagram and it was the first ad I was served.

Im fairly sure it would be the supermarket (Waitrose) using my data somehow. Im not a big online user. I don’t have facebook for instance, but I do use Instagram and twitter. Anyway, I think my question has been answered, thanks for the comments. Enjoying reading some of the answers and speculation.


Yep, MCX was the origin of CurrentC, a shitty QR-code-based mobile wallet they touted as an alternative to contactless mobile payments… no wonder it didn’t take off. :joy:

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The most important question thrown up by this topic is: what Beer did you buy?


Just to nip this in the bud, we generally don’t get data of items purchased from supermarkets etc, and we don’t sell any data to anyone right now. If we decide to do anything like this in the future you will all be told about it :grinning: We don’t operate covertly or hide anything from you all! :hugs:


Have a listen to the episode of the Reply All podcast titled Is Facebook Spying on You?. Pretty interesting stuff, but basically there are a lot of ways this targeting works, and it doesn’t require Monzo to sell the data or for them to have your smartphone mic surreptitiously collecting data.

You definitely need a tin hat, but not because of :monzo:. :wink:


That reminds me, someone I know was found in Facebook using only their first name. I know recommended friends and search results are linked to the location services Facebook uses.

Does this data only go to commercial card issuers, then? Which was what I always thought until I had the details of a flight show up on a statement once.

Have you ever bought anything from Amazon? They do this all the time and I’ve never understood it!

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Flight data is a very different world and that tends to only go to credit card issuers and American Express. We will occasionally receive some data from certain airlines but right now, we do nothing with it at all. :slightly_smiling_face:

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