This NetBanker article
offers insights why we have seen many of these merchant-funded reward programs pop up over the last few years. These are programs like Ally Perks and Bank of America Add It Up in which the bank offers customers with targeted discounts when they use their debit or credit cards. As a customer, I haven't yet found these useful (have you?). However, the merchants have a lot to gain as described in the article:
For the merchant (remember, the one ‘funding’ the rewards program), they have the potential to gain access to highly targeted customers for a pre-determined cost. Plus, by teaming with an [financial institution], merchants can avoid devaluing their brand with widespread coupons or discounts. Instead, the offers are positioned as "rewards" giving a lift to the brands of both the FI and merchant.