What Is Blackhawk Network?
Blackhawk Network is “a leading prepaid payment network utilizing proprietary technology to offer to consumers and businesses a broad range of prepaid cards in physical and electronic forms”. More simply, Blackhawk Network is one of the leading gift card networks and third-party providers in the United States. If you’re in the gift card reselling hobby, you’ll definitely be surprised by how often you interact with Blackhawk Network without even realizing it.
Blackhawk Network: A History Lesson
Blackhawk Network was founded in 2001 as a division of Safeway specializing in third party gift cards. Blackhawk would source gift card directly from retailers (like Apple, Nike, etc.) at a discount and then distribute those cards to their retail partners (like grocery stores or convenience stores).
Becoming A Public Company
In April 2013, Blackhawk Network completed their initial public offering (IPO) becoming a public company with Safeway maintaining a stake in the company. In April 2014, Safeway divested their remaining stake in Blackhawk Network making the company a completely standalone entity.
Going Back Private
On January 16, 2018, it was announced that Blackhawk Network would be acquired by Silver Lake (private equity) and P2 Capital Partners (hedge fund) in an all cash deal valued at $3.5B, including the assumption of debt.
What Retailers Does Blackhawk Work With?
Blackhawk Network works with a variety of retailers across grocery, specialty retailers, convenience stores and online retailers.
Note: These retailers are only accurate as of the beginning of 2018.
- Albertsons / Safeway
- Giant Eagle
- Whole Foods
- Bed, Bath & Beyond
- Best Buy
- Office Depot
- The Home Depot
- Chase Pay
- Samsung Pay
What Online Properties Does Blackhawk Operate?
In addition to providing gift cards in a third party capacity (i.e. sending cards to retailers for them to sell), Blackhawk also operates a number of online properties to sell gift cards directly to consumers, either on their own behalf or on the behalf of a particular retailer.
Gift Card Mall
Founded by Blackhawk Network, Gift Card Mall is one of the leading gift card websites for branded gift cards along with Visa/Mastercard gift cards.
GiftCards.com is a website that sells first hand gift cards to a number of brands. For background, GiftCards.com was founded as DirectCertificates.com in 1999. The website was not rebranded as Gift cards.com until 2008 and was purchase by Blackhawk Network in 2016 for $120m.
If you go to Kroger’s online gift card website (click here) and scroll to the bottom, you’ll notice this line under the “Additional Privacy Notice” section… “This website is operated by Blackhawk Network, Inc., on behalf of Kroger.”
Office Depot / OfficeMax
If you go to Office Depot / OfficeMax’s online gift card website (click here) and scroll to the bottom, you’ll notice this line “Powered by Blackhawk Network”.
If you go to Kroger’s online gift card website (click here) and scroll to the bottom, you’ll notice this line under the “Additional Privacy Notice” section… “This website is operated by Blackhawk Network, Inc., on behalf of Giant Eagle.”
CashStar is a platform that allows brands to sell their own digital gift cards online. You’ve likely experienced the platform if you’ve ever purchase Best Buy, Belk or any of their other 900+ brands online before. CashStar was acquired by Blackhawk Network in August 2017 for $175m.
Blackhawk Network Original Content
In addition to selling the gift cards for 100s of brands globally, Blackhawk network also creates original content (i.e. gift card brands they’ve created or acquired that are proprietary to them). The two largest creations are Happy Gift Card and Spafinder Gift Cards.
Happy Gift Cards
Blackhawk Network introduced Happy Gift Cards in June 2018 seeking to create a multi-brand gift card that was “perfect for gifting on special occasions to targeted audiences” such as women, men, kids, teens and foodies. Each Happy Gift Card can be redeemed at 5-7 retailers giving the recipient the ultimate flexibility. The original Happy Gift Card varieties included Happy Lady, Happy Kid, Happy Teen, Happy Guy, Happy Eats, Happy Bites and Happy Dining. Click here to check out our Happy Gift Card Guide for complete details.
Spafinder Gift Cards
In September 2016, Blackhawk Network acquired Spafinder Wellness, the purveyor of Spafinder gift cards. Spafinder gift cards allow the recipient to spend the card at any one of 25,000+ wellness partners worldwide. Click here to check out our Spafinder Gift Card Guide for complete details.
Previously Owned Entities
Cardpool is an online gift card marketplace that allows customers to purchase gift cards at a discount while also allows customers to sell gift cards for cash. Blackhawk acquired Cardpool in 2011 for $19m. That said, as of 2017, Cardpool was expected to generate $65m of sales (relative to $85m in 2016) and lose ~$4m overall. Blackhawk sold Cardpool to David S. Jones in January 2019 for an undisclosed aim. David S. Jones is the former founder and CEO of CardLab (another company acquired by Blackhawk) and a former Blackhawk employee.