In modern times, if cash is king then plastic must be emperor, and one of the most popular versions of this payment form is Matercard. This company has helped to revolutionize the way that people deal with their money, making financial transactions as paperless as possible.
Making Money Easy
Nothing could completely eliminate the stress surrounding finances, but Mastercard does their best. In fact, their mission is to make all payments as smart, safe, and simple as possible, so average consumers can worry less. Mastercard’s primary function is as an intermediary between different merchants and banks, processing payments.
They do this through ongoing security efforts that keep cardholders’ information safe during transactions. This applies to each type of their card offerings: credit, debit, prepaid, and commercial. This makes Mastercard a favorite choice for government agencies, businesses, and consumers alike as everyone grows more aware of the need for secure transactions that don’t compromise convenience.
Born Out of Necessity
Mastercard was created in 1966, though it originally had the name Interbank, as it was the product of a few regional bankcard groups becoming allied after the success of the BankAmericard, which eventually became Visa.
In the years that followed Mastercard underwent a series of rebranding efforts, and acquired many of the other payment companies that had popped up around the same time.
As checkbooks and carrying cash have become increasingly less popular, Mastercard’s importance in the day to day lives of consumers has only grown. Now, Mastercard processes payments in more than 200 areas around the world. In this way, their network helps connect opposite ends of the world in one of the most socially significant ways: through commerce.
Up Against Visa
Given that Mastercard was inspired by the early version of Visa, it should come as no surprise that the two still sit in stark opposition. While there are other brands with which Mastercard competes, none function quite the same way as Visa and Mastercard.
Though companies like Capital One, and American Express do issue credit cards, they do not have the same capacity for processing payments directly from banks. This means that the competition really boils down to Visa. In fact, the two companies are so intertwined that they have even been jointly accused of violating antitrust laws because merchants felt that the fees required by their systems were unfair.
All the same, Visa is an older brand, and there’s something to be said to arriving first in an industry—at least in this case. Visa is valued nearly $100 billion higher than Mastercard, and enjoys higher profit margins as well.
Still, second place would feel more secure if there weren’t an up-and-comer threatening both of these companies. PayPal, though now 30 years old, is enjoying a period of growth. As more transactions turn digital, consumers are able to use their PayPal accounts much like checking accounts, and complete transactions directly.
Whether this new competition will develop rapidly and usurp Visa from its throne or fizzle as Mastercard and Visa find new ways to innovate is yet unclear, but for now PayPal’s revenue holds steady with Mastercard’s.
‘Priceless’ Plans for Visibility
One of Mastercard’s most famous ploys to get ahead of the competition was its ‘priceless’ campaign. In these ads, Mastercard would list all of the associated costs with an activity, but end by pointing out the priceless byproducts as well, usually some form of human connection.
This campaign began all the way back in 1997, and featured actors portraying average consumers, or celebrities like Usher portraying themselves. Perhaps born out of this system of advertising lifestyle, Mastercard now sponsors a series of professional sports teams like the Boston Red Sox, and players like golfer Brent Snedeker.
Additionally, the company contributes to artistic, entertainment, and cultural events and outlets to further widen their recognition.
In addition to the combined concern over Visa and Mastercard violating antitrust laws, Mastercard has faced additional scrutiny for some of its business practices.
A 2018 revelation led to news outlets reporting on the fact that Mastercard had apparently sold user data to Google for them to pass on to select advertisers. Essentially, Mastercard provided Google with information about whether or not their ads led to purchases from Mastercard customer. Google, in turn, could provide certain advertisers with greater information about the effectiveness of their ads.
Even offline purchases were apparently tracked by Mastercard when they corresponded with previous online ad interaction. In response, both Google and Mastercard claimed the data was anonymized for security. Mastercard elaborated by explaining that the process doesn’t deal in specific items or even with specific personal information, only that it tracks trends between online interactions and purchases.
While it’s likely that other credit cards are also involved in this deal with Google, Mastercard has so far borne the brunt of criticism. Though users can opt out of the tracking through their Google account, public sentiment was frustrated at the companies’ apparent attempts to keep consumers in the dark.
Moving up in The World
Despite bad publicity in 2018, Mastercard enjoyed a growth spurt, landing it a rank of 210 on the Fortune 500. This came after Mastercard saw a nearly 50% increase in profits for the year, allowing them to jump from their previous rank of 236.
2019 is Mastercard’s 11th year on the Fortune 500, and in that time it has already climbed well into the top 50%. Visa ranks ahead of Mastercard at 153, but it’s hard to say for certain that Mastercard won’t continue to quickly gain ground in the coming years.
As everything (including money) goes digital, Mastercard is likely to continue its current profit surge, as it helps to guide consumers down a distinctly modern financial pathway.