MasterCard, Visa Branching Out

Sam Mamudi
February 25, 2013

Financial services news from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona:

Visa Inc. (V) and MasterCard Inc. (MA) on Monday unveiled industry partnerships and technology systems intended to make it easier for consumers to make purchases online, on mobile devices and in physical stores without having to pull out a physical credit or debit card.

MasterCard said its new MasterPass platform will allow cardholders to store their card information in a single software program that can be used to make payments through merchants who sign up for their service. Consumers can load information for credit and debit cards from competing brands—Visa, American Express Co. (AXP) and Discover Financial Services (DFS) —and not just those carrying MasterCard’s logo in the software program, which will be accessible on smartphones, tablet computers and other devices…

On Monday, Visa said it is working with Samsung, which is planning to equip its new mobile devices with a Visa technology called payWave. As part of the deal, banks will also be able to securely load their customers’ card account information to computer chips located in the handsets.

Visa is also working with Roam, which is part of Ingenico. Roam makes mobile credit-card readers that have grown in popularity among small merchants thanks to the rise of technology darlings such as Square Inc. Visa said it will promote use of Roam’s devices among merchants to “displace the use of cash globally.”

As we covered in our first issue of the year, Visa and MasterCard are in pole position to benefit from the shift from cash, and deals like these should only strengthen their position. Actually handing over a MasterCard or Visa credit card to buy goods is only part of the story; as long as you’re using their services to pay for stuff, they don’t care how you do it. As Alexander Eule wrote:

The dominant forces in electronic payments, they’ve spent years laying the digital rails that connect banks to merchants. As those rails get busier, the companies are more profitable. Their stocks are the best play on the cashless society.