Mastercard is one of the world’s largest payment giants. Rather than issuing cards like a bank, Mastercard created a payment network that allows merchants to accept credit cards from Mastercard’s partner bank issuers.
The network processes billions of credit and debit card transactions every year. Chase, Citi, Bank of America, Capital One, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo are the top U.S. issuers of Mastercard credit cards, according to The Nilson Report’s 2019 data.
Mastercard also considers itself a technology company that has “been a driving force at the heart of commerce, making the global economy safer, more efficient, more inclusive and more transparent for all.”
Mastercard Began in 1966
Mastercard started as the Interbank Card Association. Formed by 17 bankers who wanted reciprocal acceptance of credit cards, the ICA created a credit card called MasterCharge. At the time, it was a competitor with Bank of America’s BankAmericard, which later became Visa.
The Interbank Card Association was renamed Mastercard in 1979 to help establish a new global brand. In 1988, the growing payments company purchased Cirrus, the world’s largest ATM machine network, and combined it with Mastercard’s existing ATM network.
In 1991, Mastercard launched Maestro® — “the world‘s first truly global online debit program”— in partnership with Europay International. In 2002, Mastercard merged with Europay International.
The company is known for its award-winning “Priceless” advertising campaign, which launched in 1997 and continued for many years. By 2001, the company decided to take advantage of its expertise and launched Mastercard Advisors, which was “the largest global consultancy focused on the payments industry,” according to Mastercard.
After Decades of Global Success
Mastercard went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2006. In the same year, they launched a new tagline, The Heart of Commerce™. In 2008, Mastercard began offering prepaid debit cards so consumers without bank accounts could still enjoy the convenience of shopping with plastic.
They launched Mastercard Labs in 2010 to help incubate ideas, striving to bring innovative new technology to the market. They offer contactless cards and helped drive the United States’ payment industry toward EMV (chip-and-PIN) credit cards.
Mastercard is now accepted in more than 210 countries and territories, second only to Visa in global acceptance. The network partners with a wide range of issuers, including both major banks and community credit unions.
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About the Author
Brittney Mayer Finance Contributor
Brittney is a Credit Strategist and Finance Expert who has spent years honing her knowledge of the credit industry both personally and professionally. Brittney applies her more than a decade of research experience to crafting in-depth consumer guides designed to help CardRates readers make better, more informed financial decisions.
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