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* Then *
Way back around 1947, many banks in the US started doing their premium customers a favor. The banks gave them a piece of paper for the customers to flaunt at stores. The paper said, “ We, the bank, will pay you on behalf of the customer. Just send us the bill.”
One can imagine how privileged and special those customers felt. One can also visualize how those customers would stay bonded for life to their respective banks, as would their succeeding generations.
This practice of banks really caught on because it promoted customer loyalty and brought in new accounts. Which is why in 1951, The Franklin National Bank, New York, offered the first credit card as a formal financial instrument.
Throughout the fifties, this idea was franchised; a single bank in each large city would allow chosen merchants to accept cards instead of cash. The Interbank Card Association (ICA), which later became MasterCard International, evolved from this situation in August 1966.
ICA was a member-run organization, and banks formed the majority of members. They elected governing members and committees from amongst themselves to frame rules for ICA’s functioning and to implement those rules. In short, ICA was and is run like a true corporation.
In due course, like a typical corporation, ICA put plans in motion to expand internationally. The first steps took place in 1968, when ICA signed agreements with partners in Mexico, Europe and Japan.
By around 1978, ICA had practically covered all the continents. It changed its name to MasterCard to reflect its international stature. 1987 was a watershed year: MasterCard arrived in the People's Republic of China, where no other credit card had stepped foot in the history of banking. The very next year, the Soviet Union fell to that smart little piece of plastic.
The situation now, to quote MasterCard Incorporated, is simple: “No other payment card is accepted in more locations around the world than MasterCard.”
MasterCard presently has a staggering 25,000 shareholders. A list of MasterCard's largest current shareholders with their holdings reads like this:
1. JPMorgan Chase - 11.7%
2. Citigroup - 6.2%
3. Bank of America - 6%
4. Euro Kartensysteme - 5.2%
5. Europay France - 5.0%
* Why *
So why do millions of people carry MasterCard?
Well, to start with, and as mentioned earlier, it is accepted by more merchants the world over than any other credit card. Add to that the fact that wherever you may be on earth, you have an ATM nearby that will disgorge you cash if you have a MasterCard. How many ATMs are we talking about? Just 780,000!
Also, the intermediate and premium cards, Gold and Platinum, carry attractive value-added features. Such as “Road Assist”, which provides access to emergency service to travelers anywhere in the US. Or “PayPass”, which is a smart MasterCard that you just tap on the PayPass reader at participating locations for your card account to be debited (no swiping or giving your card to checkout counter staff).
If you are in the US, you also have MasterCard’s famous zero liability benefit: you are not liable if your card is stolen and misused.
* Conclusion *
MasterCard offers customers one of the greatest advantages in today’s commercial world: cashless transactions. Coupled with all the benefits mentioned above, it is very difficult to prove why you should not acquire one! Count on MasterCard International to evolve beyond plastic into state-of-the-art personal technology, like credit-loaded mobile phones… stay tuned!
About the author:
Lucky Balaraman is a graduate engineer who writes on a variety of subjects. Learn more about MasterCard from his site,
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