Fast Company

MasterCard Opens Up: "No Single Wallet Will Rule Them All"

Your wallet is likely filled with plastic of all stripes: debit and credit cards from Citi or Chase or Capital One. "But in the lower right-hand corner, hopefully you have a little mark for MasterCard," says MasterCard SVP Ed Olebe. "So why don't we bring that same approach to the digital space?"

Toward that end, the financial company today announced PayPass Wallet Services, an agnostic suite of tools designed to simplify the digital payments industry. The e-commerce space is fragmented, even at this early stage of development: digital wallets from Google and PayPal, payment solutions from Square and Barclays. Most every major bank and merchant is drooling for NFC-related technology. MasterCard aims to be the service that unifies these offerings into one network. “We realize that when it comes to payments, no single wallet will rule them all," says Ed McLaughlin, chief emerging payments officer at MasterCard.

PayPass Wallet Services, which will launch later this year, offers banks and merchants several ways to integrate with MasterCard. First, it will give access to the PayPass Acceptance Network, designed to create a consistent experience across a wide range of services. The PayPass API enables partners to create their own digital wallets, and then tap into MasterCard's network to make purchases acceptable anywhere MasterCard is accepted, either in store or online, via smartphones and tablets or the PayPass web checkout button. There's also PayPass Wallet, which lets partners offer their own wallets on top of MasterCard's solution, which is even open for consumers to use with American Express, Discover, and Visa cards.

"We're not trying to say that we have the best wallet, and that everyone should switch to ours," Olebe says. "You can have cards from all different banks, with their with their own name, look and feel, color, and rewards program, like say, frequent flier miles."

At launch, American Airlines and Barnes & Noble will be MasterCard's first merchant partners, implementing the PayPass Online checkout button on their sites, while Citi will be one of the first major banks to take advantage of PayPass Wallet.

The idea is to end growing fragmentation in the digital payments space. "Why do I have to learn yet another username and password to use online banking?" Olebe says. In that sense, the company almost aims to become the Facebook Connect of e-commerce, making it so you no longer need to remember accounts with merchants like Barnes & Noble or banks like Citi--but just have to remember one account to connect them all.

"I wouldn't say we're trying to become the Facebook Connect of our industry, but we're trying to enable that same kind of experience," Olebe says.

[Image: Flickr user Mike Reys, Flickr user Greg McMullin]

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