Mastercard, or Mastercard Worldwide to give the company its full name, is an American multi-national financial services organisation. The company was founded as ‘Master Charge : The Interbank Card’ in 1966, and was renamed Mastercard in 1979.
Mastercard owns the brands Mastercard, Maestro and Cirrus, and along with Visa and American Express is one of the most recognisable financial institutions in the world today, thanks mainly to the brand logo of a red and orange interlocking circle over which the word ‘MasterCard’ is printed, and which has remained virtually unchanged since the company was first founded in 1966.
The Mastercard was first issued as ‘Master Charge’ as an interbank card in 1966, as a joint venture between the United California Bank, Wells Fargo, Crocker National Bank and the Bank California. It was the Senior Vice President of Farmer’s & Merchants Bank of Long Beach, California – Robert Leavelle – who came up with the famous interlocking circles logo, with a little help from his son.
The four banks listed above formed the Interbank Card Association (ICA) in 1966, and were joined by the Marine Midland Bank of New York to create the Master Charge credit card. In 1969 the large First National City Bank joined the ICA, merging its Everything Card credit card with the Master Charge Card. Around the same time the ICA formed an alliance with the Access credit card in the UK, and Europe’s Eurocard.
In 1979 the Master Charge card was renamed Mastercard. In the UK the Access credit card was dropped to be replaced by the Mastercard, as later was the Eurocard, which had been issued by Europay International SA.
In 1996 Mastercard suffered a setback when 4 million merchants got together to sue Mastercard in the federal court for forcing merchants to accept Mastercard-issued debit cards if they wanted to accept Mastercard credit cards while at the same time dramatically increasing the fees for credit card transaction processing. The case took seven years to resolve, and the largest anti-trust award in history saw Mastercard settling for a multi-billion dollar payment.
The Mastercard company changed its name to MasterCard Worldwide in 2006. The company adopted a new logo in which a third circle was added to the existing two, although the Mastercards themselves were still issued with the traditional, two circle logo.
In 2010 Mastercard acquired the UK company DataCash in order to expand its eCommerce activities. DataCash was a payment processing and fraud prevention provider. Two years later Mastercard began to expand its mobile contact-less payments system, moving into new markets such as the Middle East.
September 2014 saw Mastercard team up with Apple to provide new iPhone models with an automatic eWallet function.
Today Mastercard is one of the largest companies of the world, with over 8,000 employees all over the globe. It posts yearly revenues close to $8 billion, and has net incomes in excess of $3 billion. The company has its headquarters in Purchase, New York, and its global operations centre in O’Fallon, St Louis, in the state of Missouri.