MasterCard: Prepaid Replacing Credit, Check, As Travelers’ Top Option

By Pete Rizzo (@pete_rizzo_

The global prepaid market is projected to blossom into a $822 billion industry by 2017, and the use of prepaid tools for travel is expected to be a key driver of growth.

Research from MasterCard further suggests that consumer travel is anticipated to be the fourth biggest influence on prepaid growth five years from now, influencing $56 billion in annual consumer spend as more consumers begin focusing on the core issues these financial tools are tailored to address: budgeting and security.

To align itself with this market movement, MasterCard recently launched three new products designed to offer more global consumers the same benefits U.S. prepaid travelers currently enjoy, introducing new products with Qantas and British Airways and extending a new offering to meet the unique needs of Canadian travelers.

“Prepaid has increasingly become an option for international travelers because of the unique benefits it can offer,” Ron Hynes, group executive, Global Prepaid Solutions at MasterCard Worldwide, told in an exclusive interview. “It’s more secure than cash or checks, allows you to lock in exchange rates prior to travel, helps save on foreign transaction fees and serves as an ideal budgeting tool, since you can only spend what you set aside.”

For a better understanding of the both the timing of the launches, as well as how each of MasterCard’s new products will help further its goal of best serving this market space, spoke with Hynes to learn more. There is no shortage of prepaid travel products on the market, so what makes MasterCard’s prepaid offerings unique?

Ron Hynes: MasterCard has worked with a number of partners to offer some of the most innovative prepaid travel products on the market. Recently, MasterCard and Australia’s Qantas Airlines teamed up to launch the Qantas Cash Card, a next generation frequent flyer card. It allows travelers to earn frequent flier miles, and in some cases, use the card as a boarding pass. It can be loaded with nine currencies, has free domestic withdrawals and contactless functionality for quick tap-and-go payments.

This summer, MasterCard and British Airways also announced a similar travel program for the airline’s customers, which can be loaded with up to seven currencies. Other prepaid travel cards are now available around the globe including South Africa, where Absa Bank issued its first prepaid travel card this year. In August, the Cash Passport Prepaid MasterCard Currency Card launched in the U.S. which provides the security of a unique PIN number as well as EMV Chip technology. MasterCard also partnered with the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) to launch student travel cards in a number of countries, including the U.S. and Brazil and most recently in India where students studying abroad now have access to a photo ID and travel card combo. In addition to many other benefits, it offer discounts at attractions and restaurants around the world.

Prepaid travel cards continue to improve, offer more benefits and provide consumers more options as they move about the world.

What has the feedback been so far from the members who have used MasterCard’s prepaid travel cards? Any lessons learned or surprises?

I think consumers are always excited when their payment products offer more benefits, enhanced security and new rewards while making their lives more convenient. Card issuers see prepaid travel as an opportunity to improve the customer experience, offer converged services and stay more connected to their customers.

How do you expect the prepaid travel industry to evolve?

We’re already beginning to see an evolution of prepaid options across the board, but especially in travel. More and more, benefits traditionally reserved for credit cards are being offered through prepaid, and that’s great for consumers. Combine that with security, budgeting, the ability to lock-in exchange rates and save on foreign transaction fees, and you have a travel product that’s very appealing.


Ron Hynes is group executive, Global Prepaid Solutions at MasterCard Worldwide.

In this role, he is responsible for leading the development of prepaid programs around the globe that create a competitive advantage for MasterCard and its customers.

Prior to his current role, Hynes was group head, senior vice president of Global Prepaid Solutions, where he led the development of the MasterCard global prepaid product strategies, as well as overseeing the group’s product development initiatives. In addition, he interacted regularly with the company’s prepaid customers helping them to build and implement their business and product strategies to capitalize on both short and long term opportunity, and to ensure customer objectives are incorporated into the planning at MasterCard. Hynes also served as the head of Prepaid Product Development for the Americas Region for MasterCard. In this role he worked with the US and LAC regions to develop long term strategic product plans to address the needs of the company and our customers.

Before joining MasterCard, Mr. Hynes helped shape the prepaid industry when he oversaw prepaid product and strategy at JP Morgan Chase/Bank One. Here he initiated the first ever instant issue reloadable prepaid card to be sold at retail, as well as leading the integration of prepaid cards into payroll solutions. At FSV Payment Systems, a leading prepaid processor in the US, Mr. Hynes oversaw the Business Development efforts.

Early in his career Mr. Hynes held positions of progressing responsibility in brand strategy and sales in the financial services and consumer packaged goods industries. He began his career at Cadbury Schweppes, plc and also worked in business development at The Coca-Cola Company.

Mr. Hynes received his MBA from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts and a B.A. in Business Administration from the University of Southern Maine.


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