MasterCard’s MasterPass Put Into Action At MWC

By Ben Carsley, Writer/Editor (@BC_PYMNTS)

With the release of its MasterPass digital payments platform, MasterCard clearly intends to emphasize one key theme: ubiquity.

That’s the takeaway I got from reviewing many of MasterPass’ features at Mobile World Congress on Monday, just hours after MasterCard announce the launch of their newest payments service.

MasterCard put its booth to good use, demonstrating MasterPass’ ability to be used via smartphone, tablet, computer, at the point of sale and even via television, echoing its statement that MasterPass turns every devices into a shopping devices.

How did the MasterPass demo stack up against other digital wallet platforms? My review below:


MasterCard kicked off its MasterPass demo by showing how a mobile phone could be used to purchase train passes in the blink of an eye. For this example, four QR codes representing four different ticket options were aligned on a poster, allowing the user to choose the length of the pass he desired: one day, one month, one quarter or one year (guess this is an inexpensive train?!). When indicating that you want to make a purchase, MasterPass prompts you if you’d like to use QR codes or NFC – a feature that makes pretty clear their determination to make MasterPass a ubiquitous platform.

After selecting QR code, you simply scanned the corresponding code and were immediately credited the pass you selected with a receipt appearing on your phone. Since the option we selected was under EURO 50, the user did not need to enter a PIN: a threshold that MasterCard said would vary from market to market, but which one can safely assume will generally be around that amount.

With the pass purchased by the phone, it could perhaps allow you to tap your phone to access the subway, or to generate a QR code to be scanned upon boarding a bus. Regardless of the subsequent use, the mobile features worked well and will be familiar to those who’ve used mobile wallets in the past. Check out the video below to see MasterPass in action.



This was perhaps my favorite MasterPass demonstration, as it’s one of the most practical implementations of “television commerce” I’ve seen to date. For this demo, MasterCard used the example of a pay-per-view car race as a program a user would want to purchase. Next to a description and preview of the event, a giant QR code popped up on a flat screen and, using the same system described for the mobile purchase, you can scan the code using a smartphone.

After a quick second acknowledgement of a desire to complete the transaction, everything was complete: once again, a receipt for EURO4.99 popped up on the smartphone, the car race was unlocked on the television and the broadcast was successfully purchased. The smartphone’s ability to scan the QR code from a couch about 10 feet away impressed me, and the ease of the whole process made the system pretty attractive. The potential for impulse buys through this system is, of course, quite high.


Some forward thinking was evident in this preparation, as MasterPass has effectively invented a way to streamline the commerce experience on a tablet even where it is not embedded as a payments option. When using a tablet to shop online, ideally you could use MasterPass’ one-click eCommerce checkout option to complete your purchase. If that option isn’t available, though, you can still use MasterPass if the item is associate with a QR code: simply generate the code on the tablet and scan with your phone, like you would with the QR codes provided in the mobile/transportation example. It’s an interesting end-around that could effectively unofficially incorporate tons of eRetailers into the MasterPass environment before official acceptance is integrated, The idea first seemed a bit like device overkill, but it’s quickly grown on me the more I think about it.


MasterCard also showed off one aspect of MasterCard that’s not particularly applicable to today’s environment but which could certainly attract users in the future: NFC card acceptance through laptop. For this use, a demonstrator used an NFC-enabled physical plastic card to tap against an NFC-equipped laptop, completing an online purchase much as one would use NFC to pay for something in-store right now.

It’s a system that will be familiar to anyone who’s already used MasterCard PayPass’s tap-and-go cards, only this time the laptop served in some ways as a POS terminal. Again, given the paucity of NFC-accepting laptops this is clearly a feature designed with the future in mind, but it was interesting to watch nonetheless.


Overall, MasterPass performed much as expected with relatively seamless purchasing methods, the device-agnostic approach MasterCard emphasized upon release and the promise of becoming a legitimate competitor to existing services such as PayPal. Those in the U.S. will have to wait a few more months before trying, but for those already using PayPass, MasterPass is a clear upgrade.

For more on MasterPass, click here.

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