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PreMondex: MasterCash and MasterMoney

During the 10 year period prior to MasterCard acquiring 51% of Mondex International in 1997, MasterCard issued an unknown number of MasterCard Cash cards. Most of the MasterCash cards issued were by MasterCard headquarters, not by member banks and were largely test cards, cards for marketing executives to use as demonstrations or for promotional purposes at conferences, meetings or shows.

Probably the largest test of MasterCash was in Australia circa 1995.

 

Click on any image below to enlarge:

MHQ (1) remains a mystery as does the information surrounding the card. VisaCash.org has spent numerous hours trying to document for certain that the following information is correct. In March of 1986, MasterCard (it is thought but not validated) issued "14,000 cards that were equipped with the Bull CP8 were distributed to clients of the Bank of Virginia and the Maryland National Bank. Also, 50,000 Casio cards were distributed to clients of the First National Palm Beach Bank and the Mall bank".  We can not find any other reference to the pilot and several contacts with MasterCard and former MasterCard employees have not been answered.

Casio's very early smart card MHQ (1a), is a  demonstration card provided to MasterCard by Casio, in order to show their approach. It was handed out to attendees at the 1985 ABA bank card show by MasterCard. Casio was promoting that the contact for the chip be on the back of the card not the front like the rival Bull CP8 card. This promotion led to a major announcement by MasterCard that they would issue 50,000 of these cards to Palm Beach National Bank and the Mall Bank in Florida. We are beginning to doubt that this pilot at these banks ever occurred despite all of the press releases saying it would happen.

VisaCash.org does not have an example of either of these pre-Mondex MasterCard Casio Stored Value cards.  We have not seen sample cards that were to be issued and used by Palm Beach National Bank and The Mall Bank customers. We have also never seen even a scan of a card issued to customers of the Palm Beach National Bank (MHQ 1b) or The Mall Bank (MHQ 1c) cards. They have cataloged by VisaCash.org as MHQ (1b) and MHQ (1c). We need to confirm if this trial with MasterCard and Casio ever occurred. 

As we continue researching the pre-Mondex cards of 1985 and 1986 we need to jump forward nine years to 1994 to Chicago in September of that year. That is when the American Bankers Association held their annual credit card conference and MasterCard issued MHQ (2) the Chicago ABA MastserBid Card. MHQ (2) is the first of two demonstration cards issued by MasterCard in 1995. 

Given away 1994 to high-level credit card executive attendees at the annual conference which was held in Chicago, it was for very limited use only at the conference. The card was to be used at the MasterCard booth in the "MasterBid" game, where an attendee would walk from station to station and listen to MasterCard product presentations. The attendees for the most part were high level credit card executives who had little time and hence very little interest in going around the booth with the MasterBid card in order to be entered in a drawing at the end of the ABA conference (of course you needed to be present at the drawing to win). Most (99%) of the credit card executives attending were really not interested in a cash replacement card. 

It was being positioned by MasterCard at the time as having higher security than magnetic cards, hence less fraud for lost or stolen card. Much of the discussion by attendees was "how much more does it add to the cost of issuing the cards". Cost per card has and will be a factor in issuing chip cards, whether they be credit, debit or a cash replacement card.  If you look at the redesigned MasterBid pre-Mondex card given out at Retail Delivery Systems conference later that year (below, MHQ (3) and MHQ (3a)) how  they both have magnetic stripes and a signature area on the back of the card. VisaCash.org is researching why this was done and why MasterCard changed its position between shows which was only a few months. It is also unknown how many MHQ (2) cards were issued or produced for this conference. Once an attendee went through the booth and obtained the card, they could not get a second card. We know, as this writer and a collegue tried and were both turned down.   

After the booth closed many that were not later given away were destroyed by Master Card or simply thrown away. It is still very unclear as what happened to the MasterCard stored value card products between 1986 and 1994 when this card was issued, other than Russell Hogg MasterCard's president and stored value card product champion at MasterCard departed in 1989.

In December 1994 MasterCard issued a whole new version of the Pre-Mondex MasterBid card. Given away in 1994 to high-level ATM and debit card executive attendees at the annual Retail Deliver Systems conference in Phoenix, it was for limited use only at the conference. The card was to be used at the MasterCard booth in the "MasterBid" game, where an attendee would walk from station to station and listen to a MasterCard product presentation just as they had to do in Chicago. Again, there was very little interest in going around the booth with the MasterBid card in order to be entered in a drawing at the end of the conference and again of course you needed to be present at the drawing to win. Most (99%) of the debit card executives attending were really not interested in a cash replacement card. That is what debit cards were positioned to do. the There was for some reason two versions of the Phoenix MasterBid card. MHQ (3) (which has serial numbers on the top left hand corner and a different chip module), MHQ (3a) is the other of the two Pre-Mondex Cards of this design issued by MasterCard just for this conference.

  

Like MHQ (3) it is unknown how many MHQ (3a) cards were issued or produced for this conference. Some think that MHQ (3a) were not given out at the conference but left over stock (because there is no serial number on the card) used as a  promotional example by MasterCard marketing representatives to give Members to promote the product. It is known that after the booth closed many MasterBid cards that were not later given away were destroyed by MasterCard or simply thrown away. These MasterMoney and MasterCash prototype cards provided MasterCard some much needed in-house experience. As a result MasterCard became more interested in the trials it's European members were conducting with Mondex. These prototype cards showed MasterCard had a lack of in-house expertise and that Mondex was (at this time) a viable alternative to what was being developed in-house. Lastly, the competitive threat posed by Visa and their Visa Cash program was posing a big challenge for MasterCard to get a product to market sooner rather than later.

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If you or someone you know has more information on any of the history concerning the Pre-Mondex activities at MasterCard or the cards shown on this page, please contact us.