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Jay MacDonald

MasterCard's new 'Display' card: muscle card with no brakes

Slide over, American Express Centurion "Black" Card with your Hollywood allure. Bow down, Coutts & Co. World Card, the plastic preferred by Queen Elizabeth. Sayonara, Citibank Ultima with your free rounds of golf and worldwide airport lounge access.

There's a new status card in town that packs something the rest of you lack: a tiny keypad and LCD digital numeric display.

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Last week, MasterCard introduced its Display Card, now available through Standard Chartered Bank exclusively to qualifying customers in Singapore.

In addition to kicking it old-school with standard chip and mag stripe payment verification, the Display Card enables cardholders to make larger purchases than are normally off limits with a static user name and password card. Using the keyboard, the cardholder enters their card's PIN to generate a one-time password on the card's tiny display. This second, more sophisticated form of identity verification then authorizes the cardholder to spend like Justin Bieber should their assets permit.  

We first reported on MasterCard's next-generation interactive card two years ago when the brand launched pilot programs with its MasterCard and Maestro debit cards in Turkey and Great Britain. Visa also has an LCD display and keyboard card in the works.

After two years of study, MasterCard Worldwide is bullish on display cards, which it says will increase both online and offline shopping, reduce call center costs and fight fraud, all without requiring costly changes to existing merchant payment terminals. What's more, interested cardholders will happily pay the freight for the added functionality, not to mention the social status upgrade.

One disappointing aspect of the Display Card's overseas debut is the absence of such useful consumer information as available credit balance, rewards points and recent transactions on the card's display menu. MasterCard vows this functionality will follow in version 2.0.

To not open this reciprocal line of communication from card issuer to cardholder, which should be child's play at this level, is a little like bringing a muscle car to market with no brakes. Here's hoping MasterCard engineers those consumer tools into the Display Card before releasing this "muscle card" on our shores.

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