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Plans by French retail giant Carrefour Group to issue a new MasterCard-branded payment card could signal the start of a contactless rollout in France. The financial-services arm of Carrefour, Société des Paiements PASS, plans to launch the cobranded card equipped with MasterCard's PayPass contactless technology on 11 Feb. (CardLine Global, 21 Jan.). Carrefour reportedly hopes to issue 2.5 million PASS MasterCards by the end of the year, and it would equip a number of its stores to accept contactless payment. The cards also would be among the first in France to enable cardholders to pay with either credit or debit. Carrefour, France's largest retailer and one of the world's largest merchants, owns hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores across the country. But the retailer did not say how many stores it would equip to accept contactless payment this year. Carrefour has "issuance and acceptance in the same market, and it will obviously help drive contactless because you will have many cards in the market and have many acceptance points in the market," François Gandon, head of products and services for MasterCard France, tells CardLine Global sister publication Cards&Payments. The new card program serves as a coup for MasterCard. Besides the retailer's private-label payment cards and loyalty cards, Carrefour had been issuing only Visa-branded cobranded cards. In a statement announcing the new PASS MasterCard Tuesday, Gauthier Durand-Delbecque, Carrefour general manager of financial services, said the retailer is "determined to develop and accelerate" its financial-services activities and become a "significant card issuer." MasterCard is involved with a contactless card launch, also scheduled for next month, by Carrefour rival Auchan Group, although that project has been delayed and will start off much smaller than originally planned. MasterCard also participated in the launch of France's first card combining credit and debit, by bank Crédit Agricole last June. And MasterCard will manage an enhanced cardholder insurance and assistance program connected with the new Carrefour card, including insurance on purchases made outside of the retailer group's stores, Gandon says.

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