MasterCard is planning to rapidly broaden the scale and scope of its digital wallet and prepaid card offerings.
The MasterPass digital wallet, announced in February, is at the heart of many of the card network's initiatives. MasterCard first launched its online and mobile wallet in Canada and Australia. There are 100 merchants accepting MasterPass in the U.S. and MasterCard plans to launch the wallet next in the U.K.
"The launch of MasterPass in the U.K. is on track," said MasterCard president and CEO Ajay Banga in MasterCard's first-quarter earnings conference call today. "We are aiming for the end of summer, and we hope to be available in at least nine other countries by the end of this year, meaning a total of 13 by the end of 2013."
A recently announced partnership between Purchase, N.Y.-based MasterCard and China-based e-commerce company Alibaba Group will make the MasterPass digital wallet available to as many as 800 million consumers and 6 million merchants. The state-run company, which previously was part-owned by Yahoo Inc., is the largest provider of online marketplaces and payments in Asia and the partnership that was announced in March calls for the two companies to develop e-commerce initiatives, including fraud and risk management tools.
WestPac and Communal Bank in Australia; Bank of Montreal in Canada; as well as Citi, Fifth Third, and several credit unions in the U.S. are among the many banks participating in MasterPass, offering co-branded digital wallets to consumers, Banga said.
MasterCard reported net income of $766 million off revenue of $1.9 billion for the first quarter of 2013. Net income was up 12% from $682 million and net revenue was up 8% from $1.76 billion in the year-ago quarter.
While MasterCard will soon begin charging a new, "staged wallet" volume-based fee as part of a registration process for third-party payment providers, Banga told analysts MasterCard will not charge consumers for access to MasterPass.
"I don't want to charge consumers for the privilege of having this wallet. There's going to be 150,000 wallets out there before we know what is going on, and I don't want to be the one charging fees on it," Banga said. "I want to make money from it when they use their wallet. So if they use their card or they use services that the wallet will provide, that is when we will make our money. So I am not doing it based on how many users pick up the wallet."
Beyond MasterPass, MasterCard's mobile efforts include partnerships with more than 30 mobile network operators around the world, representing a reach of 1.3 billion consumers in 28 countries.
In one initiative, MasterCard has partnered with Wind Italy, the third-largest mobile operator in the country and a division of global telecom provider Vimpelcom. The operator's customers can obtain MasterCard-branded prepaid cards from Wind retail locations and link the card to a mobile phone to reload funds, pay bills and purchase additional air time by using an app.
Globally, MasterCard's processing volume grew 15% in the first quarter, including a 6% lift in the U.S. driven by improvements in both debit and prepaid.
To build on that momentum, MasterCard will soon launch a prepaid program for Chinese tourists traveling to the U.S. Through partnerships with Western Union and Chinese travel company Oriental Tours, consumers can load U.S. dollars onto MasterCard-branded prepaid cards at a Western Union location in China, and then pick up the card from the tour company when they arrive stateside.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the number of mobile network operators that MasterCard currently partners with, as of May 1. The figure is more than 30, not 20.