MasterCard Cashes in on Web Services

 
 
By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2005-02-07
 
 
 

MasterCard Cashes in on Web Services


Mastercard International Inc.s business is based on a guarantee that all its cardholders will have access to cash anywhere in the world.

To fulfill that promise, the payment system, based in Purchase, N.Y., deployed a Web-services-based ATM location service that lets cardholders find ATMs in 210 countries and territories, regardless of whether theyre using a phone, the Internet or a wireless device.

That decision in 2003 proved good for the companys bottom line as well: Deploying a Web-services-based platform to integrate location data with existing enterprise applications has allowed MasterCard to offer services that provide additional opportunities for customers to use their credit cards.

The ATM locator alone generated a return on investment estimated at more than 1,152 percent in the first six months, according to John Meister, vice president of IS development at MasterCard, in St. Louis, Mo.

"MasterCard takes money and spends it on certain things that will improve the brand or improve acceptance of the brand," Meister said. "Switching to this new ATM location platform has provided significant new revenue opportunities for us."

MasterCard is the second-largest payment system in the United States, and 25,000 member banks worldwide subscribe to it. The company, which reported $385 million in revenue in 2003, owns the Cirrus ATM network—one of the worlds largest, with 900,000 ATMs in 120 countries.

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The companys MasterCard and Maestro credit and debit cards are accepted at 22 million locations in 210 countries and territories.

This global presence is one reason MasterCard launched a toll-free number in the 1990s that allows cardholders to enter their phone numbers to locate the nearest Cirrus ATM. The software that powered this telephone-based, ATM location service was written in-house.

In 1997, MasterCard decided to expand its ATM locator service by bringing it online to MasterCard.com. The company outsourced its online ATM locator to MapQuest.com Inc., of Mountville, Pa. Although member banks helped to cover the costs, MasterCard was spending more than $400,000 annually to keep it going, according to Meister.

Because the company was relying on two systems to provide location services, cardholders who logged in sometimes received different directions than did cardholders who called in. On top of that, the separate databases for the Web site and the phone service—updated twice a week—often provided results that werent accurate: Some users were directed to ATMs that no longer existed. And when cardholders used the telephone systems, they were often provided with ATM locations that were far from their location—or they received no results at all.

Two years ago, Meister decided to merge the two ATM location systems and bring everything in-house. By using one system to push geographic services to multiple platforms, Meister hoped to increase accuracy while allowing MasterCard to cut costs and retain more control over its data warehouses.

Meister decided the company needed a platform that could support multiple operating systems. And because he eventually wanted to move completely to Web services, he also wanted something that would be flexible enough to support different methods of deployment.

Next page: Moving to Web services.

Page Two


After looking at several vendors solutions, Meister and his team decided to deploy the Envinsa Location Platform from MapInfo Corp., of Troy, N.Y.

"We looked at just about everyone out there when we first started choosing a partner," Meister said. "Who knew what the future would hold if the product became wildly successful? We wanted to talk to [vendors] offering a solution on a variety of platforms in order to really scale, and that narrowed the field quickly."

MasterCards IT staff retooled its location applications to work with Envinsa, which uses the Java 2 platform and Web services. Each location-based capability is delivered as a Web service through WSDL (Web Services Description Language), SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) and XML.

Moving to Web services was important, Meister said, because Web services enable MasterCard to quickly deploy services to multiple platforms.

Since deploying the MapInfo Envinsa platform, Meister estimates that data accuracy has increased by more than 50 percent. Use of the ATM Locator Service has also increased and now averages about 5,000 hits per day. Currently, users who log on to the MasterCard Web site to find the location of an ATM receive the same results as a cardholder who dials the ATM Locator Service.

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The service generated an estimated $5 million in revenues last year, according to Meister, who said that figure is expected to continue to rise as MasterCard expands the service beyond North America.

Deploying the location-based platform has enabled MasterCard to drive traffic to new ATMs—and businesses—more effectively as well. Convenience stores and retail outlets that own ATMs, for example, can increase business by listing their location in MasterCards directory, Meister said.

"Our goal is to help customers, bank issuers and card issuers build volume at their acceptance locations or at their ATMs," Meister said. "Since the software is very easy to manage and use, as soon as a new ATM location is added, its very easy for an administrative person to update the system with that information."

Using Web services and Envinsa, MasterCard has extended its service to the wireless arena. Last year, the company partnered with Telus Corp., a cellular carrier based in Vancouver, British Columbia, to provide mobile customers with the ability to use the wireless Web to locate ATMs.

Using middleware written in-house at MasterCard, the carriers can use the companys Web services to provide location-based information. Now, by typing their location into their cell phones, Telus subscribers can receive a text message with the address of the nearest Cirrus ATM.

With cellular companies tapping GPS coordinates to pinpoint the location of a caller to within 50 feet, MasterCard hopes to be able to provide ATM location services without requiring cell phone customers to manually provide their ZIP code or street location. The company hopes to begin providing wireless services in Europe and the United States within a year, Meister said.

MasterCard also uses MapInfo software internally to conduct data scrubbing to determine, for example, how close two MasterCard client businesses are to one another.

"The platform allows us to grow, which is important because the number of customers that use the service grows faster than I realize," Meister said. "Its a great position to be in."

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.

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