MasterCard is joining Apple, Google, PayPal, and Square in the fight for payments primacy

Go ahead, ditch the wallet.
Go ahead, ditch the wallet.
Image: Reuters/Jonathan Bainbridge
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There’s an epic battle being fought to control how people pay each other for things when they’re not using cash, and up until now it has mainly involved firms that might be described as payment industry disruptors—from big technology companies like Apple and Google and PayPal to smaller upstarts like Square and Affirm.

Now, a legacy payments players is entering the fray. MasterCard said Tuesday (May 19) it is launching its own person-to-person payment product called MasterCard Send.

The service is meant to be used by consumers, businesses, governments, or nonprofits. It can provide a way for insurance claims, rebates, tax refunds, or other payments to reach people without the need to cut a check, and it wouldn’t matter whether the recipient has a bank account for not. The payment could be sent to an account tied to a debit card, mobile money service, or traditional bank, or get picked up by the recipient at a cash-agent outlet.

Here’s a marketing video from MasterCard that explains more about how it works:

Already live in the US, the service is part of MasterCard’s increasing emphasis on digital payments, which includes a partnership with Apple Pay and the recent launch of MasterPass, the company’s digital wallet.

The jump into P2P is meant to keep MasterCard relevant as credit-card usage tanks (particularly among millennials) and as the payments arena gets more crowded.

The shift also feeds into MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga’s long-standing obsession over killing cash (a payments method which he says is associated with black market economies and crime) and pushing more people toward electronic payments (preferably processed by MasterCard).