Those overlapping orange and yellow circles composing the familiar MasterCard logo have been a part of the personal finance landscape for what seems like forever. And with good reason, too — MasterCard was one of the early progenitors of the modern credit industry as we know it today.
Lines of credit originated in the 19th century, when merchants and businesses issued special cards or tokens to their customers, as currency, and as a sign of trust that shoppers would repay these small purchase loans in good faith. By the mid-1950s, banks began issuing their own charge cards, popularizing the plastic charge card.
It was then that “MasterCharge” took hold, subsidized by a joint venture of financial backers. By the late 1970s, MasterCharge became MasterCard, and in its current incarnation has grown to become much more than a simple credit card, offering promotions, rewards and lifestyle options that help to make card holders’ lives easier.
MasterCard offers five primary cards in its credit card stable:
Standard. MasterCard’s basic card lays the foundation for basic purchases, paying daily expenses and for building credit. MC’s standard card can be used at points of purchase that don’t accept cash or checks, and it’s backed by the company’s Zero Liability protection.
Gold. MasterCard rewards enter the picture with MC’s Gold card. A step-up in spending power, this card keeps your credit current, but also gives back incentives that can’t be had from most debit cards. By going with the Gold, MasterCard offers are abundant in the MasterCard Marketplace — a rewards program offering discounts to preferred customers on airfare, electronics and more. Gold card holders also have access to what’s called “MasterAssist,” a roadside assistance program providing 24/7 support with fuel delivery, jump starts, tire changes and towing.
Platinum. A premium version of MC’s Gold card, the Platinum card brings purchasing power to the next level. In addition to other benefits built in to Platinum, card holders receive a year-end account summary, a convenient tool for not only accounting and tax preparation purposes, but to helping identify and manage their own spending habits and personal finance trends.
World. Frequent intercontinental fliers will benefit from the World card. MasterCard travel points synced on this card allow for first-class upgrades on everything from hotels, restaurants and other lifestyle plans.
WorldElite. Enhanced from the World card, WorldElite accompanies other top-of-the-line “black cards” offering by other financial institutions that give card holders ultimate, exclusive credit access.
For several years, MasterCard has taken a progressive approach to financial education and literacy through a series of outreach efforts and programs. Some of the company’s featured programs include “Are You Credit Wise?”, a credit 101 for college students; the Consumer Credit Education Package for people new to credit; “Peace of Mind,” a partnership with the Independent Community Bankers of America to illuminate consumers about credit fraud; and the Prepaid Consumer Education Campaign.
From its headquarters in Purchase, N.Y., MasterCard also provides assistance to the private and public sectors, reaching out to governmental agencies and educators with prepaid cards aimed at college aid and employee benefits.