Skift Take

The local and experiential trend in travel -- you know, the kind of trips that millennials are said to be in love with -- has gotten to the point that MasterCard and others are curating and offering these escapes for their customers. It is a natural fit as travelers knock off cities on their bucket lists, using their credit and debit cards.

In the little more than a year that MasterCard global chief marketing officer Raja Rajamannar has been in his position, the credit card industry has faced its challenges among the public given data breaches at Home Depot, Target, and in the travel industry, Viator.

While responsibility for these hacks resides mostly with the retailers, consumers are concerned about credit card security, and Rajamannar details steps that MasterCard and the industry are taking to combat the threat.

“Our belief at MasterCard is that in the not so distant future we should all be able to identify ourselves without having to use passwords or PIN numbers,” Rajamannar says, citing one of the security trends.

At the same time, MasterCard is continuing to develop its mobile payment solutions, and is getting in on local and experiential trends in travel by offering special activities in tourism destinations.

Disclaimer: MasterCard is a sponsor of Skift Global Forum.

Raja Rajamannar will discuss these issues and others, including the future of seamless and cashless travel, at the Skift Global Forum in Manhattan October 9. Skift discussed these trends with Rajamannar, and an edited version of the interview follows:

Skift: Is cash dead for travelers and travel transactions, and why or why not?

Raja Rajamannar, Global CMO of MasterCard: I think cash is declining rapidly for travelers, and there are many reasons why, but here are just a few: First, there are certain universal needs of today’s travelers such as saving time, having great experiences, making memories, living like a local, and probably most key here is always staying connected. The impact of technology in our everyday lives has transformed us into always-on connected consumers.

If you look at travel through that same connected-consumer lens, the answer becomes quite clear that cash commerce is antiquated. Your laptop, tablet and now even your mobile, can’t use cash to perform a payment transaction. Ever stop to think about the last time you used cash to book your travel? Cash commerce is antiquated, and outside of petty cash for tips and perhaps a number of obscure places, cash is indeed in decline when it comes to travel.

Second, if you look at other macro trends related to travel, like transit, you’ll see whole city public transit systems adopting new, easier and more efficient ways to pay. London, which took the top spot on our Global Destinations Cities Index this year, has now moved its entire public transportation system to accept contactless payments, and over 17 million contactless journeys across London have already taken place. This is a boon not only for local commuters but for international travelers, too, who can now enjoy a more seamless travel experience getting around London.

Third, there are experiences that cash just can’t buy. No secret that many people value and love their loyalty and rewards programs associated with their credit cards. Many leverage these for travel. If you look at our World and World Elite products we have some fantastic travel-related benefits and services, from global concierge to zero liability protection. You certainly can’t get this with cash. And of course I would be remiss not mention Priceless Cities. Our global program includes exclusive curated experiences from culinary to play in destinations all around the world, enabling travelers to easily and seamlessly make their trips even more special.

Skift: What do you think is the future of credit card security?

Rajamannar: As we speak, banks and retailers are replacing millions of credit and debit cards in the U.S. with MasterCard cards with embedded chips. These chip cards incorporate the latest cryptology and are extremely difficult to counterfeit or copy — something which has been a standard in Canada and Europe for some time now.

Our belief at MasterCard is that in the not so distant future we should all be able to identify ourselves without having to use passwords or PIN numbers. I’m talking about solutions based on fingerprints, voice or facial recognition. We have already had great success in South Africa where the Social Security Agency uses biometrics to identify millions of cardholders, enabling greater financial inclusion. It is crucial for us to constantly innovate to stay ahead of the game. This has been true since we were established nearly 50 years ago. Safety and security is at the heart of our business, and that also means providing a seamless experience that delights the consumer in its simplicity.

Skift: What do Apple Pay and other mobile wallet solutions mean for MasterCard and travelers?

Rajamannar: First of all it means that paying with mobile devices is about to become even more Priceless. We all know that Apple has a long tradition of introducing breakthrough products with features that really matter to people. Apple Pay, combined with MasterCard’s payments technology, gives consumers an easy, secure and private way to shop. MasterCard has been a pioneer of mobile commerce innovation for years, including the world’s first contactless and mobile payment solutions. We’re thrilled that MasterCard cardholders will soon be able to make payments from their iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch knowing that every purchase is secure and offers all the same guarantees and benefits they’ve come to expect from using their MasterCard.

Skift: What are the biggest trends you are seeing in travel solutions and how are they evolving to meet the challenges of the connected economy?

Rajamannar: One of the biggest trends we see in travel is the rise of destination cities. Inter-city travel continues to grow worldwide and is clearly outgrowing global GDP over the past five years. This is no surprise: Cities are economic and cultural centers. They provide rich menus for whatever your passion may be, including the arts, entertainment, sports, music or fine dining.

We know that more than 50 percent of U.S. affluent consumers make more than five domestic trips per year, and that 25 percent make more than two international trips per year. We also know the key things they are looking for: saving time, always staying connected, having great experiences, making memories, and living like a local.

Building on these insights we’ve evolved our Priceless platform from celebrating moments in our daily lives to enabling exclusive experiences in cities. From Rio to Sydney, from New York to Beijing, and from Stockholm to Dubai, Priceless Cities is a core pillar of our global Priceless platform.

The proposition is very simply: Priceless Cities helps you satisfy your curiosity to go beyond the ordinary with special access and exclusive opportunities in the areas that you are most passionate about.

But connecting with consumers starts even before traveling gets on their mind. It boggles my mind that last year Americans left over 400 million vacation days on the table. That’s why we at MasterCard want to help inspire a movement to get Americans to take their well-earned time-off. And we are asking people to make a pledge to take just one more day of vacation to travel, or spend time with family and friends, or just experience new things.

Disclaimer: MasterCard is a sponsor of the Skift Global Forum.


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Tags: credit cards, local, Mastercard, mobile, payments, sgf2014, skift global forum

Photo credit: MasterCard global chief marketing officer Raja Rajamannar will speak at the Skift Global Forum. MasterCard

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