MasterCard acquired Dublin-based software company Orbiscom in January for $100 million, hoping to empower card holders with a new generation of tools that include budgetary features and security controls. If the deal delivers, it will be a game changer. "This is a necessary and important step for the card networks to move in this direction," says Gwenn Bezard, director of research at Aite Group. "Card products today are not very flexible, they're one-size-fits all, and they need to be more flexible, more user-friendly."

MasterCard and Orbiscom struck a partnership in 2007 to work on the inControl platform, integrating Orbiscom's technology with the MasterCard network. But it didn't take long for MasterCard execs to realize they wanted to control the intellectual property. Michael Fiore, senior business leader, solutions integration, says the partnership initially focused on reaching large commercial customers, but after Royal Bank of Scotland signed on in 2008 MasterCard quickly saw the wide consumer potential.

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