MasterCard International has introduced MasterMoney as the new name for its debit program, formerly called MasterCard Debit.

A year ago, Visa U.S.A. changed the name of its debit program to Visa Check. Each association cited research showing the word "debit" is a turnoff to consumers.

"If you call a debit card a MasterMoney card, and you sell it as a more useful ATM card that also works like a check, what you get is the strongest quantitatively demonstrated consumer response," said James Desrosier, vice president of marketing and product management at MasterCard Debit Services.

, "MasterMoney will help MasterCard bring its debit program in focus," said Liam Carmody, partner with Carmody & Bloom, Woodcliff Lake, N.J. "I think that's important - they need to distinguish it from MasterCard." Tuesday's official launch of MasterMoney follows an effort by MasterCard to raise the profile of its off-line debit service, in which payments clear with the slight delay characteristic of credit cards. The New York-based association hopes its promotions will accelerate point of sale debit growth in the United States.

MasterMoney is part of a family of debit brands that includes Maestro, an ondine, or immediatedebit, product, and automated teller machine cards bearing the Cirrus network logo. MasterCard's strategy is to get financial institutions to issue one, two, or all three debit products.

"MasterCard's off-line debit card was lacking in identity," said Charles L. Henry Jr., first vice president of marketing for Great Lakes Bancorp.

"The MasterMoney positioning helps consumers in getting a better understanding of where off-line debit card can be used," Mr. Henry said.

His Ann Arbor, Mich., savings bank recently decided to offer Maestro, and will add MasterMoney next year.

"I think it's a good name," said James Grant, senior vice president, direct banking, at First Chicago Corp., which issues Visa Check Cards.

"The name is helping the bank as much as it is the consumer get a handle on this;' Mr. Grant said. "But our research said consumers are not confused about debit. They understand an ATM card is a debit card. "My own personal opinion is that none of this is necessary, other than to help the associations and banks get a handle on it to advertise." MasterCard said it chose the new name following six months of brand-focused market research into improving consumers' use of debit cards at points of sale. In its series of proprietary studies, MasterCard interviewed nearly 5,000 consumers in search of the best positioning for POS debit cards, what to call them, and what MasterCard's own brand should be. First, the association concluded that consumers want a card that is widely accepted. Also, they don't want to carry large amounts of cash and don't want the hassles that sometimes come from paying by check.

The findings also indicated that consumers identify most closely with four descriptions of POS debit: bank card, ATM card, cash card, and money card. Check card or debit card didn't fare as well. Through a process of elimination, MasterCard picked "money card" as the best generic descriptive term - 60% of those surveyed identified with it, compared with 40% who identified with check and debit.

The next step was to position the money card for maximum consumer acceptance, Mr. Desrosier said. To introduce the concept, MasterCard used ATM cards as a foundation. Then, it explained how the money card could be used to make purchases wherever MasterCard is accepted. Finally, it compared the transaction process to writing a check. "Basically, what we've come up with is, 'It's a more useful ATM card that works like a check,' "Mr. Desrosier said.

MasterCard tested this concept against six others, including Visa's "It looks like a credit card, works like a check." When MasterCard cloned Visa's product by putting a "MasterCheck" into the mix, Mr. Desrosier said, it got the same results.

"We found before we even put a brand on the card that it Outpolled Visa by 20%," he said. "The issue here is not that one brand outpulls the other."

Of 2,100 consumers in a survey, 65% of ATM card owners said they were definitely or probably interested in obtaining a "more useful ATM card that works like a check." In the final part of its research, MasterCard tested names for its off-line money card. In a group of 600 consumers, more than 70% said they would be interested in getting the MasterMoney card.

"The MasterMoney name performed best in terms of communicating what the program is and how it works," said Arthur D. Kranzley, senior vice president and general manager of MasterCard's debit services for MasterCard. MasterCard will support MasterMoney with an advertising campaign slated to start at the beginning of next year.

Meanwhile, the organization continues making its case to financial institutions for issuing debit cards. To accomplish that, MasterCard has beefed up its marketing, implementation, and consulting staffs.

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