MasterCard Inc. said an update to its MasterCard Advisors unit's PortfolioAnalytics tool could help issuers better analyze card use patterns.

PortfolioAnalytics now incorporates more detailed data, the Purchase, N.Y., card company said Wednesday. The earlier version allowed analysis only at a high level. The enhanced version allows companies to look for patterns in specific subsets of transactions, such as cross-border payments, account ranges and the point of interaction.

MasterCard said the enhancements improve the way data is presented, such as by allowing users to view several PortfolioAnalytics reports at once.

Adil Moussa, an analyst at Aite Group LLC of Boston, said such analytic tools are in high demand because they give issuers a clear view about how certain elements, such as fees or the areas where they are used, affect revenue.

In the cross-border example, Moussa said: "You want to see, in detail, what similarities are in all those cardholders that go abroad and their spending," and then try to encourage similar behavior in other customers to generate fees.

The data can also show issuers which tactics don't work, he said. Issuers can see where they are "making the most money, or where … [they] are incurring the most losses," he said.

Before this level of detail was added to the analytics product, issuers might have been able to segment their data by card type, but not go as deep as they might like, Moussa said.

Though the financial crisis has made cost cuts a high priority, analytic tools are used in any economic climate, he said.

"They have always been in demand," Moussa said, "because you always want to tweak what you have and optimize returns."

Brian Riley, a research director in the bank cards practice at TowerGroup, an independent research firm owned by MasterCard, said that issuers' needs have changed as the economy has changed, and new analytic tools are needed.

An enhanced tool such as MasterCard's "helps you adapt," though it can also act as "a stepping stone for going back when things start normalizing" and "take in some of the learnings of the old environment," Riley said.

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