MasterCard Inc. has signed an exclusive, five-year debit deal with the banking unit of H&R Block Inc.

H&R Block's reloadable prepaid Emerald cards could previously route transactions across several PIN debit networks, including MasterCard's. But under this expanded contract, MasterCard becomes the only network that can carry the transactions.

The Purchase, N.Y., payment company's PIN debit network has long lagged its competition.

H&R Block, of Kansas City, Mo., offers the Emerald cards as a way for customers to access their tax refunds. It issued 2.6 million cards last year and said it expects to issue 3 million this year.

Bill Mathis, MasterCard's group executive of U.S. relationship management, said in a press release issued Wednesday, "By choosing MasterCard as its exclusive debit brand, H&R Block gains efficiencies in its card program and actionable insight into its growing portfolio."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.