Beginning in June, MasterCard's travel assistance service, which it has been testing for a year with 12 issuers, will be expanded worldwide.
In name and features, MasterCard Global Service resembles programs offered by American Express Co. and Visa International. Each provides lost and stolen card reporting and card replacement, plus an array of other emergency services.
Bonnie J. MacDonald, MasterCard's senior vice president for Global Service, said the program will enable financial members to extend their customer service globally.
"This is not an ancillary service program," Ms. MacDonald said, but "something we think is strategically important to us going forward. We want the MasterCard brand to connote excellence in service. We want cardholders to feel secure wherever they travel."
MasterCard members will be automatically enrolled, she said, and will pay a $5 fee plus the telecommunications cost if their cardholders use the service.
Cardholders can access the service by calling directory assistance in major cities, Ms. MacDonald said. They only have to remember "MasterCard Global Service" to find the toll-free number, which they can call at any time to get help from someone who speaks their language, she said.
American Express, a company known for customer service, began its Global Assist program in 1986. Cardholders can get help from American Express travel offices or through a collect call to an emergency number, a spokeswoman said. If they don't have a number, they can call directory assistance, or ask an American Express merchant to provide a number.
Visa International has had Global Customer Assistance Service since 1992. State Street Bank, Owings Mills, Maryland, ran the program for Visa until last July, when the San Francisco-based association took it over.
Cardholders using directory assistance in major cities worldwide need only remember Visa emergency service, a spokesman said, to access a toll- free number.
Visa charges its members a fee per transaction, but declined to say what it is.