MasterCard International is using its name recognition to secure discounts for its small-business cardholders. The Purchase, N.Y.-based card association has signed on more than 40 merchants who have agreed to offer its small-business cardholders the same discounts on products and services that they extend to large corporations.

"Our research revealed that small businesses were not receiving the same cost savings and benefits as large companies when ordering goods and services on the Internet," said Steve Abrams, senior vice president of corporate payment solutions at MasterCard. Both MasterCard and Visa U.S.A. have stepped up their emphasis on small businesses and say it is one of the fastest-growing markets for new accounts. MasterCard has 4.25 million small-business cards in circulation in the United States and six million globally.

American Express Co., traditionally the leader in small-business services, offers discounts to its customers at companies like Federal Express and International Business Machines Corp. through its "small-business exchange" Web site.

"American Express continues to set the pace with small business," said David Robertson, president of The Nilson Report, an industry newsletter in Oxnard, Calif. "But all of the brands believe that ancillary services are the way to go to help retain customers."

MasterCard said its new Web site, "MasterCard business savings," has more participating merchants than its competitors'.

Cardholders can get a 36% discount on office products from online retailer Penny-wise, 77% off the cover price of Inc. magazine, and 15% off at an Internet press release service, to name a few. The site also offers cardholders advice on financing and access to business consultants.

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