In an effort to position itself better in the travel and entertainment category, MasterCard International has signed a marketing agreement with Vacation.com.

The companies said they will create exclusive travel offers for MasterCard cardholders and develop a promotional program supported by national advertising.

Vacation.com -- which calls itself the largest network of travel agencies in North America - plans to promote MasterCard as its preferred payment brand through brochures, point-of-sale displays, telephone prompts, and its Web site, the companies said.

Both MasterCard and Visa U.S.A. have been trying to branch out beyond sports sponsorships and generate card use in new areas. Last year Visa signed a sponsorship agreement with five companies in New York City's theater district. MasterCard, meanwhile, refrained from advertising on Sunday's Super Bowl broadcast and will instead premiere its newest commercial during the Grammy Awards presentation.

Through its agreement with Vacation.com, MasterCard gets access to 9,400 travel agencies. Last year Washington-based Vacation.com had sales of $30 billion, accounting for more than 25% of the $120 billion leisure travel category.

"As nearly one-third of all travel agents in North America are Vacation.com members, this is an extremely important alliance for MasterCard and our members as we further strengthen our position in the travel and entertainment category," said Fred Gore, senior vice president of North America acceptance at MasterCard in Purchase, N.Y.

MasterCard said it is still working out the nuts and bolts of its alliance with Vacation.com and that a rewards program and cobranded credit card, among other things, are being considered.

Dick Knodt, president and chief operating officer of Vacation.com, said MasterCard will promote Vacation.com to its cardholders.

"Partnering with MasterCard will surely drive business through our member agencies' doors," Mr. Knodt said.

He added that MasterCard will offer incentives to Vacation.com agents to plug its card as their clients' preferred payment method.

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