Access, the venerable name that appears on MasterCards in the United Kingdom and Ireland, will disappear over the next two years.
The four financial institutions that own Access announced an agreement last week with MasterCard International Inc. to bury their historical identity to give MasterCard more prominence.
The move had been contemplated for years, but MasterCard recently began a concerted effort to create more brand consistency, particularly in Europe. Access was one of the last vestiges of MasterCard's original global structure of the 1960s and 1970s. It relied on a small "bug," which evolved into the current MasterCard circles logo, to unify numerous regional, independent brands.
MasterCard is in similar discussions with an affiliate, Europay International. The latter augments MasterCard's basic brand array - MasterCard for credit, Maestro for debit, and Cirrus for automated teller machines - with several others known only in Europe.
MasterCard and Europay have clashed over some aspects of branding and related marketing strategy, but European card industry sources say they have moved closer to an accommodation. It reportedly would perpetuate such programs as Eurocard and Eurocheque within Europe while underscoring MasterCard's preeminence as the "global acceptance brand."
The Access agreement with Midland Bank, Lloyds Bank, National Westminster Bank, and Royal Bank of Scotland indicates how MasterCard wants to make the progression from regional identity to global acceptance.
"Access is a strong local brand in the United Kingdom," said Robert W. Selander, MasterCard's regional president for Europe, Canada, the Middle East, and Africa. "But we have a responsibility today to provide cardholders with the international services and benefits, in addition to daily domestic use, that a global brand such as MasterCard offers."
The change will affect seven million Access-MasterCard cards in Britain and the Republic of Ireland. As they expire over the next two years, they will be reissued without the Access logo.
The removal of Access signs - most of them alongside MasterCard and Visa - from retailing locations is to begin this month and will be virtually completed within a year. There should be no confusion about acceptance because the older Access cards include the MasterCard logo.
The 500,000 Access merchants are accustomed to accepting MasterCards from other countries, just as the Access-MasterCard cards are usable at 12 million MasterCard locations worldwide.
"The U.K. is an enormous destination market, which is another reason MasterCard has sought a collaborative agreement with the U.K. financial institutions," Mr. Selander said.
The Access decision was announced just after an international meeting of MasterCard directors in London that coincided with the closing weekend of Euro '96, the continent's soccer championship, staged in England. Reflecting their sponsorship of international soccer, MasterCard's and Eurocard's names were prominent in stadium and television advertising - a program that Mr. Selander termed "very successful."