Mastercard ups the smart card stakes

A three way partnership drives the cost of a multi-function smart card down to $3, paving the way for much wider smart card adoption.

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By  David Ingham Published  April 5, 2001

MasterCard International, Keycorp and Infineon, a division of Siemens, have introduced a multi-function smart card priced below $3. MasterCard says it envisages rolling out 15 million of the smart cards by 2003.

“Working with our members and our strategic partners, Europay International and Mondex International, MasterCard has deployed more than 30 million MasterCard-branded smart cards around the world,” said Art Kranzley, senior vice president for e-business, MasterCard International. “By partnering with Keycorp and Infineon, we are able to introduce an option that is cost-effective and comprehensive for our members.

The new chip is based on the MULTOS 4 smart card operating system. A 16K version will be available initially, followed later by a 32K version.

The chip will host a co-processor that supports RSA encryption with 1,024-bit key length. MasterCard's M/Chip credit/debit application and a public key infrastructure (PKI) application will be loaded on the chip’s ROM (read only memory.)

Smart cards offer banks and other organisations the ability to combine multiple functions such as bank credit and debit, frequent flyer programmes and electronic ID on a single card. This allows financial services companies, in particular, to add value to existing credit card offerings. Smart cards are also considered less vulnerable to fraud than today’s strip cards.

“In today’s competitive environment, it’s not enough to just offer the most cost-effective program — a stronger proposition combines cost efficiency, superior technology, security and personalisation,” said Jeff Portelli, senior vice president, product delivery services group, MasterCard Asia/Pacific. “A secure, multi-application smart card for under US$3.00 removes another barrier our member financial institutions may have in migrating to chip-based cards.”

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