MasterCard Goes Mobile—Nearby

SAN FRANCISCO MasterCard is using mobile marketing to let cardholders use their phones to find the nearest ATMs in the U.S., Canada, Australia and much of Europe.

The initiative, called “MasterCard Nearby,” also provides branded information such as merchant locations and directions.

Unveiled Monday, the free program positions the credit card brand as more convenient and digitally sophisticated than its rivals. All cardholders in the U.S. are eligible to sign up through a microsite, (The service is accessible from any compatible Web-enabled mobile phone.)

“MasterCard Nearby offers a new way for issuers, merchants and consumers to communicate and strengthen relationships with one another. It also delivers heightened convenience to busy cardholders on the go,” said Tatiana Mulry, MasterCard’s vp, mobile.

“Our cardholders have come to expect a wide variety of services when using their cards, and we want to translate that experience to the mobile phone environment,” she said. Since it is an opt-in program, the company can tailor the mobile services to fit the needs of individual customers.

Marketing experts point out that U.S. consumers are skeptical about mobile ads, so companies using such tools must seek ways to be useful while promoting their brands. Successful mobile campaigns “respect the medium and deliver value to targeted audiences,” said Forrester analyst Christine Spivey Overby.

MasterCard is leveraging mobile phones in other attempts to boost customer convenience and brand loyalty. One example: It conducted a test in New York’s subway system that allowed riders to tap their phones on a digital reader, rather than using standard fare cards. MasterCard has also said it is working to enable person-to-person cross-border money transfers via mobile phones.

The MasterCard Nearby program was developed in partnership with go2, a mobile, local search and content network based in Irvine, Calif.