Why Mastercard’s RWC decision is stupid

Mastercard are banning other credit cards from Rugby World Cup venues, and insisting on only a pre-pay Mastercard or cash as acceptable forms of payments. The prepay card costs “$5-$10”, can have up to $1000 deposited into it and cannot be recharged. It uses ‘tap and go’ technology to accept payment of up to $80.

Paul Harper at NZHerald writes

“Fans at the Rugby World Cup will need either cash or a special new Mastercard ‘tap and go’ card to buy food and drinks at the tournament, organisers have revealed.”

<update – a representative from Mastercard called today, Thursday, and stated that the Herald article was incorrect, and that all Mastercards (but no other cards) will be accepted. Mastercard is not involved with ATMs and he knew of no plans to increase the number. He seemed upset when I asked why Mastercard were breaking the EFTPOS system in New Zealand, and didn’t seem to understand the negative impact this move has had on the perception of Mastercard here. He promised an email, which I promised to blog when I receive it. This post was replicated to The NBR and they have added a note as well.>


Sales will be lower at RWC venues than before this move, particularly sales of expensive merchandise. No credit cards means that only people with cash or worse, with enough cash and foresight to load a pre-pay card will be able to buy. Impulse buying of a $150 rugby shirt will be essentially impossible to occur for many.

EFTPOS machines ARE in fact available at some venues – such as the Deloitte lounge in Westpac stadium. If this move means removing those terminals then arguably this is restraining Visa (and Mastercard’s own) trade, as well as debit card transactions. I’m sure Mastercard has done their homework and is on solid legal ground, but tell that to the punters.

The cards are not rechargeable and cost money tp buy, and unknown costs to charge. This means consumers are paying high transaction fees. Firstly that $5-10 represents over 1% (probably more like 2-4% with average balances) to obtain a one-shot card, and secondly the inability to recharge means that residual balances will be unspent. The opportunity to launch nationally a new credit card while also spearheading the product launch of the near field technology is beautifully avoided.


The instant reaction to this is near universal. Mastercard are making things expensive, more complicated and asserting their market power. EFTPOS, which is universal in New Zealand and has been since the early 90s, is being put aside for a technology that seems to be a dead end street. The terminals will not be EFTPOS terminals, but will only accept a prepay card, and worse yet they won’t even accept existing Mastercards.

We are unsure of the requirements when we buy the pre-pay cards, but there are some hooks here as well. What sort of information will Mastercard require from us if we buy a pre-paid card? Will this comply with know your customer law, or are these going to be a great way to launder money? (this one is difficult to win). If we do provide information then will we be forced to provide details that create a business relationship that ends in spam and so forth? Will this be a slimey way to obtain marketing information and pitch other deals to us?

This morning there is no perceived difference between Visa and Mastercard, but now in my mind there is. Visa works everywhere.  Mastercard works everywhere but is the company that made things harder for us with stupid restrictions at the Rugby World Cup.

Overall this feels like a dubious decision made from outside New Zealand and accepted by local staff who don’t have the political clout to change things. It’s perceived as a dumb decision locally and will make people angry at Mastercard – angry enough to write blog posts, complain to media, write articles and avoid using the product, buying merchandise or even going to the games. It needs to be rethought.

Three suggestions on how to rethink the offer

Firstly – get EFTPOS into every venue, and make it super-easy for customers to purchase merchandise and overpriced food and drink. That’s part of Mastercard’s overall Vision – to advance Commerce Globally, and should be the most basic part of their offering. Brand the terminals with Mastercard logos, but accept as many forms of payment as possible.

Secondly – Do offer the pre-pay cards, and do offer them with the near field capability. But make the cards free so that we will be tempted to actually use them, and make it easy for us to remove the cash at the end. If we fill in an online form, then make a particular card rechargeable, so you can instantly roll out a new credit card. This means associating the card with a particular bank, or maybe you can allow customers to choose that bank with the online form.

Thirdly – roll out the NFC/EFTPOS terminals across New Zealand so that tourists and locals alike can experience the technology.

Published by Lance Wiggs


22 replies on “Why Mastercard’s RWC decision is stupid”

  1. Thats ridiculous, it was so stupid, I felt sure you must have got it wrong, as it couldn’t be that stupid. But your right.


    It might be slightly more acceptable if it was VISA which most people will have, but only slightly – why didnt they go the whole hog and just only offer diners club or amex. Make it real hard on everyone.

    There are so many smart people in this country, but something fundamentally wrong with how we run events and the country as a whole and I cant see why it should be .


  2. The smartest thing to do would’ve been to have half of all payment lines near-field only. Then, due mostly to lack of take up of the technology, people would relate the very short or non-existent queues to the technology being quicker.

    The main reason eftpos isn’t used at stadiums is because it’s so slow, this isn’t a new or contract based occurrence.

    Also, are you sure that t-shirt and memorabilia sellers are going to be restricted or is it only tickets and food/drinks suppliers that are built into the stadiums? I doubt the typical vendor-on-wheel/vans will be able to be co-opted by a stadium-Mastercard contract.


        1. Usually because they don’t have an EFTPOS terminal on that queue? Also – “implemented correctly” is important. The detail of how the transaction works, wether the terminal is obvious in where you put your card, whether the PIN/Chip slowness is enforced and s forth all matter.

          Simple ways to speed up transactions include losing Flybuys requests and other unnecessary popups, being able to swipe and authorise before the transaction is rung up and simply using store and forward with no authorisaton for smaller transactions – like those under $80. L


    1. “Also, are you sure that t-shirt and memorabilia sellers are going to be restricted or is it only tickets and food/drinks suppliers that are built into the stadiums? I doubt the typical vendor-on-wheel/vans will be able to be co-opted by a stadium-Mastercard contract.”

      They will be. At the Big Day Out, Pepsi was the principal sponsor and as a result, Burgerfuel and Hell vans were not permitted to sell any drinks at all (as they have an exclusivity agreement with Coca-Cola). They even had Coke fridges in the vans that they simply were contractually obligated to not sell from. It’s ridiculous that we allow sponsorship deals to determine what we are even permitted to purchase. Even more so to determine how we are permitted to purchase it.


  3. Yes this is stupid but it’s not surprising. There is nothing consumer-friendly about this sponsorship – Mastercard just want to make maximum impact without caring how it affects consumers. How many consumers choose a credit card based on whether it’s Visa or Mastercard?

    On a related note, Microsoft have won the exclusive rights to stream online content from the rugby world cup with their niche Silverlight plug-in. Microsoft: “Using Silverlight technology this will help provide a great online viewing experience…” Again, this is not consumer-friendly, it’s just a big corporate paying lots of money to force their technology down consumer’s throats, whether you like it or not.


  4. This is hardly new. Sponsors freeze out competitors all the time. Visa is doing it for tickets to the Olympics: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/jun/24/london-olympics-visa-card-tickets

    And I wouldn’t be surprised if this carries on through to payments at the games.

    Furthermore, there’s no way I’d ever rely on eftpos for buying anything at rugby matches. I’ve been to enough Sevens tournaments to know that you always bring cash with you – everyone hates the guy that holds up the queue with eftpos, and no one enjoys waiting in the enormous ATM line, missing half the game and paying other banks’ fees. I think what Mastercard is trying to do is encourage speedy service – that’s why it’s specifically the tap-and-go technology they’re encouraging as the way to pay, technology which is definitely much faster and more convenient than eftpos – I saw the benefits first-hand in Australia, who use it so well and efficiently in so many places.

    NZ needs to get with the times – this technology is everywhere. The rest of the world will come to NZ for the RWC with their tap and go cards they’ve been using for years and not complain at all.


    1. I disagree.

      Mastercard are just trying to get away with forcing their view of the world on us.

      I find it amazing that we even allow a company to tell an event holder what mechanisms it should use to extract cash from the paying public.

      I have always had a Mastercard. Never had a Visa. But it strikes me as downright silly to allow a sponsor to prevent an event holder from making as much money as possible.

      I am sure that this is all in the sponsorship agreement but it reeks of sharp practice.

      Of course, we all have an easy choice here. Watch the games at home, or down the pub, where we can pay for whatever we want with cash or eftpos or any credit card.


  5. Why cant it be added to existing Mastercards? I am not going to put another card in my wallet that costs more money and will have a balance left over that I wont be able to use.

    And I am sure every overseas visitor will say “WTF – how do you mean I cant use my visa or mastercard”.

    Even in London for the olymics you can still use your visa credit cards and overseas visitors can use any card.


  6. @anon I read something the other week in the news that tap and go is going to be introduced on existing Mastercards in NZ over the next year (i think it depends on the bank you’re with as to how soon they roll them out), and you’ll be able to use your tap and go Mastercard at the stadiums – i don’t know where everyone got this idea that you have to buy a special pre pay card even if you already own a mastercard. I’m sure that would only happen if your bank didnt adopt the technology in time for the RWC, and issue you with a new card. the pre pay cards are pretty much for Visa and eftpos people who want to get in on the tap & go convenience.

    anyway, the Auckland and wellington stadiums are already cash only. why is this such a big deal?


    1. I thought I read that mastercard (credit cards) with tap and go wouldn’t be launched till 2012.

      With mine not expiring till 2013 will I have to pay to get a new card with the new technoloy in time for the cup or will they give me a new one?

      Forgot to say in my previous post – saying that stadiums dont currently have eftpos is not an excuse. If they are going to put in these new machines, then they can put in eftpos machines. Plus taxi drivers have wireless version.


      1. Who’s paying for the terminals? Mastercard most likely not the stadiums hence Mastercards only accepted.
        Wirless versions do not work in large concrete stadiums with all the mobile phones in use.They cannot maintain their connection.


  7. NZ is different to most of the rest of the world in payment systems, though.

    Overseas (at least in the US and most of Europe), the use of anything other than cash for a small payment transaction such as drinks and food is unusual. If you want to pay by card in a bar (and they don’t just fling you out for being a posh git), you’re expected to leave the card behind the bar and settle on leaving. Paying for individual drinks with a card wouldn’t be accepted.

    So they may (assuming these decisions are being made overseas) be coming from a position where a stadium bar will only accept cash and proximity card payments are a new fangled add-on.

    (Why it is that NZ customers and shops accepted EFTPOS for small value transactions so happily and nobody else did is an interesting question?)


  8. It is disappointing, but hardly surprising. This whole sponsorship exclusivity thing seems to be getting a bit ridiculous at these major events.

    This is clearly a nonsense technology that has no traction in NZ yet, so it will probably lead to less electronic transactions at games, but I don’t rate this one as a huge issue since there are only three stadia that can take eftpos at the moment and quite frankly, having been to quite a number of events in Wellington Stadium and a couple of games at Eden Park, you would be mad to bring anything other than cash with you – the eftpos and ATM queues are always horrendous.

    So long as they don’t try and enforce this at the pubs near the stadiums, I’m ok with it!


  9. I could be wrong but i think card exclusivity always happens at the olympics.

    but this is like a whole other level of insane.

    and from having worked at the till end of a line, cash is always faster than eftpos.


  10. I think this has been misreported. While the RWC in certain stadium may be MasterCard card acceptance only – that will mean any MasterCard not just the pre-pay contactless variety. So while it’s still not universal acceptance – if you’ve got an MC in your wallet you’re good. MC are hardly going to make their existing domestic and international cardholders stump up for a new card. But, just like VISA and the Olympics, it’s hardly surprising that they want to be the exclusive card given what they would have had to stump up for the rights.

    Yeah it would be better to have eftpos as well at the RWC but at least the terminals will still be there after the event and then you can guarantee the stadiums will open it up to all cards which is so much better than having to lug cash to a game.


  11. I think you’re wrong about only having prepaid MasterCards being accepted at the RWC. There are contactless “paypass” MasterCards being issued in NZ at the moment.

    MasterCard’s move will make the banks start issuing more paypass cards in to the NZ market. Once there are cards in the market MasterCard can then start selling the feature to more and more merchants and say there’s demand for it. MasterCard is smart enough to use the RWC as a launching pad to get people using it and signup a few key merchants like McDonalds, Fix and supermarkets.


  12. Why is ANYONE surprised? The World Cup isn’t for Joe Public. The World Cup is for multinationals. We are lucky to be allowed to stay in the country.

    The only way to stop this is to boycott the perpetrators. Let’s make Monday 18th April a “Hell no Mastercard, not gonna use ya” Day. Then repeat it every Monday til they get the message.


  13. I am avoiding the rwc. I may watch some of the free to air games on TV, but I feel that there is a disconnect now between the NZ public and professional rugby. It would have been nice to go to one of the games, but they were too expensive for me, and you had to participate in a ballet system, where you had no choice on the ‘grade’ of tickets you were offered, you had to either take it or leave it. I think the best place to be when the rwc is on, is possibly in Oz or the UK. I know quite a few people leaving the country while it is on. I just hope there will be an analysis after the world cup, to see if NZ actually made a profit.


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