A new service from MasterCard, targeted to small and mid-sized businesses, aims to combine the savings of online credit card malls with the convenience of credit card concierge service, plus a way to track and manage expenses, all rolled into one.
The MasterCard Business Network is now in beta form and expected to fully launch in the coming weeks, gradually integrating and updating features and functionality. It has three distinct modules: purchases, travel and dining, and expenses.
MasterCard Goes Retail
One of MasterCard Network’s most marketed parts (it greets you on their home page) is the purchase module – the shopping piece of the service, where business owners will have the opportunity to purchase over 650,000 products at a discount. The products will include office supplies, electronics, and construction supplies, and will be shipped by national distributors.
The Credit-Land.com team took a skeptical look at some of these discounted prices and found that this part of the service is really not a big deal. We surveyed three types of products for small businesses: electronics, electrical supplies, and office supplies. The team looked at how MasterCard Network prices compared to online stores like Amazon.com or NewEgg.com. We found that on the majority of products, MasterCard offered higher prices, especially in comparison with Amazon.com.
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This product is not available at NewEgg.com but you can buy it at Staples for $18.99 – MasterCard wins by $2.42
Travel Planning, Dining, and Accounting All-in-One
In the Travel and Dining parts of the service, MasterCard covers anything business owners may need in the way of business trip planning. Business-owning MasterCard holders can get help planning travel itineraries, booking air travel, making hotel and restaurant reservations, and enforcing travel policies for employees who are also authorized cardholders on their accounts.
The expense module will offer a basic or an upgraded version with expense report capabilities, the ability to import transaction data into business reports, and scan and upload receipts for easier accounting and financial reporting.
“The travel planning and entertainment infrastructure that MasterCard has built over the years allows them to deliver an excellent level of service, when it comes to planning and organizing good times for cardholders,” says Michael Germanovsky, editor-in-chief at Credit-Land.com. – “Keep in mind, MasterCard cardholders are already receiving majority of these service through card benefits, These services include travel assistance and protection, among others, with car rental and travel accident insurance to go along with Concierge Service.
Saving Time and Money
“Through one, integrated site, the MasterCard Business Network is designed to help them grow by delivering some of the critical infrastructure capabilities that can help them save time and money,” says Ed Glassman, group executive with the global commercial products group at MasterCard Worldwide. He says that the MasterCard Business Network will be able to help business owners when they purchase supplies, book travel, entertain clients, or get a handle on managing expenses.
The service will be available to anyone who has a business MasterCard and registration is free. There are plans for mobile versions on Android, iPhone and Blackberry as well.
All of the services offered through this new platform are offered by other cards, so none of this is particularly revolutionary, but the MasterCard Business Network will bundle some of these more familiar services – online shopping malls, concierge service, and expense report capability, into one service, which may prove useful for business owners who want to simplify their already busy schedules.
The site infrastructure will be supported by Rearden Commerce’s Deem platform, and Patrick Grady, their founder and CEO, says that “by leveraging our proprietary technology platform, the MasterCard Business Network is empowering smaller businesses to cut through the clutter with a personalized purchasing and travel experience.”
MasterCard Business Card – Our Pick
“Although I am totally for consolidating services into a single go-to place; I am not thrilled with the business network’s prices, following our research. I can see that they do offer better prices on office supplies, if compared with large retail stores like Staples, but they are totally losing to online retail pros like Amazon. After all, MasterCard is a card processing network that charges merchants around 3% of each sale. By retailing same products, MasterCard finds itself in a direct completion with their own clients (merchants) who pay the swipe fee.” – says Germanovsky.
However, MasterCard issues a wide array of credit cards for small to mid-sized businesses, but we like the CitiBusiness/AAdvantage World MasterCard, which offers travel perks like 30,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles when you make $1,000 in purchases during the first three months you have the card, priority boarding, and a free checked bag for you and up to four travel partners. The $95 annual fee is relatively low for a premier business credit card, and the ability to register to use the MasterCard Business Network will be one more benefit to an already outstanding product.