The MasterCard Display Card: Is This the Future?

display card

There’s been a lot of buzz about the “MasterCard Display Card,” which debuted in Singapore this week.

The technology was actually first launched in 2010, but now it’s got a serious partner, Standard Chartered Bank Singapore, per a company press release.

If successful there, it probably won’t be long before the Display Card is launched stateside, by American Express or Bank of America or some other major player.

Americans already seem to be jealous, for reasons unknown to me – I’ve never understood the draw of having a quirky credit card.

What Is the Display Card?

In short, it’s a standard looking plastic credit card with an embedded LCD display, a series of touch-sensitive buttons, and a microchip.

It even has an on/off button so you can turn it off when it’s not in use.

As it stands now, the Display Card technology is being used to generate one-time passwords (OTP), used as an additional security measure when added authentication is called for.

In other words, if a thief steals the card, they wouldn’t be able to do much with it if they didn’t know the password, assuming such authentication was necessary for a transaction.

In countries where such authentication is needed, users must carry bulky key fob looking devices. This technology essentially wipes out the need for the keychain adornments.

Beginning in January, the Display Card will be used by all Standard Chartered online banking customers during higher-risk transactions, such as when payments and/or transfers exceed a certain threshold.

Additionally, it will be employed when adding a third party payee or changing account details.

In the future, other uses may be employed, including the ability to see an account balance, transaction history, or even custom messages and alerts.

The Big Question: Why Now?

While it all sounds cool in a very Back to the Future type of way, you have to wonder why such technology is being unveiled now.

After all, we’re at a point now where physical credit cards could soon be obsolete (or at least should be).

I’m all for added security – heaven knows credit card fraud is rampant and completely out of control.

But why is the industry still relying on plastic cards when they could be making the migration to smartphones, which just about everyone carries at this point.

Aside from being more convenient to point your phone at a payment terminal as opposed to swiping a dirty credit card (yes, they’re covered in bacteria), a smartphone could probably employ better technology and added security.

Think a text message if anything funny went on, and plenty of account details at your fingertips in real-time.

And with everything in one central place, it’d be easier to manage multiple accounts and choose which payment option you’d like to use, instead of fumbling through your cards or being told your American Express was “no good here.”

There are also cloud-based digital wallets surfacing, such as the Wallaby Card, and it appears as if even Google is getting into the credit card game. You know they won’t be going with your Grandma’s credit card…

So I question the use of Display Card technology now, as cool as it may appear. To me, it already looks quite a bit outdated.

By Colin Robertson

Colin created this blog after spending several years in a job that required him to scour credit reports on a daily basis. His goal is to help individuals better understand their credit and get the most out of credit cards.

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