Payments: more than just a number

October 4, 2016

Have you ever thought about what those 16-digits on a credit card mean, and more importantly, the information that these numbers are giving away? Each number, or groups of numbers, represent the type of card, the network provider and the issuer. But what if the numbers could be used to convey so much more…

I was recently asked what advances in payments we should expect in the next five years. For me, when it comes to transactions, it’s all about data! In a world where ‘big data’ is seemingly endlessly talked about, the value of information has never been higher. For example, MasterCard has a dedicated analytics centre to analyse the 10 petabytes (a million gigabytes) of transaction data globally to identify spending trends. But what if the card number itself could carry a discount code, confirm trading terms, as part of a commercial agreement between a supplier and an agent?

When it comes to traditional credit cards with their static single number, this wouldn’t be possible. But as virtual cards are digital and unique to each individual transaction, this isn’t beyond the realms of reality. Nor is it in the distant future. I can see a time where Virtual Account Numbers can be embedded with code reflecting the commercial agreement between an airline and consolidator for example, or an OTA and a hotel. We already have an agreement with a major supplier, which will see agents who pay by VANs have the surcharges applied to traditional credit card payments reduced.

As transactions increasingly become digital, I’m excited about the future possibilities of Virtual Account Numbers, and the value they can bring beyond the transaction amount.

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