First of the ‘big five’ banks to move from Visa as Mastercard seeks to grow in the UK
Santander will become the first of the UK’s ‘big five’ high street banks to issue debit cards through Mastercard from next year, marking a major step in the payments group’s efforts to fight Visa’s dominance in the sector. Santander UK, which has more than 9m debit cards in issue — almost 10 per cent of the UK total — will begin moving customers to Mastercard as their existing cards expire from the first quarter of 2019. Mark Barnett, Mastercard divisional president for the UK, said the deal would give it “real scale in the UK debit card market”, and was “proof that Mastercard’s debit card solutions offer all the flexibility, security and convenience banks and their cardholders require in today’s digital age”.
More than 95 per cent of debit cards in the UK run on Visa’s network, but Mastercard has signed up several smaller banks since Visa’s European arm was bought out by Visa Inc in 2016. This was previously owned by a co-operative of European banks, with the value of each bank’s stake dependent on the volume of transactions they handled. Analysts warned at the time of the €21bn deal that it could allow Mastercard to win back some of the business that had previously been tied to its rival. TSB — which has around 4.5 per cent of the debit card market — is due to move its debit card portfolio to Mastercard later in the year which, with the Santander agreement, is expected to bring Mastercard’s market share close to 20 per cent. Matt Hall, Santander UK director of banking and unsecured credit, said the partnership “will enable us to give better payment solutions to our customers and look forward to rolling out the new cards from next year”. Mastercard’s push into the UK follows last year’s £700m acquisition of Vocalink, which builds real-time payments infrastructure, from a consortium of British banks. Vocalink is aiming to launch a separate service this year allowing customers to pay for online purchases directly from their current accounts, cutting out the need to use a debit card. The company has signed up several banks that issue cards through Visa — including Barclays and HSBC — to join the programme.