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MasterCard credit cards to be accepted at Sam's Club

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MasterCard-branded credit cards will soon become another form of accepted payment at Sam's Club, following an expected announcement shortly from the chain of warehouse-style discount stores.  The first-ever acceptance of MasterCard credit card payments by Sam's Club will come at the exclusion of Visa credit cards.  

That decision marks a victory for MasterCard in its ongoing struggle with Visa, as the two credit card associations compete for market share.  Visa is gearing up to become a publicly traded company, after MasterCard's stock went public this year.

Meanwhile, the announcement by Sam's Club also would represent a major change for the unit of Wal-Mart Stores, with the 589 Sam's Club stores in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada previously only taking credit card payments from Discover Card and its own in-house cards. 

Sam's Club takes Visa and MasterCard credit cards for gasoline and online purchases.  Customers can also make purchases at Sam's Club locations with cash, checks and both Visa and MasterCard debit cards.  American Express credit cards are not accepted.

The decision by Sam's Club to accept MasterCard but not Visa credit card payments is rare since retailers generally do not choose between the two dominant credit card associations.  Those stores that want to limit their credit card brand acceptance normally group Visa and MasterCard together, and consider them as a unit against American Express, with its strong reputation but higher merchant fees, and Discover Card, with its narrower acceptance.

The addition of MasterCard may help Sam's Club to draw customers who want to pay by credit card but do not carry Discover Card, at a time when U.S. consumers are paying with plastic more frequently.  Sam's Club noted that customers have been requesting that it offer more credit card payment choices.

Additionally, allowing its 47 million customers, who pay annual dues of $35, to pay with a MasterCard could give Sam's Club a much-needed lift as the retailer is losing ground domestically to rival Costco Wholesale.  To begin catching up, Sam's Club needs bigger sales, with another payment option likely to support that effort.  

Published: November 27, 2006


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