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Mastercard loses USAA customers to Visa

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In the credit card business, wins and losses will happen.

So said MasterCard in response to the announcement that USAA, which provides financial services to members of the military and their families, would make Visa its primary card network.

“Teaming up with Visa will allow us to offer more benefits, including the elimination of foreign transaction fees for all USAA Visa credit cards in 2016,” said Matt Bruhn, vice president of USAA Bank.

“Large issuing banks tend to pit Visa and MasterCard against each other in order to make sure they’re getting the best terms and the best product,” explained Gil Luria, managing director at Wedbush Securities.

Luria thinks this switch is significant because USAA is one of the largest issuers of credit and debit cards in the United States, and has a reputation for having loyal customers.

It also shows how much muscle issuers and merchants — brands like USAA, Capital One, or Costco — now have over card networks, said Andrew Davidson, a senior vice president with Mintel Comperemedia.

“We’re seeing something of a shift in the balance of power,” he said. “I think as the landscape goes forward, we’re going to see the networks really trying fight to maintain their relevance, trying to really prove their value to their partners.”

Davidson said consumers today often view Visa and MasterCard as pretty interchangeable.

Additionally, new payment technology might reduce the amount of transactions processed over card networks, said David Robertson, the publisher of the Nilson Report, which follows the credit and debit card industry.  

Things are loosening up in terms of the status quo. And what the knowledgeable players in this business are trying to do is make sure they’ve got their backs protected by gaining scale.

In the race for scale, Robertson said Visa just added more than $75 billion worth of purchases each year at MasterCard’s expense. 

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