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Mastercard’s New Mobile AR App Will Virtually Demonstrate Rewards & Benefits To Their Cardholders

It’s always a fantastic sign for any new technology when a big household brand name adopts it for a big marketing push. It’s even better when the idea they are pushing is not just novel and gimmicky, but is genuinely interesting and also potentially solves a legitimate consumer problem.

So naturally when I saw that Mastercard, a brand so strong that they totally just dropped their name off their logo last year at CES, had decided to get in on AR with a mobile augmented reality app, you know that we are turning another corner with AR adoption. Don’t get me wrong there are still a shit load of turns in the road ahead but this is certainly a bit of a milestone for the industry.

At this year’s CES they dropped that they were going to be launching a new AR app that will give their cardholders the ability to experience and explore their rewards first hand through portal AR. Mastercard’s mobile AR app is just an inspired use of AR technology. I can only speak for myself on this, and to be fair the reward schemes on credit cards in Ireland tend to be pretty piss poor which may be skewing my judgement, but I never really even look at those rewards schemes anymore and if I do it’s a fleeting glance and I’m gone. I don’t feel a strong pull or a connection to them, certainly not enough for it to affect my purchasing decisions. And when so much effort goes into organising and distributing those offers and rewards, you really have to wonder is engaging in this type of marketing activity even worth it anymore?

This new AR application may just be the thing that was missing to bridge the gap, or else maybe it will just be another AR gimmick that doesn’t really solve any problem, but provides a novel experience for 5 seconds and a nice case study video for YouTube and online PR.

mastercard's Mobile AR app

Although they’ve said we aren’t going to have to wait too long to find out, as Mastercard’s mobile AR app is scheduled for launch in Q2 of this year. We probably are, as it’s only going to be released for iPhones in the US. I know, boo urns right. Well the good news at least is that they are planning to bring out an android version, and it will also be released at some stage this year. To add to all of this, Mastercard have actually opened up this AR experience as a white-label app for all of their various different partners.

mobile AR app

“At Mastercard, we’re using our technology and solutions to deliver multi-sensory experiences for consumers every day – whether they’re shopping, taking transit, or exploring the card benefits they care about,” highlighted Mastercard’s CMO, in a statement. The whole idea is to leverage intuitive AR design to allow cardholders to easily discover and also explore these benefits that are so often overlooked.

Mastercard's Mobile AR App

In order for a cardholder to try this AR experience, all they have to do is install the app and then scan their card using their smart phone camera. The AR app then creates 3 virtual portals within the user’s space. Every one of these portals will be linked to a specific benefit category and should instantly transport the users to a luxurious virtual scene that corresponds with the category. For instance, the Peace Of Mind portal transports users to a relaxing spa, the Every Day Value portal will take the user to a snazzy high end smart home and the Experiences portal will drop you right onto a private beach. See what I mean, the rewards on my card are an absolute flop in comparison.

MasterCard's mobile AR app

Once you have entered inside the VR environment, users can stroll around and can interact with different objects, these objects are meant to represent different card features.  Inside of the Experiences portal there is a set of golf clubs that when you interact with will provide more information on all the different golf related benefits that Mastercard offers their cardholders. Presumably they will have different offers squeezed into all their different portals. I just can’t help but wonder how you would represent a 3% cashback offer on your next online Swavorski purchase.

“Digital-first consumers are the first to explore and use technology-enabled touchpoints across the entire payments journey,” said Tim Sloane, VP of the Mercator Advisory Group. “With the new Mastercard benefits app, these cardholders will experience an immersive and truly unique environment where every tap delivers the value and benefits of their card in a fashion never experienced before.” I mean I’m sure we can all at the very least half agree with that.

mobile AR app

It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t Mastercard’s first AR rodeo. They were already dipping their toes in the waters as far back as 2017, when they partnered with Qualcomm to create an AR shopping idea that had iris authentication built in. Safe to say that didn’t really go anywhere, but they were way to early with it. It’s going to be a few years before we see an AR commerce concept that’s robust enough to be whole heartedly adopted by the market.

The world of banking is probably not the industry that I would be hanging my AR cap on, but they do have all the money, literally, that’s what they do, they “keep out money safe”. But this tech is going from strength to strength and is certainly proving its ability to solve long standing communication issues in a new and highly engaging way.

Just take a look at ABN AMRO, a Dutch bank who developed a full-on AR escape room game with the sole purpose of attracting new IT security nerds to apply for their new job openings. It’s no different to Mastercard’s consumer focused AR play. Both are founded upon the communication of company benefits to the user. It’s by taking these more every day and dare I say boring areas of a business, and jazzing them up, making them more interesting, interactive and immersive. This is really how AR is going to be able to carve a strong foothold in not just the banking industry, but in all of them.

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