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The Maestro logo.

Maestro is a multi-national debit card service owned by MasterCard, and was founded in 1990. Maestro cards are obtained from associate banks and can be linked to the card holder's current account, or they can be prepaid cards. The cardholder presents the card at the point of sale (POS) and this is swiped through the terminal by the assistant or the customer or inserted into a chip and PIN device. The payment is authorised by the card issuer to ensure that the cardholder has sufficient funds in their account to make the purchase and the cardholder confirms the payment by either signing the sales receipt or entering their 4 to 6-digit PIN.

Within the EU and certain other countries, Maestro is MasterCard's main debit brand and is the equivalent of signature debit card which does not require electronic authorisation, similar to the Visa Debit card. In most other countries, Maestro is equivalent to a Visa Electron and is MasterCard's tertiary card. It requires electronic authorisation much like a Solo debit card, i.e. not only must the information stored in either the chip or the magnetic stripe be read, this has to be sent from the Merchant to the issuing bank, the issuing bank then has to respond with an affirmative authorisation. If the information is not read, the issuer will decline the transaction, regardless of any disposable amount on the connected account. This is different from other debit and credit cards, where the information can be entered manually into the terminal (i.e. by punching the 13 to 19 digits and the expiry date on the terminal) and still be approved by the issuer or stand-in processor.

Maestro is accepted at around nine million point of sale outlets.


Acceptance and availability

Maestro card issued by a German bank
  • In Germany and Austria, Maestro replaced the Eurocheque system. Austrian Maestro cards are virtually always pure Maestro cards. German Maestro cards, however, are in very most cases co-branded with the German Electronic Cash/Girocard logo. These co-branded cards work like normal Maestro cards within the Maestro network and as Girocards within the Girocard network, but they cannot be used as Maestro over the telephone or on the internet.
  • In Belgium, the existing Bancontact/Mister Cash system will be phased out in favor of Maestro. This is directly in line with the European directive requiring member states to adopt a common payment system by 2010 (see Single Euro Payments Area).
  • In the United Kingdom, the former Switch debit card system has been re-branded as Maestro and now uses chip and PIN technology. An advertising campaign labels the system as "The new cash". Underneath the branding, however, the system is still the old Switch one and the cards are still fundamentally Switch. For this reason, some visitors from outside the UK may find their Maestro cards declined in shops. As another holdover, certain cards carry an issue number, and their card number as quoted on online card payments actually consists of a 4 digit prefix followed by the sort code and account number of the linked current account. The issue number exists in this situation as the card number itself cannot be changed in the event of the card being lost or stolen, but the issue number can be incremented to differentiate between the new card and old card. In January 2009 First Direct and HSBC discontinued the use of Maestro card, issuing Visa Debit cards to new customers and a gradual roll-out throughout 2009 to existing customers. In September of the same year, the British arms of the National Australia Bank, comprising of the Clydesdale Bank and the Yorkshire Bank, started the process of replacing the Maestro card with a Debit MasterCard. Likewise, in the same month the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (Europe's largest debit card issuer which includes the NatWest, Coutts and Ulster Bank brands) switched from Maestro to Visa Debit, a process that will take two years to complete.[1][2][3]. RBS's U.S. subsidiary, Citizens Financial Group, also began a switch to Visa, though like most foreign banks with operations in the United States it uses MasterCard's Cirrus network and the card participates in the MasterCard SecureCode initiative.
  • In Ireland, most banks issue debit cards that are co-branded with Maestro and the Irish Laser card logos. These function as a Laser Card in Ireland and as a Maestro card when used abroad, although acceptance is quite patchy. Generally, the Maestro function on these cards only works when they are inserted into a POS terminal. They cannot be used as Maestro over the telephone or on the internet. However, they can be accepted online or over the phone by any merchant who accepts Laser card. All Irish debit cards are now issued with Chip and PIN technology and transactions are normally only authorised by PIN. Most Irish POS terminals now authorise all debit and credit card transactions online[citation needed], so you cannot spend unauthorised funds.
  • In Denmark, Maestro has been replaced by the banks that issued it with Debit MasterCard. Moreover, the largest Danish bank Danske Bank has replaced all of its cash cards with Debit MasterCards, to the dismay of some customers.
  • In the United States, Maestro is a PIN-based debit card network closely related to the Cirrus ATM network, also owned by MasterCard. Like other PIN-debit networks in the U.S., Maestro there relies solely on a standard card and PIN, without a chip; signature-debit transactions in the U.S. are handled through the main MasterCard network or the rival Visa network.
  • In Brazil, Maestro has acquired the existing Redeshop service and is in the process of rebranding it as Maestro. Brazilian Caixa Econômica Federal is currently the major Maestro issuer in the world, with over 34,000,000 cards issued as October 2006.
  • In parts of Latin America, Maestro is known as MasterCard Maestro, as the brand name is not as widespread as in Europe.
  • In Australia, Maestro is part of the EFTPOS program and is most commonly issued by the Commonwealth Bank.
  • In Argentina, Maestro is the card used by the Banco de la Nacion Argentina and other banks, mostly state-run or provincial banks.
  • In Venezuela, Maestro is the leading debit card, issued by almost all major banks in the country. It is widely accepted in POS. It works on all ATMs showing the Suiche7B, Conexus and Cirrus logos.
  • In India, Maestro is the leading debit card in terms of circulation. It is the debit card of choice for almost all major banks, except ICICI Bank. Maestro issuing banks include the State Bank of India (India's largest bank), State Bank's affiliate banks, Punjab National Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Bank of Rajasthan, etc.
  • In Israel, Maestro Cards cannot be used at point of sales locations to make purchases but the Cirrus network is accepted at a majority of cash points most of the time. The exception is the 'First International Bank of Israel' (FIBI) who do not accept Cirrus.
  • In Sri Lanka, Nations Trust Bank (NTB) issues all its customers with a ATM card, which also doubles as a Debit Card as well it being accepted at other Cirrus ATMs locally and internationally

As of February 2010. Customers of HSBC, RBS/NatWest have started to have their Maestro Cards replaced with Visa Debit cards. Customers of Yorkshire and Clydesdale banks will be moved to Mastercard Debit later this year.

See also


  1. ^ Your card - RBS - The Royal Bank of Scotland The Royal Bank of Scotland
  2. ^ Natwest Your card National Westminster Bank
  3. ^ Visa Debit Ulster Bank

External links

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