Blog from Valerie Nowak: Why this Maestro is retiring after 30 years

October 19, 2021 | By Valerie Nowak

In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee flipped the switch on what he had initially described as “a large hypertext database with typed links” in a proposal to his bosses at Switzerland’s famed research laboratory CERN. He later settled on the slightly catchier name the World Wide Web.

That same year, Mastercard launched its Maestro debit card brand, the world’s first online point-of-sale debit network that gave cardholders secure access to their money wherever they were. Though the debit card – and its partner-in-cash, the ATM machine – had been around for years, the rise of the debit acceptance network helped hasten the decline of paper checks and traveler’s cheques.

Maestro effectively became the only pan-European debit brand accepted almost everywhere across Europe. There are now more than 400 million in circulation worldwide.

But a lot has changed in 30 years. A lot has changed in the last 20 months, when the World Wide Web became, for all intents and purposes, our entire world. We are living far more digital lives, learning, working, socializing, and spending online. Businesses of all sizes – even the smallest – have met the moment with expanded digital presences and online payment options.

With e-commerce growth far outpacing physical retail, it’s time to upgrade those Maestro cards. Built primarily for a physical world, Maestro cards cannot consistently be used for e-commerce payments, in part because the numbering convention on Maestro cards (up to 19 digits) is not compatible with widely used e-commerce portals.

Yet, the debit card is the preferred way to pay for many people and its use should not be dependent on whether its owner is in a physical shop or on his favourite e-commerce platform.

That’s why, starting July 1, 2023, banks and other card issuers will begin replacing expired or lost Maestro cards - for instance with a Debit Mastercard, which is accepted wherever Mastercard is accepted online and offline, in your hometown or abroad – and globally, that’s in a lot more places than Maestro.

And it is not just the ability to use your debit card more easily and seamlessly in a digital environment. A Debit Mastercard can also be used as a guarantee to make travel bookings  – very much part of the physical world – just like with your Mastercard credit card.

In some cases, banks may even start providing their customers with new debit cards before July 1, 2023, but no new Maestro cards will be issued in Europe after that date.  

As a cardholder, you won’t have to do anything. Once your Maestro card expires (after 1 July 2023), your bank will simply send you a new debit card. It will be linked to your current account, just like Maestro is, and operate in the same way – only with a lot more capabilities to make your shopping and travel experience seamless.

Maestro helped change the way we pay, but the world has continued to change. Our cards have been changing with it – from magnetic stripes to chip cards, from signature panels to fingerprint authentication, from first-use plastic to recycled and bio-sourced materials. The phasing out of Maestro in favor of Debit Mastercard is no different. It’s time to adapt the smart, safe and seamless experience that people have learned to appreciate when using their debit card in the physical world to today’s digital lifestyles.

Photo of Valerie Nowak
Valerie Nowak, Executive Vice President, Product and Innovation, Europe, Mastercard

Media Contacts

James Issokson, Mastercard
Philipp Bruechert, Mastercard