Dubai's Network International is to link arms with Discover Financial Services, catapulting its new Mercury payment system into a global network.
Network International, a payments company majority-owned by Emirates NBD, launched its Mercury card network last month as a home-grown alternative to Visa and MasterCard, to tap a growing demand among UAE companies for prepaid cards with which to pay their blue-collar workforces.
Discover Financial Services is the world's fourth-biggest payment network after Visa, MasterCard and American Express, collectively representing the biggest players in the global card payments industry
The agreement allows Mercury cards - which at launch last month could be used only in the UAE - to be used on the Discover, Diners Club International and Pulse networks, granting Network International access to about 185 countries, said Bhairav Trivedi, the company's chief executive.
"This tie-up allows us to have Mercury accepted across the entire Diners' network globally," he said. "We wanted to make sure that the acceptance is never an issue for this card."
For Network International, the most important aspect of the deal is increasing the acceptance of the cards by merchants. That is vital to allow Mercury to become a credible alternative to the likes of Visa and MasterCard, Mr Trivedi added.
"It's a chicken and egg problem," he said. "If merchants don't accept it, customers will not adopt it."