In most markets outside of the United States, smart cards will reach critical mass in three to four years, says Toni Merschen, senior vice president of chip and mobile commerce at MasterCard International. He defines critical mass as two-thirds of cards and terminals complying with the international EMV standard for payment smart cards. As for the United States, Merschen tells CardLine that several trends are tending to make smart cards more attractive to U.S. issuers. These include chip prices falling below $1 and the growing need for stronger cardholder authentication during online, telephone and mobile transactions. "While the U.S. may be slower than other parts of the world," Merschen says, "I think market forces likely will bring the U.S. into the EMV world in the next couple of years." Merschen says the number of MasterCard smart card projects around the world has doubled in each of the past two years, and the total now stands at 950 initiatives. Of the 680 million MasterCard-branded cards worldwide, 233 million carry smart card chips, of which about half are EMV-compliant, MasterCard says.