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Visa vs. Mastercard: Which is better?
Both Visa and Mastercard offer worldwide acceptance, travel benefits and other enticing perks.
Visa and Mastercard are the largest credit card processing companies globally and in Canada. Each offers a range of benefits that vary by card provider – but which should you choose? We break down the differences between Visa and Mastercard credit cards and consider the pros and cons of each.
Compare Visa and Mastercard credit cards
What’s the difference between Visa and Mastercard?
Visa and Mastercard provide the technology and networks required for processing card payments. They’re the largest card processors in the world, and their products are accepted by millions of merchants around the world.
Networks vs issuers
Visa and Mastercard are networks – neither of them issue credit cards, unlike American Express which is both a network and an issuer. That’s why you might get your credit card from RBC, but the bottom corner of the card will have a Visa logo.
Things to consider when comparing Visa and Mastercard credit cards
- Annual fee. Some Visa and Mastercard credit cards come with annual fees. Depending on the card you choose from either, the fee could be anywhere from $0 to upwards of $800.
- Interest rates. Both Visa and Mastercard have competitive interest rates, usually sitting between 8-24%, however sometimes it can be higher.
- Promotional offers. Many credit cards come with balance transfer offers or an annual fee waiver for the first year. Compare the length of the promotion and any other factors involved, such as interest rates.
- Rewards. Many Visa and Mastercard credit cards are linked to rewards programs and travel programs. When comparing rewards cards, consider the earn rate and your average spending to determine the cards value to you.
- Limits and expiration for rewards points. It’s important to know that your points won’t expire before you rack them up. Similarly, if you spend a lot and there’s a limit on the amount of points you can earn, you’re missing out on major points.
- Card issuer perks. Credit card providers may offer a range of additional perks, including airport lounge access, concierge services, travel and hotel credits and loyalty program upgrades.
- Customer service. Both Visa and Mastercard have generally good reputations for customer service.
- Complimentary insurance. Visa and Mastercard have premium credit cards that offer complimentary insurance when you pay for your travel in full with the card. This kind of insurance is usually included with premium cards such as World Mastercard credit cards and Visa Infinite cards. It’s important to understand the terms and conditions of complimentary insurance coverage before you apply for a card.
Visa and Mastercard market share
|Market capitalization (value)||Approx. $325 billion||Approx. $230 billion|
|Number of cards in circulation worldwide||838.3+ million||388.4+ million|
Visa is the bigger company by a significant margin, although in recent years, Mastercard has substantially increased its market share – bridging the gap between these two credit card giants.
Here are a few statistics on worldwide acceptance:
|Number of countries||200+||210+|
|Number of merchants||Approx. 40 million||Approx. 40 million|
|Cash advance locations||2.3+ million||2.1+ million|
What features and services do Visa and Mastercard offer?
Visa and Mastercard have a wide range of benefits that providers can offer. These include:
- Contactless payments. Credit cards with Visa payWave or Mastercard Tap & Go® let you make payments by waving your card over compatible readers. You can add contactless Visa and Mastercard credit cards to mobile payment services.
- Premium cards. Visa and Mastercard both provide standard and premium products. For example, you’ll find Visa Classic, Infinite and Infinite Privilege cards as well as Standard, World and World Elite Mastercard products. Benefits vary by card provider but might include comprehensive travel insurance, purchase protection, extended warranty and more.
- Exclusive offers. Premium Visa and Mastercard products might include access to concierge services and airport lounges, exclusive discounts on hotels, as well as access to special events and offers.
- Global cardmember services. Visa’s Travel and Emergency Assistance Services and Mastercard’s Global Service provide emergency card replacements and cash advances when you’re travelling overseas.
Pros and cons of Visa and Mastercard credit cards
Pros and cons of Mastercard credit cards
- Accepted in slightly more countries worldwide.
- Widely accepted by merchants.
- Less cash advance locations worldwide than Visa.
Pros and cons of Visa credit cards
- More cash advance locations worldwide.
- Widely accepted by merchants.
- Accepted in fewer countries worldwide than Mastercard.
Both Visa and Mastercard are excellent networks that are widely accepted by merchants both across Canada and worldwide. That’s good news, as it means you can choose from a massive variety of credit cards.
Instead of asking which processor is better, think of which benefits are most important to you. This could include rewards points, balance transfer offers, signup bonuses, low interest rates, no annual fees and more. Then, look for the specific card that checks these boxes and ultimately meets your spending habits and financial needs.
Best of both worlds
Visa and Mastercard both offer a wide variety of benefits, such as purchase protection and travel insurance coverage. However, you might not find these extras with every card.
If these features are important to you, consider applying for a premium Visa or Mastercard – for example, a Visa Infinite or a World Mastercard. The high-end card will likely offer a wealth of extra benefits that a standard credit card won’t. While these premium cards usually come with high annual fees, the fee could be worth it if you make good use of the perks and rewards.
Visa and Mastercard are the two biggest credit card networks worldwide, and you’ll find excellent credit cards from both. Don’t pick your card based on the network, and instead consider products based on their individual features.
If you’re not sure if Visa or Mastercard is right for you, compare a range of credit cards in our guide.Back to top
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