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Visa vs Mastercard: Which is better?
Both Visa and Mastercard offer convenient global access, contactless payment and other perks. Which is right for you?
Visa and Mastercard are the two major card processors in Singapore and are the most widely used credit card types. While Visa and Mastercard both offer similar features and services, the two payment giants have a few key differences.
Use this guide to compare Visa and Mastercard and decide which payment network suits your needs. Plus, learn about other payment networks you’ll also want to be aware of.
What are Visa and Mastercard?
Visa and Mastercard are intermediaries that provide the technology and networks required for processing card payments and connecting merchants with banks. If you make a payment with a Visa credit card, for example, the transaction will be processed on Visa’s network from the merchant to the relevant bank. Similarly, Mastercard credit card transactions are processed via the Mastercard payment network.
Individual banks and other financial institutions issue Visa or Mastercard credit cards based on the payment processing network they want to use. Whichever network is used, the company’s logo will be visible on the card. Some banks offer both Visa and Mastercard options. In regard to specific card features, such as interest rates, annual fees, rewards programs and introductory offers, it is ultimately the card issuer that decides what will be available on specific cards.
So, what’s the difference between Visa and Mastercard?
There isn’t much difference between what Visa and Mastercard can offer consumers. However, keep in mind that your card will only work on the payment network that the company operates. Both Visa and Mastercard will give you peace of mind that the processing of your payments will be fast and secure.
Let’s compare the two payment networks’ key features and services.
- Company size. Visa is a bigger company, has a larger market share and carries out more transactions than Mastercard globally. However, in recent years, Mastercard has substantially increased its market share, bridging the gap between these two credit card giants.
- Card acceptance. Although Visa boasts a wider ATM network than Mastercard, neither of them state a specific number of ATMs and acceptance may also depend on your card issuer. Both Visa and Mastercard offer worldwide access in more than 200 countries. Contactless payment via Visa payWave or Mastercard Contactless is available and both are widely accepted for online shopping.
- Consumer protection. Both Visa and Mastercard offer programs that add another layer of security to online card payments. Verified by Visa and Mastercard SecureCode are optional services that some providers may offer you when you use your credit card online. When you register for one of these services, you will be prompted to enter a password or unique SMS code when you make purchases at participating online stores. Both cards also offer global security services. The Visa Global Customer Card and Mastercard Global Service support hotlines provide assistance if your card is lost or stolen, or if you have enquiries about your account. These services are available 24/7 from anywhere in the world. For more information, check out our guide to credit card security measures.
- Overseas use. Both Visa and Mastercard offer worldwide ATM networks. When using a credit card overseas, you will face three types of charges: international transaction fees, foreign exchange fees and your card company fee. Visa and Mastercard both charge a 1% fee when converting currency and making purchases overseas. If you convert currency but purchase locally in Singapore, Mastercard offers a lower fee than Visa. If you make purchases overseas but buy in Singapore dollars, Mastercard will also charge a lower fee. Ultimately, you can’t select which card to use overseas just on the card company’s fee. You will need to consider your bank’s own currency conversion rate and bank fees.
- Card types. Visa and Mastercard both provide a range of standard and premium card options, such as Visa Platinum, Signature and Infinite credit cards, or World Mastercard products. The features available vary based on the credit card provider but could include concierge services, global customer assistance, complimentary insurance and offers and privileges at a range of stores, hotels and restaurants.
- Benefits. A major difference between Visa and Mastercard essentially comes down to the benefits offered locally. There’s not much difference between Visa and Mastercard for entry-level credit cards, but the luxury benefits that each provider offers varies at premium tiers.Visa and Mastercard both offer worldwide acceptance and a similar range of features and services. Again, the features available still depend on the actual card issuer. So rather than only comparing these two companies, it’s better to look at specific details for each card you’re considering. If you’re looking to compare your options now, check out our credit card comparison guide for more information.
As always, when choosing a card, make sure to weigh up all of its fees, features and benefits rather than just looking at which one is a Visa or Mastercard.
If you frequently transact with Chinese businesses or travel to China, UnionPay, China’s major credit card giant is worth considering. UnionPay is accepted in over 160 countries and covers more than 2 million ATMs, including acceptance everywhere in China (many merchants in China don’t accept Visa and Mastercard). UnionPay also offers its own contactless payment service, QuickPass, that’s available anywhere contactless payment is accepted.
Key highlights of UnionPay cards include offering dual-currency payment modes, foreign currency transaction fee exemptions when you pay in RMB, cashback on purchases and a waiver on annual fees of two to three years. In 2018, UnionPay was the official payment brand for the annual Great Singapore Sale (GSS), providing exclusive deals, discounts and rewards. In terms of perks, UnionPay also offers global promotions at airport duty-free shops, over 10,000 global dining, shopping and entertainment merchants and other deals.
American Express operates differently from Visa and Mastercard as Amex is both the intermediary and the card issuer. Since Amex is also a credit card issuer, it often partners directly with merchants for high-quality dining and flight deals. The majority of large retailers and online shopping sites accept American Express, with worldwide acceptance in over 140 countries.
Amex premier cardholders have access to a 24-hour international concierge service and a flat 2.5% overseas card fee, which is less than many other cards available. However, as Amex is only accepted in around 140 countries compared to Visa and Mastercard’s approximately 200 countries, it’s best to check if your preferred card company is accepted at your travel destination.
AsiaPay is a digital payment gateway company that currently operates in over 15 countries in APAC and Europe. It helps companies to receive payments with ease, serving banks, corporate and e-Businesses. AsiaPay’s multi-currency services cover credit cards, debit cards, prepaid cards, QR, Wallet, and more.
Ultimately, both Visa and Mastercard are major global payment processors that offer similar features and services. Premium cardholders, in particular, might want to consider American Express, while those that frequently transact with Chinese companies may opt for UnionPay.
Before deciding which credit card is best for you, it’s important to compare each specific card’s actual terms, fees and benefits – rather than getting too hung up about the fairly small differences between payment networks. When you’re ready to compare, check out some of the best Visa and Mastercard credit cards for you now.
Frequently asked questions
How do Visa and Mastercard make money?
Visa and Mastercard’s profits primarily come from the entities that use their services, such as banks and merchants. Some of their sources of revenue include:
- Card issuer fees. Both Mastercard and Visa charge financial institutions service fees for the use of their payment systems.
- Bank settlement fees. Credit card issuers pay this fee at the time of settlement of payments.
- Overseas fees. These companies charge issuers a fee for processing payments made in a foreign currency. These charges are often passed on to credit card customers in the form of a foreign currency or international transaction fee.
Eligibility requirements vary based on the credit card issuer, but generally include the following:
- Be over 21 years of age
- Be a Singaporean Permanent Resident, Singaporean Citizen or foreigner (stricter application criteria may apply)
- Have a minimum annual income of S$30,000
- Have a good credit history
Is there a minimum purchase spend to use a credit or debit card in Singapore?
Yes. While Visa, Mastercard and UnionPay are widely accepted at larger retailers, there is typically a minimum spend of S$20 for using credit or debit cards, especially in restaurants, shopping malls and supermarkets. Taxis could also charge a 10% fee for credit card use. It’s best to have some cash on hand for daily use if you want to avoid this minimum spend restriction and any additional charges.Picture:
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