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Visa vs. Mastercard: Which is better?
Both offer worldwide acceptance, travel benefits and other perks.
Visa and Mastercard are the largest credit card processing companies in the United States. Neither has a big advantage over the other in terms of overall benefits. However, one or the other may be superior for certain types of credit cards.
What's in this guide?
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.
Neither Visa nor Mastercard issues cards, unlike banks and other financial institutions. That’s why you might get your credit card from Chase, but the bottom corner of the card will have a Visa logo.
Though Visa and Mastercard are similar in many ways, each has specific advantages. For example:
Currently, the card with the longest balance transfer intro APR is Mastercard’s Citi Simplicity® Card.
Visa offers more cobranded hotel and airline credit cards.
Student and secured cards.
Mastercard arguably has better secured and student credit cards, such as the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® and Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card.
Visa offers more cards with 1.5% flat-rate cash back. However, the Citi® Double Cash Card offers 1% cash back on all purchases, and another 1% as you pay them off.
Providers with transfer partners.
Which rewards program you’d like to use may affect which network you go with. Chase, for example, is a big Visa issuer. Meanwhile, Citi mostly issues Mastercards. These providers have transfer partners that may be more valuable depending on what kind of traveler you are.
If you have specific needs, you may find one processor offers more relevant cards.Back to top
What features and services do Visa and Mastercard offer?
Visa and Mastercard have a wide range of benefits that issuers can offer. These include:
- Contactless payments.Credit cards with Visa PayWave or Mastercard PayPass 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 Platinum, Signature and Infinite cards as well as Platinum, World and World Elite Mastercard products.
Benefits vary by card provider but could include concierge services, travel insurance, purchase protection, return protection, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, baggage insurance and more.
- Exclusive offers.Premium Visa and Mastercard products might include exclusive discounts on hotels, as well as access to special events and offers.
- Global cardmember services.Visa Travel and Emergency Assistance Service and Mastercard Global Service provide emergency card replacements and cash advances when you’re traveling abroad.
How can I compare Visa and Mastercard credit cards?
Visa and Mastercard offer worldwide acceptance and extensive secondary benefits. More important than network benefits, however, are issuer benefits. These include:
- Annual fees.The more perks a card has, the higher annual fee it’s likely to have. For this reason, Visa Signature and Infinite cards, as well as World and World Elite Mastercards, typically cost more.
Interest rates.Check each card’s terms to verify purchase, balance transfer and cash advance APRs. These rates are set by card issuers.
You may also find 0% intro APRs for purchases or balance transfers.
- Rewards.Many Visa and Mastercard credit cards are linked to reward programs and airline programs. When comparing reward cards, consider the earn rate and your average card spending.
- Card issuer perks. Credit card providers may offer a range of additional perks, including airport lounge access, travel credits and loyalty-program upgrades.
- Signup bonuses.Card issuers regularly offer bonuses that you can earn by spending a certain amount on your card within a few months.
- Premium cards.Premium credit cards come with high annual fees. But for the price, they may offer valuable privileges such as travel credits, airport lounge access, airline companion tickets and elite status in hotel programs.
Compare Visa and Mastercard credit cards
Pros and cons of Visa and Mastercard credit cards
There are relatively few downsides to using a Visa or Mastercard. Both are widely accepted, and each may offer valuable purchase and travel benefits.
Visa credit cards: Pros and cons
Mastercard credit cards: Pros and cons
Visa and Mastercard market share
|Number of countries||200+||200+|
|Market capitalization (value)||$325.43 billion||$230.59 billion|
|Number of cards in circulation||838 million||388 million|
Visa is the bigger company by a significant margin. However, 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+||200+|
|Number of merchants||40 million (approx.)||40 million (approx.)|
|Cash advance locations||2.3 million||2.1 million|
Both Visa and Mastercard are excellent networks, and neither has major weaknesses.
That’s good news, as it means you can cast a wide net for your new card. Instead of asking which processor is better, think of which benefits are most important to you. This could include rewards, intro APR, signup bonus and more. Then look for the specific card that checks the boxes.
Visa and Mastercard both offer robust secondary benefits, such as purchase protection and travel insurance. But you might not find these extras with every card.
If these features are important to you, consider applying for a pair of cards. You can open one card for your everyday purchases. With the other, look for a premium Visa or Mastercard — for example, a Visa Infinite or World Elite Mastercard. The high-end card will likely offer a wealth of extra benefits.
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