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Visa vs. Mastercard: Which is better?
Both offer worldwide acceptance, travel benefits and other perks.
What's in this guide?
- What's the difference between Visa and Mastercard?
- What features and services do Visa and Mastercard offer?
- Do I really need a Visa or Mastercard credit card?
- How to choose a Visa or Mastercard credit card
- Compare Visa and Mastercard credit cards
- Pros and cons of Visa and Mastercard credit cards
- Consider these Mastercard and Visa secured cards
- Visa and Mastercard market share
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:
- Intro APR.
Currently, the card with the longest intro APRs is Visa’s U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card.
- Travel partners.
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.
- Cashback cards.
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:
- Widely accepted. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit cards in the world. And if a merchant accepts one, they’ll most likely also accept the other.
- 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.
- Secured cards. You’ll find secured card offerings from both Visa and Mastercard. A secured card is designed to help you build or rebuild credit and typically requires a security deposit for use.
- 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.
Do I really need a Visa or Mastercard credit card?
Visa and Mastercard products encompass most of the credit cards on the market. But you may want to look into other networks for these reasons:
- You want a specific cobranded card.
Some cobranded cards will steer you to certain networks. For example, if you want a US credit card for Delta, look into American Express.
- Other cards fit your spending better or you want specific perks.
You might find the perfect card elsewhere that rewards you best for your typical spending or has the perks you want.
Ultimately, the card network is usually of secondary importance. Look for the card you want first, then consider whether the network is a deal breaker. Typically, you’ll find it’s not a problem at all.
How to choose a Visa or Mastercard credit card
Visa and Mastercard offer worldwide acceptance and extensive secondary benefits. More important than network benefits, however, are issuer benefits. Consider these factors:
- What annual fee do you want to pay?
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.
- Where do you spend the most money?
Pick a card whose bonus rewards line up with your typical spending. For example, if you travel and dine out often, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card could be lucrative. If your spending is spread evenly throughout many categories, you might like a flat-rate card such as the Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card.
- What APR do you want?
Check each card’s terms to verify purchase, balance transfer and cash advance APRs. These rates are set by card issuers, instead of the card networks. You may also find 0% intro APRs for purchases or balance transfers.
- Which perks and signup bonuses do you want?
The most impressive perks are offered by card issuers, as are signup bonuses. The more you want, the higher annual fee you’re likely to pay. No-annual-fee cards often have signup bonuses, but they typically have few standout perks.
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.
To find that perfect card, regardless of whether its Visa or Mastercard, you should compare all of your credit card options.
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