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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 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 Platinum Secured Credit 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.

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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.
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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.
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Compare Visa and Mastercard credit cards

Below you can compare various Visa and Mastercard credit cards side by side. You can also check out our favorite Visa credit cards or Mastercard credit cards.

1 - 3 of 15
Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
2x miles on every purchase, every day, 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 5x miles when you book on Turo, the world’s largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
17.49% to 25.49% variable
Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months ​from account opening.
PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card
2% cash back for all PenFed Honors Advantage members and 1.5% cash back on all purchases
15.99% to 17.99% variable
2% cash back for all PenFed Honors Advantage members and 1.5% cash back on all purchases made with your card.
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
5x points on gas at the pump, 3x points on groceries and 1x points on all other purchases
14.49% to 17.99% variable
Earn 5x points on gas at the pump and 3x points on groceries. Earn 1x points on all other purchases.

Compare up to 4 providers

1 - 3 of 17
Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards for Good Credit
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards for Good Credit
1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply)
26.99% variable
Earn the same 1.5% cash back on every purchase and $0 annual fee as the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card, apply with good credit.
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards for Good Credit
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards for Good Credit
3% cashback on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and at grocery stores; 5% back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 8% back on Capital One Entertainment and tickets at Vivid Seats; 1% on all other purchases
26.99% variable
Made for people with good credit to enjoy the same $0 annual fee and rewards as the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card.
Aspiration Zero Card
0.5% cash back on all purchases or 1% cash back on purchases (updated retroactively) for every month carbon zero is reached
11.9% to 21.7% variable
The first ever US credit card that gives users the ability to neutralize their carbon footprint. See terms and conditions.

Compare up to 4 providers

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

  • More card options overall vs. Mastercard
  • Benefits vary by card issuer
  • More cobranded hotel and airline credit cards
  • More options for 1.5% cash back

Mastercard credit cards: Pros and cons

  • Offers the best balance transfer intro APR of 21 months
  • Benefits vary by card issuer
  • You may find better secured and student cards than you will with Visa
  • Relatively few cobranded hotel cards
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Visa and Mastercard market share

Number of countries200+200+
Market capitalization (value)$325.43 billion$230.59 billion
Number of cards in circulation838 million388 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 countries200+200+
Number of merchants40 million (approx.)40 million (approx.)
Cash advance locations2.3 million2.1 million
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Bottom line

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.

Frequently asked questions

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