Visa vs. Mastercard: Which is better?

Both offer worldwide acceptance, travel benefits and other perks.

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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 balance transfer intro APR is Mastercard’s Citi Simplicity® 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.

Mastercard credit 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:

  • 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.
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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.
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Compare two cards: Visa vs. Mastercard

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card

  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 13.99% – 23.99%, based on your creditworthiness.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • If you transfer a balance, interest will be charged on your purchases unless you pay your entire balance (including balance transfers) by the due date each month.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 13.99% – 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • Read Rates & Fees
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Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

  • Spend $4,000 within your first 3 months of card membership to earn 60,000 bonus points — worth $750 when redeemed for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards.
  • Earn 5x points on Lyft rides, 2x points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide and 1x point on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • Read Rates & Fees
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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.

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
CardMatch™ from creditcards.com
See terms
See issuer's website
See terms
Use the CardMatch tool to find cards you're likely to qualify for with your credit score, without a hard pull on your credit.
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
N/A
18.89% variable
$35
A secured Visa® credit card that helps you build your credit quickly.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
15.99% to 22.99% variable
$95
This popular travel card's signup bonus is worth up to $750. Get even more value out of your travel, dining, and Lyft rewards by transferring them to miles.
Credit One Bank® Visa® Cash Back Rewards
1% cash back on all purchases or in categories based on Credit One Bank’s discretion
19.49% to 25.49% variable
$0 to $99
Earn 1% cash back on all purchases or in categories based on Credit One Bank’s discretion.
Applied Bank® Secured Visa® Gold Preferred® Credit Card
N/A
9.99% fixed
$48
No credit check is required for this secured card. Make a deposit of at least $200 to open this card and get a low 9.99% fixed APR on purchases.
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Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Citi Simplicity® Card
N/A
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
$0
With an intro APR of 21 months, this card has one of the longest balance transfer offers on the market. Plus, no late fees and no annual fee.
Citi® Double Cash Card
Up to 2% cash back on purchases (1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay)
13.99% to 23.99% variable
$0
This one of the most valuable flat cashback cards. It comes with 2% cash back (1% when you buy plus 1% when you pay) and 18 months months to pay off transfers.
CardMatch™ from creditcards.com
See terms
See issuer's website
See terms
Use the CardMatch tool to find cards you're likely to qualify for with your credit score, without a hard pull on your credit.
Citi Rewards+℠ Card
Earn 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations on up to $6,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 13.49% to 23.49% variable)
$0
Get rewards on gas and groceries with no annual fee. Ideal for everyday use, it's the only card that rounds purchases up to the nearest 10 points.
Citi® Secured Mastercard®
N/A
22.49% variable
$0
A no annual fee secured card for people who are new to credit or have limited credit history with a fair to average credit score.
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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

ProsCons
  • 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

ProsCons
  • 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

VisaMastercard
Number of countries200+200+
Market capitalization (value)$325.43 billion$230.59 billion
Employees17,000+14,800+
Number of cards in circulation838 million388 million
Winner?checkmark

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:

VisaMastercard
Number of countries200+200+
Number of merchants40 million (approx.)40 million (approx.)
Cash advance locations2.3 million2.1 million
Winner?TieTie
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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.

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.

If you’re not sure if Visa or Mastercard is right for you, compare other credit card companies.

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