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 Visa and Mastercard credit cards

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
1.5% cash back on all purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
Earn a $150 signup bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months from account opening.
5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
Earn $200 cash back after spending $500 in the first 3 months from account opening.
2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
17.74% to 24.74% variable
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
18.74% to 25.74% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
5% on up to $2,000 each activated quarter on two categories combined (1% after), 2% on one everyday category and 1% on all other purchases
15.49% to 24.99% variable
When you spend $500 on your card within the first 90 days, you’ll receive a $150 cash back bonus. Rates & Fees

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
26.99% variable
A no-annual-fee card for average credit. Earn a higher credit line after five on-time payments.
26.99% variable
Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time.
1% cash back on all purchases, 1.25% for months you pay on time
26.99% variable
Earn 1% cash back on all purchases or get 1.25% cash back for months you pay on time.
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1% for cash back
16.49% variable
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1.5% for cash back
16.49% variable
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.

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

Pros 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

Pros 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

Visa Mastercard
Number of countries 200+ 200+
Market capitalization (value) $325.43 billion $230.59 billion
Employees 17,000+ 14,800+
Number of cards in circulation 838 million 388 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:

Visa Mastercard
Number of countries 200+ 200+
Number of merchants 40 million (approx.) 40 million (approx.)
Cash advance locations 2.3 million 2.1 million
Winner? Tie Tie
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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.
Compare Mastercard vs American Express

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