Mastercard vs Visa: Which card is better for your wallet?
Mastercard vs Visa: Which card is better for your wallet?

Visa and Mastercard are two of the big four credit card networks that help make buying credit cards easier. You may have a Visa or Mastercard credit card in your wallet. So what is the difference between the two and which is better?

Nothing beats these two networks. Both are widely accepted and offer similar protections. Your card issuer (like Chase or Capital One) has more influence over the benefits, protections and rewards of your credit card than the network. So, as long as the terms and offers set by the card issuer are favorable, a Visa or Mastercard card is a good choice. You should look for cards with low interest rates and fees, rewards and many benefits.

Still, there are some notable differences if you want to get the full picture. Here, we will discuss the main similarities and differences between Visa and Mastercard.

Quick note: Before we compare Visa and Mastercard, it’s important to distinguish them as payment networks. This means they process credit card transactions. On the other hand, credit card issuers like Chase or Capital One actually approve or deny people credit cards. Therefore, you will never pay your credit card bill to Visa or Mastercard, even if one is printed on the back of your card. American Express and Discover are both payment networks and credit card issuers, which can be confusing.

Visa vs MasterCard: Key Similarities

Visa and Mastercard are the top two card networks in the U.S. in 2021, with combined purchases of $2.78 trillion, according to a Nielsen report for February 2022. Of that, visa loan transactions alone account for nearly $2 trillion.

These networks facilitate transactions between merchants and card issuers such as banks and credit unions. Every time you make a purchase with your credit or debit card, your credit card network helps process the transaction.

Visa and Mastercard have a lot in common:

  • Neither company issues cards directly, but instead works with a variety of different card issuers.
  • Both are widely used in the United States and around the world.
  • Both networks offer no-liability fraud protection, protecting you if someone steals your credit card information or uses your card to make unauthorized purchases.
  • Both credit card networks offer additional benefits related to travel, purchase protection, and fraud protection. Individual benefits and protections vary (see below).

Visa and Mastercard: Key Differences

The main differences between Visa and Mastercard are relatively minor and have to do with the specific banks and lenders they work with. The two networks also have different credit card tiers that offer different benefits. Visa has three main tiers – Visa Legacy, Visa Signature and Visa Infinite – while Mastercard has four – Standard and Gold Mastercard, Titanium and Platinum Mastercard, World Mastercard and World Elite Mastercard.

Visa vs. Mastercard benefits

Visa Traditional Roadside assistance, emergency card replacement, emergency cash payments and travel discounts at preferred hotels Auto rental collision damage waiver Zero liability fraud protection, discounts with select merchants
Visa Signature Everything included in a traditional visa plus travel and emergency assistance services, baggage loss compensation and travel delays, cancellations or interruptions Built-in auto rental coverage Everything included in the Visa Traditional, plus extended warranty protection, price protection and return protection
Visa Infinite All content included in Visa Signature and Global Entry Statement credits, airport lounge access and access to the Visa Infinite luxury hotel collection and concierge services Built-in auto rental coverage Everything included in the Visa Signature, plus other exclusive experiences and rewards
Standard & Gold Mastercard Mastercard Global Services Available with some cards Zero liability protection
Titanium & Platinum Mastercard Everything included in the Mastercard Standard and Gold tier, plus curated benefits and offers Available with some cards Everything included in Mastercard Standard and Gold tiers, plus access to Mastercard rewards and experiences
World Mastercard Everything included in the Mastercard Titanium and Platinum tier, plus airport concierge access and hotel stay and lowest rate guarantees Available with some cards Everything included in the Mastercard Titanium and Platinum tier, plus partner discounts and cellphone protection
World Elite Mastercard Everything included in the Mastercard World tier, plus access to World Elite concierge services Available with some cards Everything included in the Mastercard World Tier, plus exclusive discounts with partners like Lyft, Boxed and Fandango

Different benefits for different card issuers

While the benefits of Mastercard and Visa are very similar, these additional benefits are generally at the discretion of each card issuer. This means that even if your card is in a certain Visa or Mastercard tier, it may offer the same benefits as another card of the same tier.

On the other hand, in addition to the benefits of credit card networks, most credit cards offer many perks and benefits that are unique to different card issuers. If you’re curious about the perks that come with a particular card, be sure to read the fine print to determine exactly what perks and add-ons are included.

Visa vs Mastercard: Which is Better?

When trying to choose between a Visa credit card or a Mastercard, the reality is that either credit card network can be a good choice. Both credit card networks are accepted in the US/worldwide and offer useful additional benefits. Accept cards from any credit card network almost anywhere you shop.

The credit card network you choose is ultimately far less important than the specific credit card issuer and personal credit card you choose. This is because the benefits of Mastercard and Visa are very similar. While there are nice perks, the benefits of Visa and Mastercard are often less important than more relevant details such as a particular credit card’s reward structure or interest rates.

Final result

Visa and Mastercard are the two most important credit card networks, along with American Express and Discover. Visa and Mastercard do not issue credit cards themselves; instead, they partner with a variety of different financial institutions to issue cards.

While rewards credit cards that belong to the same credit card network share some common characteristics, many of the most important aspects of a credit card are determined by the credit card issuer, not the credit card network. That means you probably shouldn’t choose a credit card based solely on whether it’s a Mastercard or part of the Visa credit card network, as cards from both networks offer similar perks.

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Jake Smith

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Jake Smith

He is the editor of Eragoncred. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of Eragoncred and a financial industry reporter. Jake has spent most of his career as a Digital Media journalist and has over 10 years of experience as a writer and editor.