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Visa vs. Mastercard: What is the difference?

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Updated April 3, 2024

The world's largest payment networks for credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid cards include American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa. However, Visa and Mastercard are far and away the largest credit card networks in operation today, with both brands offering three different tiers of credit cards through their partnerships with banks, travel companies and other organizations.

Both Visa and Mastercard are also unique from Amex and Discover in the fact they do not offer any credit cards of their own as Amex and Discover do. In fact, Visa and Mastercard only extend credit cards through co-branded relationships with banks such as Barclays, Capital One, and Chase. Both Visa and Mastercard also offer co-branded credit cards in conjunction with retailers and travel providers, including airlines and hotels.

Key differences between Visa and Mastercard

If you're looking for a new credit card and wondering whether you should get a Visa or a Mastercard, you should know that neither type is inherently better than the other. For the most part, you'll want to look at specific credit card benefits, perks, and rewards offered by cards you're considering before you apply.

Key points

  • Visa and Mastercard do not issue any credit cards of their own, but they are two of the largest payment networks for credit cards along with American Express and Discover.
  • Credit cards emblazoned with the Visa and Mastercard logos can be secured credit cards, cash back credit cards, travel credit cards, and more.
  • If you're choosing between a Visa and a Mastercard, you should know their functionality and acceptance worldwide is nearly identical. With that in mind, you can find the best credit card for your needs based on the features, perks, and rewards you want the most.

Visa vs. Mastercard: Key similarities

Worldwide acceptance
Accepted in 200 countries and territories worldwide
Accepted in 210 countries and territories worldwide
Zero liability for fraud
Comes standard with Visa credit cards
Comes standard with Mastercard credit cards
Generous perks and benefits
Cards may offer travel insurance benefits, roadside assistance, purchase protection, and more
Cards may offer travel insurance benefits, roadside assistance, cellphone protection, and more

Worldwide acceptance

If you're looking at Mastercard and Visa credit cards with the goal of choosing a card with the widest acceptance worldwide, you should know these two types of credit cards have a nearly identical global footprint.

According to Visa, cards issued through its payment network are accepted in 200 countries and territories around the world. Meanwhile, Mastercard reports acceptance in 210 countries and territories around the world. Most of these destinations overlap; there is no substantive difference in where you can use these cards worldwide. Visa also shares updated statistics about card usage, including the fact there are currently more than 4.2 billion Visa credit cards in circulation today.

Zero-liability-for-fraud protection

Both Visa and Mastercard offer the protection of zero liability for fraud on their card products. This means cardholders have $0 in financial liability if a thief uses their credit card or their card number to make purchases without their consent. This benefit is generous, but it's not much better than the federal protections afforded to credit card users when it comes to fraudulent purchases.

In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that federal law caps consumer liability for fraudulent purchases on credit cards at $50, and that's only if the card is reported lost or stolen after someone uses it.

Generous perks and benefits

Both Mastercard and Visa offer credit cards that come with a range of important benefits and consumer protections. For example, some Visa and Mastercard products offer payment network benefits like cellphone insurance, travel accident insurance, or trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

That said, it's worth noting that not all Visa or Mastercard credit cards offer the same selection of benefits. Card issuers (e.g. Chase, Capital One, etc.) can pick and choose which benefits come with different card products and also offer separate benefits of their own.

Ultimately, this means you'll want to compare credit cards from both networks and their specific offers before you choose a credit card.

Visa and Mastercard: Key differences

Because Visa and Mastercard have nearly identical global acceptance records, it rarely makes sense to pick one type of card over the other based on where you can use it. The only real differences between Visa and Mastercard are the features and rewards individual cards offer.

Both payment networks extend three different tiers of credit cards that are geared to users with different credit profiles. For example, Mastercard offers Standard, World Mastercard, and World Elite Mastercard products. Meanwhile, Visa credit cards can be Visa Traditional cards, Visa Signature credit cards, or Visa Infinite cards.

What's interesting about the three card tiers from each of these payment networks is that individual card issuers can discern which perks apply with individual cards and which ones don't. This is another reason you'll want to scrutinizel the fine print and card terms to make sure you get a card with the benefits you want.

Mastercard: Standard, World, and World Elite

Mastercard credit cardsBenefits can include (but are not limited to)
Mastercard ID Theft Protection; Mastercard Zero Liability Protection; Mastercard Global Service
Standard Mastercard benefits; Lyft credits; DoorDash benefits; ShopRunner membership; Priceless Experiences; Mastercard Golf; Complimentary professional travel services; Mastercard Hotel Stay Guarantee; Lowest Hotel Rate Guarantee; Mastercard luxury hotel and resorts portfolio; Free nights, car, RV, air; Mastercard airport concierge
World Elite
World Mastercard benefits; Fandango credits; World Elite concierge; Cellphone protection; Additional discounts and promotions

Visa: Standard, Visa Signature, and Visa Infinite

Visa credit cardsBenefits can include (but are not limited to)
Lost or stolen card reporting; Emergency card replacement; Dovly Uplift; ID navigator; Zero liability for fraud; Roadside dispatch
Visa Signature
Standard Visa benefits; Shipt benefits; Travel and emergency assistance services; Visa Signature rental car privileges; Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection;; Extended warranties; Lost luggage reimbursement; Trip delay reimbursement; Auto rental collision damage waiver; Global Entry or TSA PreCheck statement credit; Trip cancellation and interruption insurance; Hotel theft protection; Travel accident insurance; Baggage delay reimbursement; Cellphone protection; Price protection; Purchase security; Return protection
Visa Infinite
Visa Signature benefits; Visa Infinite rental car privileges; Priority Pass Select airport lounge access; Airline incidentals statement credit;; Visa Infinite Experiences; Additional travel insurance benefits, including: emergency medical and dental protection and emergency evacuation and transportation coverage

Examples of best Visa cards & benefits

Some of the best credit cards available today are Visa credit cards, although the benefits and rewards they offer vary considerably. The chart below includes some of the most popular Visa credit cards available today and their stand-out perks.

Card offerCard tierMajor benefits
Visa Infinite
Comes with Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership; a fee credit toward Global Entry, NEXUS or TSA PreCheck membership; $300 in annual travel credit; Visa Infinite travel insurance benefits; and more
Visa Infinite
Comes with Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, a fee credit toward Global Entry or TSA PreCheck membership, $300 in travel credit for purchases through Capital One Travel, Visa Infinite travel insurance benefits, and more
Can be Visa Traditional or Visa Signature based on creditworthiness
Comes with intro 0% APR offer, DoorDash and Lyft benefits, purchase protection, extended warranties, travel and emergency assistance services, an auto rental collision damage waiver, and more
Visa Signature
Comes with automatic World of Hyatt Discoverist status, DoorDash benefits, baggage delay insurance, lost luggage reimbursement, Visa Signature concierge, purchase protection, an auto rental collision damage waiver, and more

Examples of best Mastercard cards & benefits

Mastercard also offers its share of incredibly popular rewards, travel, and balance transfer cards. The chart below includes some of the most popular Mastercard credit cards available today and which benefits they stand out for:


Visa vs. Mastercard: Which is better?

There are almost zero notable differences between Mastercard and Visa credit cards as a whole, so we wouldn't suggest picking a card based on its network. Instead, compare all credit cards based on the features you can benefit from—whether you're after a travel credit card, a cash back credit card, or a balance transfer credit card that lets you consolidate and pay down debt at 0% APR for a limited time.

Our advice? Take the time to check your credit score to see where you stand, then compare all the available credit cards you have the potential to qualify for from American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa. Side-by-side comparisons will give you the best idea of which cards would benefit you the most.

TIME Stamp: Choose the best credit card for your needs regardless of the payment network

Visa and Mastercard credit cards offer some overlapping benefits, but most cardholder perks you want probably come from the card issuer itself. This means you'll want to compare cards that operate on all payment networks, as well as options from card issuers such as Capital One, Chase, Citi, and Wells Fargo.

At the end of the day, the payment network on which your card operates is almost inconsequential. Your credit card's perks, features, and rewards will impact you the most.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Does Chase have Visa or Mastercard?

Chase offers Visa credit cards as well as Mastercard cards. For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card is a Visa credit card, while the Chase Freedom Flex is a Mastercard.

Does Capital One have Visa or Mastercard?

Capital One offers both Visa and Mastercard products. The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card are both Visa cards, whereas most other Capital One credit cards operate on the Mastercard network.

Does Citi have Visa or Mastercard?

Citi also issues both Mastercard and Visa card products. For example, the Costco Anywhere Visa® Credit Card by Citi and the Costco Anywhere Visa® Business Credit Card by Citi are both Visa credit cards. The rest of Citi's card offerings operate on the Mastercard payment network.

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