Visa or Mastercard: What’s the Difference and How to Choose the Right One?

ByI. Mitic
November 30, 2021

Mastercard and Visa are the world’s largest payment processing networks for prepaid, debit, and credit cards. But these aren’t credit card issuers. That’s the key difference between Visa and Mastercard and the other two leading card networks, American Express and Discover, which issue cards and process payments. 

That said, both Visa and Mastercard offer their own in-network benefits and rewards. And although there are many similarities between these networks, there are also a few notable differences.

What Are the Similarities Between Visa and Mastercard? 

Both networks operate internationally in more than 200 countries and territories. The Visa network is used by 56.7 million merchants globally, while Mastercard is used by just over 47 million. When it comes to market share, Visa is king with an estimated 60%, leaving Mastercard with a 30% share and other payment networks with the remaining 10%.

We’ve already touched on the fact that Visa and Mastercard don’t issue or distribute cards. Instead, they handle the transactions between merchants and banks for purchases made with these cards. The differences between Visa and Mastercard payment cards depend on the banks and other financial institutions issuing them.

These institutions determine the interest rates, fees, and other options such as rewards and bonuses. The cards themselves come with a handful of similar perks.

Moreover, both cards offer protection against unauthorized charges. If users report fraudulent purchases promptly, Mastercard and Visa cover the expenses through their zero-liability policies. 

Your phone will also be protected with both networks. This is important because both Visa card and Mastercard holders are increasingly banking through their mobile devices. Visa Signature members, for example, get protection as long as the phone bill is paid using a Visa card. Mastercard, on the other hand, ensures your phone for up to $1,000 annually.

Both payment networks also offer travel and emergency assistance. If your card gets stolen or lost, Mastercard and Visa will have it sorted out in no time. You’ll be able to replace your card regardless of your location and language. 

Now, let’s discuss how Visa and Mastercard differ.

Visa-specific Benefits

Visa offers three types of benefits to its cardholders: Traditional, Signature, and Infinite. 

Traditional Visa Benefits

We've already mentioned some of the traditional Visa benefits. The two most notable are zero liability and emergency card replacement. It also offers roadside assistance and rental collision damage coverage. Lastly, with Visa, you can use Shipt delivery services, as well as Sofar Sounds presale tickets.

Signature Visa Benefits 

These include all traditional benefits for Visa credit cards or debit cards as well as worldwide travel and emergency assistance services. With Signature, you also get extended warranty protection and a Skillshare membership. 

Visa Infinite Benefits 

Infinite provides the highest number of benefits. These include all Signature benefits, plus some of the card benefits frequent travelers will appreciate. For example, it comes with travel accident insurance, trip cancellation, interruption insurance, and lost luggage reimbursement. You can also enjoy return and purchase protection. 

Mastercard-specific Benefits

Mastercard also has benefits sorted into three different categories: Standard, World, and World Elite. Each of these is better than the previous one. 

Mastercard Standard 

These cards include identity theft protection, zero fraud liability, as well as emergency card replacement.

Mastercard World 

This tier includes everything offered in standard and adds cellphone insurance and access to a concierge. Frequent travelers can enjoy trip planning and travel benefits with the Travel and Lifestyle Services. You can also get a nifty discount with some retailers if you decide to swipe your Mastercard World. 

Mastercard World Elite

The highest tier includes all the benefits from World one, but the list of selected retailer discounts is much longer. Furthermore, World Elite holders can enjoy some golf benefits.

Issuer-specific Offers Can Make or Break the Deal

Nothing we’ve covered will tell you whether Visa offers an excellent card with a lucrative sign-up bonus or what the APR is for your next Mastercard credit card. This goes back to our initial point: Visa and Mastercard are not card issuers but rather payment networks.  

The card issuers such as Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Capital One are the ones determining the exact terms and offers. There are significant differences between the offers from these and many other financial institutions, with some focusing on frequent travelers, while others offer cards for dining out, for example. It’s also worth noting that financial institutions reserve the right to withhold any benefits offered by payment networks such as Visa and Mastercard. 

Visa or Mastercard: Which one should you choose?

Both of these payment networks are world-renowned reliable brands that offer similar benefits. They both come with similar perks that are bound to make your life easier as you swipe the cards.

Therefore, when choosing your next credit or debit card, don’t focus on the difference between Visa and Mastercard but rather on the issuer and their offer. Some will offer excellent interest rates or no annual fees. Others will turn out to be excellent cards for earning cashback with every purchase. Either way, these cards can be Visa or Mastercard - it won’t make any difference with respect to the actual offer. 

When selecting a new card, check its benefits and downsides and whether the cards match your lifestyle. Look into the reward system and other perks. The Visa vs. Mastercard showdown is actually a minuscule part of your selection process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which one is better: Visa or Mastercard?

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Even though both of these payment networks are globally renowned for their reliability and efficiency, Visa has a slight edge over its counterpart. Its list of rewards is a bit longer, and Visa also holds a larger share of the market.

Is Visa accepted more than Mastercard?

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Yes, Visa beats Mastercard in the number of merchants that accept it. Visa is currently accepted by 47 million merchants, while 37 million accept Mastercard. 

Can Visa card be used internationally?

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Yes, both Visa and Mastercard can be used internationally to make purchases or withdraw cash from an ATM. However, keep in mind that you’ll likely face some additional fees, such as international ATM fees or foreign exchange rate markups.

Why are banks changing from Visa to Mastercard?

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Banks have always been the ones to keep an eye on new types of products they could offer to their customers. At the moment, it seems that Mastercard has a better offer. Its newest type of card comes without a magnetic stripe. Instead, its chip technology provides ease of use and exceptional security.

Is Mastercard different from Visa?

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First of all, both are excellent payment providers that handle transactions between the merchant and the bank. The main difference between Visa and Mastercard lies in the benefits they provide to the cardholders.

About author

For years, the clients I worked for were banks. That gave me an insider’s view of how banks and other institutions create financial products and services. Then I entered the world of journalism. Fortunly is the result of our fantastic team’s hard work. I use the knowledge I acquired as a bank copywriter to create valuable content that will help you make the best possible financial decisions.

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