Mastercard vs. Visa: Which Credit Card Network Is the Best?

Which credit card network is the best? See how two giants compete in this Visa vs. Mastercard comparison.
Last updated Jun 8, 2021 | By Ben Walker | Edited By Jess Ullrich
Woman thinking about credit cards

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Visa and Mastercard are two of the most popular credit card companies in the world. They both work with major banks and financial institutions to offer credit cards with loads of benefits. But does it matter which card network you choose between the two companies?

In this Visa vs. Mastercard guide, you’ll learn about the benefits of each payment network and whether there are any notable differences. This will help you decide whether Visa or Mastercard is the better fit for you.

In this article

What is Visa?

Visa is the largest electronic payments network in the world. This means Visa helps process debit and credit card payments, but doesn’t issue any cards itself. However, the company works with major credit card issuers, such as Chase, Capital One, and U.S. Bank, to help process their card payments.

Visa operates in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, offering payment solutions to both consumers and businesses. In 2020, Visa had over 20,000 employees and a net revenue of $21.8 billion. The company also processed over 140 billion transactions and had more than 3.5 billion cards in use.

To learn more about which cards are available, check out this guide on Visa credit cards.

What is Mastercard?

Mastercard is a global payments network that helps consumers and businesses make secure payments. Similar to Visa, Mastercard doesn’t issue credit cards itself, but works with popular financial institutions, such as Chase, Citi, and Capital One, to help process their card payments.

Mastercard processes card payments in over 210 countries and territories worldwide, which can be helpful if you’re traveling abroad. In 2020, Mastercard had about 21,000 employees and a net revenue of $15.3 billion. In addition, the company processed over 91 billion transactions and had more than 2 billion cards in use.

To learn more about which cards are available, check out this guide on Mastercard credit cards.

Mastercard vs. Visa: How they compare

Both Mastercard and Visa are payment networks and neither one issues its own credit cards. In addition, both companies help process payments in over 200 countries and territories and in more than 100 currencies. The similarities are there, but can you spot any differences? Use this table to find out.

Visa Mastercard
Accepted in...
  • Over 200 countries and territories
  • Over 160 currencies
  • Over 210 countries and territories
  • 150 currencies
Fraud protection
  • Zero liability
  • Lost or stolen card reporting
  • ID Navigator by NortonLifeLock
  • Zero liability protection
  • Mastercard Global Service
  • Mastercard ID Theft Protection
Features and benefits
  • Roadside dispatch
  • Visa Luxury Hotel Collection
  • Travel and emergency assistance services
  • Concierge services
  • Auto rental collision damage waiver
  • Extended warranty
  • Purchase protection
  • Lost luggage reimbursement
  • Trip delay reimbursement
  • Trip cancellation/trip interruption reimbursement
  • Mastercard luxury hotel and resorts portfolio
  • Mastercard Hotel Stay Guarantee
  • Lowest Hotel Rate Guarantee
  • Concierge services
  • Cell phone protection
  • Global emergency services
Card tiers
  • Traditional
  • Signature
  • Infinite
  • Standard/Gold
  • Titanium/Platinum
  • World
  • World Elite

Keep in mind that available benefits on Visa or Mastercard credit cards may vary by card tier and card issuer. For example, World and World Elite Mastercards typically offer more benefits than a Standard Mastercard, and the same applies for a Visa Signature or Visa Infinite card over a Visa Traditional card.

However, the card issuer has the final say on which benefits they offer. This could mean certain benefits offered by Visa or Mastercard aren’t included on the final product because a card issuer, such as Chase or Capital One, decided not to include them. On the other hand, a card issuer could provide additional benefits on top of the benefits offered by Visa or Mastercard.

Is Visa better than Mastercard?

Visa and Mastercard are similar enough that it typically shouldn’t matter which brand you see on your credit card. They do have a few differences, but neither Visa nor Mastercard is generally better than the other. They’re both accepted worldwide and offer similar benefits.

If you compare the different card tiers and benefits (listed in the table above) for each company, it seems like Visa has the advantage over Mastercard. Visa publicly lists more card benefits on its website than Mastercard, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a Mastercard credit card will have fewer benefits than a similar Visa card.

For example, the list of Mastercard benefits doesn’t include purchase protection, extended warranty coverage, or an auto rental collision damage waiver. However, the Chase Freedom Flex, which is a Mastercard credit card, has all three benefits. So the benefits you receive often depend on both the card network and card issuer.

Overall, Visa is the more popular card network and does more global business than Mastercard. It also offers more of a guarantee that you’ll receive certain benefits than Mastercard, though it’s ultimately up to the card issuer. Keep in mind that certain Mastercard credit cards provide cell phone protection, which is an increasingly rare benefit and one not listed for Visa.

Top Mastercard and Visa credit cards

Here are some of the top Mastercard and Visa credit cards:

Card name Payment network Welcome offer Rewards rate Best for...
Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa Earn 100,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months 5X points on Lyft rides (through March 2022), 2X points on eligible dining and travel, and 1X points per $1 on all other eligible purchases Travel
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Visa Earn 100,000 bonus miles after spending $20,000 in the first 12 months (or earn 50,000 miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months) 2X miles on every purchase, every day Flat-rate travel rewards
Chase Freedom Unlimited Visa Earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases Common cashback categories
Chase Freedom Flex Mastercard Earn $200 cash back after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months 5% on rotating quarterly categories (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and drugstores; and 1% on all other purchases Rotating cashback categories
Citi Double Cash Card Mastercard Earn cash back twice: 1% when you buy + 1% when you pay up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay Everyday cash back
Citi Prestige Mastercard Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within 3 months of account opening 5X points on airline purchases and at restaurants; 3X points on hotels and cruise lines; and 1X points on all other purchases Premium travel perks

Chase Sapphire Preferred: Best for travel

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the most popular travel credit cards because of its rewards, benefits, and for being part of the global Visa network. Every purchase earns Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, and cash, or transferred to many major airline and hotel brands, such as Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, and World of Hyatt.

In addition, your points are worth 25% more if you redeem them for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. To learn more about this card, read our Chase Sapphire Preferred review.

New, Higher Sign Up Bonus - Worth $1250 Toward Travel

Benefits

  • Best offer ever! 100,000 point sign-up bonus
  • 2X points on eligible dining and travel purchases
  • 25% more value when redeeming rewards for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards
  • Premium travel protection benefits

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for flat-rate travel rewards

If you want a Visa travel card that earns a flat rate on every purchase, consider the Capital One Venture Rewards Card. Earning a flat rate makes it easy to use this card for everything and quickly rack up Venture miles, whether you’re buying groceries or filling up your gas tank.

Once you earn enough miles, use them on flights and hotel stays, or transfer them to another travel loyalty program, such as British Airways and Wyndham Rewards. Cardmembers also receive up to $100 in application credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

To learn more about this card, read our Capital One Venture Card review.

Incredibly Flexible Rewards

Benefits

  • 100,000 bonus mile welcome offer
  • 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Up to $100 Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee credit
  • No foreign transaction fees

Chase Freedom Unlimited: Best for common cashback categories

For a Visa card with everyday spending appeal, consider the Chase Freedom Unlimited. This card offers 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases.

The bonus categories are useful for daily purchases and travel while the flat 1.5% rate covers everything else. Your cash back can be redeemed for travel, gift cards, statement credits, and direct deposits. To learn more about this card, read our Chase Freedom Unlimited review.

Unlimited Cash Back

Benefits

  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • Bonus rewards on travel, dining, and drugstores
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases

Chase Freedom Flex: Best for rotating cashback categories

Chase typically works with the Visa network, but it also offers a few Mastercard credit cards, with the Freedom Flex being one of them. This card benefits from being on the Mastercard network by offering cardmembers an uncommon cell phone protection benefit.

You also get some of the same earning categories as the Chase Freedom Unlimited plus the addition of rotating bonus categories each quarter. Past rotating categories have included gas stations, home improvement stores, grocery stores, PayPal, and popular retailers like Amazon and Walmart.

To learn more about this card, read our Chase Freedom Flex review.

Powerful New Cashback Card

Benefits

  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • Up to 5% cash back on spending
  • Lyft and DoorDash perks

Citi Double Cash Card: Best for everyday cash back

Because it’s a Mastercard credit card, the Citi Double Cash is accepted virtually everywhere cards are accepted. This is helpful because cardholders are likely to want to use this card for most of their everyday purchases thanks to the card’s accelerated cashback rate.

The Citi Double Cash earns up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay. This is a higher rate than many other cashback cards, which can help you earn rewards and redeem them for statement credits, direct deposits, or checks. You’re also able to convert your cash back to ThankYou Points for more redemption options, including travel and gift cards.

To learn more about this card, read our Citi Double Cash Card review.

Earn Cash Back Twice

Citi Double Cash Card

Citi Double Cash Card

Citi Double Cash Card

Benefits

  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months
  • 2% cash back on all purchases - 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay
  • No annual fee

Citi Prestige: Best for premium travel perks

For a more luxurious travel experience, consider the Citi Prestige, a travel card on the Mastercard network. This card offers a slew of premium travel perks, such as a $250 annual travel credit and complimentary access to airport lounges in the Priority Pass network.

You also receive up to $100 in fee reimbursement for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry and access to the 4th Night Free Citi benefit. This allows you to get a fourth hotel night for free at eligible hotels booked through the Citi ThankYou travel portal.

To learn more about this card, read our Citi Prestige review.

FAQs

How are Visa and Mastercard different?

The differences between Visa and Mastercard lie in their card benefits. Mastercard has a unique cell phone protection benefit, which isn’t listed as a Visa benefit. Likewise, Visa benefits include purchase protection and extended warranty coverage, which Mastercard doesn’t list in its benefits.

However, each of these benefits can still be found on either a Visa card or Mastercard credit card because the issuing bank, such as Wells Fargo or Bank of America, is the one that decides on the available benefits of their cards. Similarly, the issuing bank will also generally decide on factors like the total credit limit you'll receive as well as the credit score requirements for each card.

Is Visa more widely accepted than Mastercard?

Visa and Mastercard generally have the same worldwide acceptance. They’re both accepted in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide and in 150 or more currencies. If you need a credit card while traveling abroad, you have plenty of helpful options on either credit card network.

Where is Mastercard not accepted?

Mastercard is generally accepted worldwide, including in over 200 countries and territories and in 150 currencies. However, certain retail locations, such as U.S.-based Costco warehouses, don’t accept Mastercard credit or debit cards and take only Visa cards.

In addition, Mastercard, or any other card from another card network, isn’t accepted at any cash-only location or as an option to pay credit card bills.

What are the major credit card payment networks?

There are four major credit card payment networks: American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa.

The bottom line

Overall, you can’t go wrong with either a Visa or Mastercard credit card. Both payment networks operate worldwide, which is ideal for frequent travelers, and they also offer helpful benefits. If you do find any differences between cards on either network, it’s likely because the card issuer provides different benefits, not the card network.

Keep in mind that having the Visa or Mastercard logo doesn’t automatically provide a credit card with certain benefits. Be sure to compare cards individually to find the best credit card for your financial situation and goals.

Author Details

Ben Walker Ben Walker is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially-sound decisions. For nearly a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN, Debt.com, and Finder.com.