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.

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Updated May 16, 2024
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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
  • 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.

Compare Mastercard and Visa credit cards

Mastercard and Visa credit cards with competitive benefits:

Card name Payment network Welcome offer Rewards rate Best for...
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Visa Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠; 3X points on dining, select streaming services, and online groceries; 2X points on all other travel purchases, and 1X points on all other purchases Travel
Chase Freedom Unlimited® Visa Earn an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases Common cashback categories
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Mastercard Earn a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening 2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day, 5 miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5 miles per dollar on Capital One Entertainment purchases through 12/31/25 Unlimited travel rewards
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Mastercard Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories you activate (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery service); and 1% cash back on all other purchases Rotating cashback categories
Citi Double Cash® Card Mastercard Earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases; plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24 Everyday cash back
Citi Strata Premier ℠ Card Mastercard Earn 70,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months of account opening, redeemable for $700 in gift cards or travel rewards at thankyou.com 10X points on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on CitiTravel.com; 3X points on air travel and other hotel purchases, at restaurants, supermarkets, gas and EV charging stations; and 1X points on all other purchases Bonus categories for travel rewards

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Best for travel

The Sapphire Preferred is one of the most popular travel credit cards because of its rewards, benefits, and 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.

Each year on your card anniversary, you will earn bonus points equal to 10% of the total purchases you made in the previous year. And you also get a $50 annual credit on hotel stays purchased through Chase Travel℠.

In addition, your points are worth 25% more if you redeem them for travel through the Chase Travel℠ program. 

To learn more about this card, read our Chase Sapphire Preferred review.

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% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back 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.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for unlimited travel rewards

If you want a Mastercard travel card that can earn unlimited rewards, consider the Capital One Venture Rewards Card. Earning rewards on every purchase makes it easy to use this card for everything and quickly rack up Capital One 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 or 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.

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 having the uncommon benefit of cell phone protection.

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.

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 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases; plus, for a limited time, earn 5% total cash back on hotel, car rentals and attractions booked on the Citi Travel℠ portal through 12/31/24. 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.

Citi Strata Premier ℠ Card: Best for bonus categories for travel rewards

To frequently earn travel rewards on everyday expenses, consider the Citi Strata Premier, a travel card on the Mastercard network. This card offers broad earning potential, including 10X points on hotels, car rentals, and attractions booked on CitiTravel.com; 3X points on air travel and other hotel purchases, at restaurants, supermarkets, gas and EV charging stations; and 1X points on all other purchases.

You also receive $100 in annual hotel savings (for a hotel stay of $500 or more when booked through CitiTravel.com) and you have no foreign transaction fees. In addition, your ThankYou Points can be transferred to multiple travel partners, including JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, and Singapore Airlines.

To learn more about this card, read our Citi Strata Premier Card review.

FAQs

How are Visa and Mastercard different?

The differences between Visa and Mastercard lie in their card benefits. For example, Visa benefits include purchase protection and extended warranty coverage, which Mastercard doesn’t list in its benefits. But you might find cell phone protection on certain Mastercard credit cards.

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.

Easy-to-Earn Unlimited Rewards

Benefits

Card Details

  • Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases
  • Earn 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases
  • Longer intro APR on qualifying purchases and balance transfers
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Apply Now
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 spent on all purchases, with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees and your points don't expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases.
  • Use your card to book your trip how and where you want - you're not limited to specific websites with blackout dates or restrictions.
  • Redeem points for a statement credit to pay for travel or dining purchases, such as flights, hotel stays, car and vacation rentals, baggage fees, and also at restaurants including takeout.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • If you're a Bank of America Preferred Rewards® member, you can earn 25%-75% more points on every purchase. That means instead of earning an unlimited 1.5 points for every $1, you could earn 1.87-2.62 points for every $1 you spend on purchases.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Bank of <span class='whitespace-nowrap'>America<sup>®</sup></span> Travel Rewards credit card
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Intro Offer

Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening - that can be a $250 statement credit toward travel purchases

Annual Fee

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Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.