Key takeaways

  • Visa and Mastercard are two major card networks that process card transactions. These networks do not issue particular credit cards, but partner with card issuers to enable transactions.
  • Both these networks, whose cards are widely accepted globally, offer various perks, including zero liability fraud protection, on the different tiers of cards that bear their logos.
  • Individual card issuers can use discretion to make available the benefits offered by Visa and Mastercard. That’s why it’s important to look into what an individual card offers, rather than choosing between a Visa or Mastercard logo.

Visa and Mastercard are two of the four major credit card networks that help to facilitate credit card purchases. Chances are, you have a Visa or Mastercard credit card in your wallet. So what’s the difference between the two, and which is better?

There’s nothing inherently better about either network. They both are widely accepted and offer similar protections. Your card issuer — like Chase or Capital One — has a greater influence on credit card perks, protections and rewards than the network. So, a card from either Visa or Mastercard is a good choice, as long as the terms and benefits set by the card issuer are favorable. You should look for a card with low rates and fees, rewards and plenty of benefits.

Still, there are some distinctions to be aware of if you want the full picture. Here, we’ll get into the major similarities and differences between Visa and Mastercard.

A quick note: Before we compare Visa and Mastercard, it’s important to distinguish that these are payment networks. That means they process credit card transactions. On the other hand, credit card issuers, like Chase or Capital One, actually approve or deny people for credit cards. That’s why you would never pay a credit card bill to Visa or Mastercard, even if one of their logos is printed on the back of your credit card. American Express and Discover are both payment networks and credit card issuers, which can be confusing.

Visa vs. Mastercard: Key similarities

According to early 2023 data from The Nilson Report, Visa and Mastercard were the two largest card networks in the U.S. for the first three quarters of 2022, with a combined purchase volume of $3.05 trillion. Visa credit transactions alone accounted for more than $2 trillion of that.

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

Visa and Mastercard share many similarities:

  • Neither company issues cards directly but instead partners with a variety of different card issuers.
  • Both are widely accepted throughout the United States and around the globe.
  • Both networks offer zero liability fraud protection, which protects you in the event that someone steals your credit card info or uses your card to make an unauthorized purchase.
  • Both credit card networks offer added perks related to travel, purchase protection and fraud protection. Individual perks and protections vary (detailed below).

Visa and Mastercard: Key differences

The main differences between Visa and Mastercard credit cards are relatively small and have to do with which specific banks and lenders they partner with. The two networks also have different credit card tiers that come with different benefits. Visa has three main tiers — Visa Traditional, Visa Signature and Visa Infinite — and Mastercard has four — Standard & Gold Mastercard, Titanium & Platinum Mastercard, World Mastercard and World Elite Mastercard.

 Visa vs. Mastercard benefits

Travel perks Rental car insurance Other perks
Visa Traditional Roadside dispatch, emergency card replacement, emergency cash disbursement and travel discounts at preferred hotels Auto rental collision damage waiver Zero liability fraud protection, discounts with select merchants
Visa Signature Everything included in the Visa Traditional, plus travel and emergency assistance services, lost luggage reimbursement and trip delay, cancellation or interruption reimbursement Built-in auto rental coverage Everything included in the Visa Traditional, plus extended warranty protection, price protection and return protection
Visa Infinite Everything included in the Visa Signature, plus a Global Entry statement credit, 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 the Mastercard Standard and Gold tier, 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 from different card issuers

While Mastercard benefits and Visa benefits are pretty similar, these additional perks are often offered at the discretion of individual card issuers. This means that, even if your card belongs to a particular Visa or Mastercard tier, it may not have the same benefits as another card at the same tier.

On the flip side, most cards also come with plenty of different perks and benefits that are unique to the card issuer, in addition to the benefits offered by the credit card network. If you’re curious about the benefits that come with a particular card, you should be sure to read the fine print to determine exactly what perks and add-ons are included.

Visa vs. Mastercard: Which is better?

If you’re trying to decide between a Visa credit card or a Mastercard, the reality is that either credit card network is likely a good choice. Both credit card networks are widely accepted throughout the United States/globally and have useful additional benefits. A card from either credit card network will be accepted pretty much everywhere you shop.

Which credit card network you decide to go with ultimately matters much less than which specific credit card issuer and individual credit card you decide on. This is because the benefits offered by Mastercard and Visa are both pretty similar. While nice additional perks, Visa and Mastercard benefits are generally less important than more pertinent details like a particular credit card’s rewards structure or interest rate.

At a glance: Bankrate’s picks for the top Visa and Mastercard credit cards

Card Name Credit Card Network
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Visa
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card Visa
Chase Freedom Unlimited®* Visa
U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card Visa
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card Visa
Citi Rewards+® Card Mastercard
Citi® Double Cash Card Mastercard
Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card Mastercard
Citi Premier® Card Mastercard
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card Mastercard

The bottom line

Along with American Express and Discover, Visa and Mastercard are two of the major credit card networks. Visa and Mastercard don’t actually issue any credit cards themselves; instead, they partner with a variety of different financial institutions to issue cards.

While rewards credit cards belonging to the same credit card network do share some features, many of the most important aspects of a credit card are determined by the credit card issuer, not the credit card network. That means that you probably shouldn’t choose a credit card based solely on whether it’s part of the Mastercard or Visa credit card network, as cards from either network will come with similar additional perks. You should also look into what each card issuer offers on any particular card.

*The information about the Chase Freedom Unlimited® has been collected independently by The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.