Key takeaways

  • Credit card issuers and networks perform two distinct roles, though both can be considered credit card companies.
  • Credit card issuers are responsible for card details, rates, fees and perks.
  • Your credit card network may play a role in available card features.
  • Choosing the right card issuer can help you ultimately choose the right card for you.

The right credit card in your wallet can make your regular spending go a long way.

Credit cards are convenient financial tools, offering better consumer protections than debit cards while helping cardholders earn cash back on purchases, travel rewards and other valuable benefits.

When choosing the right card, you’ll most often compare these benefits. But there’s another part of the equation often overlooked; the bank that issues your card can also have a significant impact on your rewards, benefits, fees and other card details.

A December 2021 survey by Bankrate showed that consumers appreciate some credit card perks more than others. While cash back rewards were most loved (41 percent), others said different, issuer-specific features were their favorite — including acceptance at most places (14 percent), low interest rates (9 percent), low fees (5 percent) and travel perks (4 percent), among others.

Making the most of any card in your wallet requires fully understanding what it offers, including the benefits you might get with cards from different issuers or networks. Here’s an overview of major credit card companies in the U.S. today, what typical perks you can get with them and the credit cards they offer.

Credit card companies: Issuers vs. networks

Each credit card has both a network and an issuer associated with it. In some cases, the network and the card issuer can be the same. While a network and an issuer perform different roles regarding credit cards, both could be considered credit card companies.

Credit card networks

The credit card network is the company that helps process each of your transactions. When you make a purchase with your credit card, the network handles all communications between the merchant and the bank to facilitate the transaction.

There are four major credit card networks in the United States. These include:

  • American Express. This credit card network offers the world’s largest global payment network. American Express also doubles as a card issuer.
  • Discover. The Discover Global Network operates in over 200 countries and territories with a reach of more than 305 million cardholders. Discover is also a credit card issuer.
  • Mastercard.: This card network operates in more than 210 countries and territories worldwide, making Mastercard credit cards some of the most widely accepted and used.
  • Visa. Visa credit cards are accepted in more than 200 countries and territories around the world, with more than 4.2 billion Visa cards currently in use worldwide.

While Visa and Mastercard have long been the most widely accepted credit card networks worldwide, American Express and Discover have been working on expanding their footprints in the U.S. and abroad.

American Express and Discover are also the only two of these networks to issue their own cards, instead of working with other banks to offer card products. That’s why you won’t see Amex or Discover cards offered by card issuers like Bank of America, Capital One or Chase.

Credit card issuers

The card issuer, on the other hand, is the bank that extends you the line of credit. In other words, the card issuer is the financial institution that can approve you (or issue a denial) when you apply for a new credit card.

Credit card issuers also manage and oversee your credit card account, and they’re the company you deal with if you have a customer service inquiry or if you have trouble repaying your credit card balance.

So, what are the main card issuers? Ten popular financial institutions that issue credit cards in the U.S. are as follows:

Credit card issuer Popular card example Network Issuer benefits J.D. Power 2023 Credit Card Satisfaction ranking
American Express American Express® Gold Card American Express
  • Large card selection
  • Valuable Amex Membership Rewards program
Ranked #1
Bank of America Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card Visa
  • Good card choices for a wide range of credit profiles
  • Stronger rewards for those also banking with the issuer
Ranked #2 (Tie)
Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®* Mastercard
  • Large selection of co-branded travel credit cards
Not eligible
Capital One Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card Mastercard
  • Wide variety of card types, including business, cash back, travel and more
Ranked #4
Chase Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card Visa
  • Variety of cards that increase in value when paired together
  • Valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards program
Ranked #5
Citi Citi Custom Cash® Card Mastercard
  • Offers several strong cash back options
  • Solid value in Citi ThankYou Rewards program
Ranked #6
Discover Discover it® Cash Back Discover
  • All Discover cards come with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Discover rewards cards come with Cashback Match™ program
Ranked #2 (Tie)
Synchrony Sam’s Club® Mastercard® Mastercard
  • Large selection of co-branded store credit cards
Unranked
U.S. Bank U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card* Visa
  • Strong mix of rewards cards
Ranked #9
Wells Fargo Wells Fargo Reflect® Card Visa
  • Offers several new credit cards with top-market rewards and intro offers
Ranked #7

American Express

American Express was initially founded in 1850 as a freight forwarding company, but it has dramatically changed course since those early days. As of early 2022, Amex was the second-largest U.S. card issuer by purchase volume, according to Nilson Report data provided to Bankrate. The company’s offerings include credit cards and Pay Over Time-eligible cards, which work more like traditional charge cards for individuals and businesses, as well as various banking products like their high-yield savings account.

American Express is both a credit card network and a card issuer.

Popular American Express credit cards include:

Advantages of this card issuer: American Express stands out due to the sheer number of credit cards offered through the company. And while some Amex cards only let you earn cash back, many others earn Amex Membership Rewards points, which are incredibly versatile and valuable. For example, you can use Membership Rewards points for merchandise, gift cards, travel through the Amex travel portal, or transfers to Amex airline and hotel partners.

J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #1

Bank of America

Bank of America’s roots stretch back over 240 years, although the bank didn’t begin offering credit cards until 1958. These days, Bank of America offers a range of popular personal and business credit cards, as well as home loans, auto loans, checking and savings accounts, and other financial products. Bank of America also offers secured credit cards for bad credit.

According to a 2021 Nilson report, Bank of America has the 7th largest credit card portfolio around the world.

Popular Bank of America credit cards include:

Advantages of this card issuer: Bank of America offers a range of popular rewards cards for people with every type of credit profile. This range includes a few secured credit cards that we find highly valuable, specifically the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured credit card*.

Thanks to the Preferred Rewards program, a Bank of America credit card can be especially advantageous if you already have a relationship with the bank. When you reach certain balances in qualifying accounts, you’ll be eligible for boosted credit card rewards (among other perks, like lower interest rates on loans and higher interest rates on savings accounts).

J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #2 (Tie)

Barclays

Barclays (formerly known as “Barclaycard”) was originally founded in London in the late 17th century, and the bank has grown by leaps and bounds since then. While still based in the U.K, Barclays offers a range of banking products in the United States, including credit cards for consumers, high-yield savings accounts and more.

Popular credit cards from this card issuer:

Advantages of this card issuer: Barclays is known for offering a broad range of co-branded credit cards alongside travel brands like JetBlue, Carnival Cruises, Wyndham and Frontier Airlines.

J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: Not eligible

Capital One

Capital One has only been around since 1994, so this company is one of the newer financial institutions that issue credit cards. Since the company’s inception, Capital One has grown to have the sixth-largest credit card portfolio worldwide.

Capital One also offers various financial services and products, including checking and savings accounts, auto loans, and business loans.

Popular Capital One credit cards include:

Advantages of this card issuer: Capital One offers a range of credit cards for nearly any type of consumer: credit cards for businesses, cash back credit cards, travel credit cards, secured credit cards for bad credit and card options for people with fair credit.

J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #4

Chase

Chase traces its roots to a predecessor bank that opened in 1799 in New York. Chase is a force to be reckoned with in the credit card space and stands as one of the top issuers on the market.

Not only does this financial institution boast the largest credit card portfolio of any card issuer worldwide, but it also has more than 4,700 physical bank branches nationwide. Aside from its popular credit card products, the institution also offers a range of financial products, including home loans, auto loans and checking and savings accounts.

Popular Chase credit cards include:

Advantages of this card issuer: Chase credit cards are some of the most coveted out there, and it’s primarily due to their affiliation with the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. This versatile program lets you redeem rewards for cash back, statement credits, gift cards or travel through the Chase portal. Premier Chase travel credit cards also allow you to transfer points to Chase airline and hotel partners like British Airways, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt. Many people carry multiple Chase cards because they make for some of the best credit card combos around.

J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #5

Citi

Citi was founded in 1812 and currently has the third-largest credit card portfolio in the world. Citi offers personal credit cards, banking and wealth management services and more. It’s known for high-yield online savings accounts in addition to offering one of the more popular cash back cards on the market.

Popular Citi credit cards include:

Advantages of this card issuer: Citi offers one of the most popular cash back credit cards today, the Citi Double Cash® Card. But this card issuer also offers cards that earn points in the popular Citi ThankYou Rewards program, which you can redeem for cash back, gift cards, travel through the Citi portal or transfers to Citi airline and hotel partners.

J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #6

Discover

Discover was established as a credit card company in 1985 and is both a card issuer and a credit card network. Today, Discover offers personal credit cards, business credit cards, online banking products, personal loans, home loans and even student loans.

Discover offers a few unique features that help it stand out from other issuers. For example, you can prequalify for all Discover card products without a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Popular Discover credit cards include:

Advantages of this card issuer: All Discover credit cards come with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, and all allow for prequalification, which is a major plus. Discover’s Cashback Match™ program also essentially doubles the rewards you’ll earn at the end of your first year with the card.

J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #2 (Tie)

Synchrony

Synchrony Bank’s history dates to 1932 when General Electric began offering credit to families who wanted to finance their new appliances. Since those early days, Synchrony has expanded to offer numerous co-branded credit card products alongside brands like Lowe’s, Ashley HomeStore, American Eagle, Sam’s Club and more.

Synchrony Bank also offers money market accounts, Certificates of Deposit (CDs), savings accounts and other financial products.

Popular credit cards from this card issuer:

Advantages of this card issuer: Synchrony Bank offers mostly co-branded store credit cards that let you finance purchases with major retailers. Their cards can help you pay off your purchases over time while potentially earning rewards on your purchases.

J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: Unranked

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank history goes back to 1863 when Abraham Lincoln provided its predecessor (First National Bank) a license to operate. Today, U.S. Bank has branches all over the country, and the bank offers financial products and services to individuals, businesses and major corporations.

Popular credit cards from this card issuer:

Advantages of this card issuer: U.S. Bank credit cards may not be as popular as options from issuers like American Express and Chase, but they still offer exceptional rewards and benefits.

For example, the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card boasts one of the longest intro APR offers on the market today, and its rewards cards offer a great mix of high-value cash back and travel rewards.

J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #9

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo was founded in 1852 and has grown to become a major issuer of mortgage loans, car loans, credit cards and more. That said, Wells Fargo is a relative newcomer to the credit card space, as it didn’t expand into the credit card industry until the 1960s.

Popular Wells Fargo credit cards include:

Advantages of this card issuer: Wells Fargo has released some exceptional card offerings over the last few years. A notable example includes the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card, which offers an intro APR for 21 months: 0 percent intro APR for 21 months from account opening on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (18.24 percent, 24.74 percent or 29.99 percent variable APR thereafter), with a balance transfer fee of 5 percent, minimum $5.

The Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card also created a splash in the cash back card market, since it offers a flat 2 percent cash rewards back on purchases with no annual fee.

J.D. Power 2023 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #7

Smaller credit card issuers

In addition to those major financial institutions, plenty of smaller banks and credit unions offer credit cards on the market today.

Do credit card networks offer benefits?

While credit card networks are generally responsible for the behind-the-scenes workings of your credit card, they can have an impact on your card’s perks and features. For example, eligible cards may receive additional benefits through the Visa Signature or Mastercard World or World Elite status.

Cards granted this status by the network may come with an assortment of useful perks such as travel protections or concierge services. However, the credit card issuer has the final say in which of these extra perks a particular card may receive.

Should the credit card company affect my choice of card?

Naturally, a credit card company’s number one influence on your card choice is card availability. Aside from which cards you can choose, the card issuer might factor into your final decision in a few other ways:

  • Some credit card companies offer better customer service than others. You’ll find each issuer’s annual customer satisfaction ratings reported on the J.D. Power U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction survey. If you particularly value terrific customer service when considering products, these ratings might offer a good guide for which cards to compare.
  • Issuers are often more likely to approve your credit card application if you already bank with them and have established good financial habits. If you have a certain kind of credit card in mind for your wallet but are unsure you qualify, check for a comparable card from your existing bank. You may have a better chance of approval without sacrificing card features.
  • Not all credit card companies offer rewards programs with a portfolio of travel partners. Transferring points to a travel partner can greatly boost the value of your earned rewards. When comparing similar rewards cards from different issuers, choosing a card from an issuer with a robust rewards program is often the better choice.

The bottom line

Your credit card options are plentiful, whether you want a card from a major card issuer or you prefer banking with a smaller bank or credit union. Ultimately, the best banks for credit cards are the ones that offer you the best combination of customer service, flexibility and card choice.

While the information above can help you narrow down card issuers to focus on, make sure to compare the best credit card offers on the market today before you decide.

Issuer-required disclosure statements
Information for these cards has been collected independently by Bankrate and details have not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.

For Capital One products listed on this page, some of the above benefits are provided by Visa® or Mastercard® and may vary by product. See the respective Guide to Benefits for details, as terms and exclusions apply.