List of major credit card issuers and networks
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The right credit card in your wallet can make your regular spending go a long way.
Credit cards are convenient for both in-person transactions and online shopping, and they offer better consumer protections than debit cards. As an added bonus, credit cards can also help you earn cash back, travel rewards and other benefits for every dollar you spend.
But finding the right card is only one part of the equation; 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 conducted 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.
To make the most of any card in your wallet, it’s important to understand the details of what it has to offer, including the benefits you might get with cards from different issuers or on different networks. Here’s an overview of major credit card companies in the U.S. today, what 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 special cases, the network and the card issuer can be the same.
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 integrated payments platform. American Express also doubles as a card issuer.
- Discover: The Discover Global Network operates within 200 countries and territories with a reach of more than 280 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 3.9 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.
Here are some examples that show how several popular cards fall within network and issuer categories:
|Credit Card||Network||Card Issuer|
|Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express||American Express||American Express|
|Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card||Discover||Discover|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||Visa||Chase|
|Chase Freedom Flex℠||Mastercard||Chase|
|Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card||Visa||Bank of America|
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:
- American Express
- Bank of America
- Capital One
- U.S. Bank
- Wells Fargo
American Express was originally founded in 1850 as a freight forwarding company, but 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 the Nilson Report. 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:
- Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- American Express® Gold Card
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- American Express Cash Magnet® Card*
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 let you 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 2022 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:
- Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card
- Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card
- Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Advantages of this card issuer: Bank of America offers a range of popular rewards cards for people with every type of credit profile. This includes a few secured credit cards that we find highly valuable, specifically the Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards Secured*.
Having a Bank of America credit card can be especially advantageous if you already have a relationship with the bank, thanks to the Preferred Rewards program. 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 2022 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #3
Barclays (formerly known as “Barclaycard”) was originally founded in London in the 18th 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:
- AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®*
- Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®*
- Emirates Skywards World Elite Mastercard®*
- JetBlue Card*
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 2022 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #7
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, business loans and more.
Popular Capital One credit cards include:
- Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Spark Cash Plus
Advantages of this card issuer: Capital One offers a range of credit cards for nearly any type of consumer. In fact, this card issuer offers 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 2022 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #3
Chase traces its roots to a predecessor bank that opened in 1799 in New York. When it comes to credit card issuers, Chase is a force to be reckoned with.
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:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®*
- Chase Freedom Flex℠
- Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Advantages of this card issuer: Chase credit cards are some of the most coveted out there, and it’s mostly 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 let you transfer points to Chase airline and hotel partners like British Airways, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt.
J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #4
Citi was founded in 1812, so the financial institution has been in operation for more than 200 years 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 credit card offerings.
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 2022 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #6
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.
When it comes to Discover credit cards, this issuer stands out because you can get pre-qualified for all card products without a hard inquiry on your credit report.
Popular Discover credit cards include:
- Discover it® Cash Back
- Discover it® Miles
- Discover it® Secured Credit Card
- Discover it® Student Cash Back
Advantages of this card issuer: All Discover credit cards come with no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, which is a major plus. Discover’s Cashback Match program also doubles the rewards you’ll earn during your first year.
J.D. Power 2022 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #2
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, Gap, 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:
- Sam’s Club® Mastercard®
- PayPal Cashback Mastercard®*
- Lowe’s Advantage Card*
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 2022 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #10
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:
- U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
- U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card
- U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Credit Card*
- U.S. Bank Business Cash Rewards World Elite™ Mastercard®*
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 2022 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #9
Wells Fargo was founded in 1852, and has grown since then to become a major issuer of mortgage loans, car loans, credit cards and more. That said, Wells Fargo didn’t expand into the credit card industry until the 1960s.
Popular Wells Fargo credit cards include:
- Wells Fargo Reflect® Card
- Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
- Hotels.com® Rewards Visa® Credit Card
- Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
Advantages of this card issuer: Wells Fargo has released some exceptional card offerings over the last few years. This 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, 17.99 to 29.99 percent variable APR thereafter; with a balance transfer fee of 5 percent, min $5.
The new 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 2022 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction ranking: #8
Smaller credit card issuers
In addition to those major financial institutions, there are plenty of smaller banks and credit unions offering credit cards on the market today.
Credit unions are financial institutions owned by their members instead of shareholders. This often means credit unions can offer better loan terms and rates, as well as better credit card offers, to their customers. Some credit unions that offer credit cards include:
- Alliant Credit Union
- Digital Federal Credit union
- Navy Federal Credit union
- PenFed Credit Union
Some smaller banks with a regional footprint also offer credit cards, although their benefits and rewards vary widely. Some examples include:
The bottom line
Your credit card options are plentiful, whether you want a card from a major card issuer, a card issuer that also operates as a credit card network or you prefer banking with a smaller bank or credit union.
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.
*All information for these cards have been collected independently by Bankrate and have not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.