Not all Visa credit cards are created equal. Some are loaded with extra benefits, such as travel insurance, hotel discounts, free access to airport lounges and concierge services. Others come with the basics, such as roadside assistance and protection against fraudulent purchases. The perks your card offers depend on whether your Visa card is part of the Traditional, Signature or Infinite line.
The perks that come with Signature and Infinite cards are nice, but be prepared: you’ll have to pay to access Visa’s most valuable benefits.
What is a Visa credit card?
A Visa credit card is any card that uses the Visa network. You can tell if your card is a Visa card by looking for the Visa logo. This logo is printed on every Visa card, usually in its bottom or top right-hand corner.
Visa is one of the world’s largest processing networks. The company, though, doesn’t issue its own credit cards. Instead, you can apply for Visa cards from financial institutions, which actually issue the plastic. You can apply for Visa cards from your local bank, credit unions or national financial institutions.
Visa cards come in three varieties: Traditional, Signature and Infinite, with Traditional offering the fewest additional benefits and Infinite cards offering the most valuable.
What’s the difference between Visa Traditional, Signature and Infinite?
It’s possible to get a Visa card that offers cash back bonuses and rewards points no matter what tier of card you get. The difference between Visa Traditional, Signature and Infinite, though, lies in the extra benefits—everything from trip cancellation insurance and lost luggage reimbursements to discounts at high-end golf resorts and luxury hotels—that each tier of card provides.
|Card type||Tier level||Benefits||Annual fee|
|Visa Traditional||Basic||Comes with basic benefits like roadside assistance, emergency card replacement and fraudulent purchase protection.||Most Visa Traditional cards come with no annual fees|
|Visa Signature||Middle||Offers far more perks, including extended warranty protection, baggage delay insurance, trip cancellation insurance and concierge services||Many Visa Signature cards come with no annual fees|
|Visa Infinite||Highest||Offers the highest level of benefits, including free access to airport lounges, the most generous extended warranty perks and reimbursement for Global Entry fees at airports||All Visa Infinite cards charge annual fees, some as high as $550 a year|
Visa Traditional benefits
As the most basic of Visa cards, the Traditional brand of Visa card doesn’t come with a large number of benefits. Cardholders, though, do benefit from some perks.
Cardholder Inquiry Service: With a Traditional Visa card, you get access to 24-hour customer phone support seven days a week. You can request your account balance through this service, get information about when your next payment is due, and ask any other customer-service questions. Visa will provide you a toll-free number with your card.
Emergency card replacement and emergency cash disbursement: If you’ve lost your card, you can call Visa at 1-800-847-2911 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Visa will block your existing card and connect you with your financial institution or bank. It will also send you an emergency card replacement that should arrive in one to three business days. If losing your card leaves you short on funds, Visa can also send cash to a location near you within hours of your bank’s approval.
Auto rental collision damage waiver: You can receive through your Visa Traditional card auto insurance coverage for rental cars that are damaged because of collisions or theft. To activate this coverage, you must decline your rental company’s own collision damage waiver. This perk, then, allows you to skip paying extra for insurance from your rental car company.
Zero liability: This benefit protects you when someone makes unauthorized purchases with your card or account information. Your liability for unauthorized transactions is $0, meaning you’ll pay nothing for these fraudulent purchases.
Roadside dispatch: Have trouble on the road? Call 1-800-847-2689 (available 24 hours a day, seven days a week) to contact Roadside Dispatch. The operator on the other end of the line will ask where you are and what problem you are experiencing. The dispatcher will then arrange for a tow operator or locksmith to arrive at your location. You will have to pay a set rate for every service call.
Visa Signature benefits
Visa Signature cards include all the benefits that come with Traditional cards but also some extras.
Extended warranty protection: When you use your Visa Signature card for your purchases, extended warranty protection will extend the life of your U.S. manufacturer’s warranty of three years or less. For warranties that are less than one year, the term is doubled under this benefit. For warranties of one-to-three years, the warranty is extended an extra year.
Product registration and claim process: Whenever you make a purchase with your Signature card, you can register the product online. This way, the claim center will have all the information it needs if you file a claim later.
Year-end summary: Visa will provide you with a report of the purchases you make on your Signature card each year. The report will organize your spending into categories such as travel, entertainment, restaurants and merchandise.
Travel and emergency assistance services: When you are traveling, your Signature card will give you access to a multilingual call center 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The service comes with the following benefits:
- Pre-trip assistance: Provides information about health precautions, weather reports, immunizations and currency exchange rates
- Medical referral assistance: Provides medical referrals, monitoring and follow-up
- Emergency transportation assistance: Cardholders can receive emergency transportation to medical facilities
- Emergency message service: Travelers can access 24-hour-a-day messages regarding emergencies at their destinations
- Prescription assistance and document delivery: If you need prescriptions filled, this service can help when you are traveling. You can also use it to have critical documents sent to you
- Legal referral assistance: Visa can connect you with English-speaking attorneys, U.S. embassies and consulates, bail-bond assistance, cash advances and follow-up assistance
- Emergency ticket replacement: Lost your airline or event tickets? Visa can help you replace missing tickets and can assist with ticket reimbursement
- Lost luggage locator service: Luggage didn’t arrive at your destination? Visa can guide you through the carrier’s claim procedures and can help you order replacement items if an airline or carrier loses your checked luggage
- Emergency translation service: This perk provides telephone assistance in all major languages and helps you find local interpreters if needed
Luxury Hotel Collection: You’ll qualify for complimentary breakfast, room upgrades and other perks when checking into hotels participating in Visa’s luxury collection.
Rental car privileges: With your Signature card, you can earn discounts on all Audi car rentals with Silvercar.
Sonoma wine country: Your Signature card qualifies you for discounts on wines through this program.
Troom Rewards: With your Signature or Infinite card, you can join Troom Rewards to save on golf fees and merchandise at courses across the globe.
Concierge services: With this perk, you’ll receive 24/7 personalized assistance for travel planning and dinner reservations. The concierge service can also help you buy tickets for entertainment and sporting events.
Fine wine and dining: Your Signature or Infinite card qualifies you for special offers and experiences from celebrity chefs and winemakers.
Visa Infinite benefits
Visa Infinite cards come with the highest level of perks, including all the benefits that come with Traditional and Signature cards in addition to several extra services. This isn’t surprising; these cards charge hefty annual fees. The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is a good example—it offers a wide range of perks but also charges a $550 annual fee. Here are the extra benefits you’ll get with an Infinite card.
Return protection: You’ll qualify for this perk when you purchase an item costing up to $300 with your Infinite card. Visa will reimburse you for the cost of this item if you try to return it and the merchant selling it refuses to accept your return. You must initiate your return within 90 days.
Purchase security: If an item you purchased with your Visa Infinite card is stolen or damaged within the first 90 days after you bought it, purchase security can replace, repair or reimburse the item. You can be reimbursed a maximum of $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per year.
Travel accident insurance: You can receive up to $500,000 of accidental death and dismemberment coverage when you purchase an airline ticket with your Infinite card. You can also receive this coverage when you use your card to purchase your ticket for other forms of travel, including train, bus or ferry.
Trip cancellation/trip interruption: When you purchase your travel ticket with your Visa Infinite card and you must cancel or interrupt your trip, this benefit can help reimburse you for the nonrefundable cost of your fare. You can be reimbursed a maximum of $2,000 per trip.
Trip delay reimbursement: When you buy your airline ticket with your Infinite card and your flight is delayed by more than six hours or requires an overnight stay, this benefit kicks in. Visa will reimburse you for expenses, such as food you bought during the delay or a hotel stay for an overnight delay. It will also cover transportation to your hotel and back to the airport. You’ll be reimbursed for a maximum of $500 per ticket.
Extended warranty protection: This service works like the one available for Signature cardholders. The Infinite version, though, adds a year to any warranty of any life. If the original warranty was six months, extended warranty will increase it to 18 months. If the original warranty was two years, extended warranty would boost it to three.
Lost luggage reimbursement: If you use your Infinite card to buy an airline or common carrier ticket, you can be reimbursed for lost checked or carry-on luggage and its contents. You can be reimbursed for a maximum of $3,000 per trip in most parts of the country. In New York, this maximum reimbursement is $2,000 per bag.
Global entry statement credit: You’ll receive a $100 statement credit to cover the $100 fee of applying for Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for low-risk travelers when they arrive in the United States.
Infinite car rental privileges: With your Infinite card, you’ll qualify for discounts with Avis, Hertz, National and Silvercar auto rentals.
Lounge access: This perk gives you access to more than 1,200 airport lounges around the globe.
Airline incidentals statement credit: With your Infinite card, you’ll receive rebates for air travel-related fees such as accelerated security, checked-luggage charges and in-flight food.
How to qualify for a Visa credit card
Visa will look at several factors when considering whether to approve you for a credit card. The most important is your credit score, which tells Visa whether you have a history of paying your bills on time or whether you’ve missed several payments. The lower your score, the less likely you are to qualify for a Visa credit card.
Different Visa cards, though, require different scores. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, a Visa Signature card, requires a good to excellent credit score, according to Visa, as does the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. However, the Credit One Bank® Platinum Visa® for Rebuilding Credit is available to consumers who have poor credit or are rebuilding their credit score.
Visa will also look at your existing debts and your monthly income. If your debts are too high and your income too low, Visa might hesitate to approve you for its top cards.
The best way to qualify for a Visa card, then, is to pay all your bills on time each month and pay down your existing credit card debt; those two moves will boost your credit score. You can improve your debt-to-income ratio by paying down as much of your monthly debt as possible or by increasing your monthly income. Paying down your debt might be the easier route.
The bottom line
If benefits are important to you, you’ll want to explore Visa Signature or Infinite cards. And if you want the most perks? Visa Infinite cards are your best option. Remember, though, these perks don’t come free. Visa Infinite cards come with hefty annual fees, as high as $550 a month. Make sure you’ll be using enough of the category’s benefits to make that annual fee worthwhile. You might even consider whether a different branded card, such as a Mastercard, is better for your wallet.