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Mastercard vs Visa

Mastercard vs Visa: what’s the difference between the world’s two leading payment networks? They’re both accepted in nearly all countries globally, so does it matter which you have?

Mastercard vs Visa: what’s the difference between the world’s two leading payment networks? They’re both accepted in nearly all countries globally, so does it matter which you have?

Written by
Sajni Shah
Consumer expert on money and utilities
Last Updated
20 SEPTEMBER 2023
4 min read
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What are Mastercard and Visa?

Visa and Mastercard are payment networks – they process payments for purchases made using credit and debit cards. They will:

  • Check with your card provider whether a transaction should be accepted or declined
  • Confirm to the shop, website or supplier that the payment should be made
  • Process the payment between your card provider and the seller.

Visa and Mastercard don’t issue credit cards. Instead, they have arrangements with credit card providers who issue cards that use their payment systems. These issuers will set interest rates, charge fees and offer rewards.

Mastercard and Visa are the two biggest card payment networks, but there are others including American Express – which also issues cards.

What is Visa?

Visa is a payment network that’s been enabling payments between consumers and businesses since 1958, starting with BankAmericard.

It operates in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. There were around 4.2 billion cards around the world using its services at the end of 2022.

What is Mastercard?

Mastercard is a technology company in the global payments industry. It allows people to make payments to organisations in over 210 countries worldwide.

Mastercard owns the Maestro brand, but is now phasing it out. Maestro cards will be replaced by cards with the Mastercard branding.

Do Visa and Mastercard offer protection online?

Visa and Mastercard both offer protection from card fraud when you shop online.

MasterCard protects customers from card fraud with its Identity Check™ scheme. Visa uses its similar Verified by Visa scheme for extra security. Both schemes may ask you to further authenticate your identity: for example, with a one-time passcode or with biometrics.

What’s the difference between Visa and Mastercard?

Mastercard and Visa have similar debit cards or basic credit cards. But there are differences in benefits for premium cardholders.

Visa premium cards are Gold, Platinum and Infinite. Mastercard premium cards are World and World Elite.

Premium cards are likely to offer perks such as concierge services, global customer assistance, free insurance products, and offers and privileges at a range of stores, airlines, hotels and restaurants. These will depend on your card issuer.

Mastercard and Visa security schemes for users are slightly different too.

Do Visa and Mastercard offer any perks themselves?

Both typically offer a cash emergency advance if your card is lost or stolen and will help you report the card as missing to your card issuer, if needed.

Both card companies also offer benefits to cardholders.

Mastercard perks

Mastercard’s Priceless benefits offer experiences ranging from gourmet restaurants to expert art tours and virtual workouts, plus extra perks when you book a hotel.

Depending on the kind of card you have, you might receive priority access to concerts, sporting events and nightlife venues.

Visa perks

Visa Gold, Premium and Infinite cardholders have access to exclusive benefits at the Visa Luxury Hotel collection.

Do the credit card perks and rewards matter?

It depends what you want from a credit card. But the rate of interest you’ll be charged for credit might be more important in your decision about which card you choose.

And remember, to get the full benefit of credit card rewards you’ll need to pay off the balance in full each month. If you don’t, the interest you’re charged could outweigh the value of any rewards.

Visa or Mastercard: which card should I choose?

When it comes to comparing credit cards, it’s important to choose one that fits your circumstances in terms of the benefits and interest rate they offer, rather than whether they’re Visa or Mastercard.

Look at annual fees, interest rates and any other charges that may apply. And consider different benefits offered by card providers: for example, sign-up bonuses, 0% interest introductory periods, cashback and rewards.

If you need a debit card, then it’s wise to base your choice on whichever current account meets your needs.

Compare the Market Limited acts as a credit broker, not a lender. To apply you must be a UK resident and aged 18 or over. Credit is subject to status and eligibility.

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Frequently asked questions

Which is better: Visa or MasterCard?

Neither can be said to be better. Visa and Mastercard are the two leading payment networks and they work with different card issuers. Generally, the card issuer is more important than the payment network.

Is my card Visa or MasterCard?

You can see if your credit or debit card is Mastercard of Visa by looking at the logo on the card.

The Visa logo has a blue, white and yellow stripe with the word Visa, while the Mastercard logo is two circles in red, yellow and orange where they overlap. Our guide can help you find your way around credit and debit cards.

My card is switching payment systems. Should I be worried?

No, it probably won’t make much difference to you or how you pay for things. But you may need to set up your additional level of security slightly differently.

If your card issuer switches from Visa to Mastercard or vice versa, the issuer should tell you what differences you can expect to find.

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