Visa vs Mastercard

Visa and Mastercard are the two leading payment networks in the world and both are accepted in nearly all countries globally. Find out how they’re similar and how they differ in our guide.

Visa and Mastercard are the two leading payment networks in the world and both are accepted in nearly all countries globally. Find out how they’re similar and how they differ in our guide.

Alex Hasty
Insurance and finance expert
minute read
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Last Updated 6 JANUARY 2021

What are Mastercard and Visa cards?

Visa and Mastercard are payment networks – they process payments for purchases made using credit and debit cards. Visa and Mastercard don’t issue credit cards. Credit cards are issued by banks, who set interest rates, charge fees and offer rewards.

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 and Visa uses its similar Verified by Visa scheme for extra security.

To qualify for this type of protection you must ensure you’ve used reasonable care in protecting your card and information, and report any losses promptly to your card provider.

Did you know?

To help increase the use of contactless Visa and Mastercard debit and credit card payments during the coronavirus pandemic, the UK Government upped the contactless limit to £100. This means that there’s no need to enter a PIN number in the card machine for payments up to £100.

What are the differences between Visa and Mastercard benefits?

Mastercard and Visa are very similar for people with a debit card or a basic credit card - such as Visa Traditional or Mastercard Standard - but there are differences in the benefits for those with a more premium card. Visa premium cards are Signature and Infinite. Premium Mastercards are either World or World Elite.

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

Both card companies offer exclusive perks to cardholders, but these may change over time:

  • Mastercard offers its Priceless cities experiences, many of which have switched to digital during the pandemic. You can try out recipes from Michelin-starred chefs, take an art tour of a city with a leading graffiti artist or get the inside track from leading sports stars.
  • Visa has a wide variety of offers and perks, such as money off car hire and discounts on some holidays or hotels. You’ll need to check directly with Visa if your card is valid for a particular offer.

It’s not unusual for someone to own both a Mastercard and a Visa card to take advantage of exclusive offers from both card types.

If the benefits from credit cards are important to you, then you should check with any potential provider as to what the perks are. But the rate of interest you’ll be charged for credit might be more important in any decision about which card you choose, as this will affect how much you pay for your card spending.

And remember, that to get the full benefit of credit card rewards, you’ll need to pay the balance off in full each month. If you don’t, the interest you’re charged could outweigh the value of the 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 rates they offer, rather than if they’re Visa or Mastercard. Look at annual fees, interest rates and any other charges that may apply. Also 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 you should 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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