Visa vs. Mastercard: What's The Difference?

Credit cards are very common these days.

Credit cards are very common these days. It’s hard to find a business that doesn’t accept them. There are also things that you can do with a credit card that are very hard to do with cash, like reserve a hotel room or rental car, or make online purchases.

Two of the most common credit card brands are Visa and Mastercard. Which one should you go with if you want to apply for a card? Is one better than the other? What are the differences?

We’ll cover their similarities and differences now so you’ll have all the information you need to decide on the right card for you.

Visa and Mastercard Similarities

Visa and Mastercard are alike in many ways. Most merchants accept both cards, and they both offer certain benefits and protections. Let’s look at some of these similarities in detail.

Worldwide Acceptance

Millions of merchants accept both Visa and Mastercard in more than 200 countries. They are the largest credit card companies in the world, and their names are universally recognized.

Payment Card Network Processors

Visa and Mastercard are both payment card network processors. Instead of being issued directly to consumers, the cards that carry their names are issued by banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions.

American Express and Discover, in comparison, are issued directly to consumers.

Zero Liability Fraud Protection

If you have either a Visa or Mastercard and someone steals your card information and makes unauthorized purchases, both companies will protect you. As long as you report the fraudulent purchases within a reasonable period, you will not be held responsible for them.

Special Arrangements with Merchants

Both cards have special arrangements with airlines, hotels, and retailers that give users certain perks. Some cards offer airline miles, for example, for each purchase made.

Other cards may entitle cardholders to special deals and discounts with certain retailers. Whether a Visa or Mastercard offers special perks depends on the card issuer and card tier level.

24/7 Customer Service

Customer service for both Visa and Mastercard is typically handled by the banks or credit unions that issue the cards. In most cases, 24/7 access to a representative is available.

Online account access is also common, and you can quickly check your balance, available credit, and other account information from a laptop or mobile device.

Visa and Mastercard Differences

Most of the differences between Visa and Mastercard originate from the financial institutions that issue the cards and the card tier level. There are, however, some significant differences to consider that may make one card better than the other depending on your situation and needs.

Let’s look at these differences a little closer.

Exclusive Arrangements with Retailers

Both Visa and Mastercard have made exclusive arrangements where certain retailers will only accept one of the two cards. Costco, for example, only accepts Visa.

Roadside Assistance

Both Visa and Mastercard offer roadside assistance. Visa’s roadside assistance is provided on all of their cards. Mastercard, however, only provides roadside assistance at certain tier levels.

It’s important to point out that fees do apply for using this service. Still, it’s comforting to know that you have a lifeline if you have trouble with your vehicle.

Return Protection

Many merchants allow customers to return items they purchased within a certain period for a full refund. Return protection is a benefit offered by Visa and Mastercard that extends the return period or provides a return benefit where one may not have previously existed. To file a claim, the item must be in new condition and be shipped to either Visa or Mastercard – not returned to the merchant.

Although both Visa and Mastercard offer return protection at certain tier levels, there are differences between the two programs. Visa’s program provides 90 days of protection, for example, while Mastercard’s program only offers 60 days. There are also differences in the claim amounts and product eligibility.

Card Popularity

More than twice as many people use credit cards from Visa than Mastercard. According to the Nilson Report, the volume of purchases made with Visa is projected to be 53% in 2024. The projected volume with Mastercard in the same year is only 23%.

Why Visa Cards Come Out on Top

When considering credit card options, you want to apply for the card that offers you the most benefits and has the greatest acceptance. Overall, Visa is known to be the most efficient card, which would account for more than twice as many people preferring it over Mastercard.

The roadside assistance benefit offered by Visa is essential to consider. Provided by Visa on all of their cards, it can be an important safety net if you are on a trip and something happens to your car. Although the service isn’t free, it’s comforting to know that help is only a phone call away if you need it.

A Visa card is also preferable if you travel internationally. Although the number of merchants that accept Visa and Mastercard is nearly the same domestically, Visa has greater acceptance internationally. Visa is accepted by approximately 46 million international merchants, while only 37 million accept Mastercard.

Travel protection is another significant benefit that may be offered at the higher tiers. Consider the Mastercard World vs. Visa Signature. Both are top-tier cards, but they offer very different benefits. For example, if you travel internationally, Mastercard World does not offer travel insurance, while Visa Signature does.

Why Credit Union Visa Cards Are Best

Obtaining a Visa card from a credit union is worth considering for two fundamental reasons – lower interest rates and excellent customer service.

Credit unions are not-for-profit organizations that are owned by their members. Because they don’t have to worry about making money for shareholders, credit unions can offer Visa cards with lower interest rates and fees than banks.

Another critical thing to consider with credit unions is their excellent customer service. If you join a credit union, you won’t be just another face in the crowd – you’ll be a valued member. If you ever need assistance or have a question about your Visa account, help is usually just a phone call away.

Apply for a Visa Card Today

Applying for a Visa credit card from Baton Rouge Telco Federal Credit Union is a quick and straightforward process. You may even be able to obtain a Visa card the same day you apply at one of our branches. Our Visa cards don’t have any annual fees, and the low interest rates are ideal for balance transfers.

Learn More

Triangle pattern
Subscribe to our newsletter
Sign up for financial articles delivered right to your inbox!
Sign Up for Updates