Visa, Mastercard, and American Express – why should they care?
While different card issuers mean different fees and success rates for merchants, you wouldn’t care about things like that as a credit card user. So what does matter? How does the choice of card issuer affect you?
This time we’re figuring out the difference between Visa, Mastercard, American Express and how their features and benefits may vary depending on the user’s location.
Credit Card Issuance
The most significant underlying difference between Visa, Mastercard and American Express is that the first two processing networks aren’t issuing credit cards themselves. They reduce the risks associated with credit lending by partnering with banks ready to act as a lender. So technically, you do not take a loan from Visa but deal directly with the bank and hence, have to follow the rules the bank sets. Rules aside, there are some perks and benefits associated with many credit cards.
On the other hand, American Express takes care of the loans themselves. Thus, there’s not as many credit cards available. Although the perks are very competitive, with some cards offering air miles, cashback and discounts with national and local retailers.
There are a few places in the world where credit cards are not accepted. Unless you’re in the Amazon Rainforest, Visa and Mastercard are almost certainly guaranteed to pay your way. Some overseas marketplaces do not accept credit cards that have been issued abroad, but local Visa and Mastercard alternatives work just fine.
American Express covers the whole territory of the United States, but you need to double-check whether it is accepted in a specific country when travelling abroad. Currently, it won’t be a problem to pay with American Express in over a hundred countries worldwide. However, it is still not as popular as Visa or Mastercard in Europe and Asia.
Travel tip: serial travellers should consider choosing credit and debit cards tailored for globetrotters. The benefits to look for include withdrawing money in ATMs worldwide without commission, opening multiple accounts in local currencies, and getting discounted flights or cashback in travel miles.
Every time a transaction is processed via a credit or debit card, the merchants involved in the process have to pay an interchange fee. You would be mistaken if you thought that shouldn’t bother you as a customer. In fact, the interchange rate affects the transaction success rate.
As for Visa and Mastercard, both networks charge quite similar fees, but the interchange rate for American Express credit cards tend to be higher. Not all businesses are ready to accept the higher transaction fee, and that’s why some choose not to accept American Express.
All the debit and credit cards rewards offered to Visa and Mastercard users come from the issuing bank, not the processing networks. In the modern consumer-oriented world, anyone can choose a card that will benefit them the most. While some rewards come for free as a part of the card’s service offering, some cards require monthly or annual payments.
When choosing a credit/debit card, pay attention to the schemes it offers. For example, Amex gives its users an opportunity to boost their rewards – air miles, cashback, and others – if they spend a certain amount in the first three months. Likewise, Amex also has a very healthy referral scheme, allowing take the most out of your card usage.
From crypto cards that enable you to use your coins to pay for common goods and services to individually-tailored cashback benefits, the market doesn’t suffer from the lack of choice. It’s worth mentioning that alongside Visa and Mastercard, American Express has quite a few family-friendly options for optimising your groceries, gas and commuting expenses.
All three payment networks are generally very safe. Both Visa and Mastercard feature zero fraud liability, theft and fraud hotline, and protection against identity theft. If you want to take your security to the next level, Visa Checkout and Masterpass platforms enable the processing of data while hiding your personal information from the merchants.
American Express takes customers’ safety no less seriously. Alongside global assistance and a swift and easy fraud reporting system, they also offer a two-day emergency card replacement for those travelling abroad.
Visa and Mastercard do not issue their own credit cards but work with a wide network of partners. It is up to a card issuer to decide on the benefits and special offers. Before going with one option or another, check what rewards, points, fees, and interest rates work better for you. As for American Express, their rewards programme is becoming increasingly more competitive and attractive, but it’s worth checking your favourite retailers and local merchants accepting American Express payments before signing up.