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What is the difference between Visa and MasterCard?

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Written by Matt Fernell, Financial Content Writer

6 January 2020

MasterCard and Visa work very similarly to one another. They are payment networks, which process payments when you spend using your credit, debit or prepaid card.

Visa and Mastercard

What do Visa and Mastercard do?

Visa and MasterCard are companies that handle transactions when you spend on your credit, debit or prepaid card. They are the middlemen between you, your bank and a retailer.

The process is to:

  1. Check with your card provider if the transaction should be accepted or declined

  2. Confirm to the retailer that your payment can be made

  3. Process the payment between your card provider and the retailer

Where can you use Visa and MasterCard?

Visa and MasterCard can be used almost anywhere that accepts card payments in store or online. It's rare that a retailer will accept one but not the other.

This is not the same for American Express. American Express is another payment network, but charges the retailer slightly higher transaction fees to process your payment. Some vendors do not accept American Express because it costs them more.

If you want to use your card abroad, most countries accept Visa and MasterCard equally.

Do MasterCard and Visa offer protection online?

Yes, both Visa and MasterCard offer protection when you shop online. This is to protect you against fraud.

MasterCard uses a protection scheme called SecureCode scheme.

Visa uses a similar system called, Verified by Visa scheme.

Do Visa and MasterCard offer any benefits?

Yes, both Visa and MasterCard offer deals that are only available to people who use their debit, credit or prepaid cards.

MasterCard offers:

  • Discounts on sporting and travel tickets

  • Premium benefits for World Elite MasterCard holders, like access to airport lounges

  • Security on all spending

Visa offers:

  • Security on all spending

  • Discounts on travel, dining and shopping for its Visa Premium cardholders

Which card should you choose?

Which card you choose depends less on the payment network and more on your specific requirements.

Visa and MasterCard offer a variety of different prepaid, credit and debit cards. They vary depending on the credit card provider or issuer. Traditionally, these are banks or building societies.

The main differences between MasterCard and Visa are:

  • Where they're accepted

  • Their security schemes

  • Their card benefits

Look at the card benefits to help you decide which card you want, rather than choosing between Visa or MasterCard.

By comparing the advantages, you can find one that saves you money and or offers you the type of reward you want, like cashback.

Choose a credit card that suits you

If you need a debit card, look at which current account offers what you need.

Discover more about prepaid cards

Find the best credit card for you, whether you're looking for 0% card for balance transfers or purchases or day to day spending and rewards

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