What is the difference between a VISA Credit Card and a Mastercard

Visa and Mastercard are two of the biggest financial services companies in the world. They provide a range of financial services, including payment gateways for card-based transactions. Neither Visa nor Mastercard actually issue any physical cards, let along credit cards. They simply offer their payment gateway services to the banks and other financial companies who use the same for providing credit/debit card services to their clients.

Besides Visa and Mastercard, American Express and Discover are two other popular credit card payment companies.

Before we start talking about the differences between these two payment giants, let’s first try to understand how a credit card actually works.

A credit card is a physical payment card which enables the holder to use the card for making payment for various services such as shopping. A credit card is different from a debit card in that a user doesn’t actually need to have any money in their bank account in order to transact using a credit card. These cards operate on the basis of the user’s promise to pay the bank for the amount plus other charges (if any) on time.

An important thing to remember about Credit Cards is that they are issued by the banks or other institutions, and not by companies like Visa and Mastercard. Here’s how a credit card works:

  • A bank uses payment services of a company like Visa or Mastercard to power its credit cards, and in exchange pay a service fee to the company.
  • Now, the bank issues credit cards powered by the particular payment system.
  • The cardholder can use their credit card to make a transaction at a supported merchant. The bank pays instantly to the merchant.
  • The cardholder pays back to the bank at a later date.

The best thing about credit cards is that the money you loan through these cards is free of interest, as long as you hold your promise of paying back in time.

Let’s get to the next point – what are Visa and Mastercard credit cards?

What is a Visa Credit Card?

A Visa credit card is a type of credit card which is powered by Visa’s payment system. Visa is a US-based multinational financial corporation which primarily offers electronic fund transfer and payment services to organizations across the globe. Besides credit cards, Visa also deals in debit cards and gift cards.

Visa was founded by Bank of America and was the first company to come up with a credit card payment system. As of today, it provides payment system, or in other words, handles credit and debit card transactions, for leading banks around the globe.

Mastercard Credit Card

A Mastercard credit card works the same way as a Visa credit card, besides the fact that it is powered by Mastercard instead of Visa. Mastercard is also a US-based financial corporation which provides payment (money transfer) services to other companies.

Any payment card which uses the Mastercard payment network for transaction processing is a Mastercard card.

Visa Credit Card Vs Mastercard Credit Card

Since Visa and Mastercard are two of the leading payment systems in the world, both types of credit cards are ideal, in terms of security, user benefits, and acceptance. In fact, both cards are accepted by merchants all over the world.

However, there are still some minor differences between the credit cards issued by these two finance giants, as explained below.

Popularity and Userbase

Visa is certainly the most popular and most accepted credit card payment system in the world. As of 2018, there were more than 2 billion holders of Visa cards (as reported by Visa itself), as compared to Mastercard cards which were owned by approx. 875 million users around the world.

Market Share by Purchase Volume

In terms of credit card market share, Visa takes the lead by holding over 50% of the market, as of 2016, as compared to Mastercard which has 24% of the market share. American Express and Discover were the third and fourth place holders with 23% and 5% share respectively.

Number System

If you’ve ever got hold of both Visa and Mastercard cards, you must have noticed that they both have 16 digit numbers, which start with a fixed prefix. Mastercard numbers usually begin with any number between 51 and 55, while Visa card numbers generally start with 4. This is how it is possible to determine the type of a credit card by simply looking at its prefix numbers.


Both Visa and Mastercard cards have the logos of the payment company, i.e., Visa and Mastercard respectively, and also of the banks that issue these cards.


As of November 2018, Visa credit cards were being accepted by over 29 million merchants in more than 200 countries. Mastercard credit cards are also not far behind in the race and have almost the same level of reach as the Visa cards. A merchant that accepts Visa cards will most likely accept Mastercard as well.


Visa cards are secured by the most advanced encryption technologies along with chip technology, mobile verification, tokenization and more. Visa credit card users are protected by Visa’s commitment to secure payments, or also known as “Verified by Visa”. Mastercard is also an equally secure payment system which is relied upon by thousands of banks around the world for advanced security features such as SecureCode and Identity Check.

Benefits and Rewards

The rewards and offers associated with credit cards are generally provided by the issuers, i.e., the banks and not by the payment companies. However, you can look for things like fees and other charges, especially for foreign travels and transactions, when choosing a credit card type.

How to choose the right Credit Card type?

Both Visa and Mastercard credit cards are internationally recognized and accepted by millions of merchants around the globe, so you should not have a problem finding a place for transacting with either card. As for choosing the right credit card, you should look for specific things that matter to you. For instance, if you are a frequent traveler, you can consider the foreign transaction fee as a deciding factor. Besides that, you can check for rewards and offers provided by different card companies. Other features are basically the same, so either card should be fine.

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