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The Difference Between Visa and Mastercard - N26

Visa and Mastercard are the world’s best-known credit cards, and it might seem like they’re one and the same. But there are some major differences—read on to learn what they are!

5 min read

Before we dive into the differences between Visa and Mastercard, it’s worth explaining what these two companies do. Visa and Mastercard are payment networks that allow for the electronic transfer of funds between banks or other financial institutions and companies. They provide branded payment processing services for credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid cards that banks or financial institutions can then offer their customers. 

In this article, we’ll look at the differences between Visa and Mastercard. We’ll cover how widely they’re accepted, how many ATMs they offer, how many businesses accept them, and more.

What is a Mastercard and what are its benefits?

Mastercardcards are accepted in 210 countries, at over 37 million establishments, and at one million ATMs around the world. And, several studies have shown that they offer a lower exchange rate for foreign currencies than alternative providers. In e-commerce they rank second behind Visa.

Here are the main Mastercard benefits:

  • Emergency card replacement service if lost or stolen
  • Price protection for up to 60 days after making a purchase
  • Mastercard SecureCode security 

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What is a Visa card and what are its benefits?

The Visa card is accepted by 44 million establishments across 200 countries. By and large, the exchange rate Visa cards offer is less competitive than Mastercard rates.

Here’s a list of the top visa card benefits:

  • Card replacement service if lost or stolen
  • Price protection for up to 30 days after making a purchase
  • Cash advances on credit cards via the ATM network
  • Verified by Visa security protocol 

Types of bank cards offered by Mastercard

Credit cards, including:

  • Standard credit cards
  • World credit cards
  • Gold credit cards 

Debit cards, including:

  • Standard debit cards
  • World debit cards

Prepaid card, including:

  • Standard pre-paid cards 

Types of bank cards offered by Visa

Credit cards:

  • Visa Classic
  • Visa Gold
  • Visa Platinum
  • Visa Signature
  • Visa Infinite

Debit cards:

  • Classic Visa debit
  • Gold Visa debit
  • Platinum Visa debit
  • Signature Visa debit
  • On the Mastercard and Visa websites, you can find out which banks issue cards with them. They also offer bank cards for the self-employed and small and big companies.

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The history behind Visa and Mastercard

Surprisingly, neither Visa nor Mastercard were the world’s first bank card. In 1946, John Biggins, a banker from Brooklyn, created the first bank-issued card. It could only used locally and customers had to have an account with Biggins’ bank to use it.

12 years later, in 1958, Visa arrived. It was the brainchild of Bank of America, which created it with the launch of its BankAmericard in California. Today, it may be hard to imagine a paper bank card with a $300 limit—but that’s exactly what the original Visa card was. Eight years later, in 1966, a group of US bankers created the Interbank Card Association. Within a year, they changed the name to Master Charge, and then to Mastercard in 1979.

In the 1980s, Visa launched an ATM network to allow cardholders to withdraw cash at any time of day. In the same decade, Mastercard became China’s first bank card and launched the first-ever laser hologram card. Mastercard merged with Europay International in the ‘90s, and went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 2006.

Nowadays, Visa is a joint venture owned by over 21,000 financial institutions. BBVA issued Spain’s first Visa card in 1978. Now, the number of Visa cards issued to date in the country sits at around 40 million. In fact, Spain is now the second country in Europe with the most Visa cards.

Both companies have evolved since their creation, adapting to the technical advances that have made our everyday lives more comfortable and flexible—like the development of contactless cards and mobile payments.

The differences between Visa and Mastercard

In effect, the differences between Visa and Mastercard are less important for customers than what the card issuer (usually a bank) offers in conjunction with the card. From rewards points, fees, and more, Visa and Mastercard only process payments, rather than deciding on the terms and benefits the card offers. What’s more, both cards are accepted worldwide, so you most likely won’t have an issue paying with either, no matter where you are. 

So, which is better—Visa or Mastercard?

As stated above, the biggest differences between Visa and Mastercard lie in the banks that issue them. The perks they offer to their customers, like discounts and promotions, vary from bank to bank.

Visa and Mastercard are very similar in Spain, and both are reliable options. Your choice of one over the other will depend on your needs, and which provider or bank suits you best. For example, if you’re going to travel abroad, it would be worth having the card with the best exchange rate, and making sure it’s accepted in the countries you’re visiting.

What other types of bank cards are there?

As well as Visa and Mastercard, there are other debit- and credit-card franchises that you’ll recognize. Let’s look at the two most famous ones:

  • Diners Club. Diners Club came about in 1950 as the world’s first multi-use credit card. Diners Club card holders earn points every time they shop. These points then give them access to a wide variety of discounts, benefits, and exclusive experiences.
  • American Express. This card is known for offering exclusive benefits that aren’t available with any other card—but it’s not free. Like the Diners Club card, American Express is widely used in the corporate world, and many companies provide their senior executives with one.

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What’s the difference between Visa cards and MasterCards?

The biggest differences between Visa and Mastercards don’t lie within those companies themselves, but with the bank that issues the individual card and the range of features they offer. While there are some minor differences, like the number of countries that accept them, the size of their ATM networks, or the exchange rate they offer abroad, the variations between Visa and Mastercard are not that significant to the consumer.

What’s better, Visa or MasterCard?

When you’re deciding between a Visa and MasterCard, it’s important to think about your needs—for example, whether or not you travel frequently or are looking for insurance with your card. In this way, it’s more important to look at the card issuer, and less at whether it’s a Visa or MasterCard.

What is a MasterCard?

MasterCard is a financial services multinational with a payment network that collaborates with card-issuing financial institutions. Essentially, it facilitates electronic payments and ensures that they go through. It’s headquartered in New York, and has an enormous global ATM network.

What is a Visa card?

Like MasterCard, Visa is also a finance services multinational corporation that offers electronic payment services. You can find credit, debit, and prepaid MasterCards—different financial institutions offer different types with varying features. Visa’s headquarters is in Foster City, California.

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