While both Visa and Mastercard are both huge payment processing networks, there are some differences in their acceptance at merchants and the fees that they charge. Both companies also have different financial metrics such as revenue, net income and employee count.
VISA (Visa International Service Association) and MasterCard are both payment processing institutions that are each owned jointly by thousands of participating financial institutions that issue and market VISA and MasterCard products (mainly credit and debit cards).
Both companies have similar products. Other financial institutions (mostly banks) issue cards that use either VISA or MasterCard for processing payments. So if you are comparing VISA and MasterCard to decide which card to go for, it may be a good idea to look at the features of the specific card (not the brand). The most important features, of course, are Interest rate and Annual fees.
Major international competitors of VISA and MasterCard include American Express and Discover. Some regional competitors are RuPay in India, as well as NETS and EzLink in Singapore.
Both VISA and MasterCard are accepted by most merchants. Some merchants do not accept certain cards because of higher payment processing fees. Although such fees do not affect consumers, they do affect the merchants. A recent survey found that
- 72% of online retailers accept all 4 major credit cards (American Express, Discover, MasterCard, VISA)
- 10.3% of online retailers accept American Express, MasterCard and VISA
- 7.7% of online retailers accept Discover, MasterCard and VISA
- 9.9% of online retailers accept VISA and MasterCard only
List of merchants that accept VISA but do not accept MasterCard
- Dollar General Corp.
List of merchants that accept MasterCard but do not accept VISA
- Sam's Club (they do accept VISA debit cards but not credit cards. In fact, they accept VISA credit cards online and for gasoline)
List of merchants that accept neither MasterCard nor VISA
- Costco Wholesale Corp. (they accept American Express cards exclusively)
In January 2005, Washington Mutual decided to switch its 10.5 million-card debit portfolio from VISA to MasterCard.
Sometimes, merchants have special "promotional" offers with certain types of cards. In order to take advantage of all such promos, it may be advisable to have both types of cards.