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VISA and Mastercard both offer extremely similar benefits, and choosing one over the other will not make a substantial difference. The major credit card features are managed and decided on by the issuer (Chase, Citibank, etc.). However, certain perks can be unique to one or the other, and this guide will go over the most noteworthy ones. If you feel strongly about one of these benefits, you can call your issuer and see if they can switch your network. While not always possible, this method has been known to work and is worth trying.
Benefits Comparison: VISA vs Mastercard
On entry level cards, there is very little difference between VISA and Mastercard. Both provide a similar suite of basic features. However, Mastercard blows its competitor out of the water with special offers on its World and World Elite level cards. These perks tend to be skewed towards luxury offers, most of which will be attractive or worthwhile only to big spenders.
The table below gives a quick overview of the most important benefits on each card network. If you wish to learn more about these benefits, you can continue down into the article, where we dive deeper into each.
Rental Car Insurance
|Travel Benefits||World & World Elite
|Purchase Protection||VISA Signature
||World & World Elite
Not all benefits are listed in the above table. Many of the best perks offered through both VISA and Mastercard are seasonal, and tend to be limited time partnerships with different vendors and merchants. For example, VISA Signature cardholders were eligible for a ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ offer on movie tickets purchased through Fandango. If you had a VISA Signature card, this was not something your issuer would have notified you of nor was it advertised in many spots. If you don't actively check for such offers on each network's respective site, you may miss them completely.
What Are The Benefits of Mastercard?
Credit cards on the Mastercard network break down into three tiers. In ascending order of exclusivity, these include: the standard Mastercard, World, and World Elite. Each tier contains all of the benefits and perks of ones below it. As we mentioned, the standard Mastercard doesn't offer anything that is noteworthy. The best benefits begin to kick-in for World and World Elite cardholders.
World and World Elite Mastercard credit cards qualify for price protection. If you make a purchase, and that item’s price is lowered within 60 days of the purchase, the network will refund you the difference up to a certain amount per claim. For World and World Elite Mastercard users, this time is extended to 120 days. It’s important to note that not all purchases are covered under price protection. For example, you will not receive a refund on items purchased from an internet site whose primary purpose is not the sale of the item or related items. That disqualifies retailers like Amazon.
World Mastercards also come with concierge services that can schedule restaurant reservations, event tickets, or help with buying hard-to-find items. This is similar to the concierge benefit on The Platinum Card® from American Express, except this one doesn’t come with a $550 price tag (See Rates & Fees). Along these same lines, you can also download and use the Mastercard Concierge app to get information and discounts on special promotions going on around your city. However, we found that most of these tend to be targeted and high-end and luxury outings, which may not be to everyone’s taste and budget.
The other noteworthy benefit on World cards is the World Hotels & Resorts program. If you book stays with participating hotel chains – which currently include Fairmont, Mandarin Oriental and Relais Chateaux – you will be given special perks, like late check out, free room upgrades, and complimentary breakfast. These will vary from hotel to hotel.
World Elite benefits all fall under the category of luxury event deals. You get special access on golf outings, discounts on first and business class airfare with participating airlines, and special invites to exclusive events in big cities, like NYC. If you are interested in learning more about ongoing World Elite promotions, check out their website.
What Are The Benefits of VISA Cards?
VISA has simpler benefit structure, and breaks down into two tiers: standard VISA and VISA Signature. Just like the standard Mastercard, the base level VISA network doesn't provide any above average benefits.
VISA Signature are where most of the network’s benefits come into play. The best among these include:
- Lost luggage reimbursement. If an airline losses your baggage on a flight for which you paid with a VISA Signature card, the network will reimburse you the damages, up to $3,000, or $2,000 per bag. Not all cards qualify for the benefit, however. Each individual issuer can limit this benefit per account.
- Signature Luxury Hotel Collection. Though VISA’s website, you can get low rates on over 900 participating hotels, with some added benefits. The only catch is you must pay for it using the Visa Signature card. Like World Mastercard’s Hotels & Resorts program, you get additional perks such as room upgrades and late check-out. VISA's offer is slightly more powerful, as it includes more hotels.
Though VISA does not provide price protection, some issuers with VISA cards do. The most notable example is Citibank and its Price Rewind Program. Unlike Mastercard’s price protection, Price Rewind covers items purchased from online retailers.
What Standard Benefits Do Both VISA and Mastercard Provide?
There are certain benefits both VISA and Mastercard provide. Some of these exist due to federal regulations, while others have become an industry standard that issuers expect the networks provide for their cardholders.
Protection Against Unauthorized Charges. If your credit card is used to make unauthorized purchases, you can report it to your issuer and have the transactions revered. In such a scenario, VISA or Mastercard are the ones to cover the cost. Though federal law allows the consumer to be responsible for up to $50 in charges, Mastercard and VISA eat the cost.
Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver. If you rent a car using a VISA or Mastercard credit card, you can be eligible to receive collision insurance for the vehicle. To qualify, you must decline the rental company's collision insurance and pay for the entire transaction using your credit card. There are plenty of exclusions and nuances to the collision damage waiver credit card networks provide, and we recommend reading through our comprehensive guide on the topic, before choosing to rely on it.
Extended Warranties. Most purchases you make onto your credit card will be given additional refund protections and warranties, in case the image is damaged, lost, or stolen. The specifics of coverage differ from card to card, and in some cases by the state you live in. However, most VISA and Mastercard credit cards offer such benefits.
Brief Statistics On VISA and Mastercard Credit Cards
Though there are more VISA credit cards in circulation, both it and Mastercard are generally accepted by the same merchants, anywhere you go. Therefore, any real choice between the two networks should always come down to which of their benefits you prefer.
Worldwide Transactions (Billions)
|Both Accepted By Roughly 33 Million Merchants|
|Over 210 Countries and Territories|