When deciding on a credit card provider to avail services from, one should establish some criteria that include annual fees, rewards, interest rates, credit limits, and the recognition or acceptance of the card by establishments. The leading credit card providers are Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. Each of them offers customized credit cards with specific feature sets that cater to the wide range of consumers. Thus, one can choose from numerous credit card types such as personal, small business, corporate, student, and so on.
Credit card popularity
The most widely issued cards worldwide, with around a billion users, are Visa credit cards. MasterCard is the second most popular card provider with its cards being distributed by close to thirty thousand banks. Combined, these two providers’ cards are accepted by an estimated twenty thousand prominent establishments. They are followed by Discover, which has a slight advantage in popularity over American Express.
Visa Credit cards do not usually come with annual fee charges. The opposite is true for American Express and MasterCard credit cards: while one or two card offers may waive annual fees, all the rest earn for the issuing banks through annual fees. Thus, Discover has an edge among the four card providers when it comes to this aspect since all of their cards are free of annual charges.
Rewards and Cash Back programs
Cash back programs involve rebates across several purchase categories such as travel, gas, dining, and others. Discover credit cards typically provide an average of 5% cash back on regular purchases. They are followed by American Express cards, which offer 1% or 1.5% on regular purchases. On the other hand, though MasterCard and Visa credit cards have less attractive cash back programs in general, they more than offset this disadvantage by virtue of their wider functionality. For example, a generous travel cash back option from Discover or American Express may become useless for a traveler who discovers that his or her hotel of choice does not accept cards from either of these two providers. If the traveler happens to have a backup card in the form of Visa or MasterCard, the problem can be easily resolved. In relation to this, Visa credit cards also have better rewards and rebate programs particularly for travel and dining categories.
Because of the sheer number of different cards, it is difficult to discern which card distributor has the lowest ongoing interest rates. This varies and overlaps greatly across the four providers. However, judging from some of the most favored cards from each company or provider, it appears that the Platinum, Gold, and Classic Visa credit cards have the lowest overall interest rates, followed by MasterCard Platinum cards, Discover cards and American Express cards of equal feature sets.
Credit limits, perks, and other considerations
The cardholder’s credit standing, or whether the card is prepaid, salary based, or any of the other types determine individual credit limits. Discover cards can be used online with several of their partner retailers. They also offer such things as gift certificates instead of cash rebates. American Express and MasterCard provide similar benefits to a lesser degree. However, Visa credit cards still top the battle of attractive features with similar programs as well as unique options like zero annual fees for the first year for specific cards that are supposed to charge annual fees when issued under regular conditions. Another example is the benefit of being able to obtain a premium card with all its top features for low interest rates if the prospective cardholder has good credit ratings.