What are the differences between Mastercard, Visa and Amex?

What are the differences between Mastercard, Visa and Amex?

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You see them everyday when trying to make a payment but what are the roles of Mastercard, Visa and American Express in the payment industry?

Are they a bank? Are they a network? What do they do?

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MASTERCARD, VISA, AMEX - OVERVIEW

Mastercard, Visa and American Express are three of the most recognisable brands anywhere in the world. You will probably see them advertising on TV and Social Media, and you will likely see one of them on the debit and credit cards you carry with you, but who are they and what do they do? Is there any difference between them? Is one better than the other?

In essence the three are known as card schemes or payment networks. You will see their logo next to your bank’s logo on your cards, but they don’t operate as a bank. Instead they work with the banks to allow you to make payments. Over the years, they have built a worldwide system allowing customers to make payments and businesses to accept payments.

"They are the facilitators of our economy. They underpin every card transaction you make."

MASTERCARD, VISA, AMEX - DIFFERENCES

There are many differences between these three card brands. The biggest and most important distinction however is the fact that Mastercard and Visa are payment processing systems only. They do not issue cards themselves and they do not provide any credit or lending facilities either. Instead, they act as middle-men between financial institutions and businesses in order to process their transactions.

American Express, on the other hand, issues its own cards, authorises purchases and settles payments between customers and businesses.

When it comes to worldwide acceptance, both Mastercard and Visa are two of the most accessible card networks. In contrast, American Express has a much lower acceptance rate, traditionally due to its higher processing fees for businesses. As it can be more challenging to find businesses that accept American Express compared to other networks, it’s always a good idea to carry a backup card with you just in case the business doesn’t accept American Express.

MASTERCARD, VISA, AMEX - SUMMARY

Overall, Mastercard, Visa and American Express operate as card payment networks that we use every time we buy something using our card. We tend to see their logos next to our banks’ and, whilst they don’t operate as a bank, they help banks to conduct some of their key services.

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