Visa vs Mastercard: which is better?

William Jolly By on November 28, 2018
 
a pile of bank and credit cards

Read our evaluation of two of the four major card networks in Australia and the differences between them.

If you pick any of the 190+ credit card products in Australia, it is almost guaranteed to be networked with one of either Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Diners Club. According to the RBA’s September 2018 Credit and Charge Card Statistics, Visa and Mastercard account for 91.3% of credit and charge card purchases, while American Express and Diners Club make up the remaining 8.7%.

Depending on which comparison you make, there may not actually be much of a difference between card networks. But that doesn’t mean there are none. We’ve compiled the key differences and similarities between the four brands below to help guide your next credit card decision.

What is better, Visa or Mastercard?

The most important thing to know about Visa and Mastercard is that they do not offer credit cards themselves. Instead, they are a payment network, processing the payments between banks and merchants and leaving the creation and distribution of the credit cards up to the individual credit card providers.

It’s the providers who set the interest rates, fees and features of each specific card, not Visa or Mastercard, and it is this reason why you shouldn’t really put too much stock into picking one or the other.

How widely accepted is Visa or Mastercard?

Both Visa and Mastercard are near-universally accepted, with the exception of maybe a few stores and locations that might have an exclusive deal with one or the other. According to Visa’s website, it has 40 million accepted merchants and 2.5 million ATMs globally as at 2016 – this number has likely increased since. Mastercard is a little more secretive with this information which makes a direct comparison hard, but it is estimated that it is accepted at around 37 million merchants.

Either way, you’re looking at at least 30 million plus, so you can use either pretty much anywhere. There will still be some countries not included in the 200+ that each claims to be available in, so you should still check this before you jet off.

Both networks also offer global security and fraud protection for each individual card.

Differences between Visa and Mastercard

Visa vs Mastercard: rewards

A minor point of difference between the two is the perks and exclusive rewards they offer. We’re not talking about your standard credit card rewards here. Each network offers cardholders some nice discounts, deals and coupons simply for using one of their cards – you might just have to go online to activate them:

These deals can include anything from cheaper rental car hire and cheaper tickets to free meals and drinks at selected restaurants.

Visa vs Mastercard: exchange rates

There’s not much of a difference between each network’s exchange rates – the bigger cost will be the international usage fees your specific card carries. But in some currencies, there might be a tiny difference.

Visa tends to outperform Mastercard by a small margin in most major currencies. This can actually end up making a noticeable difference once you start spending large amounts overseas.

The following table looks at the minuscule differences between what Visa and Mastercard give for $1 AUD at the time of writing (13 November 2018). These calculations don’t include the currency conversion fee the credit card provider might charge. 

 VisaMastercard
USD0.72720.7236
GBP0.55840.5609
EUR0.63940.6404
NZD1.07661.0739
SGD1.00060.9974
CNY5.05145.0379

You’ll find that these exchange rates are pretty close to the mid-market exchange rate.

Which brands use Visa and Mastercard?

Here is a shortlist of some of Australia’s major credit card providers that use either the Visa or Mastercard network. You can see that most use one of either, but there are some brands that use both.

Visa & Mastercard providers

Not all credit card providers have been included in this list.

 Visa Mastercard
ANZYesNo
Auswide BankNoYes
Bank AustraliaYesNo
Bank of MelbourneYesNo
BankSAYesNo
BankVicYesNo
BankwestNoYes
BCUYesNo
Bendigo BankNoYes
BOQYesNo
CitiYesYes
ColesNoYes
Commonwealth BankNoYes
CUANoYes
First Option Credit UnionYesNo
Heritage BankYesNo
HSBCYesYes
Hume BankYesNo
imbNoYes
INGYesNo
JetstarNoYes
Latitude Financial ServicesYesYes
MacquarieYesYes
ME BankNoYes
MyerYesNo
NABYesYes
Nexus MutualYesNo
QantasNoYes
RACQNoYes
St.GeorgeNoYes
SummerlandYesNo
SuncorpYesYes
Teachers Mutual BankYesNo
Virgin MoneyYesNo
WestpacYesYes
WoolworthsYesNo

Information sourced from various comparison sites as well as each network’s website. 

Savings.com.au’s two cents

If you’re looking to compare Mastercard or Visa-branded cards, don’t – there really isn’t much of a difference between them besides the logo, name and colour scheme. If a merchant in Australia accepts one of these cards then they’re likely to accept them both, and you should instead compare the merits of each individual card based on:

You might have to make a decision when it comes to travel, but again, both networks provide similar exchange rates and are accepted in most countries. It might come down to the perks offered between Visa and Mastercard.

While a card’s network should form part of your consideration, you should primarily compare credit and charge cards on the core factors listed above.

William Jolly
William Jolly joined Savings.com.au as a Financial Journalist in 2018, after spending two years at financial research firm Canstar. In William's articles, you're likely to find complex financial topics and products broken down into everyday language. He is deeply passionate about improving the financial literacy of Australians and providing them with resources on how to save money in their everyday lives.
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