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With all the different banks and options to choose from, choosing a new credit card can be overwhelming. But maybe you can make things a little easier by first asking yourself 'Visa or MasterCard?' Here we break down the differences for you.

Visa, MasterCard and the issuers

Before you get overwhelmed by yet another factor when trying to find the right credit card, it’s important to understand that the real difference in the Visa vs MasterCard debate lies with the issuers (the banks) of these cards. Neither Visa nor MasterCard actually issues the credit cards themselves. As Nerdwallet puts it, “Visa and MasterCard are networks that process payments between banks and merchants for purchases made with the cards. Probably the greatest similarity between the two cards is that both of them have different tiers (or levels) in which you may receive different benefits (largely related to travel). In other words, the higher the tier, the better the benefits.

Visa

Visa cards have two tiers of benefits – the entry-level Visa and their premium offering, Visa Signature. The entry-level cards normally come with 24/7 assistance around the globe, emergency card replacement and cash advances in emergencies. In addition to all these benefits, Visa Signature cards offer other rewards and benefits. These include travel insurance, airport lounge access, other travel and lifestyle privileges, and concierge services (assisting you to make reservations, bookings and other holiday arrangements) around the clock.

MasterCard

MasterCard has three main tiers of benefits – the base, World and World Elite. Whereas the entry-level card has similar benefits to that of Visa, the World and World Elite programmes are for eager travellers and include greater luxury travel, lifestyle and insurance perks. The difference between the two is that World Elite cardholders recieve benefits from several extra travel providers. These benefits can include upgrades to business class when the purchaser pays for a full fare economy class ticket.

Does it really matter?

Unless you are a big spender or frequent traveller, it doesn’t really matter whether you go for Visa or MasterCard. What matters, however, is which issuer (bank) you decide on and what they offer in terms of rates and benefits. What is the monthly salary requirement? The annual fee? The repayment periods and interest? What perks or rewards do they offer and do these fit in with your financial and life goals? These are much more important factors when choosing between Visa or MasterCard and are discussed in our blog post How to Choose a Credit Card. It’s also good to keep in mind that issuers tend to reserve the cards with the greatest perks for those with good credit scores. But, if you are looking for a card to use in emergencies or to improve your credit score, there are still many incredible options out there. Just do your research on each and choose the one you know will serve you (and your financial situation) best.

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