The Visa and MasterCard payment systems

Visa or MasterCard?

A lot of people don’t really care what logo is placed in the top right corner of their bank cards. But when people are faced with choosing a payment provider when applying for a new card, they start wondering “What is the difference between Visa and MasterCard?”, or “which card is better?”, “which one to choose?”, etc. The answers to these questions are further below.

Visa vs MasterCard

Industry giants

Visa and MasterCard are the two most popular payment providers in the world. The former accounts for 57% of all global payments, the latter—26%. Their goal is to facilitate the unceasing operation of the world’s payment network.

Visa came into being in the US in 1958 under the name BankAmericard (was issued by Bank of America). In 1976 was renamed as Visa.

Mastercard was established in 1966 after a couple of US banks signed a cooperation agreement, which is clear from its initial name—Interbank Card Association. In 1979 it was rebranded as MasterCard.

Shortly after that, the systems expanded and went international. They have many things in common, but there are differences also.

Fight for the market


The functionality of two cards of the same class is on par. Only the titles are different:

  • Visa Electron = Mastercard Maestro

Basic cards allowing a minimum range of options, such as electronic payments and transfers, around-the-clock access and account management, for a small fee or even for free. Maestro can’t be used on the internet, but some banks allow Electron payments despite the risk of not being able to reverse such payments. Basic cards do not feature owner names and are unembossed.

  • Visa Classic = Mastercard Standard

Classic cards with standard functionality. Used for purchases in brick-and-mortar and online stores. It is just enough, this is why cards of this type are the most prevalent.

  • Visa Gold = Mastercard Gold

Best suited for those who travel regularly. Not cheap, but the card presents the following advantages: cash withdrawal in subsidiary banks without excessive commissions, discounts in partnered stores, beauty shops, hotels, cafes and restaurants, discounts on tourist trips, invitations to VIP events and exclusive sales, cash withdrawal if the card is lost.

  • Visa Platinum = Mastercard Platinum

Higher-level cards, cost more but present even more privileges. For example, exclusive features, highest-quality services, discounts when using partners’ services, spendable bonuses, cash withdrawal if the card is lost, the ability to withdraw money without excessive commissions.

Visa and MasterCard

Both Visa and Mastercard:

  • Emerged in the USA;

  • Are known for quick and reliable services;

  • Care about clients’ security;

  • Implement new technologies and provide quality services;

  • Follow the same pattern in production;

  • Cards of middle level and higher have chips;

  • Use the PayWave and PayPass contactless payment technology;

  • Use the VerifiedByVisa and SecureCode security mechanisms.

With these cards, people can buy goods and services, pay utility bills, manage finances, cash funds in ATMs and cash points, control expenses via SMS, set transaction limits.


The difference surfaces when someone makes a payment in a currency different than their account’s currency: USD for Visa, mainly EUR for MasterCard.

Thus, when withdrawing bank notes in another country, the funds are first converted into the system’s default currency (Currency → System’s default currency → Local currency). Every conversion incurs a commission, therefore fewer conversions means less money lost.


  • Operation algorithm in the Eurozone:

  • Visa: Currency → USD → EUR

  • MasterCard: Currency → EUR

  • Operation algorithm in the US:

  • Visa: Currency → USD

  • MasterCard: Currency → EUR → USD

  • Outside the EUR and USD zones, in China for example:

  • Visa: Currency → USD → CNY

  • MasterCard: Currency → EUR → CNY

Thus, MasterCard is favorable in the Eurozone, and Visa—in the US.

But this is no axiom. Banks can deal both in USD and in EUR. Some banks deal in EUR in the Visa network in Europe. Some banks use both currencies.

Transaction currency, just like all other details, are stipulated in the agreement between the payment system and the financial organization, and are tailored individually. This is why, when someone applies for card opening, they should learn this information as a separate issue.

Global payments

Benefits of using

Both systems have similar functionality and security, however, functionality is mostly determined by issuing banks: cashback, bonuses, limits, percentage on remaining balance, etc.

Choosing a card

This is why, if you are faced with choosing “Visa or MasterCard”, take a close look at what options each bank offers. If you can, for more flexibility get cards belonging to both systems.

If you need to convert

Sometimes you may need to replenish your wallet in PayPal, Skrill or Neteller. Or maybe you urgently need to sell Bitcoin and move the money to a Visa or MasterCard card.

The demand for this kind of operations is met by electronic currency exchangers. In order to quickly find an exchanger that features the currency of interest, exchanger monitors, such as OKchanger, are used.

Let’s take a look at Bitcoin. Go to the monitor’s website and in the field to the left select BTC—Visa/MaserCard USD, and OKchanger will display a list of websites that exchange bitcoins for card money.

Bitcoin to Visa/Mastercard USD


Visa or MasterCard affiliation plays an insignificant role because every bank sets its own prices and terms of service. It all comes down to banks.

If you go abroad quite often, open a card in each system in order to minimize losses when converting currencies (no lower than Classic or Standard, better Gold or Platinum).

Posted on
15 August 2018