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Mastercard vs. Visa Comparison

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While many people think of Visa and Mastercard as credit card issuers, they also operate payment networks, and it’s the major financial institutions that issue co-branded Visa and Mastercard credit and debit cards.

This comparison by WealthRocket focuses primarily on two titans of the financial world: Mastercard vs Visa.

Overview of Mastercard

Mastercard is a global payment network operator founded in 1966 and is based in the aptly named Purchase, New York.

The December 2020 edition of the Nilson Report, which provides an analysis of the global card and mobile payment industry, notes that Mastercard is widely accepted in over 70 million locations.

Mastercard’s annual report mentions that the company enables transactions in more than 210 countries and territories.

It also reiterates that it does not issue cards, offer credit, or determine the interest rate and annual fees on credit cards issued by financial institutions.

How Does Mastercard Work?

When you make a purchase, there are usually five participants involved in the transaction: you, the merchant, the card issuer, the acquirer (also called the merchant bank), and Mastercard.

And there are usually six steps involved in the payment process for Mastercard:

  • You make a purchase
  • The merchant sends your information to the acquirer
  • The acquirer asks Mastercard to get the issuer to authorize the transaction
  • Mastercard requests authorization from the issuer
  • The issuer authorizes the transaction and sends the response to the merchant
  • The issuer sends the payment to the acquirer who then pays the merchant

Features of Mastercard

There are many different types of credit cards available under the Mastercard name. These include rewards credit cards, balance transfer cards, and cashback cards.

Two of the more popular cards are the World and the World Elite, which include additional benefits not offered by your credit card issuer.

For instance, you can get free access to Boingo Wi-Fi (available in more than one million places worldwide).

Although the Mastercard World and World Elite cards don’t offer travel insurance, they do offer airport lounge access, purchase protection, rental car insurance, and much more.

Certain exclusions and terms and conditions apply so be sure to check with your financial institution to see what the card offers.

While there are typically no income requirements for a World Mastercard, the minimum income requirement for World Elite Mastercards is $80,000 a year with the annual fees ranging from $0 (PC Financial and Triangle) to $150 (BMO).

If you’re set on Mastercard, we’ve already determined the best Mastercard for every type of shopper.

Pros & cons of Mastercard

There aren’t many disadvantages with using Mastercard because of how widely accepted it is and the benefits that come with it. Here’s a list of the pros and cons.


  • Widely accepted around the world

  • Various perks such as access to Boingo Wireless Hotspots


  • Many of the travel-related benefits that come with World Elite cards aren’t as useful now due to the pandemic

WealthRocket's favorite Mastercard:

Tangerine World Mastercard

Tangerine World Mastercard

Rated 3.7/5 stars.

Our Review
  • 2% Earn 2% cash back in up to three spending categories, when you deposit your rewards to a Tangerine savings account.
  • 0.5% Earn 0.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Overview of Visa

Visa is a San Francisco–based digital payment network operator that was founded in 1958.

Just like Mastercard, the Nilson Report’s December 2020 edition notes that Visa is accepted in 70 million locations around the world.

In its 2020 annual report, Visa announces that it facilitates payments in more than 200 countries and territories (slightly less than Mastercard’s 210).

Visa also notes that it’s not a financial institution, nor does it issue cards, extend credit, or set fees and rates for Visa product account holders.

How Does Visa Work?

Like Mastercard, there are five key players in the transaction process when using a Visa card: you, the merchant, the acquirer, the card issuer, and Visa.

Visa provides a simple example of how a transaction works through its payment network:

  1. You make a purchase
  2. The acquirer reimburses the merchant for the purchase
  3. The issuer reimburses the acquirer within one or two days
  4. The issuer collects the funds from you

Features of Visa

There are a number of different types of co-branded Visa cards, the common ones being Visa Classic, Visa Gold, and Visa Platinum. The benefits of these are very basic compared to the Visa Infinite cards.

Some of the travel and lifestyle offers, experiences, and events that you could get with a Visa Infinite card have been put on hold due to the pandemic. When it’s safe to resume traveling, though, you can get deals at more than 900 hotels that are part of the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection.

There are still some offers available if you don’t plan on traveling this year. The concierge services are helpful when looking for something to do or if you’re looking for difficult-to-find essential items during the pandemic.

Visa Infinite Privilege cardholders get the same benefits plus membership and six free visits to Priority Pass airport lounges, a security fast-track lane at select Canadian airports, and discounts for airport parking and valet services.

Most Visa Infinite cards have a minimum income requirement of $60,000 a year and an annual fee of $120 to $139.

In contrast, Visa Infinite Privilege cards typically have a minimum income requirement of $150,000 a year and an annual fee of $245 to $599.

Pros & cons of Visa

It can be a tough choice to decide whether to go with Visa or Mastercard. Here are the pros and cons of Visa to help you make up your mind.


  • Widely accepted in Canada and around the world

  • Good travel benefits with the Visa Infinite card


  • The difference in benefits: Airport lounge access is only available with a Visa Infinite Privilege card but the minimum income requirement is $150,000, whereas it is available with a Mastercard World Elite card but the minimum income requirement is only $80,000

WealthRocket's Favorite Visa:

BMO Eclipse Visa Infinite

BMO eclipse Visa Infinite

Rated 2.8/5 stars.

Our Review

  • Welcome Offer $335 (50,000 points)
  • Annual Fee $499
  • Regular APR/Interest Rates 20.99%
  • Recommended Credit 660 - 724

Our final thoughts

When it comes down to Mastercard vs Visa in Canada, there are a variety of co-branded cards offering a number of great benefits.

The two payment network operators have many similarities, so it isn’t just a case of which is better.

Deciding which card is best for you will depend on what rewards program most suits your wants and needs, as well as your spending habits.

That said, whether you choose Mastercard or Visa doesn’t matter as much as the credit card you end up choosing.

Frequently asked questions

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