What’s the Difference Between Mastercard vs Visa vs American Express Credit Cards?

Denise Bay

Denise Bay

Last updated 26 April, 2022

Mastercard vs Visa? Visa vs American Express? Mastercard vs American Express? You aren’t alone if you’ve ever wondered about their differences.  

We come into contact with Mastercard, Visa and American Express regularly but have you ever wondered about their differences? Most of us know that Mastercard and Visa cards are pretty much accepted anywhere and everywhere on the globe while the same cannot be said for American Express cards. 

That’s not all there is to how different Mastercard, Visa and American Express credit cards may be, though. 

Read on to learn more about Mastercard, Visa and American Express and whether or not the logo on your credit card matters when it comes to picking the best credit card for your needs. 

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Get a Dyson Supersonic (worth S$699) or a Dyson Micro 1.5kg Vacuum (worth S$599) or an Apple iPad 10th Gen 10.9 WiFi 64GB (worth S$529) or S$450 eCapitaVoucher upon activating and spending a minimum of S$500 within 30 days of card approval. Valid until 30 June 2024. T&Cs apply.

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Other Citi Credit Cards: Receive a Sony Portable Theatre System HT-AX7 (worth S$759) or a Dyson Supersonic (worth S$699) or an Apple iPad 10th Gen 10.9 wifi 64GB (worth S$529) or S$450 eCapitaVoucher or S$300 cash via PayNow upon activating and spending a minimum of S$500 within 30 days of card approval. Valid until 30 June 2024. T&Cs apply.

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Mastercard vs Visa

#1 Card issuance 

First things first, Mastercard and Visa do not issue credit cards. In fact, they don’t even handle merchants' or credit card users’ accounts. 

Both Mastercard and Visa are payment processors — they ensure their card networks function as intended so transactions can be processed smoothly without hiccups. 

#2 Acceptance rate worldwide

You have close to nothing to worry about when it comes to acceptance and usage of Mastercard and Visa cards. Most online merchants, including brick-and-mortar retailers, that accept credit cards accept both Mastercard and Visa cards. This rings true even for contactless payments! 

#3 Security and consumer protection

Mastercard and Visa are major global companies with secure payment platforms that allow for safe transactions to take place.  

Apart from keeping sensitive card details safe from prying eyes, merchants and fraudsters, depending on the Mastercard or Visa card you hold, you may even be eligible for complimentary e-Commerce purchase protection insurance. 

#4 How to get a Mastercard or Visa card 

You need to go through a bank or an institution to get your hands on a Mastercard or Visa card. For example, you can go to Citibank to get the well-loved Citi Cash Back Card, which is a generous cashback Mastercard. Want expiry-free miles and free airport lounge access? You may go to DBS to get the DBS Altitude Visa Credit Card

The above-mentioned two cards are just examples. There are plenty of credit cards in the market for your consideration. Just in case you need some convincing, credit cards are great financial tools so long as you use them responsibly!

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#5 Benefits 

There are benefits you can enjoy as a Mastercard or Visa cardmember. The exact suite of benefits you can access is tied to your Mastercard or Visa’s card tier (more on this below). 

The payment network-wide benefits are available regardless of which bank you got your credit card or debit card from. 

Types of Mastercard cardsPerks 
Standard- Standard Mastercard perks only 
Platinum - Standard Mastercard perks
- Priceless experiences 
World - Standard Mastercard perks
- Priceless experiences
- Golf privileges
- ShopRunner membership
- Mastercard travel privileges and offers 
- Mastercard Airport Experiences
- Mastercard e-Commerce purchase protection insurance
World Elite- Standard Mastercard perks
- Priceless experiences
- Golf privileges
- ShopRunner membership
- World Elite luxury tours, vacations, cruises, privileges and offers
- World Elite concierge
- World Elite chauffeured car programme
- World Elite car rental membership
- Mastercard e-Commerce purchase protection insurance

For those who are curious, Standard Mastercard perks include Mastercard ID Theft Protection, Mastercard Liability Protection and Global Emergency Services. 

DBS/POSB Credit Card Welcome Gift: Receive up to S$388 cashback or 85,000 miles when you apply for select DBS credit cards and fulfil the relevant promotion criteria. T&Cs apply.

Welcome Offer: Receive S$88 Cashback when you make a minimum of S$108 eligible spends within 30 days of card approval date. Plus, receive S$100 Cashback (S$188 in total) when you increase your minimum eligible spends to S$988 within 60 days of card approval date. Valid till 31 July 2024. T&Cs apply.

Types of Visa Card Perks 
Platinum - Visa Platinum concierge 
- Visa Platinum privileges
Signature - Visa Signature concierge 
- Visa Luxury Hotel Collection premium benefits 
- Visa Signature privileges
Infinite - Visa Infinite concierge 
- Visa Luxury Hotel Collection premium benefits 
- WhiteCoat offers 
- Visa Infinite golf benefits 
- Visa Infinite privileges

All Visa cards offer Global Acceptance, Global Customer Assistance and Global ATM network, in addition to the privileges, convenience and security you can enjoy. 

SingSaver's Exclusive Offer: Enjoy the following rewards when you sign up for an HSBC credit card.

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HSBC Advance and Visa Platinum Credit Card: Receive a Dyson V8 Slim™ Fluffy (worth S$509) or an Apple iPad 9th Gen 10.2" WiFi 64GB (worth S$508.30) or S$350 eCapitaVoucher or 18K Max Miles (worth a trip to Tokyo) upon activating your card and spending min. S$500 by the end of the following calendar month from the card account opening date. Valid till 20 June 2024. T&Cs apply.

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HSBC TravelOne Credit Card: Receive a Dyson Supersonic™ hair dryer (worth S$699) or an Apple iPad 10th Gen 10.9"  WiFi 64GB (worth S$529) or an Apple Watch Series 9 (worth S$604.50) or S$375 eCapitaVoucher or 24K Max Miles upon activating your card and spending min. S$1,000 plus pay an annual fee of S$196.20 by the end of the following calendar month from the card account opening date. Valid till 20 June 2024. T&Cs apply.

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⬆️Rewards Upgrade Campaign⬆️: Upgrade your rewards when you top up S$200 to get a Sony Portable Theatre System HT-AX7 (worth $$769). Alternatively, top up S$588 for a Sony ZV-1M2 Vlog Camera (worth $1,209) or top up S$1,099 for an Apple iPhone 15 Pro 128GB (worth S$1,664.25). Valid till 20 June 2024. T&Cs apply.

SingSaver's Exclusive Offer: Enjoy the following rewards when you sign up for a Standard Chartered Smart Card:

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Receive a Sony WF-1000XM5 (worth S$429) or a Xiaomi Robot Vacuum S10 EU (worth S$349) or up to S$250 cash upon activating and spending min. S$250 within 30 days of card approval. Also, get an additional S$20 e-Capitaland voucher when you make a min. spending of S$1,000 in your 2nd month. Valid till 17 June 2024.   T&Cs apply.

Receive an additional S$20 e-Capitaland Voucher when you split the payment for your purchases with SCB Easy Pay, pay your bills with SCB Easybill or put any of your purchases on instalment in SCB Savings Account or Current Account within 60 days of approval. Valid till 17 June 2024. T&Cs apply.

Plus, get S$288 cashback when you make a min. spend of S$588 within 1 month of card approval. Valid till 30 June 2024. T&Cs apply.

⬆️Reward Upgrade Campaign⬆️: Upgrade your rewards when you top up S$199 for a Flujo Ayla Ergonomic Office Chair (worth S$1,139.00) or a Xiaomi Robot Vacuum X20 UK (worth S$699). Valid till 17 June 2024. T&Cs apply.

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Difference between Mastercard and Visa

You’re not alone if you think Mastercard and Visa are very similar. The only real difference standing between Mastercard and Visa is that your credit card or debit card works on the payment network that the company operates. 

Put simply, a Mastercard card will not work on Visa’s network, and vice versa. 

Which is better: Visa or Mastercard?

To be honest, it doesn’t matter whether you get a Mastercard or Visa card. Both are secure, widely accepted around the world and offer fairly similar payment network-wide benefits.

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American Express in Singapore

Did you know that American Express is both a payment processor as well as card issuer? Unlike the other two major payment networks Mastercard and Visa, American Express issues its own credit cards to consumers.

As American Express issues credit cards to its customers, the company has control over and is responsible for: 

  • Reviewing all their credit card applications;
  • Reporting payments and missed payments to the Credit Bureau Singapore;
  • Designing card benefits, offers and promotions; 
  • Providing customer service and more

American Express cards in Singapore 

Although the global acceptance of American Express credit cards pales in comparison to those of Visa and Mastercard cards, believe it or not, American Express cards are increasingly being accepted by both online and in-store merchants in Singapore. 

In case you were wondering, only a couple of banks in Singapore offer co-branded American Express credit cards. 

You can, of course, apply directly with American Express for their credit cards (e.g. American Express Platinum Card) or Singapore Airlines co-branded credit cards (e.g. American Express Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Credit Card). 

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American Express benefits 

Apart from truly exceptional customer service that you can’t really get from local banks, American Express offers a whole host of generic benefits that aim to please: 

  • Refund Protection
  • Purchase Protection
  • Online Fraud Protection
  • Online Account Access
  • American Express Offers 
  • Travel Inconvenience & Travel Accident Benefits
  • American Express Global AssistTM
  • American Express Dining Privileges
  • American Express Selects® 
  • Card security and protection
  • Emergency Card Replacement
  • 24/7 Customer Service

Amex Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Ascend Credit Card Welcome Gift:

For New-to-American Express Card Members: Receive S$300 eCapitaVouchers and up to 17,000 KrisFlyer Miles (enough to redeem a return trip to Bali) when you pay the annual fee and make a minimum spend of S$1,000 within the first month of card approval. Valid till 30 June 2024.  T&Cs apply.

For Existing American Express Card Members: Receive up to 24,000 KrisFlyer Miles (enough to redeem a return trip to Bali) when you pay the annual fee and make a minimum spend of S$1,000 within the first month of card approval. Valid till 30 June 2024. T&Cs apply.

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Mastercard vs Visa vs American Express: Which is the best? 

MastercardVisaAmerican Express
Payment processorYesYesYes
IssuerNoNoYes
Countries and territories supported210+200+160+
Popular local partners and co-brands Citi, UOB, CIMB, DBS, Maybank, OCBC, Standard Chartered,DBS, Standard Chartered, HSBC, UOB, CIMB, Maybank, OCBCSingapore Airlines, UOB, DBS, CapitaLand 
Fraud liability Zero liability for Credit card transactions
 Signature debit card transactions

PIN debit card transactions (if processed by Mastercard) 
Zero liability for Credit card transactions

Signature debit card transactions

PIN debit card transactions (if processed by Visa)
Zero liability for credit card transactions 
Customer serviceN/AN/AFantastic 

Conclusion: Mastercard or Visa or American Express?

The truth is, it’s not strategic to pick a credit card based on its payment network (i.e. Mastercard. Visa and American Express). 

In terms of local use at least, Mastercard, Visa and American Express cards all have pretty good acceptance rates, offers and benefits, and consumer protection. If you’re a globetrotter or even an aspiring one, then you will likely appreciate having a Mastercard or Visa card in tow. 

When it comes to picking the right credit cards that you can use and potentially benefit from, you need to first consider your lifestyle and spending habits. Thereafter, have a look at all the options available on the market. The card features, benefits and rewards that banks have to offer are important considerations that shouldn’t be dismissed when you’re studying which credit card to apply for. 

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While Denise has a thing for travel, K-dramas, 0% sugar bbt (with boba!), Japanese cuisine and flat white, her curious nature means all sorts of random tabs are open on her phone 24/7. She doesn’t like to pay full price for anything, too.

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