5 Facts About Visa, Amex, Discover, And MasterCard Networks You Should Know Before Picking Your Next Credit Card

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Even if you’ve never swiped, tapped, or typed in a credit card number, you’re definitely familiar with names like Visa, American Express and Mastercard. Ever stopped to ponder what exactly these companies do? Their logos are plastered on billions of payment cards worldwide, yet they aren’t banks or the folks issuing these cards. Well card networks, unlike banks, serve as the backbone of every transaction serving as the network connecting banks, merchants, and you for a seamless spending experience.

We break down five key things to know about these networks, helping you make an informed choice on which network best suits your wallet and lifestyle.

1. Choosing the Right Network for Your Lifestyle

Your lifestyle can play a key role in your decision to pick a particular credit card network. Assess wisely. Image: Shutterstock/ PixieMe

How do you choose? Start by assessing your credit health, as this might limit your options. Consider where you spend most of your money and whether you travel frequently. Each network has its strengths, so whether it’s broad acceptance or luxe travel perks, there’s a card network tailored to your lifestyle and spending habits.

2. Open vs. Closed Networks – Know the Difference

Having an open or closed network card can affect everything from the perks you get to the customer service you receive. Image: Unsplash/ CardMapr.nl

This is where it gets a bit techy but stick with me. Visa and Mastercard operate on open networks, meaning they collaborate with various banks that issue cards under their brand. American Express and Discover, however, run closed networks, meaning they handle everything in-house from issuing cards to managing transactions. This can affect everything from the perks you get to the customer service you receive.

3. Perks and Points Galore

If perks and points matter the most, Amex cards could be a better pick. Image: Unsplash/ CardMapr.nl

All about those benefits? Credit card networks offer different advantages, from cashback to airport lounge access. If you’re eyeing specific perks like hotel upgrades or flight points, your card’s network can impact your eligibility and options. Networks like Amex, known for their rewards programs, might be more up your alley if perks are your priority.

4. Diversify Your Wallet

Have you ever run into a snag because a store didn’t accept your credit card? Carrying cards from multiple networks can be a real lifesaver. Image: Shutterstock/ PixieMe

Why stick to one when you can have more? Carrying cards from multiple credit card networks can save you from unexpected hassles like a retailer not accepting your primary card or an issuer suddenly cutting your credit limits. Whether you’re shopping locally or gearing up for international travel, having a mix of Visa, Mastercard, or Amex ensures you’re never caught off-guard.

5. Global Acceptance Matters

If you plan on using your credit card on international travels, a Visa or Mastercard may be a better bet. Image: Unsplash/ CardMapr.nl

Are you thinking about taking your Visa or Amex overseas? The places where you can use your card can vary widely. Over 200 countries accept Visa and Mastercard, making them great choices for overseas trips. American Express and Discover are more selective about their locations, but they still have a significant presence both globally and in the U.S. So whether you’re jet-setting or planning a road trip, choosing a card that’s accepted at the places you frequent can save you a headache.

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