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Visa versus MasterCard: how both stack up


Laine Gordon

By Laine Gordon

4 min read

Choosing a credit card is simple, right? It certainly can be — but make sure you don't shortchange yourself.

It might seem easier to call up your bank, apply for the first credit card you're offered and wait for it to arrive in the post. But completing a credit card comparison to ensure you're getting a deal that fits your needs is essential. 

It's not just interest rates and annual fees you need to think about. Giving some consideration to the card provider is important, too.

So which credit card will you choose — Visa or MasterCard?

Understanding the basics

There are several products types to choose from with MasterCard and Visa. Whether you want to obtain a credit card with a big bank or smaller lender, you've got flexibility.

You can obtain a credit card or debit card with both Visa and MasterCard. With a credit card, you'll have a limit on what you can spend. Each month, you'll need to pay back a minimum amount (although it's good to aim to pay of the balance in its entirety, to avoid interest). With a debit card, you can spend what's in your transaction account — so you're typically only ever spending what you've already got.

Some transaction accounts have an ‘overdrawing approval’ option, meaning the bank will allow a transaction you have made or authorised to be processed despite there being insufficient funds in your account – and this usually comes at a cost in the form of a fee.

So those are the basics — what can both these companies offer you, and which is better for your needs?

Spending with MasterCard

If you consider yourself a bit of a globe trotter, MasterCard may be for you. It's accepted at over 35 million spots across the globe, from individual merchants to ATMs. In fact, no other credit card is accepted by more merchants or in more locations, according to the credit giant itself!

MasterCard offers a number of programs: Thredbo, Priceless Sydney and World. There's also other Priceless Cities programs, which offers experiences exclusively to cardholders.

At the time of writing, MasterCard also offered discounts up to 20 percent on accommodation — or a free night when you book two nights at specified hotels.

If a store merchant has PayPass technology, you can simply hold your card above the terminal — you won't have to enter a PIN or sign for purchases under $100.

Swiping with Visa

MasterCard has its benefits, but what about Visa?

PayWave technology will also allow you to use your credit card without punching in PINs. The spend limit is also $100.

That's not all, though. If you're a keen online shopper, Visa might be the card of choice. Visa Checkout allows you to pay for items online via your smartphone or tablet in a simple way. The technology is integrated with merchants' online stores and makes paying for everything from movie tickets to clothing far easier. At the time of writing, Visa Checkout was being rolled out in Australia.

What about the perks with Visa? You can get discounts on car rentals with a number of companies, not to mention cheaper accommodation and even flowers, if there's someone special you want to spoil.

Both Visa and MasterCard are innovating and both offer promotions. Make sure whichever card you do opt for, you ensure you've got a product that offers the right kind of features for your lifestyle, whether you want to slash your debt with a no-interest balance transfer or have no or low annual fees.

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