What is the Difference Between Visa and MasterCard?

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Visa and MasterCard are similar credit card organizations with a huge rivalry.
Visa and MasterCard are similar credit card organizations with a huge rivalry. (Image: credit card and hand image by Warren Millar from Fotolia.com)

As of 2010, Visa and MasterCard are the two most popular credit card payment processors, based on credit card circulation statistics from Visa and MasterCard. In general, Visa and MasterCard are very similar, but offer very different features to attract banks and consumers to their brands.

Circulation

Through 2009, Visa beat out MasterCard as far total card circulation. Visa has 270.1 million credit cards and 380 million debit cards. MasterCard has 203 million credit cards and 125 million debit cards.

Security

Security measures to prevent theft or fraud are almost the same for both companies except for their online security measures. Visa's "Verified by Visa" uses a password that must be entered for each online purchase. MasterCard uses a "Securecode" PIN number. Both security measures serve the same function, but because some people already have a password they use for multiple websites, Visa's password protection could be less secure than a PIN.

Rewards

While both Visa and MasterCard offer plenty of discounts on retail purchases, and even some of the same merchants, the amount of discount can differ. For example, Visa offers 20 percent off Alamo car rentals, while Master card offers 25 percent off. Visa has discount deals with Toshiba and IBM, while MasterCard offers Hewlett-Packard savings. If you practice brand loyalty this can amount to thousands of dollars over a lifetime.

Considerations

Visa and MasterCard are very similar companies with essentially the same services, according to Motley Fool. For investing, Morgan House considers MasterCard stock a better purchase than Visa stock because it offers better value, as of 2010. However, both, along with American Express, have a huge share of a growing market—the cashless society.

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