The significant differences between Visa and Mastercard


I discussed on pages 96-99 of 2-4 in my book “The Rules of Super Growth Stocks Investing” that these two companies are a classic duopoly and both are profitable. I also wrote an article about these two companies previously on my blog. However, I am frequently asked a question by people “What is the difference between Visa and Mastercard?”

For a basic introduction to these two credit card network companies, I suggest you refer to my previous blog article “Has the moat of ubiquitous credit card networks loosened?

If you don’t study carefully, these two companies are actually identical in all aspects, and there is no significant major difference. The similarity is just too high:

  • In fact, investors only need to remember that the scale of Visa is a little larger than that of Mastercard.
  • These two companies are the most typical representatives of duopoly in the commercial market, and the scale is not much different.
  • The stock price charts follow the same steps, very monotonous, but very stable; both also pay dividends.
  • It is difficult to see merchants who do not accept both credit cards at the same time, and even the manufacturers of credit card machines will definitely support the two.
  • The two are long-term targets of antitrust agencies in various countries, but none can take them.
  • Unless there is a special clause, the commission rate for both is almost the same.

But if investors insist on exploring in detail, the two are actually different in some ways, and the two companies are at least somewhat different in their focus.


The main size figures are as follows:

  • Market capitalization: Visa $434.2 billion, Mastercard $344.42 billion (1/27/2022)
  • Number of cards issued: Visa 3.713 billion, Mastercard 2.802 billion (Q3 2021)
  • Credit card amount: Visa $2.783 trillion, Mastercard $1.9935 trillion (Q3 2021)
  • Market share according to Nielsen survey: Visa 42%, Mastercard 25% (2020)

International market

Visa focuses on the domestic market of the United States, and Mastercard focuses on the international market. Only 35% of Mastercard’s credit card payments come from the United States, while the remaining 65% come from other countries. By contrast, just over half of Visa’s card payments come from international markets outside the United States.

This is also reflected in the amount of cross-border card swiping between the two, but investors should know that the commission fee for cross-border card swiping is much higher than that in the domestic area, usually more than three times, and the detailed rate depends on each card issuer.

Foreign exchange rates

When customer purchasing in foreign currency, Visa offers very fewer exchange rates while purchasing products using foreign currency while Mastercard offers better exchange rates for the same.

Business diversification

Mastercard has been involved in other channels of making money very early, such as helping other companies with settlement, clearing, and more and more business data analysis and security anti-fraud functions these years. Of course, Visa also does involve these businesses, but in terms of the company’s overall revenue ratio, Mastercard has a higher proportion and is more active.

Debit card

Most Americans use Visa ATM cards to withdraw money from ATMs, Visa has 52% of debut card market share, Mastercard is 44%. In the United States, the ATM card is called a debit card, but the debit card has a credit card swipe function, which can be swiped in stores that accept credit cards, but the ATM card in Taiwan does not have this function. Therefore, strictly speaking, ATM cards in Taiwan can only correspond to bank cards in mainland China.

B2B support

Because Mastercard has entered the market of clearing, settlement, data analysis and security anti-fraud very early, its support for B2B inter-enterprise functions is stronger than that of Visa.


Virtual card

There is no need for a physical card, more flexibile, and even a one-time card can be issued, resulting in more and more business opportunities for virtual cards. Mastercard sensed the market demand for virtual cards earlier than Visa and entered this market early. End up Mastercard issued more virtual credit card than Visa.

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