The difference between Visa and American Express is that American Express is both a card issuer and a payment network, while Visa is only a payment network. Visa is also more widely accepted than Amex, as Visa cards work in over 200 countries and territories, compared to 160+ for American Express cards.
Differences Between American Express and Visa
Point of Comparison
Credit Card Issuer?
Accepted in 160+ countries and territories
Accepted in 200+ countries and territories
Accepted at 10.6 million U.S. locations
Accepted at 10.7 million U.S. locations
Cards in Circulation
$0 Fraud Liability Guarantee
Merchant Processing Fees
$0 Liability Guarantee?
For merchants, the biggest difference between American Express and Visa is how much they charge a merchant for processing payments. Amex processing fees are on the higher end, while Visa’s fees are on the lower end.
Although there are a handful of big differences between American Express and Visa, most people will not be affected unless they travel abroad, as Amex has less acceptance outside of the U.S. than Visa. Otherwise, for the average cardholder, there are far more similarities between the two payment networks than differences.
American Express is accepted at 10.6 million merchant locations in the U.S. and in 160+ countries and territories abroad. But you’ll find some stores that have exclusive deals with the more popular networks, Visa and Mastercard. For example, Costco only accepts Visa cards now, after switching from Amex only in 2016. And despite the good number of foreign countries where you can use American Express cards, acceptance is on a merchant-by-merchant basis. So, coverage in a lot of countries is hit or miss.… read full answer
Here’s where American Express is accepted:
Where American Express is Accepted in the U.S.: 10.6 million merchants
Where American Express is Accepted Internationally: 160+ countries and territories
Countries Where American Express is Accepted Most: Canada, Australia, UK, India, Mexico
Places Where American Express is Not Accepted: Cuba, Sudan, South Sudan, Iran, Syria
Major Retailers That Accept American Express: Amazon, IKEA, Sears, Target, Walmart, Lowe’s, Apple, Best Buy, Staples, CVS
Major Retailers That Don’t Accept American Express: Costco, small non-chain stores/restaurants
So, an American Express card is enough for your shopping within the U.S. Though you may find some stores that don’t take it, the majority will. But you’ll probably want to have a no foreign transaction feeVisa or Mastercard when you go abroad. Those networks guarantee you worldwide coverage, with acceptance in over 200 countries and territories. And Mastercard and Visa cards are accepted just about universally within those regions. Amex cards still have hit-or-miss acceptance in many.
American Express isn't a Visa or a Mastercard. American Express, Visa and Mastercard are three of the four major card networks, the other being Discover. All four act as card networks, dictating where credit cards can be used and sharing responsibility for processing transactions, but American Express along with Discover also extend credit and issue cards directly to consumers. A credit card never has two networks, so you'll never see an American Express Visa card or an American Express Mastercard. Furthermore, lots of the credit cards on the Amex network are actually issued by American Express itself. The rest come from the likes of Bank of America, USAA, Citibank and BBVA Compass. Visa and Mastercard, on the other hand, don't issue any of the cards on their networks or any of the others.… read full answer
For a bit of background, card networks control where cards can be used and help process transactions. They also determine the fees merchants must pay when a consumer uses a card with their logo on it. And they provide cardholders with additional benefits like travel insurance and purchase protection. American Express is quite different from Visa and Mastercard, though.
American Express vs Visa and Mastercard:
In addition to being a card network, American Express issues credit cards (as does Discover) as well. Visa and Mastercard do not. So Amex actually has a lot more control over the cards on its network, at least in terms of interest rates, fees and rewards.
Visa and Mastercard are accepted at more than 11 million U.S. merchant locations. American Express added 1.6 million U.S. merchant locations in 2018, now reaching a total of more than 10 million.
Amex cards work in about 160 countries and territories. Visa and Mastercard are both accepted in over 200.
Some credit card issuers have American Express, Visa and Mastercard offers. Those issuers include U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo.
Citi, Chase, Bank of America, Barclays and Capital One issue Visa and Mastercard credit cards but not Amex cards.
PNC and TD Bank only offer Visa cards, and you may find banks that are exclusive to Mastercard, too.
American Express’s fraud liability policy is excellent, while Mastercard and Visa provide good coverage, according to WalletHub’s research.
So American Express doesn’t have the acceptance and reach of Mastercard or Visa. But it’s the go-to network for charge cards. And there are credit card offers on each network that could serve you well.
Best American Express, Visa & Mastercard Credit Cards:
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