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.
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:
American Express is neither Visa, nor Mastercard. Basically, there are 4 big networks in the U.S.: American Express, Visa, Mastercard and Discover. The same way you can't find a "Visa Mastercard", you won't find an Amex "anything." It is a standalone network.
The difference between American Express and Visa, is that Visa definitely comes out on top in most areas. Over 2 million more merchants in the US accept Visa than Amex, as do 40-ish countries/territories. But Amex has a lot more to handle in terms of taking applications, sending cards out, and determining rates and rewards. Because it, unlike Visa, is a card issuer as well as a network.… read full answer
As a card network, Amex decides where their cards can be used, and facilitates transactions between merchants and credit card issuers. Amex cards are widely accepted in the U.S., but lag behind Visa and Mastercard by a few million merchants. Abroad, Amex cards are accepted in around 160+ countries and territories, while you can use your Visa or Mastercard in 200+.… read full answer
With that said, American Express is definitely most well known for their credit cards and charge cards (a type of credit card you have to pay in full every month). And they have quite a few good options covering various needs, from financing to spending-based rewards.
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