Discover is neither a Visa nor a Mastercard. It’s more like an American Express card, but they’re not exactly the same, either. Discover is similar to Visa, Mastercard and American Express in the sense that all four are card networks. Each helps process payments for the cards on its network, determines where those cards can be used, and provides extra benefits such as rental car insurance. However, Discover is different from Visa and Mastercard in that most credit cards on the Discover network are issued by Discover. Visa and Mastercard aren’t issuers, so cards on their networks come from lots of different banks and credit unions. Amex, like Discover, is both a card issuer and a card network.
Here’s how Discover differs from Visa or Mastercard:
Discover is both a credit card issuer and a card network. Visa and Mastercard are networks only.
Visa and Mastercard are accepted in more than 200 countries and territories, compared to 185 for Discover.
Visa and Mastercard are accepted at 10.7 million U.S. merchant locations, versus 10.4 million for Discover.
Discover credit cards don’t have foreign transaction fees. Visa and Mastercard credit cards charge 0% to 3% of purchases processed internationally.
If you look at the front of your Discover card, you should see “Discover” with an orange dot for the “o.” Each network has a logo, so it’s easy to tell them apart. And while Discover cards are generally fine to use anywhere in the U.S., you might have trouble in certain countries abroad. So it’s probably best to have a backup Visa or Mastercard.
Discover cards are accepted by more than 10.4 million U.S. merchants. Outside the United States, you can use Discover cards in 185 countries and territories. But there are some noticeable gaps, including Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and Taiwan. You can check Discover’s international-use map to see where, exactly, your Discover credit card will work.… read full answer
Even in the countries where Discover Card is accepted, you’ll still find many merchants that only accept Mastercard and Visa. That’s a big reason why Discover ranks 7th out of the 10 largest credit card companies in WalletHub’s International Travel Credit Card Report.
Here are the regions where Discover is not accepted:
Caribbean: Cuba, Haiti
South America: Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Bolivia, Chile
Europe: Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Belarus, Moldova
Asia: Myanmar, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Taiwan, North Korea
Oceania: New Caledonia, Vanatu, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Brunei
Africa: All but 7 countries
Middle East: Almost all countries
The truth is, Discover cards really can’t compare to Visa and Mastercard credit cards in terms of international acceptance. You can use a Visa or Mastercard virtually anywhere on Earth that accepts credit cards. But there are plenty of countries where Discover cards won’t work, which means you’d either need to bring a lot of cash or a different credit card.
The biggest difference when you pit Discover vs. Mastercard is that while both are credit card networks, Discover also is a credit card issuer. Credit card networks decide where cards can and can’t be used, as well as process transactions. Credit card issuers set rates, approve applicants and send out cards, among other things. Discover handles both functions. So … read full answerDiscover credit cards are issued by Discover and belong to the Discover network. Mastercard credit cards, on the other hand, are issued by dozens of banks and credit unions.
Mastercard and Discover differ in plenty of other ways, too. For example, Mastercard has far more global acceptance, while Discover doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees on any of its cards.
Discover vs. Mastercard:
U.S. Market Share by Credit Card Purchase Volume
10.4 million merchants
10.7 million merchants
185 countries and territories
210+ countries and territories
Sources: The Nilson Report, Discover and Mastercard.
Overall, it’s probably best to have a Mastercard in your pocket, especially if you’re going to be traveling abroad frequently. But if you only plan to use your card within the U.S., a Discover card will work just fine.
You shouldn’t forget about the two other major card networks, either. Visa is similar to Mastercard in that it boasts worldwide acceptance and doesn’t actually issue credit cards. And American Express is like Discover because it plays both roles.
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