Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted credit card networks. Visa credit cards can be used at 44 million merchant locations in more than 200 countries and territories. Mastercard credit cards are accepted at 37 million merchant locations in more than 210 countries and territories.
Mastercard is accepted in more countries than Visa, yet roughly 7 million more merchants worldwide take Visa. Both have a claim to the title of most widely accepted credit card as a result. Visa also is the most widely used type of credit card. It accounts for 53% of the cards in circulation.
There isn’t a single credit card that’s most widely accepted, however, because there are hundreds of Mastercard and Visa credit card offers available.
Most Widely Accepted Credit Cards:
Most Widely Accepted Internationally: Mastercard (210+ countries and territories); Visa (200+).
Most Widely Accepted in the U.S.: Visa and Mastercard are both accepted at more than 11 million U.S. merchant locations.
Least Widely Accepted Internationally: American Express (160+ countries and territories); Discover (185+).
Least Widely Accepted in the U.S.: American Express (10.1 million locations). This includes the 1.6 million U.S. merchants American Express added in 2017.
Most Widely Used: Visa has the most credit cards in circulation (about 335 million). American Express has the highest purchase volume, at $14,745 per cardholder annually.
Best Worldwide Credit Cards: Visa or Mastercard credit cards with no foreign transaction fee.
The difference between Visa and Mastercard acceptance is slight. Either should suit your needs almost anywhere in the world. But if you plan on traveling internationally, be sure your Mastercard or Visa credit card doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. That will save you up to 3% on every purchase you make abroad.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that store cards are the least widely accepted credit cards. They don’t belong to any of the four major card networks. So they can only be used at their affiliated retailers.