The Discover Card is associated with Discover Bank, a division of Discover Financial Services (DFS). Discover Bank provides credit cards, checking and savings accounts, loans, retirement accounts, and other banking and lending products directly to its customers.
Discover Financial Services also operates the Discover Global Network, which includes Discover, Diners Club International, and the Pulse electronic funds transfer network. Because Discover issues credit cards that run on its own card network, the company is more similar to American Express than to the larger card networks, Visa and Mastercard, which don’t issue their own credit cards.
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 … read full answerbenefits 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.
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
10.6 million merchants
10.7 million merchants
200 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, as it benefits from 99% nationwide acceptance. And you can check for international acceptance on Discover’s dedicated web page.
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.
When comparing Discover vs. Visa, you’ll find a lot to like from both camps, such as Discover’s lack of foreign transaction fees or Visa’s wide global acceptance. The main difference you’ll see is that Discover issues its own cards. In other words, it’s a credit card issuer in addition to being a … read full answercard network. Visa is only a card network. Networks are mostly responsible for processing payments and setting the rules for where and how cards can be used. Issuers determine things like an individual card’s rates and rewards.
There are a number of different categories in which you can compare the two networks. Visa emerges as the winner in most.
Discover vs. Visa – U.S. Acceptance:
Discover is accepted at almost all U.S. merchants (10.4 million). But Visa just barely edges them out, with 10.7 million. There are 344.7 million Visa cards in circulation in the U.S., compared to Discover’s 51.4 million.
Discover vs. Visa – Foreign Acceptance:
Visa is accepted at virtually every merchant in the world who takes credit cards, in 200+ countries and territories. Discover is accepted in 190+ countries and territories, but many of those places only have a small number of merchants who will accept Discover. Discover does have the benefit of no foreign transaction fees on any of its cards, though, while Visa cards may have fees up to 3%.
Discover vs. Visa – Network and Issuer:
Discover is both a network and an issuer. Visa, on the other hand is just a network. So Discover has a lot more control over what rates and rewards each of its cards has.
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