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If you're looking for a new credit card, you may find yourself picking between American Express vs. Visa. Consumers often wonder which is the better choice, considering that these are two of the world's four major payment networks. Here's how they stack up.
More merchants accept Visa than American Express. In fact, Visa is one of the most accepted payment networks in the world. American Express is accepted by 99% of the merchants that accept credit cards, but it's still not as widely accepted as Visa.
American Express has long charged higher credit card processing fees than other payment networks. To avoid those more expensive fees, some merchants have opted not to accept American Express cards. It's accepted in over 170 countries; however, Visa is accepted in over 200 countries.
There is one key difference between American Express vs. Visa. American Express is both a card issuer and a payment network. Visa, on the other hand, is only a payment network.
A card issuer is the third party, typically a bank, that extends credit to consumers. When you use your card, the card issuer pays for the transaction. It gets reimbursed once you pay off what you charged.
A payment network processes transactions. It transfers funds from the card issuer to the merchant.
Since Visa isn't a credit card issuer, every Visa card also has a card issuer. For example, Chase credit cards with Visa will have both the Chase and Visa logos on them. That means Chase is the credit card issuer and Visa is the payment network.
American Express does double duty. It also processes transactions for its own American Express cards and cards from other issuers that use the American Express card network.
In the 2020 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study by J.D. Power, American Express came in first. It has also consistently done well in these yearly studies. If you get a card that's issued by American Express, you can expect high-quality service.
With Visa cards, you won't interact with Visa for customer service issues. You'd contact the credit card company that issued the card. Since Visa partners with so many card issuers, that means customer service is more variable. It will depend on the card issuer, and Visa itself doesn't have control over the service quality.
READ MORE: Our favorite American Express cards
Do you want a travel card, a cash back card, or a business card? If you want plenty of choices for rewards types, points redemption, and other benefits, it's helpful to choose an issuer with a wide card selection.
You'll have far more card options with Visa vs. American Express. Most of the major card issuers partner with Visa for at least some of their credit cards. It's also the payment network with the greatest market share.
There's not as wide a selection of American Express credit cards. It offers its own cards and a limited selection of cards with other card issuers on the American Express payment network. You'll have plenty of options, just not as many as you would with Visa.
READ MORE: Our favorite Visa credit cards
You can't go wrong with either an American Express card or a Visa card. Both offer high-quality credit cards. And even though American Express has a reputation for luxury, it's not so simple anymore. You can find every type of card, from cards without an annual fee to luxury cards, with American Express or Visa.
Visa has one important advantage when it comes to international acceptance. In the United States, you don't need to worry much about American Express vs. Visa. If a U.S. merchant accepts credit cards, then it most likely accepts either payment network. In other countries, you could encounter merchants that will take Visa, but not American Express.
If you travel internationally often, a Visa card is good to have. Other than that, both American Express and Visa cards can do the trick.
Check out our hand-picked list of the best credit cards. Some of our top picks are packed with features, such as long intro 0% interest offers, big bonuses, and lucrative cash rewards.
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