Browse the Top Credit Card Issuers

Credit card issuers are the financial institutions responsible for flashy credit cards sitting in your wallet and all the impressive rewards they offer.

There are thousands of card issuers throughout the world. These types of institutions include banks (such as Bank of America, Barclays, Chase, U.S. Bank, or Wells Fargo), credit unions (such as Federal Credit Union, Golden 1, Gulf Coast Credit Union, and countless others), and other types of lenders (such as Capital One or Discover). Card issuers often range widely in size, from local credit unions to multinational banks.

Card issuers handle virtually all aspects of the credit card life cycle, including the approval (or denial) or credit card applications, establishment of terms and conditions, and determining the fees, signup bonuses, and rewards structures. Aside from being responsible for issuing the card, card issuers handle customer-facing issues such as collecting payments and providing customer service.

Card issuers work closely with credit card payment networks like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover – the intermediaries to facilitate payment between bank and merchant – but they are not the same thing. Payment networks receive compensation from the credit card company for using their services.

Explore credit cards from the biggest card issuers in the United States, and across the world, with in-depth reviews from the team at BestCards. We’ve sorted them into easy-to-find categories to make your decision easier:

Browse Credit Cards by Credit Union

Explore credit cards from the biggest credit unions in the United States, with in-depth reviews from the team at BestCards. We’ve sorted them into easy-to-find categories to make your decision easier:

 

Top Credit Card Issuers in the United States 2020

According to the Nilson Report, it’s estimated that there are nearly 700 million credit cards in circulation as of 2020. The top credit card issuers in the U.S. by cards in circulation are:

Credit Card Issuers vs Credit Card Networks

Credit card issuers are the banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions that offer credit card accounts and issue credit cards. These issuers are usually prominently displayed on the top of the credit card. Beyond the top credit card issuers, there are thousands of medium-to-smaller issuers across the United States. In contrast, there are only four major credit card networks.

What is a Credit Card Network?

A credit card network is also known as a payment network. This network is a facilitator of the transaction for credit card issuers. What this means is that they act as a network that allows the issuer’s credit cards to have broader acceptance worldwide.

There are four main Credit card networks worldwide. These top networks are:

  • American Express
  • Discover
  • Mastercard
  • Visa

Visa is by far the largest payment network, with Mastercard a close second. Both of these networks are accepted at tens of millions of locations worldwide, meaning if your credit card features a Visa or Mastercard logo, chances are your credit card will work fine.

American and Express and Discover have excellent acceptance in North America, but users may face obstacles when using their credit cards with those logos overseas. These issues arise from increased payment fees for merchants accepting those cards, but this is becoming less of a problem. Still, while more and more global merchants are beginning to accept both Discover and Amex Cards, they are significantly less popular than both Visa and MasterCard.

American Express and Discover are also unique in that they are payment networks and credit card issuers. While both systems also feature credit cards from other issuers, they also provide their own credit card products.

Visa and Mastercard

Visa

The Visa network is the largest payment network in the world. According to Nilson, there are more than 336 million Visa credit cards in circulation – over 100 million more than Mastercard. The Visa network is currently accepted in more than 170 countries around the world. This near-global acceptance means that if your credit card has the Visa logo, chances are you’ll be able to use it for purchases anywhere your travels take you.

Types of Visa Credit Cards

Visa offers five different levels of credit card for both businesses and consumers:

  • Platinum (also known as Classic or Traditional)
  • Signature
  • Infinite
  • Business
  • Professional

Mastercard

Globally, there are over 230 million Mastercard’s in circulation, making it the second most popular payment network by volume. While Visa is accepted in 170 countries worldwide, Mastercard claims that users can find merchants that accept their payment network in 210 countries. Even though 210 is more than 170 (we did the math), the general rule of thumb is that anywhere that accepts a Mastercard will probably accept a Visa, and vice versa.

Like Visa, Mastercard offers a variety of cards, including small business cards, rewards cards, low-interest-rate cards, balance transfer cards, and more. These cards suit a wide variety of credit scores and needs – and feature a large selection of rewards programs.

Types of Mastercard Credit Cards

Like Visa, Mastercard also offers five tiers for their products:

  • Platinum
  • World
  • World Elite
  • Business Platinum
  • Professional

How Do Credit Card Issuers Make Money?

So, how to credit card networks and issuers make money?

How Credit Card Issuers Make Money

Credit card issuers make a large percentage of their money from the interest payments and fees cardholders pay when they carry a balance, make a late payment, or simply pay the annual fee on their credit card.

Card issuers also make money through merchant fees. When you use your credit card to make a purchase, the issuer (or bank) charges a fee of around 1% to 3% to the merchant. That’s why some stores require a minimum spend before allowing card purchases – it needs to make financial sense for the merchant to accept card payments.

How Payment Networks Make Money

Payment networks usually get a percentage of these merchant fees from card issuers. Because they act as a processing network, they collect these fees from thousands of issuers and millions of merchants. This makes life easier for all parties involved. All told, the credit card industry is worth billions of dollars to the U.S. economy every year.