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.
Browse Credit Cards By Bank
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:
Who Are the Top Credit Card Issuers in the United States in 2022?
According to the Nilson Report, it’s estimated that there were nearly 700 million credit cards in circulation at the end 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
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.