When it comes to categorizing the different types of credit cards, dividing them up by payment network is one of the simplest approaches. This is because the vast majority of cards fall into one of the four major payment networks.
So what exactly is a credit card payment network? Also known as a payment processing network, these are the intermediaries responsible for facilitating all aspects of an electronic transaction. In other words, they act as the middlemen between merchants’ banks and credit card issuers.
With every single swipe of a credit or debit card, these payment networks connect merchants, banks, and card issuers to ensure that funds move through the transaction process smoothly and end up in the right place. This includes:
- Notifying the card issuer when a transaction is initiated
- Reporting to the merchant if the issuer authorizes the transaction (i.e. whether or not the cardholder has credit available to make the purchase)
- Transferring money from the card issuer to the merchants’ bank
What Are the Four Different Types of Credit Cards?
There are dozens of payment networks around the world, but these four are by far the largest. Their iconic logos adorn thousands of credit cards worldwide, with only a few exceptions (such as closed-loop retail credit cards).
As with issuers, you may have cards from multiple networks in your wallet. This is wise, considering that each network offers its own benefits and has different rates of acceptance around the world. Not all merchants work with every payment network, so having more than one at your disposal ensures you can always complete your transaction.
Which Credit Card Payment Network Is the Best?
While these four different types of credit cards are accepted globally, the extent of which they are accepted both domestically and abroad varies. This could be particularly significant to those who frequently travel overseas.
Visa and Mastercard are the two largest networks, and are accepted virtually everywhere both within the United States and internationally. American Express only recently caught up to them, after dropping its flat-rate merchant fee to appeal more to small business owners.
Discover, on the other hand, remains comparatively smaller as far as international reach goes – many countries still don’t accept transactions with this network at all. This is interesting considering the fact that both Amex and Discover act as card issuers, as well as payment networks. However, Amex acts as a processor for other issuers’ cards, as well as its own. So which payment network is the best for you?
Browse Credit Cards by Payment Network
Outside of the rate of acceptance, it ultimately doesn’t matter much which payment network you have. These days, all the different types of credit cards have similar security features that protect you from unauthorized card use and identity theft. Top-tier offers from Visa and Mastercard may offer additional perks like hotel upgrades and travel insurance. However, this tends to vary more based on the particular issuer and credit card you choose.
Even so, you may still have a preference for one or another, whether it’s because you want a card from a different network or you want to stick with the one you’ve got. For this reason, we’ve made it easy to find and compare the best credit cards from each payment network: