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Visa vs MasterCard: Major Credit Cards Acceptance

Written by Nickel - 34 Comments

Visa vs. MasterCard: Does it Really Matter?When it comes to choosing a credit card, I frequently hear people advising others to get a Visa card because they’re so widely accepted. While I definitely buy this argument when it comes to comparing Visa vs. American Express or Discover cards, I’m much less convinced when it comes to Visa vs. MasterCard.

While it’s true that Visa is generally recognized as the most widely accepted type of credit card, does the Visa vs. MasterCard distinction really matter for casual credit card users? I mean, sure, we’ve had it drilled into our head that Visa is the “official card of the Olympics,” but a much bigger issue for me is that Sam’s Club only accepts MasterCard. And does the fact that it’s one or the other outweigh the fact that you might not receive a long 0% balance transfer offer or a low ongoing interest?

Curious as to what snags others have run into, I asked my Twitter followers for their real world experiences with respect to Visa vs. MasterCard acceptance. Here are some of their responses:

  • @IntuitiveJamie: I know the Dollar General Stores in MS only take Mastercard and not Visa.
  • @faerievert: Yes, twice in Brazil at small restaurants Visa was the ONLY credit card option.
  • @pewpewpew: The Olympics. They only accept Visa.
  • @PFJourney: My friend couldn’t pay his speeding ticket because the law enforcement office would only take Visa. I thought that was strange.
  • @KyleAAA: yeah, in South America… never in the US that I can recall.

This is far from a scientific survey, and it’s not exactly a huge sample, but it’s clear that the results are mixed. It seems that the biggest problems with MasterCard acceptance come overseas. It’s hard to say if this is a South American issue in particular, or if that’s a byproduct of the small sample size.Whichever card you might choose but always have a check on your credit report ;)

And now I’m throwing it open to you, dear readers. Have you ever run into situations where a merchant will accept Visa but not MasterCard? If so, please share the details by leaving a comment.

Published on March 31st, 2010
Modified on December 9th, 2011 - 34 Comments
Filed under: Credit Cards

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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34 Responses to “Visa vs MasterCard: Major Credit Cards Acceptance”

  1. 1
    John Says:

    Dollar General in Missouri also accepts MC but not VISA.

  2. 2
    Jacinta Says:

    In Australia they’re effectively equivalent. It’s *much* more work for a business to set up to accept only one, and usually the bank who manages your merchant account will give you the same service fee for both types without you even asking.

    There are a few businesses who favour one over the other, but they’ll accept both. For example Ticketmaster – who sell event and concert tickets – offer Visa-only pre-sales occasionally. You can still pay with Mastercard if you want to. Jetstar (low-cost airline) have recently launched the Jetstar Mastercard credit card, and so offer a Jetstar Mastercard-only special; but that’s very specific, and they’ll still accept payment with Visa and other Mastercards, you just won’t get the same good deal. Hoyts (a cinema chain) offer Visa-only specials one day a week, but again accepts both cards without issue all the time.

    There are lots of businesses who’ll refuse Diners Club and AMEX, or charge you extra if you want to use them.

  3. 3
    Thom Says:

    I spent 6 years all over Europe and never had an issue using just my mastercard.

  4. 4
    Brent Says:

    Sam’s Club in Cedar Rapids, IA will accept my VISA debit card so I’d assume they’d take a VISA credit card too.

  5. 5
    BG Says:

    Sam’s club takes Visa-Debit — but not Visa-Credit. They started accepting MasterCard-credit back in 2006 — but still refuse to accept Visa-Credit.

  6. 6
    RS Says:

    In 2001, a taxi company in Melbourne, Australia would not accept Visa. We were surprised they only took MC at the time; luckily we had cash on hand, because we didn’t have an MC at the time.

  7. 7
    Jo/Gaelicwench Says:

    During my 6-year stay in various parts of Europe, I noticed that many retailers only took Visa. MC was not as widely accepted, and forget about the Discover Card. They also accepted AmEx as well.

    Using a Visa-debit card at Sam’s comes in handy if there are no “foreign” ATMs that accepts your card without a fee or fee reimbursement if you want/need cash. That’s probably moot for the most part, since many do so. But it’s one way to get cash if you’re in a hurry and need to get somewhere; hence, avoiding an extra stop altogether.

  8. 8
    KT Says:

    I had difficulty finding ATMs in Kenya that would accept my Mastercard debit card. The only one that would work was Barclays – a UK bank. Using my MC debit card or MC credit card hasn’t been a problem anywhere else, including New Zealand, Australia, and various parts of Europe.

  9. 9
    ColombianCoffee Says:

    I have both just in case. one is my debit card and the other is a credit card. I don’t use the cc often, but it’s good to know I have it when I run into merchants who don’t accept one or the other.

  10. 10
    Bruce Says:

    My oil company accepts both, but charges a handling fee for MasterCard, but not Visa. They say that MC charges them more. This started last year.

  11. 11
    Anthony Says:

    I say diversification in everything! For those who are debt-haters and can control their spending, why not have a Visa AND a MasterCard? My debit card is a Visa, and I am actively looking for a good MasterCard credit card for some cashback rewards!

  12. 12
    Mary Severance Says:

    While traveling in Finland a few years ago, we found many places that would accept only Mastercard. Was a bit rough since we only had Visa and American Express.

  13. 13
    smartcredit Says:

    I live in the U.S. (Florida) and never ran into any problems, with two exceptions: Sam’s Club will take MC, but not VISA credit. Dollar Tree is the opposite.

  14. 14
    M Says:

    After reading this I had to go and take a look at my cards, and it happens that my Banorte card have a Visa logo, the Scotiabank is a Master and I mainly use my Amex. All issued in Mexico.

    The only time that I remember having a problem with my cards was paying for my Warcraft suscription, lol neither my visa or master were accepted, only my amex! Generally however, nobody care what kind of card you have in here as far as I have seen.

  15. 15
    Julia Says:

    I’ve had the same experience as #5. The only credit card Sam’s Club takes inside the store is MC. However, the gas pumps at Sam’s take Visa credit cards as well as MC.

  16. 16
    Eric Says:

    That’s why I have all of them. :)

  17. 17
    Justice McCay Says:

    Visa & MasterCard are one in the same, generally-speaking. Years ago Visa & MasterCard were actually partenered and divisions of the same company, and the US came after them for creating a Monopoly for credit cards/payment processing solutions to the two had to split but do still have “tight” (as in they are still partnered) connections.

    I like MasterCard a lot more than Visa. But with Greendot you can get both types via prepaid at CVS.

  18. 18
    BPushia Says:

    In my case I have a Bank issued Debit Visa Card, and a PayPal Debit Master Card. I have My Visa Card linked to my PayPal Account for backup funding. In the event that I am not able to pay with MC I can just use my VC, on the other hand should I not be able to use VC I can use my PayPal MC. No need to fund both accounts, just the visa account linked to PayPal, for PayPal will use that account for backup funding.

  19. 19
    visa Says:

    I used to have a visa check card from suntrust but recently they switched all their cards from visa to mastercard. I wasnt happy about it but considering i never had a mc i figured I’d have to try it for a while. It usually works fine but at the dollar store near my house they only accept visa cards as credit and you have to do debit for mastercard which really irks me.

  20. 20
    paul Says:

    I wanted to use my visa debit card as a credit option at Sam’s Club and was told by the cashier that I could not do that. I was puzzled. I know that if you use the credit option on your visa debit card, there is a delay in the time it is taken from your checking account. For example, if it is a weekend the funds won’t be taken out till Monday night. If you use it as a debit card, your account is debited instantly. On that particular day I needed the delay. I did not want my account to be debited instantly or I would incur a $30 fee from my bank.

  21. 21
    John Says:

    In the process of requesting a cash advance from my VISA card (issued by one bank) into my checking account (at another bank), I discovered that the receiving bank couldn’t do this…because “we’re a MasterCard bank”. What the…?!

  22. 22
    alex Says:

    In my case Paypal only accepts VISA, Not sure why but it pisses me off because my card i got registered there is a MC and yesterday i made another one and when the bank asked what i prefer i said MC because that’s what i have now, but today i found out i can’t Withdrawal on MC from the paypal balance. However it worked fine buying from eBay. So next time i`ll go for visa. and i live in romania.

  23. 23
    Jose Says:

    Here in Panama (Central America), VISA is #1 (by far) in issued cards and MasterCard is #2. But ALL the merchants accept both. The issue in Panama is the acceptance of AMEX. Few merchants accept AMEX because few Banks works with AMEX. Also the fee that pays the merchant for every transaction is higher for AMEX than for VISA and MasterCard.

  24. 24
    Jay Says:

    The Dollar General here where I live in New Jersey only takes Visa. I found this out the hard way. I was ready to buy some stuff and my card got declined so the cashier asked to to see it (MasterCard) and his reply back was “Sorry sir, we only take Visa.”

  25. 25
    John Says:

    The World’s Local Bank, HSBC, which has presence in approximately 86 countries and currently the world largest banking financial institution, offers MasterCard in the USA while it offers Visa in UK. ???

  26. 26
    Cody Richards Says:

    No-Frills in canada does’nt accept visa, only Mastercard. I assume this is to promote their President’s Choice Financial Brand

  27. 27
    howard levy Says:

    I wanted to use my master card credit card today at the dollar store on loch raven blvd. in baltimore maryland and they said that they are only accepting Mastercard as a debit card. I explain that my card was a credit card not debit and they say no. Spoke to the manager and he has no idea why they will not accept the card

    very frustrated

  28. 28
    Justin Lam Says:

    In Hong Kong, usually both cards are accepted. Just like other places in the world, AMEX is common also but still many shops won’t accept as the higher transaction fee was charged.

  29. 29
    Matera the Mad Says:

    I am ready to scream and throw things. I use a Visa debit card for online purchases, and have never had a problem with it. But now my workplace, a small non-profit, has a MasterCard — and I haven’t been able to use it for ANYTHING. GoDaddy won’t accept it for domain renewal, printer won’t take it for a card order, and so on. Back to the horrid nuisance of using mine and putting in for reimbursement. Yeah, I would say it makes a difference.

  30. 30
    thomc Says:

    In the Philippines, Mastercard dominates the market. But still, all establishments accepts both. Most banks here offer credit mc, only few offers VISA, I don’t know why, but I think VISA is still the best.

    I got my VISA debit//.

  31. 31
    Mike Says:

    in Eastern Africa (speaking of Ethiopia and Djibouti) having Mastercard is not a good deal. You can hardly find a working ATM especially if you have one of the new Cards. VISA otherwise is accepted everywhere.

  32. 32
    Yasir Says:

    Hi Nickel,

    I am in Ghana (west African country) right now and MasterCard is not accepted anywhere in Ghana. Its only Visa Card everywhere in Ghana. Even banks in Ghana are only issuing Visa Card.

    Regards

  33. 33
    Diana Says:

    In Malaysia, all major stores/restaurants/shops widely accept both mastercard and visa. I gurantee you will have no problem using one of those.

    My concern is, what about europe countries? Comment #3,#7,#12 is helpful. I hope they still accepting both as I don’t have Amex.

  34. 34
    joy cole Says:

    my friend and I are going on a Thomson cruise and when you have to give card details on board somebody told her you can only use master cards
    I have been on lots of cruises with my late husband and wasn’t aware of this could you tell me if this is right

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