AMEX, VISA and MasterCard – What’s The Difference?

What’s the difference between credit card providers

American Express, Visa and MasterCard are arguably among the biggest credit card names in the entire world. Many Singaporeans hold at least a card from one of these three brands and almost every Singaporean has Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards. These cards are accepted almost everywhere in Singapore and on most online shopping sites, especially Visa and MasterCard. However, what exactly is the difference between these three?

How Do These Cards Work?

Visa and MasterCard don’t issue their own cards and are only intermediaries. When you make a purchase, they process the transaction between the merchant and the bank and earn a fee from this service. American Express, on the other hand, is a distributor. They issue their own cards, authorise purchases and finance payments.


Of the three, MasterCard is accepted in the most number of countries, at an estimated number of over 210 countries. Visa comes second, accepted in more than 200 countries. American Express comes in last with 140. It’s incredibly useful if your card is accepted almost anywhere, especially if you travel often, which brings us to the next point.


If you’re one who tends to misplace or lose your wallet, Visa offers emergency replacement of your credit card in just 1 business day, something which MasterCard and American Express both do not offer. MasterCard boasts numerous ATMs and merchants across the globe and you can locate them with the help of the PayPass app.

However, American Express can provide you with many other travel benefits. You can use reward points on the American Express travel site, with more than 1,000 reward partners worldwide.

Returns and Exchanges

Visa, MasterCard and American Express all cover purchases for 90 days from damage and theft, but MasterCard has some restrictions in place. Similarly, all three provide extended warranties, but each has different conditions. For American Express, extended warranties are for one year on merchant warranties of up to five years. Visa’s extended warranties also last for one year, but only on warranties which last for less than 3 years. MasterCard’s extended warranties only applies when the manufacturer’s warranty is less than a year. MasterCard is the only one out of the three which provides price protection, which reimburses you if you happen to find a lower price within 60 days. There is also a return protection, which reimburses you up to $250 if you have a change of mind before 60 days are up and the merchant refuses a refund. This also applies to American Express, with amounts up to $300 if you’ve changed your mind within 90 days, but is only valid to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Credit Card Security

For all three card providers, there are monitoring services in place to detect any fraudulent usage of your cards. MasterCard offers zero liability protection when you report your card as lost or stolen. This also applies to Visa but does not include ATM transactions. American Express provides protection from fraud without deductibles. Visa and American Express implement codes for added security – another password to verify your online purchases for Visa and an account code implemented in the process of communication with consumers for American Express.

Why have a credit card?

Its not every day you ask yourself why should I have a credit card and what is the difference between card types. However, credit cards offer a huge range of benefits above just pure credit. With a credit card, you have emergency funds available, just incase you come up short of cash from time to time.What’s more, one of the best credit card benefits around is cash back rewards, with many card providers offering anywhere from 1% to 6% cash back on every dollar spent.

  • Cashback – Enjoy up to 3% unlimited cashback and higher on selected categories like dining, online spends etc.
  • Rewards Program – You can earn hotel points, airline miles, and more. with banks offering Citidollars, HSBC reward points and more.
  • Fraud Protection – A credit card can be canceled at anytime and any transactions fraudulently made are covered by your issuers insurance.
  • Purchase Protection – Credit Card providers offer extended warranties, money back guarantees for undelivered items and more.

Another Leading Payment Network: UnionPay

UnionPay, the new official card of the Great Singapore Sale, is another credit card name you should be looking out for. It is accepted in 141 countries, behind Visa and MasterCard. UnionPay is extending its global reach and is accepted at most local ATMs and merchants.

While most credit cardholders look at the issuing bank for than the card issuers, it can be worthwhile to take a closer look at the differences between them. Some offer various privileges to certain types of cards only, while security and additional card services can come in very useful, especially when you are travelling. Which of these are your favourite card providers? Share with us!

Here’s a look at some of the best AMEX, VISA and MasterCard credit cards in Singapore:

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