American Express vs Visa

Posted by CreditCardGuru

Visa or American Express… who should you choose? This matchup will give you the answer! I’ve updated it for 2014 with the latest data available from year-end annual reports.

Round One: Size of Company

logos of amex and visaFirst, let’s a take a quick look at AmEx’s basic stats:

Stock symbol: AXP
Value of company: $86 billion
How many credit cards in US? 53.1 million
How many debit cards in US: n/a (doesn’t do debit)

Versus Visa:

Stock symbol: V
Value of company: $127 billion
How many credit cards in US: 254.1 million
How many debit cards in US: 431.2 million

Winner? As far as the size of the company, Visa definitely beats AmEx in this round!

Round Two: Card Acceptance

American Express: Acceptance in the U.S. is very high; there are approximately 4.5 million merchants who accept their cards. Amex is also accepted in over 130 other countries, but its acceptance is usually much lower in other countries than it is in the U.S.

Visa: Acceptance in the U.S. is around 8 million merchants. Worldwide Visa is the most widely accepted credit card and can be used in over 170 different countries. Visa archrival MasterCard is actually accepted in many more countries than Visa (around 240) but Visa still boasts greater merchant acceptance at home and abroad.

Winner? Visa is more accepted than Amex. However, in the US you can use your American Express at the vast majority of business, with the exception of some independently owned businesses (like dry cleaners, diners, etc). That’s because American Express charges much higher merchant acceptance fees and some small businesses refuse to play along.

Round Three: Best Credit Cards?

For starters, it’s important to note that Visa doesn’t actually issue credit cards… they only process the transaction. The banks that use Visa are the ones that control the cards, so you really can’t stereotype Visa, because one bank that issues them may be despicable, while another is spectacular. It’s sort of like how you can’t fault a particular brand of car if one of their dealerships has a terrible reputation. Banks are basically dealers of Visa cards, with a license to offer them to the public.

American Express on the other hand does directly issue the vast majority of their credit cards. Generally speaking, American Express cards are targeted toward upper-income working professionals and offer more premium benefits.

Winner? American Express, due to their superior benefits. However, there are a number of Visa cards with excellent rewards and benefits as well (especially with cards branded as Visa Signature), but most consumers would probably assign a higher level of desirability to an Amex vs. a Visa. This may just be a result of brand perception created through decades of advertising but American Express usually takes the top slot when it comes to prestige.

Final Round: Who Wins For 2014?

Overseas, Visa is probably your best bet. But here in the US, American Express has some pretty amazing cards with great benefits. So I would say Visa wins internationally and AmEx probably takes the prize at home. However, there are some Visa cards that are better than Amex cards and vice-versa… it really just depends on the type of card, rewards and spending patterns that benefit you most.

Written or last edited August 22, 2014


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Editorial Disclosure: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

3 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. Linda Seeger June 6, 2013 at 3:43PM

    Heartless yes or no? You decide….American Express is suing a poor Widow ! A widow on disability with stage 4 cancer!!!!!!!

  2. Denny July 26, 2012 at 4:11PM

    Amex also issues a charge card which requires the balance be paid IN FULL every month. If you are going with Amex, make sure you are getting a credit and not a charge card. Otherwise, you could be in for a nasty surprise when the bill comes.

    • Michael November 28, 2012 at 3:43PM

      You’re absolutely correct Denny. The Green/Gold/Platinum are charge cards that require payment in full each month. The others are regular credit cards.

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