What Is The Most Widely Accepted Credit Card? MasterCard!

"more accepted worldwide" graphicIf you want the best credit card for worldwide acceptance, your choice is quite simple…

Here in the USA, it is true that many merchants accept the big four: MasterCard, Visa – and to a lesser extent – American Express and Discover. But what about internationally?

Per MasterCard’s global website:

“MasterCard Worldwide is a leading global payments solutions company that provides a family of well-known, widely-accepted payment card brands including MasterCard®, Maestro® and Cirrus® and serves consumers, financial institutions, and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories worldwide,” according to MasterCard’s website.

Meanwhile, Visa’s annual report for 2015 states that Visa is accepted in “more than 200 countries and territories” worldwide.

Worldwide credit card acceptance numbers

More than 200 countries and territoriesMore than 210 countries and territories

While we don’t have any numbers for number of merchants worldwide accepting each cards, we can say that, as far as worldwide acceptance goes, these brands are on equal footing. If you have a Visa or MasterCard card in your wallet, you can expect them to be equally accepted during your travels — or not accepted (many merchants abroad still prefer cash).

What about in the United States?

Even though MasterCard and Visa have comparable acceptance in the United States, there are a few places where you need a Visa. Costco, for example, accepts only Visa.

But of course, what you’re much more likely to encounter are retailers that refuse to accept American Express or Discover. Even in large cities you will find restaurants and bars that won’t accept Amex. Not to mention, some dry cleaners and other mom ‘n pop businesses who sometimes refuse it. So unless you want to get stuck high and dry it’s best to have another payment form. American Express charges the highest merchant interchange fees, so many merchants simply refuse to accept their cards and hope patrons have another way to pay.

You also need to account for EMV

Nearly all major credit cards in the U.S. are now issued with an EMV chip. However, the U.S. implementation of EMV (chip and signature) is different from the norm in other countries (chip and PIN). Fortunately, you can still use your U.S.-issued EMV card in most situations abroad.

Because most issuers have already re-issued most of their card portfolios as EMV cards, you won’t find a huge difference between Visa, MasterCard, etc., as far as being EMV-capable.

This article was written or last updated November 2016

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The mention that mastercard is accepted in 210 countries in the world would be very nice wouldn’t it be for the the fact that there are only 196 countries in the world total. So if MasterCard actually stated this the person who made the post should be reprimanded.
Since this statement is incorrect it severely undermines the rest of your article.

Hi Chris,

Here’s the number we were citing, via MC’s site: http://www.mastercard.com/global/

Notice how it says “countries and territories,” not just “countries.”

However, thanks to your sharp eye, we reviewed the rest of the article (which was written several years ago) and realized there were some other things out of date, which we have now corrected!

In addition to the 196* countries in the world, there are also an additional 61 territories so this could be accurate.

In the UK you can use both Visa and Mastercard in pretty much every single shop and gas station. They may not say so in the window, but if they have any card logo at all they will accept both Visa and Mastercard.
On mainland Europe I have found much the same. The only card that is more difficult to use in Europe is AMEX, which as highlighted above is down to the excessive charges imposed on retailers.

Anyone know how many merchants in those non-USA countries accept Visa vs Mastercard? Most restaurants I have been to in foreign countries only accept VISA. My own personal experience. Doesn’t matter if Masercard is accepted in more ‘countries’ if not accepted by more ‘merchants.’

Just beware that the Citi Platinum Select Mastercard charges 3% of the purchase for foreign transactions.

That is charged by the card issuer and not by the scheme – Visa or MasterCard.