Credit cards in comparison ᐅ American Express, Mastercard and Visa (2023)

the essentials in brief

  • When comparing the three major credit card systems, the conditions of the respective house bank are particularly important. OnlyAmerican Expressis independent of this and makes its own offers.
  • If you want to shop with a credit card, you will find the most merchants worldwide with Visa and Mastercard. American Express, on the other hand, has significantly fewer acceptance points.
  • However, American Express scores with fair default interest.

Anyone who travels abroad or frequently shops online is increasingly asked for a credit card. With the big car rental companies, nothing works without it for a long time. More and more customers are looking for the best type of card, the most attractive offers. The most popular are Visa and Mastercard, which are only issued through commercial banks. The traditional brandAmerican Express (Amex)however, deals their cards themselves.

AComparisonthis makes it complicated. While Amex arranges the costs, additional services, benefits and all conditions for its cards itself, this is done by the respective bank with which the customer has his current account with Visa and Mastercard. This means that the diversity is hardly manageable. It therefore makes sense to check which of the two systems is most attractive for personal needs:Amexor a Mastercard or Visa card.

  • No annual fee
  • up to €45 starting credit
  • Default interest of 5% above the base rate
(Video) Visa vs. Mastercard vs. American Express: Comparing the Credit Card Networks

The advantages of Amex

  • Amex offers four different credit cards to serve a wide range of customer milieus: a fee-free blue card for the cost-conscious, a green card for 60 euros per year and a gold card for 140 euros an annual fee. High-status customers can carry the Platinum Card in their wallet for EUR 720 a year.
  • The numerous additional services are popular with Amex, such as a bonus program on sales, numerous insurance policies, especially for travel, and discounts for golf courses. The extent of the add-ons varies with the respective card model.
  • With its tradition and image, American Express guarantees a certain elegance and makes the cards interesting for customers who like something special.
  • When it comes to interest on arrears, Amex demonstrates down-to-earth fairness. All cards are charged 5 percentage points above the base interest rate. It is not uncommon for other providers to reach rates well above the ten percent mark.
  • In principle, Amex does not make costly partial payments for card charges, while other providers often only have a part of the invoice amount automatically settled by default. After that, the customers have to become active themselves in order to compensate for the entire minus amount. If the deadlines are missed, there is an expensive delay in payment, which is charged with high interest rates.

The cons of Amex

  • The decisive disadvantage is the relatively small number of acceptance points. Amex itself does not give an exact figure. However, Amex is far behind Visa and Mastercard. But Amex is expanding its network and increasing the number of merchants that accept it.
  • If you want to withdraw cash from an ATM on the go, you have to be able to use it sparingly. Because cash is tight. Depending on the card model, only between 750 and 1,500 euros can be withdrawn each week.
  • For withdrawing money from ATMs, Amex charges a fee of 4 percent, at least 5 euros. Here the competition is often cheaper.

The pros and cons of Visa and Mastercard

  • Visa and Mastercardoffer according to their own statements a worldwide network with more than 70 million acceptance points. Users can therefore expect these cards to be used almost everywhere, even on long-distance journeys.
  • The limits for withdrawing cash from ATMs are extremely different and diverse for Visa Card and Mastercard. They are set by the issuing banks and are often higher than withAmex. With the Visa Card from Comdirect, for example, up to 600 euros can be withdrawn daily from ATMs in Germany and abroad.
  • Visa and Mastercard are no slouch when it comes to additional services either. Travel insurance, discounts and bonus programs are available to varying degrees, but this always depends on the respective bank and cannot be mapped across the board.
  • In the event of loss, theft or fraud, i.e. if strangers use the credit card for transactions without authorization, Visa and Mastercard assume the damage in full. Amex charges its customers a deductible of 50 euros.
  • One disadvantage of the two can hardly be overlooked: there is no overview of most conditions. To do this, customers would have to laboriously compare the numerous individual offers from the banks.
  • Likewise, the often high interest on arrears of more than 10 percent speak against many Visa and Mastercard offers. This is especially true when the offering bank automatically stops partial payments, so that interest on arrears is charged on the remaining amounts.

The credit card models from Amex, Visa and Mastercard

American ExpressVisa CardMastercard
Blue Card(for free)ClassicStandard
Green Card(60 € annual fee)GoldGold
Gold Card(140 € annual fee)PlatinumPlatinum
Platinum Card(720 € annual fee)InfiniteWorld Elite

For penny pinchers, the choice is large.Free credit cardsare available from Visa, Mastercard and also from Amex. The Amex Blue Card even includes a starting credit of 45 euros and additional insurance cover for traffic accidents. In addition, it remains with the pure payment functions.

But for the same annual fee, namely zero euros, there are more with some other providers. Advanzia and TF Bank offer a Gold class card for 140 euros a year at Amex free of charge. But all that glitters is not gold.

Toll-free gold cards aren't always a bargain

The toll-freeMastercard Gold der Advanzia Bankhas already been rated as "good" in the ranking of FMH financial advice for the Handelsblatt. Compared to all Amex cards, it scores most clearly with the waiver of fees for cash withdrawals. That's a lot anyway.

But everything else remains vague. Even reading the fine print of the terms and conditions does not make it clear what an “interest-free payment term for purchases” is. There is a lot of text, but little information that is easy to understand. Transparency doesn't seem to be the strong point here.

(Video) How American Express Humiliates Visa & Mastercard

Things are looking better at TF Bank. She also offers themMastercard GoldToll-free. Numerous conditions are openly visible on the homepage. There are also no fees for withdrawing cash.

There is also a package for travel insurance: travel health insurance, travel cancellation insurance, travel interruption insurance, baggage insurance, flight and baggage delay insurance, personal liability insurance abroad and accident insurance. It almost comes close to the range of services offered by the Amex Gold, which costs 140 euros – at least at first glance.

But the TF Bank card does not have to be a bargain. Anyone who cannot balance their sales for more than 51 days will be charged fat default interest: 24.79 percent on goods purchases and cash transactions. And the pretty insurance package often remains just a chimera. Because it only applies if at least 50 percent of the total travel price is paid by credit card.

The Visa Card from Barclay also appears attractive, although without "gold" in the name, but free of charge.

  • Without an additional account
  • No annual fee, no foreign currency fees
  • Contactless payment


(Video) The Top 4 Credit Cards Everybody Should Own (Chase & American Express)

With this card, the use of ATMs worldwide is free of charge. But when it comes to debit interest, Barclays asks its customers to pay 23.13 percent. A simple concept for free, as long as you keep a close eye on your sales. But it's not enough for demanding trips.

Amex has cheap competitors

InfosAmex Gold CardAmex Blue CardTF Bank Mastercard GoldBarclays Visa
annual fee140 €0 €0 €0 €
ATM withdrawal fees4%, but at least €54%, but at least €50 €0 €
late payment interest5 percentage points above the base rate5 percentage points above the base rate24,79 %23,13 %
travel insurancetransport accident insurance,
Motor vehicle protection letter in Europe,
foreign travel health insurance,
Comfort insurance in case of flight or baggage delay,
Cost insurance in the event of cancellation due to illness
traffic accident insuranceTravel health insurance abroad, travel cancellation insurance, travel interruption insurance, baggage insurance, flight and baggage delay insurance, personal liability insurance abroad, accident
Starting balance at the beginning72 €45 €not specifiedno indication

Frequently asked questions about credit cards

Which is better Visa or American Express

With more than 70 million acceptance points worldwide, Visa has a significantly larger distribution than Amex. The exact conditions of a Visa card depend on the respective bank of the customer.

(Video) Visa vs Mastercard - How Do They Compare? (Credit Card Comparison)

Is American Express a Visa card?

No, American Express is its own credit card company that competes with Visa. The systems of both providers differ significantly.

For whom is American Express worthwhile?

Amex is worthwhile for customers who are often in the red and have to pay interest on arrears. Amex charges fair prices here. For frequent travelers, most cards offer extensive travel insurance packages.

(Video) The difference between a Visa, MasterCard and American Express


Which is best Visa Mastercard or American Express? ›

American Express can be used at 54.6 million merchants worldwide, which is less than the 56.7 million that take Visa. That said, American Express offers competitive benefits to Visa and Mastercards, including numerous travel perks, purchase protections and insurance, emergency services and more.

What is a big difference between American Express and Visa or Mastercard? ›

When comparing all 3 networks, there is 1 main difference between American Express and Mastercard/Visa. American Express is both a card issuer AND a payment network. Mastercard and Visa are only payment networks.

What are the 4 major credit cards? ›

The four major credit card companies are Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover. Visa and Mastercard are the most widely accepted card networks in the world, while American Express and Discover play a dual role as card networks and credit card issuers.

Which credit card is more accepted Visa or Mastercard? ›

Visa credit cards can be used at 44 million merchant locations in more than 200 countries and territories. Mastercard credit cards are accepted at 37 million merchant locations in more than 210 countries and territories.

How many credit cards should you have? ›

If your goal is to get or maintain a good credit score, two to three credit card accounts, in addition to other types of credit, are generally recommended. This combination may help you improve your credit mix. Lenders and creditors like to see a wide variety of credit types on your credit report.

Should I use American Express or Visa? ›

Amex cards often earn big rewards and, in some cases, come with ultra-high annual fees. By contrast, Visa card options include premium cards but also products that can be more accessible for people with credit issues and are a more practical choice if you use credit around the globe.

Why is everyone switching from Visa to Mastercard? ›

If your bank switched a card from Visa to Mastercard, it was likely because they felt the features and benefits of Mastercard were better than those of Visa. For example, the issuer might take into consideration processing fees or network-level benefits like travel insurance or purchase protection.

What is the hardest American Express card to get? ›

Centurion® Card from American Express

Why it's one of the hardest credit cards to get: The hardest credit card to get is the American Express Centurion Card. Known simply as the “Black Card,” you need an invitation to get Amex Centurion.

Why is American Express card so good? ›

American Express is one of the leading card issuers in the United States. It's known for its top-notch customer service and some of the best rewards available. From ultra-elite business travel cards to everyday rewards, American Express has credit cards that are a good choice for many different types of cardholders.

What is the #1 credit card to have? ›

The 2023 NerdWallet Best-Of Award Winners
WINNER (Click to read review)
Best credit card for simple cash backWells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Best credit card for bonus cash backChase Freedom Flex℠
Best all-purpose travel rewards credit cardChase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Best premium travel credit cardChase Sapphire Reserve®
11 more rows
4 days ago

What are the three top credit cards? ›

What are the top 5 credit cards?
  • Best Overall: Chase Freedom Unlimited®
  • Rates & FeesBest for Cash Back Rewards: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card.
  • Rates & FeesBest for Travel: Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.
  • Rates & FeesBest for 0% Intro APR: Wells Fargo Reflect® Card.

What card gives the most credit? ›

Both are very impressive cards, and remarks on Quora indicate that it's possible to get a credit limit of up to $500,000.
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. ...
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve® ...
  • Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card. ...
  • Bank of America® Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card. ...
  • Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.

What is the most used credit card in USA? ›

Most Common Types of Credit Cards

Of the four main types of credit cards—Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover—Visa is by far the most common, making up 52.8% of cards in circulation.

Which credit card is accepted everywhere? ›

Visa is the most widely accepted credit card, welcomed at over 46 million merchant locations spanning more than 200 countries and territories. Mastercard is accepted by 37 million merchant locations in more than 210 countries and territories. Visa is the most widely accepted payment network in the world.

Where is American Express not accepted? ›

Places Where American Express is Not Accepted: Cuba, Sudan, South Sudan, Iran, Syria. Major Retailers That Accept American Express: Amazon, IKEA, Sears, Target, Walmart, Lowe's, Apple, Best Buy, Staples, CVS. Major Retailers That Don't Accept American Express: Costco, small non-chain stores/restaurants.

Is American Express the hardest card to get? ›

Why it's one of the hardest credit cards to get: The hardest credit card to get is the American Express Centurion Card. Known simply as the “Black Card,” you need an invitation to get Amex Centurion.

Why American Express is the best? ›

It's known for its top-notch customer service and some of the best rewards available. From ultra-elite business travel cards to everyday rewards, American Express has credit cards that are a good choice for many different types of cardholders. Terms apply.

Why is Amex more expensive than Visa? ›

American Express is thought of as being a more expensive credit card network than its competitors. That's because American Express does double duty as a credit card issuer and a payment network. This makes processing fees higher, and American Express relies on generating profits through its higher processing fees.


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