The global plastic card industry has been monopolized by the two giants, visa and MasterCard. They are far ahead of any of the other players and are doing exceptionally well irrespective of the global economic crisis. Visa to-date has issued a billion cards and MasterCard has around 25000 affiliated banks. There are at least twenty million locations, where you can use these two cards on the planet.
As a consumer, you will not find much of a difference between the two. Both of these cards are accepted in almost 150 different countries, and it’s not easy to find a place that will not accept either one. Now, both these card companies do not issue credit cards. They are the service providers, who provide the swiping machines or online payment technology, using their encryption. The interest rate that you get, the annual fee, and any other rewards, and charges will be solely due to the bank that issued the card.
The mechanism through which visa and MasterCard make their money is that they charge the merchant when he/she uses their payment method. If a single bank issues both visa and MasterCard, they will be identical to a visa and MasterCard issued by another bank. So if Citibank issues both these cards, they will be similar to each other than a visa and MasterCard from say chase. Hence instead of focusing on which service provider you get, try to concentrate on the interest rate and other penalties that can be imposed. There are few instances in which you could get affected because you are carrying just one type.
Moreover, if you are going on vacation or something, it is always better to carry both types of cards. You can get them from the same bank, or you can open a new savings bank account with a different bank, and request a different service provider. If in case something were to happen to one company, or if you find a location that accepts just one service provider and not the other, you can still use a particular card. At the end of it all, you still need to focus on the deal that your bank is giving you. The difference might be seen in the type of rewards, that you want from your card. For example, in some places they accept only one type of card in order to gift away points.