American Express, or AMEX, is one of the most recognisable names in the financial world. What many customers who have MasterCard or Visa credit cards in their wallet are interested in, is what is the difference between these two companies and American Express. Well the difference is quite simple.
MasterCard and Visa are both simply payment methods. They allow locations to accept payment using their system. They do not however, issue any credit cards of their own. For this they rely on their partnerships with thousands of banks worldwide who will issue credit cards, provide the credit necessary, and charge clients interest and give them rewards. None of your credit card bill goes to Visa or MasterCard. It all goes to the bank that provided the card. This bank also sets your interest rate, gives you rewards, offers you zero per cent balance transfers, the works.
Visa and MasterCard make their money by charging the retailer a fee for using their payment system, and also sometimes by charging your bank for issuing the card. None of this effects you directly however.
American Express is a very different arrangement. Not only do they have their own payment system, but they also issue their cards directly to customers. So they are running the whole show. If a card says American Express on it, you know instantly who issued it, what payments system it utilises and everything else about the card.
While Visa and MasterCard are probably far more prevalent payment methods worldwide, American Express is rapidly expanding its network. Both Visa and MasterCard are accepted at over twenty million locations worldwide and these are spread around over one hundred and fifty countries. This makes them truly global payment methods. American Express still lacks this degree of saturation. There are places in the world where Visa and MasterCard are accepted widely but American Express is more difficult to use.
However, American Express has its own advantages, particularly for customers in Europe and North America. In these countries the card is accepted widely. The company also offers very attractive credit cards. They have good rates, good reward schemes and good customer service. If you want a card guaranteed to give you a high standard of service, and that still carries a little bit of extra exclusivity now that Visa and MasterCard are so prevalent, then American Express, or AMEX, is a good safe choice.