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Difference Between Visa and American Express

Visa vs American Express

Visa and American Express are two of the best known companies in the credit card issuance business worldwide. The two companies offer numerous benefits as part of their total package, and not just the issuing of cards. Often, we get caught with indecision in trying to determine which is the better credit card and this is not helped by the flood of advertisements and unending email solicitations from either company.

The companies
Visa initially started as BankAmericard in 1958. The card was being issued by Bank of America as a revolving balance credit card. Starting in 1970 however, the company went through several changes including being incorporated as National BankAmericard where it was no longer tied to a single bank. The company was renamed to Visa in 1976 and remained a private limited company until it went public in 2008.

As for American Express, its history dates further back in 1850 when it started out as a delivery service for valuable items, time-critical deliveries as well as mail that was considered too sensitive to be delivered through the US postal service. In subsequent years, the company introduced financial services while slowly phasing out the delivery services. American Express introduced its first credit card in 1958.

The business
While both companies issue credit cards, Visa does more of payment processing than issuing while American Express is mainly into card issuing. It is a matter of preference and needs when it comes to users deciding on which card to use. However, common things to look for are fees and any benefits programs that may come with certain cards. For instance, there’s some sort of annual fee typical with certain American Express cards, not all of them though. There are some waivers for the fee that may be offered in case a client agrees to spend a minimum set amount in a year.

American Express cards have cash back offers on purchases that may go up to 5% while Visa rarely offers straight cash backs, instead offers rewards in other forms like merchandize.
On the contrary, visa card offers generally come with no annual fees but sometimes, an issuer may charge some kind of fee so it’s important to look at the offer available from an issuer or a bank in case you choose Visa.
Another key difference is that American Express is not as widely accepted as Visa internationally. This makes it wise to have a Visa Card on international travels, just in case.

Summary
American Express started in 1850s while Visa started in 1950s.
American Express is more of a card issuer while Visa is generally a payment processing company.
American Express offers cash backs as rewards while Visa mainly offers non cash rewards like merchandize.


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1 Comment

  1. Huge things that were overlooked in this comparison:

    Visa earns it’s money by charging interest on average daily balances.
    American Express earns it’s money from the annual fee.
    An American Express is a charge card. This means you pay the full balance of the card each month.
    Visa is a credit card. This means you can carry a balance on the card month to month.
    An American Express has no preset spending limit.
    A Visa has a hard limit and can charge fees for exceeding it.

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