The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
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2020's Best Visa® Credit Cards

Below are our ratings of 2020's best Visa® credit card offers. Issued by a number of banks internationally, Visa® is accepted at millions of stores and ATMs around the world.

Average APR
17.46%
Average Annual Fee
$24.65
Rate Trend
0.11%
since last month
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The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which CardRates.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers.

24 FAQs About Visa Credit Cards

Zina Kumok
By: Zina Kumok
Updated:
24 FAQs About Visa Credit Cards
CardRates.com Guide: Visa®

When you’re trying to find the best Visa credit cards for your specific situation and lifestyle, things can get confusing pretty quickly. It helps to have a basic understanding of Visa as a company — what it is, how it operates, and how its credit offerings differ from one another.

That may sound like a lot of information, but we’ve put together an easily-digestible overview of Visa to make things a little easier. After reading this article, you’ll be able to confidently make the right choice when shopping around for a Visa credit card.

1. What is Visa?

Visa is a payment processing network. Visa doesn’t actually issue credit, debit, or prepaid cards, but it works with partner companies to provide consumer and business cards. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is on the Visa network, but it’s issued by Chase Bank.

Visa Logo

Mastercard, American Express, and Discover are the other three main networks, with Visa being the most popular. It can be a little confusing because Discover and American Express are both issuers and card networks while Mastercard is only a payment network.

Visa began operating as a credit card processing network in 1958 when it joined Bank of America to offer the first real credit card for regular shoppers. In 1975, they launched the first debit card in the country.

At the time, the company was known as BankAmericard, but the name was changed to Visa in 1976. Visa went public in 2008, and it was the biggest IPO ever at the time.

Now, Visa is one of the most popular payment networks and widely accepted in hundreds of countries. If you’re traveling abroad and have to choose which card to bring, a Visa card is a safe choice.

In 2020, there were 335 types of Visa credit cards followed by 200 kinds of Mastercard cards. Visa has 323 million users while Mastercard only has 191 million users.

2. How Do I Get a Visa Card?

Because Visa is the largest credit card processing network, it’s very simple to get a Visa card if you’re not picky about what kind of card you want. First, decide if you need a prepaid, debit, or credit card.

A prepaid card is like an electronic gift card. You load money onto the card from a bank account, via check or cash, after which the merchant adds that money to the prepaid card.

You can buy prepaid cards at grocery stores, pharmacies, and online retailers. When the money runs out, you can visit the same retailer you bought it from or a different one. Prepaid cards can be reused multiple times.

Prepaid cards can be risky because there are no protections for consumers if the card is lost or stolen. For example, if you accidentally leave a prepaid card outside and a thief takes it, you can’t call the card provider to get your money. It’s simply gone.

A debit card is a card attached to a bank account. You can withdraw cash with a debit card or purchase items at both online and in-store retailers.

Most banks provide free debit cards when you open a checking account. If you lose your debit card, you can call the bank to cancel it. Even if someone finds it, they won’t be able to use it.

A credit card is the hardest type of Visa card to obtain. There are two main types of Visa credit cards: secured and unsecured. Choosing between the two depends on where your credit score is at.

Should You Get an Unsecured or Secured Card?

A secured credit card requires a monetary deposit to serve as collateral. Secured credit cards are typically used by those with no credit history or by consumers trying to rebuild their credit history.

The minimum deposit for a secured credit card is often around $200, and the maximum deposit is about $5,000. The deposit will be held until the account is closed or if the card is upgraded to a traditional credit card. This often takes several months of on-time payments.

Some card providers will automatically check your credit after a few months to see if you’re eligible for a regular credit card. Other providers may require that you do this yourself.

A regular or unsecured credit card doesn’t require a deposit. The credit limit is extended based on the borrower’s credit score. A consumer with a high credit score will usually be given a higher credit limit than a consumer with a low credit score.

When you make a purchase with a Visa credit card, the money will be deducted from the total credit limit. If your card has a $5,000 limit and you buy a $50 video game, then your remaining limit will be $4,950.

Some Visa credit cards are harder to get than others. For example, a travel rewards credit card may have higher credit score standards than a basic cash back credit card. Each card issuer has its own requirements and standards.

If you’re not approved for a Visa credit card, the issuer is obligated to provide a copy of your credit report and a general reason for the denial. Some common explanations include having too many other new credit accounts or not having an old enough credit history. If you just took out a loan, you may be denied if you try to open up a new credit card.

If you are denied, check your full credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. There may be a mistake on the credit report, which could be dragging down your credit score.

If you notice an account that doesn’t look familiar, file a dispute with the credit bureau directly. Make sure to do this for all three credit bureaus separately since they work independently from each other. The error could be due to someone stealing your identity and opening a credit card in your name or a lender misattributing an account from a borrower with a similar Social Security number.

3. How do You Use a Visa Card?

A Visa card can be used with any in-store or online retailer that accepts it. If you’re shopping in person, you can ask the cashier if the store accepts Visa. Online retailers will also show which card networks they use when you’re ready to check out.

If you’re shopping online, the merchant will ask for the Visa’s 16-digit card number, expiration date, and the three-digit code on the back. They may also ask for the card’s billing address, which is the personal address attached to the card, or just the zip code.

When you shop in-store, you can scan the card, insert it into the card reader slot, or use the contactless method allowed by some Visa cards.

4. Which is the Best Visa Credit Card?

The best Visa credit card depends on your personal preferences and spending habits. If you travel abroad often, you may want a card with hotel and airline benefits. Our favorite recommendation is the Chase Freedom Unlimited card.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®The Chase Freedom Unlimited® has a signup bonus for new customers that is fairly easy to reach. It also has extra cash-back in special categories.

The card includes an introductory interest rate offer for new purchases. After the offer expires, the rate will switch to a variable APR.

Cash back rewards don’t expire while the card is open. Chase also doesn’t have a minimum redemption amount for rewards, which can be used for travel purchases, merchandise, retailer gift cards, and as a statement credit. The Chase Freedom Unlimited® has no annual fee, but it does have a foreign transaction fee.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is one of our favorite travel Visa credit cards. It has a large signup bonus for new cardholders. The points can be redeemed through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, where the points are worth more when redeemed for travel purchases.

Points can also be transferred to various hotels, airlines, and other travel partners. The card includes reimbursement for lost or delayed baggage, trip cancellation coverage, and trip cancellation/interruption insurance.

The card has an annual fee, so only those who will earn enough in rewards to make up for the annual fee should open this card. There is no foreign transaction fee.

5. How Many Types of Visa Cards are There?

Within the general Visa network landscape, there are three main types of Visa cards with different rewards tiers. Here’s how they stack up:

  • Visa: This is the most basic type of Visa card and is also known as Visa Traditional. This is the easiest type of Visa card to apply and be approved for. Benefits include basic car rental coverage, roadside assistance, emergency cash disbursement, and extra discounts at certain retailers.
  • Visa Signature: Visa Signature cards have more travel perks and other benefits than the basic Visa card. Cardholders are part of the Visa Signature Hotel Collection, which entitles them to occasional room upgrades and other benefits at certain hotels. These cards also include extended warranty protection, a $100 statement credit for Global Entry, free travel accident insurance, free Priority Pass airport lounge access, reimbursement for checked bags, hotel theft protection, coverage for emergency medical expenses, and travel emergency services.
  • Visa Infinite: As the gold standard, Visa Infinite cards have more luxurious benefits than the previous two cards mentioned. Visa Infinite hotel credit cards include VIP status, free breakfasts, possible upgrades, and other amenities. Other Visa Infinite benefits include VIP status with rental car services, access to Sonoma wineries, special perks at Troon Golf resorts, 24/7 concierge services, and more.

General Visa cards are associated with credit cards for poor to good credit scores, whereas Visa Signature and Visa Infinite cards are generally associated with credit cards for good to excellent credit scores.

6. What is the Difference Between Visa and Mastercard?

Visa and Mastercard are two of the most popular card networks in the world. There are few differences between them, and together they make up most of the available credit card offerings in the marketplace.

Because they’re both widely accepted domestically and globally, there’s not much of a difference between them for practical purposes.

7. Is Visa or Mastercard Better?

Both Visa and Mastercard are accepted in the U.S. and in most other countries. While there are slight differences between their specific business structure, this does not affect consumers on a day-to-day basis. Visa has a larger portion of the domestic market, 52.8% compared to 31.6% for Mastercard.

It’s hard to say which company is objectively better, considering how closely the two companies stack up. For anyone trying to decide which company to open a credit card with, it’s more useful to compare specific cards from each company.

8. What Kind of Rewards Can I Get with a Visa Card?

Many card issuers provide cash back or rewards points on Visa cards. Cash back is the most popular type of rewards card among consumers.

In this scenario, the cardholder earns back a percentage of each eligible purchase on their account. The cash back may come in the form of a dollar amount, a point, or a mile.

Cash back rewards can often be redeemed for gift cards, merchandise, travel purchases, special events, cash deposited into your bank account, or as a statement credit on your account. Some even let you deposit cash back into an investment account such as a 529 or IRA. The redemption system depends on the card issuer.

Some Visa cards have a minimum redemption threshold. For example, if the minimum reward amount is $25 and you only have $23, you won’t be able to redeem that amount.

There are also cards with points or miles that expire after a certain time frame, or after you close the account. Other cards have rewards that never expire, even if the credit card is inactive.

Credit Card Rewards Comparison Chart

Some Visa travel cards are tied to a specific hotel, airline, or store, and you can earn specific rewards to be used for those brands. For example, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Card lets you earn miles that can be redeemed only for Southwest Airlines flights. The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card provides extra cash back on Amazon.com purchases year-round.

9. Are there Visa Cards for Bad Credit?

While many credit cards require a good or excellent credit score, plenty of cards are available for those with poor credit. Responsibly using these cards can help you raise your credit score, eventually allowing you to qualify for a card with better terms and rates.

One of the best types of Visa cards for bad credit is a secured card. Secured cards are designed to aid those who want to rebuild their credit profile. Some unsecured Visa credit cards are also available for those with fair credit.

Here are some of the best Visa cards for bad credit:

Bank of America® Cash Back Secured Credit Card

Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit CardThe Bank of America® Cash Back Secured Credit Card offers the most generous cash back rewards we’ve seen offered on a secured card. You’ll need to make a deposit to open the card account, but you’ll receive the deposit back when you close the account or upgrade to an unsecured card from Bank of America.

You’ll also get access to a free FICO score so you can keep track of your credit-building progress.

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card requires a minimum $200 deposit to open an account, with a $3,000 maximum. OpenSky reports card activity to all three credit bureaus, which helps you build a strong credit history.

There’s an annual fee, cash advance fee, and foreign transaction fee. The OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card has a variable interest rate for everyday purchases.

Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards

The Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Cash Back Rewards is an unsecured card with a low initial credit limit, which may increase over time. This card charges an annual fee, a foreign transaction fee, and a cash advance fee.

10. What is the Interest Rate on Visa Cards?

As a card network, Visa doesn’t set the interest rate for its branded credit cards. Those decisions are made by the card issuers.

Visa credit cards come with several kinds of interest rates:

  • Standard purchase interest rate: The standard purchase interest rate applies to net purchases and is also known as the regular purchase APR.
  • Introductory interest rate: Some cards have a special introductory interest rate used to entice new customers. This may apply for new purchases, balance transfers, or both. The introductory interest rate will be offered for a set period of time, usually between six to 24 months. This varies depending on the type of card and the issuer. The introductory interest rate may be revoked if you make a late payment or fail to pay the minimum balance.
  • Balance transfer interest rate: If there’s no special offer for balance transfers, then the balance transfer APR is often the same as the purchase APR.
  • Cash advance interest rate: The cash advance interest rate only applies to cash advances, which is when you use the credit card at an ATM to withdraw cash. When you take out a cash advance, the interest will start accruing immediately. This is different than when you use a credit card to purchase an item because you have a grace period before the interest starts accruing. Taking out a cash advance is also more expensive. Most credit cards allow cash advances, but some do not.
  • Penalty interest rate: The penalty interest rate or APR applies when you make a late payment on your credit card or fail to pay the minimum payment. The penalty interest rate is higher than the regular rate. Not all credit cards charge a penalty interest rate, and some may waive it for your first late payment.

Always read through the cardholder agreement carefully to see the rates and terms you’ll be charged for different transactions. Choosing the card that will cost you the least is always a safe bet.

11. What is the Credit Limit on Visa Cards?

The credit limit on Visa cards varies depending on the card provider, your credit score, and the type of card. Secured Visa credit cards have lower credit limits than regular Visa credit cards because the limit is determined by how much the borrower can deposit.

Average Credit Card Limits by Score

Sometimes, you can call the credit card provider and ask them to increase the credit limit. This is more successful when you have a record of on-time payments and a low credit utilization.

12. Do Visa Cards Offer Signup Bonuses?

Many Visa credit cards offer a signup bonus, depending on the card issuer. Most signup bonuses require the cardholder to spend a certain amount within a specific time frame, usually three months. You won’t earn the bonus if you don’t spend the minimum amount or miss the deadline.

Signup bonuses are only available for new cardholders, but you may be eligible if it’s been more than two years since you last had the card.

13. Which Major Issuers Offer Visa Cards?

Most well-known banks have Visa cards on their roster. These include:

Many issuers use multiple networks. For example, Wells Fargo has both Visa and American Express cards, and Capital One uses both Visa and Mastercard.

If you specifically want to apply for a Visa card, make sure beforehand that’s what you’re getting. Sometimes the card network logo isn’t visible on the card, so you have to dig around to find out which network it uses.

14. Do Credit Unions Issue Visa Cards?

Credit unions mostly issue Visa cards or Mastercard cards. This depends on the credit union you choose. You can contact a credit union before you apply to ask them what kind of card network they use.

Credit unions can issue both debit cards and credit cards. Debit cards will usually be free when you open an account, but you’ll have to apply for the credit card separately.

15. Does Visa Charge an Annual Fee?

Visa does not impose an extra fee as the card network, but some credit card issuers may charge an annual fee. A 2019 survey from U.S. News found that almost 70% of all credit cards do not charge an annual fee. Debit cards do not have an annual fee either.

Annual fees vary based on the specific card. Some card providers will waive the annual fee for the first year, but others won’t.

Annual fees are more often associated with high-level rewards credit cards or cards for bad credit. Most annual fees are below $100, but the top-tiered cards have annual fees that cost hundreds of dollars per year.

Visa credit cards may also come with late fees, which are charged when you miss the payment due date or pay less than the minimum amount. These often cost between $28 and $40.

Cardholders can set up automatic payments to avoid late fees. They can also use their bank’s bill pay system, which will send a physical check to the credit card company.

Visa credit cards that allow balance transfers may also charge a balance transfer fee, which is separate from the balance transfer interest rate or APR. The fee is often a percentage of the balance transfer amount or a dollar figure, whichever is greater.

Cash advances also have fees in addition to the cash advance interest rate. The cash advance fee is usually between 2% and 8% of the total, with a minimum fee of between $5 and $10. A very small percentage of credit cards do not charge a cash advance fee.

When you use a credit card abroad, you may pay a foreign transaction fee that typically hovers around 3%. If you spend $100 at a restaurant in Italy, you may pay a $3 foreign transaction fee, for instance. About 40% of all credit cards, especially travel rewards cards, do not charge foreign transaction fees.

A returned payment fee is charged when the account you used to pay your credit card bill does not have enough money in it or is closed.

16. What is the Difference between a Visa Debit Card and a Visa Credit Card?

A Visa debit card relies on funds from your bank account to pay for transactions, while a Visa credit card provides a line of credit to customers who can charge expenses against that credit limit. When the credit card bill is due, cardholders can choose to pay the minimum payment, statement balance, or current balance.

Debit cards have fewer rewards, benefits, and protections than credit cards. It’s very difficult to earn cash back with a debit card, and there are no perks such as free rental car coverage.Chart Comparing Payment Card Types

However, it’s also easy to run up debt with a credit card if you’re not tracking your expenses. Some people justify buying more with a credit card because they can earn rewards. Local and small businesses sometimes charge an extra fee if you’re using a credit card.

17. What are the Benefits of Having a Visa Credit Card?

Visa credit cards often have fraud protection, which limits the cardholder’s liability if the card is stolen or their identity is hacked. Some Visa cards also have extended warranty protection, which lengthens the manufacturer’s warranty on an item purchased with the card.

For example, if you use a Visa card to buy a refrigerator with a one-year warranty, your Visa card may provide an extra year of warranty coverage for free.

All Visa credit cards come with some rental car protection so you don’t have to buy extra insurance from the rental company. Every Visa card also lets cardholders dispute purchases if the vendor has failed to meet expectations. If you buy a chair online that arrives broken and the company refuses to replace it, then you could dispute the charge on your Visa card.

18. What are the Downsides to Opening a Visa Card?

There are no downsides to opening a Visa debit card, but there may be some concerns with a Visa credit card.

Every time you open a new credit card, it results in a hard inquiry from the credit card issuer on your credit report. This will often result in a five- to 10-point drop in your credit score. If you have several recent hard inquiries on your credit report, a lender may deny your application because they think you’re having trouble paying your bills.

Opening a new card also decreases the average age of your credit history, which makes up 15% of your credit score. If you’re about to take out a major loan like a mortgage or auto loan, opening a new card may affect your rates. It can also affect the likelihood of your being approved.

Every time you take out a credit card, you have to be vigilant about monitoring your credit utilization. Depending on how many credit cards you have, this could be easy or difficult. You may find it helpful to create a spreadsheet or use a third-party budgeting system to track everything.

You also need to make sure your payments go through on time. Missing one payment could cause as much as a 180-point drop in your credit score. This could also result in late fees and penalty interest.

It could become even more expensive if you have opened a card for the 0% APR offer because missing a payment could negate that offer completely. This is why it’s best to be extra careful and set up automatic payments for every card. You should also double-check that the payments are going through.

You should also be mindful of opening a card with an annual fee. Some cards have signup bonuses that make the annual fee worth it, but this also depends on how you use the credit card.

Those who use the card and maximize the rewards may outearn the annual fee. Do the math beforehand to ensure that the annual fee is worth it.

Required Spend to Make Up Annual Fee with 1% Rate Differential

For example, if you’re going to earn 5% cash back on groceries with a card that has a $95 annual fee, look at your monthly grocery transactions to verify that you spend enough on groceries to justify the annual fee. In this example, you’ll need to spend $160 a month or more on groceries.

Some cards waive the annual fee for the first year. If you’re opening a credit card for the signup bonus or special 0% APR offer and don’t want to pay the annual fee, set a calendar reminder to cancel the card before then if the fee isn’t worth the rewards. Make sure that you won’t be forfeiting any bonus cash if you do this.

Another potential downside is giving a Visa card to an authorized user, like a child or relative. When you add an authorized user to your account, you become legally responsible for all their purchases. You may also have to pay an extra fee for an additional card.

19. What is the Difference between Visa Signature and Visa Infinite?

The main differences between Visa Signature and Visa Infinite are the benefits and requirements. The Visa Infinite program has more high-end perks for cardholders and is a welcome addition for those who travel often and love entertainment.

The Visa Signature program, on the other hand, still includes generous extras, including a $100 statement credit when you purchase Global Entry and VIP status with various car rental companies.

20. Why is Visa so Popular?

Banks and credit unions around the globe rely on the Visa network for its high acceptance rate, and the company's logo adorns the credit cards of consumers from hundreds of countries. While Mastercard has certainly carved out a place in the market, Visa has long held the role of the largest credit card payment processor in the world.

Visa remains the most popular credit card network partly because it was the first. It was also an innovative company responsible for creating the debit card and popularizing traveler’s checks.

When a brand reaches a certain level of recognition, its market dominance begins to sustain itself. Think of companies like Nike, Coca-Cola, and Apple.

In other words, Visa continues to be a popular option, in large part, because the brand name has become synonymous with credit card offerings.

21. How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?

There’s no perfect amount of credit cards you should have. Some people have a dozen credit cards and still maintain an excellent credit score, while others have one credit card and a low credit score. What matters is how responsible you are with the credit cards you have.

FICO Score Factors

If you’re trying to improve your score, start by paying your credit card bills on time every month. This is the biggest factor in your credit report, responsible for 35% of your credit score. In some cases, your score could drop by more than 100 points after just one late payment.

The easiest way to avoid paying late is to set up automatic payments through the credit card provider. This will ensure that your payments are always on time.

The next step is to maintain a credit utilization ratio between 0% to 30%. Ideally, the ratio should be below 10%.

The credit utilization ratio is the amount of credit being used divided by the amount of the total credit limit. The ratio makes up 30% of your total credit score and is the second-biggest factor used in calculating your score.

If you have a $200 balance on your credit cards and a $10,000 total credit limit, then your utilization is 2%. The utilization ratio applies to both individual cards and the total amount across all your open cards.

You may have to monitor your credit cards closely to maintain a good credit utilization ratio. In some cases, it may be helpful to pay off your credit card more than once a month so the card issuer doesn’t report a high utilization to the credit bureaus.

You should also avoid closing old credit cards and opening new ones frequently. The average age of your credit accounts makes up 15% of your credit score.

If you have so many cards that you’re losing track of the utilization or missing payments, then it may be time to simplify your wallet. Consider using one or two cards regularly and setting them to autopay.

22. Should I Have a Mix of Credit Cards?

If you look in your wallet and discover that you only have Visa cards, you may wonder if you need more variety. There’s no real downside to only having Visa cards because they’re the most popular among merchants.

The only time you should be concerned with the specific type of card network is when you’re traveling abroad. If you have a Visa or Mastercard, then you’re probably going to be fine.

The only possible issue is if you have an American Express card, which is still less popular than Visa, Mastercard, and Discover in some countries. If you only have an American Express card, it may be wise to add a Visa or Mastercard to make sure you’re covered.

23. Does Visa offer Business Credit Cards?

Visa does not have its own specific business credit cards, but there are many card issuers that partner with Visa to provide business credit cards.

To qualify for a business credit card, you’ll have to provide your business’s address, contact information, revenue, and other details. Approval may depend on your business credit score if you have an LLC, or your personal credit score if you’re a sole proprietor.

There are many different kinds of Visa business cards. Some offer rewards similar to consumer credit cards, including cash back on business-related purchases.

The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card is one of the most popular options and includes a signup bonus, extra cash back on certain categories, and no foreign transaction fees. Employees can receive their own cards for free.

24. Is Visa Better than American Express or Discover?

American Express and Discover are both card networks and issuers, which makes them different from Visa. Visa is only a network.

Visa is much more popular and accessible than American Express, which has higher standards for potential cardholders. American Express targets high-earning individuals and is also less commonly accepted at international merchants.

Discover cards include both secured cards and traditional credit cards. Both Discover and American Express are accepted at 99% of places that accept credit cards in the U.S.

If you’re choosing between a Visa, American Express, or Discover card, choose from among the best Visa credit cards.

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

The information on this page was reviewed for accuracy on .

About the Author

Zina Kumok Zina Kumok

Zina Kumok is a personal finance writer, certified financial health counselor, and student loan counselor. She works as a money coach helping people one on one at ConsciousCoins.com. Her advice has been featured in Lifehacker, FoxBusiness, Time Magazine, Investopedia, Forbes, and several other major financial brands. She paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years. She's a three-time Plutus Awards finalist for Best Personal Finance Contributor and a three-time speaker at FinCon, the premier financial media conference.

Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which CardRates.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers. See the credit card issuer's website for specific terms and conditions of each card.