What Is Mastercard?
Mastercard is one of the most popular credit card companies in the world. It serves as the network for millions of credit cards and debit cards, facilitating transactions between consumers and businesses.
Mastercard doesn’t issue credit or debit cards, so it doesn’t set terms like interest rates and rewards. Instead, it provides a payment network that businesses use to accept card payments, transferring the money from your card account to the merchant’s account.
It’s wise to carry a Mastercard, even just as a backup, because you’ll almost never be stuck without a way to pay. Practically everyone takes Mastercard — it’s widely accepted in the U.S. and abroad, about as much as Visa.
See the best Mastercards below, followed by more information about the network and its cards.
What Are the Best Mastercard Credit Cards?
It really depends on what you’re looking for, but our picks for the top Mastercards are:
Best for Flat-Rate Rewards: Citi Double Cash
With 2% cash back for everything you buy and no annual fee, it’s hard to beat the Double Cash for simplicity and reward value. You’ll get 1% back for purchases, and 1% for payments; you must pay at least the minimum due to earn rewards.
Best for Cash Back Bonus Categories: Chase Freedom Flex
The Freedom Flex has a lot to offer: 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories, 5% back on eligible groceries and certain travel expenses (wow!), and 3% back for dining and drugstore purchases. With surprisingly high rates for travel and dining, along with a three-month DoorDash DashPass membership, you can easily get a lot out of this card.
Best for Premium Travel: Citi Prestige
Book your long hotel stays with the Prestige and you’ll enjoy your fourth night free — even if you’re at a fancy resort with outrageous rates. This perk is capped at twice per year, and you have to book through ThankYou.com, but you can get some serious value if you stay at expensive hotels. There are also great bonus categories for travel and dining, and some other handy benefits to sweeten the deal, along with no foreign transaction fee.
Best for Balance Transfers: Citi Diamond Preferred
If you’re carrying a balance on a credit card at a high APR, you’re paying a lot of interest, making your debt even more expensive. But you could transfer that balance to a card like the Diamond Preferred and get a long time to pay down the debt at no interest, potentially saving you hundreds or thousands of dollars. In this case you’ll get an intro APR of 0% for 18 months, and then the regular 14.74% – 24.74% (Variable) APR will kick in.
Best for Bad Credit/Building Credit: Capital One Secured
Struggling to rebuild your credit history and raise your credit scores after some late payments or collection accounts? Credit cards can be useful tools along the way, as long as you commit to using them responsibly, and Capital One’s secured card might be the one for you.
In this case you’ll be asked for a refundable security deposit of either $49, $99, or $200; but no matter what your required deposit is, you’ll start out with a credit limit of $200. This is unusual among secured credit cards, and it’s a nice way to get a limit higher than your deposit. You can deposit more if you wish, up to $1,000 for a $1,000 credit line.
Best for Business Rewards: Capital One Spark Miles
The Spark Miles had long been a flat-rate business travel card, with a solid 2X miles for everything, but Capital One souped it up with 5X miles for hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. It comes with two perks you don’t typically see on cards at this fee level: a Global Entry/TSA PreCheck credit and the ability to transfer miles to a selection of airline and hotel partners, potentially increasing their value.
Types of Mastercard Credit Cards
Mastercard credit cards come in a variety of types, also called tiers or levels. Your card tier will help determine the credit card network benefits you get.
The lower tiers have the most basic benefits, which include $0 liability protection and perhaps a few others. The higher tiers may come with more valuable protections like Purchase Assurance, along with perks like travel discounts, Lyft credits, and ShopRunner membership. To get a higher tier you typically have to pay an annual fee, and/or be approved for a credit limit of a certain amount.
Mastercard updates its card types every now and then, but when it comes to consumer credit cards you’ll usually see three:
- Platinum Mastercard
- World Mastercard
- World Elite Mastercard
And for business cards, the following two types are most commonly in circulation:
- Business Platinum Mastercard
- World Elite Mastercard for Business
You can also find several other kinds of Mastercard, like debit cards, prepaid debit cards, prepaid travel cards, and gift cards. And for those, you’ll see levels like:
- Standard Debit Mastercard
- Enhanced Debit Mastercard
- World Debit Mastercard
Mastercard debit cards may include many of the same protections and benefits you’d get from a Mastercard credit card. But the extras you get with credit cards tend to be a bit better. Learn more about how credit cards compare to debit cards, and why we typically recommend using credit cards.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mastercard
Which is better, Mastercard or Visa?
Neither Mastercard nor Visa is necessarily “better,” especially for the average consumer. For the most part they offer the same kinds of network benefits, like $0 liability protection, purchase protection, and travel accident insurance.
Mastercard and Visa have roughly the same acceptance worldwide; they’re the top two credit card networks in that respect. Mastercard is known for typically offering a lower currency conversion rate, which could make a difference if you spend a lot outside the U.S., although this won’t amount to much for most cardholders.
You may want to go for a specific Mastercard or Visa card if it has a feature you’ve got your eye on. But in most cases it doesn’t really matter. Learn more about the differences between Mastercard and Visa here.
Where is the card number on a Mastercard?
The card number will either be on the front or the back (issuers tend to put them on the back more often these days). The CVV, a three-digit number for Mastercards, will usually be on the back, often next to the signature box.
In rare cases, like with the Apple Card, there is no card number or CVV printed on the card in a bid to increase security. The details are only available digitally.
Is the Citi Double Cash a Mastercard?
You earn 2% cash back for everything you buy, with no limits, making it one of the most versatile cards around. 1% is awarded for purchases, and 1% for payments. The minimum required payment must be made to earn rewards.
Are there Mastercard debit cards?
Yes, there are plenty of Mastercard debit cards to choose from, including Mastercard Prepaid Cards.
Debit cards differ from credit cards in a number of ways. Some people use them to better manage their money, or if they can’t be approved for credit cards. But we typically suggest using credit because credit cards offer a number of advantages over debit cards.
Is a Discover card a Mastercard?
No — Discover credit cards are not Mastercards.
Discover is a credit card payment network, like Mastercard. It’s also an issuer of credit cards.
Issuers like Capital One and Chase may provide cards on either the Visa or Mastercard network, as they so choose. Some issuers stick with one network, while others diversify. The easiest way to find out the card network is to look for the network logo; if you don’t see a logo, it may be a store credit card that can only be used with that specific retailer, and perhaps its affiliates.