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American Express vs. MasterCard
 Dec 24, 2008


Which credit card is best for your wallet? Does American Express or Mastercard have the best benefits for you? In this article we compare credit card offers for American Express versus Mastercard, as well as the pros and cons of each.


Rewards are important when you are determining which credit card you should get. Other factors to consider, though, include:

  • Interest rate
  • Annual fee
  • Balance transfer fee
  • Late and over the limit fees
  • Convenience (how many places accept them)

When choosing a credit card, it is a good idea to look at your individual personal finance situation, as well as your goals. You should use your credit card as part of your overall financial plan. When you incorporate you credit card into a well defined and disciplined budget, you can actually derive a number of benefits from a credit card – if it has a rewards program.

American Express credit cards

American Express is generally seen as a card that offers reasonably cash back rewards. Additionally, it is known for its low introductory fees. American Express is also known quite well as a business card. There is a small business network associated with American Express that makes it easy to connect with other businesses and form partnerships and make business arrangements.

Up until the late 1980s, American Express did not allow revolving accounts; the bill had to be paid in full at the end of each month. This has ended, and American Express does offer revolving credit accounts, but the idea of responsibility has carried over. American Express does not offer credit cards that are ideal for students or for those with bad credit. Many of the cards issued by American Express carry annual fees. However, if you spend a certain amount, some of these fees can be waived. Additionally, there are a few credit cards issued by American Express that have no annual fee.

One of the drawbacks to American Express that it is not accepted at as many places as MasterCard. This means that you may not be able to use American Express for all of your purchases.

MasterCard credit cards

The only credit card that is accepted at more places than MasterCard is Visa. MasterCard is an independent company that started out owned by issuers. However, the company has evolved into an individual company that mainly handles transactions. It is important to note that when you get a credit card with a MasterCard logo, you are dealing with individual issuers, rather than MasterCard. This means that you are getting the card from the bank or financial company.

Because of this, the features and benefits available vary according to the issuer. The rewards you get from a MasterCard from Chase will be different from the benefits you get from a card issued by Orchard Bank or by your local credit union. The great variety of issuers means that you are more likely to find a MasterCard that works well for students, as well as for someone whose credit may not be that good.

Rewards programs are also rather varied, depending on whether you choose the following cards:

  • Airline miles
  • Travel rewards
  • Cash back
  • Merchandise
  • Gift cards

However, it is worth noting that American Express generally has one of the more generous cash back programs. Few cards with a MasterCard logo can compete with the cash back rewards offered through American Express.

MasterCard does have an interesting debit card reward program, though. Recently, MasteCard began offering reward points for using a debit card. However, you should be aware that there is an annual fee for the rewards debt card program, and no fee for most credit cards bearing the MasterCard logo.

If you pay off your credit card every month, you can maximize your benefits from a credit card. Decide what is most important to you, and choose your credit card according to what will work best for you. And, in some cases, it might work best to have two different types of card in your wallet.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by American Express.  Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of American Express, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by American Express.  This site may be compensated through American Express Affiliate Program.



Related Article: Discover vs. American Express >>



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