FULL LIST OF EDITORIAL PICKS:
BEST VISA CREDIT CARDS
Before applying, confirm details on the issuer’s website.
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Our pick for: Flat-rate cash back
Among flat-rate cash-back cards, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card. It earns an unlimited 2% back on all purchases, which is excellent. But in addition, the card offers a rich sign-up bonus and a generous 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers. That’s an impressive, hard-to-find combination of features on a card with a $0 annual fee. Read our review.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Our pick for: Bonus category cash back
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® was already a fine card when it offered 1.5% cash back on all purchases. Now it’s even better, with bonus rewards on travel booked through Chase, as well as at restaurants and drugstores. On top of all that, new cardholders get a 0% introductory APR period and the opportunity to earn a sweet cash bonus. Read our review.
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
Our pick for: Customizable categories cash back
The Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card gives you a little more control over your credit card rewards by letting you choose which category earns the highest cash-back rate, from a list that includes gas stations, restaurants, travel, home improvement and more. You also get bonus rewards at grocery stores and supermarkets, plus a great new-cardholder bonus offer. Read our review.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Our pick for: Flat-rate travel rewards
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is probably the best-known general-purpose travel credit card, thanks to its ubiquitous advertising. You earn 5 miles per dollar on hotels and car rentals booked through Capital One Travel and 2 miles per dollar on all other purchases. Miles can be redeemed at a value of 1 cent apiece for any travel purchase, without the blackout dates and other restrictions of branded hotel and airline cards. The card offers a great sign-up bonus and other worthwhile perks. Read our review.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Our pick for: Bonus travel rewards
For a reasonable annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns bonus rewards (up to 5X) on travel, dining, select streaming services, and select online grocery purchases. Points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel booked through Chase, or you can transfer them to about a dozen airline and hotel partners. The sign-up bonus is stellar, too. Read our review.
Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card
Our pick for: No-annual-fee bonus travel rewards
The Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card offers so much value, it’s hard to believe there’s no annual fee. Start with a great bonus offer, then earn extra rewards in a host of common spending categories — restaurants, gas stations, transit, travel, streaming and more. Read our review.
Wells Fargo Reflect® Card
Our pick for: 0% interest period
The Wells Fargo Reflect® Card has one of the longest 0% intro APR periods on the market — approaching almost two years. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a longer interest-free promotion, and it applies to both purchases and balance transfers. Read our review.
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card
Our pick for: 0% interest period
A lengthy 0% introductory APR period for both purchases and balance transfers has made the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card a NerdWallet favorite. Read our review.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Our pick for: Premium features
The high annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve® gives many potential applicants pause, but frequent travelers should be able to wring enough value out of this card to more than make up for the cost. Cardholders get bonus rewards (up to 10X) on dining and travel, a fat bonus offer, annual travel credits, airport lounge access, and a 50% boost in point value when redeeming points for travel booked through Chase. Points can also be transferred to about a dozen airline and hotel partners. Read our review.
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
Our pick for: Small-business travel
The Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card starts you off with one of the biggest sign-up bonuses of any credit card anywhere (assuming you spend enough to earn it), then gives you bonus rewards in common business spending categories. Points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel booked through Chase, or you can transfer them to about a dozen airline and hotel partners. Learn more and apply.
PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card
For some, the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card won’t be an easy card to apply for, and redeeming points might be a hassle. But if you need a sky-high return on your gas spending, it may be the card for you. Read our review.
What is a Visa credit card?
A Visa credit card is simply a credit card that operates on the Visa payment network. Understanding exactly what that means requires knowing a little about how the credit card system works.
Credit cards are typically issued by banks. Your card account is with the bank. It’s the bank that puts up the money for the things you buy with the card. And your payments go to the bank. Credit card issuers include huge banks like Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo, as well as smaller institutions and credit unions.
Every transaction involving a credit card is processed through a payment network. The network serves as an intermediary. It ensures that money for the purchase gets from the credit card issuer to the merchant, and that the purchase gets attributed to the correct credit card account. Visa is a payment network, as are Mastercard, Discover and American Express.
So Visa doesn’t issue any credit cards on its own. If your card says “Visa” on it, it didn’t come from Visa. Rather, the bank that issued the card is using Visa to handle card transactions.
A key difference between Visa and Mastercard on one side and Discover and American Express on the other is that Visa and Mastercard are only payment networks. Discover and AmEx, meanwhile, are both card issuers and payment networks.
Visa handles an enormous volume of transactions. According to Visa Inc, for the year ending Sept. 30, 2022:
There were 4.1 billion Visa cards in circulation worldwide.
The Visa network processed 192.5 billion transactions.
The network handled $11.6 trillion in payments.
More than 80 million merchants accept Visa, along with 20 million small businesses that can take Visa through third-party payment systems.
What kind of benefits does a Visa card give you?
The most important features of any Visa card aren’t determined by Visa at all, but rather by the card issuer. These include:
Fees (such as annual, late, cash advance or balance transfer).
Interest rates (such as introductory APR, ongoing APR, purchase APR and transfer APR).
Rewards (including rates paid on purchases, bonus categories, type of rewards and value of reward points).
Bonuses (such as sign-up or anniversary awards).
Visa does offer a benefits package separate from perks provided by the issuer. What’s included in that package depends on what “level” of Visa card you have — Traditional, Signature or Infinite — and what Visa-provided benefits the issuer has opted to include. Traditional benefits include things like zero fraud liability and emergency card replacement. Signature benefits add in things like extended warranty coverage and concierge service. At the Infinite level, cards offer travel coverage and purchase protections. Read more about the three levels of Visa benefits.
What’s the difference between Visa and Mastercard?
For the vast majority of people in the vast majority of cases, the difference between a Visa credit card and a Mastercard credit card is the logo on the front … and nothing else. Nearly every merchant that accepts Visa also accepts Mastercard. (One notable exception: Costco takes only Visa credit cards in its stores, although it accepts Mastercard debit cards in-store and all Mastercards online.)
As discussed, the most important features of your credit card are determined by the bank that issued it, not the payment network it runs on. Like Visa, Mastercard offers its own benefits package, but these are not things that come into play on a regular basis.
Visa and Mastercard are so interchangeable that some major cards have flipped from one network to the other. In 2020, for example, Capital One switched four cards: Three went from Visa to Mastercard, and one went from Mastercard to Visa. But that change affected only new cardholders; existing cardholders stayed with the network they were already on. So if you’re wondering whether the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card is a Visa or a Mastercard, the answer is … it could be either, depending on who’s carrying it.