Visa vs Mastercard vs American Express – Which is Best in the Philippines?

Visa vs Mastercard vs American Express – Which is Best in the Philippines?

Wherever you look, you can see the Visa, Mastercard, and American Express logos. Suffice it to say, there’s no shortage of debit and credit cards in the Philippines.  

But how are these three cards different, what makes them so great, and which one is the best to own?

The first thing that we need to clarify is that Visa and Mastercard are payment networks. They are payment solutions providers for banks and financial institutions that issue the cards, set the fees and rates, and offer different rewards and privileges.  

American Express is both a payment solutions provider and credit card. In the Philippines, American Express Cards are currently issued by BDO.

To give you an idea of these card networks’ merchant acceptance on a global scale, here’s a quick look.

Card Network Number of Merchants Worldwide
  • 44 million in 200+ countries
  • 94.5% merchant acceptance
  • 37 million in 210+ countries
  • 94% merchant acceptance
American Express
  • 31 million in 160+ countries
  • 11.2% US market share in Q4 2018

Do take note that aside from their millions of merchants around the world, they also offer many different perks and rewards that will be of great value to consumers. Read on to help you decide which is best for your needs.

Where is Visa accepted?  

Visa is widely accepted in the Philippines and in over 200 countries. It also has over 2 million ATMs across the globe.

If you find yourself short on cash during your business trip to Australia or during your honeymoon in the Maldives, you can head to the nearest cash machine that accepts Visa or just pay with a simple swipe of your card.

What are the rewards and benefits that you can enjoy with Visa?

When you indulge in retail therapy, do your groceries, book a flight, gas up, dine out, watch a movie, or attend a concert using your Visa card, you can earn reward points, cash back, and many other perks and benefits, depending on your bank.

How does Visa protect its consumers?

Visa offers advanced security for online purchases. Whenever you buy something online and the merchant site displays the Visa Secure badge, it means that you are protected from unauthorized or fraudulent use of your card.

It also comes with EMV technology that authenticates and verifies your card and authorizes your transactions. You enjoy an extra layer of protection whenever you pay with Visa.  

Can you use Visa overseas?

Yes. There are over 44 million merchants worldwide and over 2 million ATMs that accept Visa.

Visa also offers Visa Travel Money, a prepaid card that you can load up with as much as 10 different currencies. It allows you to lock in the exchange rates before you travel to your destination. It’s the perfect travel companion, especially when you don’t like carrying too much cash in your wallet.


Mastercard has a debit card that you can link to your savings or current accounts. Mastercard Prepaid Card is also available for people who don’t like the hassle of credit checks or opening a bank account but enjoy the convenience of cashless transactions.  

For credit cards, there’s the Standard & Gold Mastercard, Titanium & Platinum Mastercard, World Mastercard, and the World Elite Mastercard.

Where is Mastercard accepted?  

Mastercard is accepted in over 210 countries. Like Visa, Mastercard is very accessible both in the Philippines and abroad.

You can go anywhere in the world and pay with your Mastercard in almost all business establishments and major tourist attractions.

What are the rewards and benefits that you can enjoy with Mastercard?

Cardholders get to enjoy exclusive local promotions, offers, and experiences. It also offers various retail, shopping, dining, entertainment, and travel, arts and culture perks and privileges all year round, depending on the partner banks.

How does Mastercard protect its consumers?

Mastercard offers SecureCode / one-time password for online transactions. It comes with EMV chip technology that encrypts your transactions and your data.

Cardholders receive SMS alerts that update them about their transactions as well.

Mastercard’s Zero Liability promise offers additional protection against unauthorized or fraudulent transactions. However, you need to be in good standing and exercise care in protecting your card against loss and theft.   

It also offers travel protection. You get reimbursed with essential personal or business items when your baggage gets delayed, lost, or damaged.

You can also enjoy global concierge, travel accident insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and car rental collision damage waiver insurance.

Can you use Mastercard overseas?

Yes, Mastercard is widely accepted overseas. There may be additional fees when you swipe or withdraw from your MasterCard debit card or make a cash advance on your Mastercard credit card.

Foreign transaction fees and ATM fees vary per bank, so it’s best to check first to know which partner banks you can use abroad so as not to incur hefty fees.

American Express

In the Philippines, you can get the American Express Green Card, Gold Card, and Platinum Card through its partner bank, BDO.

They have no pre-set spending limits, and your reward points don’t expire. They offer travel privileges, as well as complimentary travel accident protection and inconvenience protection insurance.  

To be eligible for the American Express Green Card, you must be earning 850,000 PHP per year.

To be eligible for the American Express Gold Card, you must be earning 1,000,000 PHP per year.

For the American Express Platinum Card, you must be earning 1,800,000 PHP per year.

Where is American Express accepted?  

In the Philippines, you can use your BDO American Express card in establishments that have BDO-issued card terminals. It has a global acceptance and can be used in over 160 countries.

What are the rewards and benefits that you can enjoy with American Express?

Cardholders enjoy premium exclusive rewards when they earn points with American Express’ membership rewards program called Incentivo.

With every 45 PHP or 1 USD you spend, you earn one reward point, which you can enroll in the Frequent Traveler or Non-Frequent Traveler Option.

If you travel a lot for work or simply love to reward yourself with exciting or relaxing vacations, you can choose from the Frequent Guest or Frequent Flyer Program, which both fall under the Frequent Traveler option.

American Express cardholders who opt for the Non-Frequent Traveler Option can choose from hotel, dining, shopping, or health and wellness vouchers, as well as gadgets, entertainment, home, and entertainment items.

Don’t worry if you browse the rewards catalogue and don’t see anything you’d like to redeem, or if you see something you like but don’t have enough points. Your American Express Membership Rewards points don’t expire! This is great because you can save your points to redeem higher value rewards in the future.

Starwood Preferred Guest and Hilton Honors are two successful hotel rewards and loyalty programs that have partnered with American Express. If you have 1,000 reward points, you earn 970 Starwood Starpoints or 1,250 Hilton Honors Points.

You can also accumulate miles in Asia Miles, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus, Malaysia Airlines Enrich Mile, Delta Skymiles, or Philippine Airlines Mabuhay Miles.

One reward point earns you one Mile. However, 2.13 reward points are needed to earn one Mabuhay Mile.

How does American Express protect its consumers?

Online shopping with American Express is safe and secure because of its SafeKey feature – a one-time PIN for all your online transactions.

Your purchases are also insured for up to 50,000 per item when it gets stolen, lost, or damaged within 30 days. This is subject to terms and conditions, of course.

Can you use American Express overseas?

Yes, you can use it when you travel abroad and purchase something in big establishments or visit famous tourist spots.

Although you may experience small business owners asking if you have a Visa or Mastercard instead because they don’t accept American Express.

So, which is the best?

According to the data and analytics study conducted in November 2018 by, Visa is the most commonly accepted payment network with a 94.5% merchant acceptance. Mastercard comes a close second at 94%.

When it comes to network, accessibility, acceptance, and support, Visa and Mastercard have the bigger market share. You can use them anywhere, anytime.

When it comes to rewards, perks, and privileges, American Express offers the exclusivity and prestige that no other card can provide. Also, there’s just something about belonging to an elite circle who own such a prestigious brand.

Because it’s a premium brand, only those who earn quite a lot can be eligible to apply for this card. There are also not a lot of local establishments that accept this card.

Your reasons for wanting a credit or debit card may be to have something on standby when you run low on cash or to simply do cashless transactions from here on out. Determining which is the best among these three payment solutions depends on what you value most.

Do you put more value on rewards and benefits, or on access and convenience? Hopefully, the points we listed down in this article will help you make the best choice!