What Is a Visa Credit Card?

A man is using a credit card to make a purchase using a computer.
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DEFINITION
A Visa credit card is a credit card that uses the Visa network to authorize and process payments between consumers, the government, and businesses.

A Visa credit card is a credit card that uses the Visa network to authorize and process payments between consumers, the government, and businesses. Visa credit cards are easily identified by the brand mark in one of the top corners or the bottom right of the credit card.

Visa is one of four major credit card networks in the United States, along with MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. The company creates credit card products that banks and financial institutions can offer to consumers and facilitates transactions made with those cards. 

Learn more about Visa credit cards and how, as a driver of payment technology, Visa has played a major role in the way credit cards are used.

Definition and Example of Visa Credit Cards

Visa credit cards allow consumers and businesses to make credit purchases that rely on the Visa network for processing. Visa itself doesn't provide credit or issue credit cards. Instead, the global company operates a network that facilitates money movement between consumers and businesses.

Visa authorizes, clears, and settles payment transactions made with a variety of credit cards, including the Chase Freedom Unlimited, U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature, and the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, among many others. You can easily identify Visa credit cards by the Visa logo on the front or back of a card.

How Do Visa Credit Cards Work?

Visa doesn't process credit card applications or provide credit to cardholders. Instead, Visa offers credit card products to banks and credit card issuers—financial institution clients, co-brand partners, fintechs, and affinity partners—that qualify and approve individual cardholders. Those financial institutions collect payments and decide pricing based on Visa's product and service rules.

Once approved, cardholders can use their credit card to make purchases with over 100 million business locations that accept Visa in over 200 countries and territories across the world. 

Visa processed $1.6 billion in credit card transactions in the U.S. and $4 billion globally (including the U.S.) in the 12 months ending June 30, 2021.

Traditionally, transactions made with Visa credit cards, like many others, were made by swiping the credit card through a card reader or by manually keying credit card information. Today, cardholders can use their Visa credit card in a variety of ways including tapping their card on a card reader or storing it in a mobile or digital wallet.

Most Visa credit card transactions involve five key players: the account holder, card issuer, merchant, acquirer (the merchant's bank), and Visa. Here's an overview of how Visa transactions work. 

  • First, the consumer makes a purchase from a business, which presents the transactions to the acquirer.
  • The acquirer presents the transaction to Visa, which then presents it to the card issuer to authorize the transaction.
  • The card issuer pays the acquirer the value of the transaction minus an interchange fee and posts the transaction to the cardholder's account.
  • The acquirer pays the merchant the amount of the purchase minus the discount rate.

Types of Visa Credit Cards

There are three tiers of Visa credit cards—Traditional, Signature, and Infinite—each with different levels of benefits. Visa makes these benefits available for card issuers to include in their programs, but each card issuer ultimately decides which benefits to offer with specific Visa credit cards.

 Benefit Traditional Signature Infinite
Zero Fraud Liability x x x
Cardholder Inquiry Services x x x
Roadside Dispatch x x x
Emergency Card Replacement x x x
Lost or Stolen Card Reporting x x x
Emergency Cash Disbursement x x x
Travel and Emergency Assistance Services x x
Extended Warranty Protection x x
Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver x x
Lost Luggage Reimbursement x x
Global Entry Statement Credit x x
Trip Delay Reimbursement x x
Trip Cancellation / Trip Interruption Reimbursement x x
Airline Incidental Fees x x
Travel Accident Insurance x x
Lounge Access (Priority Pass) x x
Baggage Delay Reimbursement x x
Hotel Theft Protection x x
Cell Phone Protection x x
Emergency Medical / Dental x x
Price Protection x x
Emergency Evacuation x x
Return Protection x x
Purchase Security x x
Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection x
Concierge Services x
Car Rental Privileges x

How To Get a Visa Credit Card

Visa credit cards come with different rewards, perks, and pricing depending on the card and the card issuer. Once you've selected a Visa credit card you're interested in, apply directly with a credit card issuer, like a bank or credit union. You have to provide some personal and financial information, then the issuer will review your application, determine whether to approve you and with what credit limit and terms.

Credit card issuers define the qualification criteria like credit score, income, and level of debt for the Visa credit cards they issue. Generally, you'll need a higher credit score to qualify for higher-tier credit cards.

Key Takeaways

  • Visa is one of four major credit card networks in the United States, along with Discover, MasterCard, and American Express.
  • Financial institutions can offer customized Visa credit card products to their customers, choosing from a variety of benefits.
  • Visa makes money by charging a fee on payments that move through its network.

Article Sources

  1. Visa. “Visa Annual Report 2021.” Accessed Jan. 31, 2022. 

  2. Visa. “Visa Brand Mark and Card Design Features.” Accessed Jan. 31, 2022. 

  3. Visa. “Visa Core Rules and Visa Product and Service Rules.” Accessed Jan. 31, 2022.

  4. Visa. “Visa Infinite Card.” Accessed Jan. 31, 2022.

  5. Visa. “Visa Signature Cards.” Accessed Jan. 31, 2022.

  6. Visa. “Traditional Credit Cards.” Accessed Jan. 31, 2022.

  7. Visa. “Visa Credit Card Benefits and Services.” Accessed Jan. 31, 2022.