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Old Aug 26, 08, 3:40 pm   #1
 
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Most widely accepted internationally - Visa or Mastercard?

I've seen a lot of discussion about Visa vs. Mastercard with regard to miles, points, and currency exchange rates but nothing but bits and pieces about which card is most widely accepted internationally.

1. Which card is most widely accepted internationally - Visa or Mastercard?

2. How about mainland China and Mexico?

3. Is there a reliable source of this information or do travelers just have to poll each other to find out?

4. Should a prudent traveler carry both?

Visa advertised throughout the Beijing Olympics that Visa was the ONLY card accepted there. I've been to places in Mexico that would only take one or the other but that was quite a while ago. So what's the current situation?
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Old Aug 26, 08, 5:18 pm   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jschner View Post
4. Should a prudent traveler carry both?
I always travel with at least 3 cards (Visa, MC, Amex). In Beijing 3 weeks ago the hotel I checked into was having credit card validation problems and could not process my AMEX (2% forex, 2% rebate). Rather than give them my Visa (2% forex, 1% rebate), they let me come back the next day and they manually processed the card with a card imprinter.

I have a Mastercard along but as it charges a 3% forex rate it's the last card I was use outside the U.S., but I like the peace of mind in having an extra card along.

I find myself using my ATM card more and more these days because I'm not charged for foreign transactions and they don't surcharge the exchange rates. That doesn't work well for hotel bills, but is fine for daily spending money as I'm out walking about. I can recall at least twice over the years that the ATM card would not work, though, probably because of network issues. In one of those cases I got cash out using a credit card.

Quote:
Visa advertised throughout the Beijing Olympics that Visa was the ONLY card accepted there.
I used my Visa card once, on the last day, for a visit to the Superstore gift store. There weren't really any other venues on the Olympic grounds there to use it at (there weren't any ticket windows to buy event tickets). A bottle of water was 45 cents, and a Coke 60 cents, so folks weren't breaking out the credit cards for those.
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Old Aug 26, 08, 5:40 pm   #3
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Ultimately, it doesn't matter which card has more acceptance locations--what matters more is what is accepted when you go to make a purchase at whatever merchant. I always have a Mastercard, Visa, and an American Express card in my wallet. Just the other day I was in the local dollar store, and they only accepted Visa, Discover, and ATM cards.

I have seen merchants accepting only Visa, those accepting only Mastercard, and those accepting only American Express. I haven't seen any accepting only Discover, but there's probably a few somewhere (thought I don't have one).
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Old Aug 26, 08, 6:08 pm   #4
 
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Visa by far
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Old Aug 26, 08, 11:21 pm   #5
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Originally Posted by jschner View Post
4. Should a prudent traveler carry both?
Yes. I always carry Visa (my Pentagon Federal Credit Union favorite card for foreign travel- I actually make a 1/4% profit on foreign exchange transactions), and Mastercard and American Express for emergencies only.

The hospital in Arequipa, Peru, accepted only Mastercard when we needed to use a card for an emergency.
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Old Aug 27, 08, 7:33 am   #6
 
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Only Mastercard was accepted on Easter Island. YMMV
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Old Aug 27, 08, 7:55 am   #7
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Originally Posted by jschner View Post

4. Should a prudent traveler carry both?
A paranoid traveler (as I am) carries all three.
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Old Aug 27, 08, 12:46 pm   #8
 
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I carry Visa, MC, Amex, but Visa's the most widely accepted I've seen, Amex the least.

Oddities: Sam's Club only accepts Discover and recently MC, Costco only accepts Amex.
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Old Aug 27, 08, 12:53 pm   #9
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As a merchant, I'm surprised at the amount of Visa charges compared to MC. I consider them the same in all respects. I know Canadian customers have told me that MC were harder to get, and that Visa was the average persons credit card.

My credit card/online sales are:

Visa 50%
MC 25%
Amex 8%
Discover 4%
Paypal 13%
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Old Aug 27, 08, 3:50 pm   #10
 
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Actually Discover card is the most widely accepted credit card in China.
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Old Aug 27, 08, 11:02 pm   #11
 
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Originally Posted by awake View Post
Actually Discover card is the most widely accepted credit card in China.
This is very true, because Discover is accepted on the China Union Pay network. More info here: http://www.discoverchinaacceptance.com/

And discover has no forex fees!
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Old Aug 27, 08, 11:17 pm   #12
 
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When I was in Brazil a couple of summers ago, I was surprised by the number of places that only took MasterCard.

There were also places, that would take locally-issued Visa/MC, but not cards issued by international banks. I didn't know that was allowed, actually. I guess the "honor all cards" rule doesn't apply everywhere.
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Old Aug 28, 08, 6:21 pm   #13
 
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I was in Brazil (Rio) last year and Mastercard was definitely the most widely accepted card. Even the street vendors had portable Mastercard readers. I also just returned from Costa Rica where all three were accepted pretty much anywhere that accepted credit cards.
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Old Aug 28, 08, 6:27 pm   #14
 
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Originally Posted by PhillyInvestor View Post
When I was in Brazil a couple of summers ago, I was surprised by the number of places that only took MasterCard.

There were also places, that would take locally-issued Visa/MC, but not cards issued by international banks. I didn't know that was allowed, actually. I guess the "honor all cards" rule doesn't apply everywhere.
Honor all cards does apply everywhere - the merchant probably didn't want the liability of an international fraudulent charge, If they show the card network logo, they take anything with that logo on it. You could report them to your card issuer as a "merchant violation incident report."
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Old Aug 28, 08, 6:30 pm   #15
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I didn't know that was allowed, actually.
It isn't.
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