American Express Credit cards made their presence known in the financial jungle in the early 50’s. Visa and Master Card also came into the scene around the same time and served the same market segment – Credit. There soon developed their own model for serving the market and established themselves as leaders in the credit card providers the world over.
While American Express or AMEX as it is popularly known in the European countries has grown to be the most widely recognizable of credit cards and is a name that describes exclusivity in a way. However, not many credit card holders throughout the world know the difference in the three major players in the credit card industry. Actually there is no difference between Visa and Master Card, the main difference is between these two players and American Express credit cards – The major difference is in their style of operation.
Visa Card and Master Card are primarily methods of making payments. These are tow financial companies that have grown into institutions by themselves. They negotiate and setup payment systems at different merchant locations across the globe but never issue any credit cards themselves. Visa and Master Card set up business partnerships with merchant establishments where customers can use the credit cards and banks or financial institutions that actually issue credit cards to their customers. Visa and Master Card make the payment to the merchant establishments where the cards are used and charge the company that actually issued the card to the customer a fee for making the up front payment on their behalf. The card issuing company on its part charges a fee for issuing the card, an annual rental for the card and an interest on the amount of payment paid out to the merchant establishment.
These credit card companies are billed by Visa or Master Card and they in turn bill the card holder. The holder never pays any cash directly to Visa or Master Card.
American Express is different in that they have an entirely private setup. They issue their credit cards under their own name and logo. They also directly make payments to merchant establishments where the card is used. American Express do their own marketing of services to merchant establishments and card customers. The other difference is that American Express has a limited usage through the world while Visa and Master Card are accepted at over 20 million merchant establishments in over a hundred and fifty countries.