Visa vs Mastercard Canada: Differences Explained

The main difference between Visa and Mastercard is that they process card payments on different networks. That means that Visa cards are compatible only with Visa’s network, and Mastercard cards only work on Mastercard’s network. 

Ultimately, Visa and Mastercard share more similarities than differences – any distinctions stem mainly from the specific credit card you use.

There’s a wide range of Visa and Mastercard credit cards available in Canada, each with distinct features, perks, and rewards programs. 


Founded in 1958, Visa is an American-based financial services company that processes electronic payments.

It has partnerships with over 14,000 financial institutions worldwide that issue Visa-branded cards to their customers. 

Visa enjoys global dominance as a payment processor; over 80 million merchants globally accept Visa in more than 200 countries.

Visa authorizes, clears, and settles over 255 billion transactions worth $14 trillion annually.

Several Visa-branded credit cards are available: Visa Classic, Visa Gold, Visa Platinum, Visa Infinite, and Visa Infinite Privilege.

Each tier offers unique benefits and has different eligibility requirements.

Besides credit card payments, Visa processes transactions made on debit cards through Visa Debit

Visa Debit functions like a regular debit card in that funds are drawn directly from your bank account.

However, your payment is routed through Visa’s credit card network, making the transaction more secure.

And, unlike a standard debit card, you can use Visa debit to shop online or in person overseas.

Did You Know?

In Canada, Visa Debit swipe and chip transactions are processed through Interac, while online and international transactions go through Visa’s network.

Financial Institutions issuing Visa Credit Cards in Canada

Here’s a list of Canadian financial institutions that offer Visa credit cards:

  • Bank of Montreal (BMO)
  • Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)
  • Desjardins
  • Home Trust Company
  • Laurentian Bank
  • Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
  • Scotiabank
  • TD Canada Trust
  • Vancouver City Savings Union

Infinite and Infinite Privilege Program Explained

Visa Infinite and Visa Infinite Privilege provide premium benefits and special offers for cardholders who carry certain Visa cards. 

To be eligible for a Visa Infinite of Infinite Privilege credit card, you must have an excellent credit score.

You’ll also need to earn a minimum income of at least $60,000 to qualify for the former and $200,000 for the latter.

Here are some of the perks available to Visa Infinite cardholders:

  • Hotel benefits – access to room upgrades, free Wi-Fi, late checkouts, and more
  • Visa Infinite Dining Series – invitations to luxury dining events, complete with multi-course meals and interactive experiences
  • Wine country – access to exclusive offers on wine purchases and participation in wine tastings and tours
  • Troon Rewards – savings on golf merchandise worldwide and automatic qualification for Silver Status
  • Entertainment – access to special offers for at-home movies and private events
  • Complimentary concierge – access to 24/7 concierge service to help you plan your vacation, source tickets for events, book restaurant reservations and more

The Visa Infinite Privilege tier offers the same benefits as Visa Infinite but with some extras and enhancements. 

For example, under Visa Infinite, you’re eligible for a 10% discount on golf-related purchases through your Troon Rewards membership.

With a Visa Infinite privilege card, that discount increases to 20%. 

You also get access to over 1,200 airport lounges worldwide with six free lounge passes per year.

Plus, you qualify for airport related benefits such as parking and valet discounts.


Founded in 1966, Mastercard is an American financial services company.

It’s the second-largest payment processor in the world, facilitating credit card, debit card, and prepaid card transactions. 

Much like its closest rival, Visa, it issues branded cards to financial institutions worldwide (of which there are over 500), who in turn provide them to their customers.

All card payments funnel through Mastercard’s network for validation, clearing, and settlement.

More than 30 million merchants accept Mastercard-branded cards in over 200 countries.

Each year, the company processes over 125 billion transactions worth over $8 trillion.

Three different Mastercard credit card tiers are available: Standard, World, and World Elite.

Each comes with a unique set of benefits and has varying eligibility requirements. 

Like Visa, Mastercard is no stranger to debit cards.

It offers Debit Mastercard.

Unlike a regular debit card, payments are routed through the same system Mastercard uses for credit card transactions.

As such, you can safely (courtesy of Mastercard’s Zero Liability Protection ) and conveniently use a Debit Mastercard to make purchases online or when travelling. 

Financial Institutions issuing Mastercard Credit Cards in Canada

Here’s a list of Canadian financial institutions where you can get a Mastercard credit card:

  • ATB Financial
  • Bank of China (Canada)
  • Bank of Montreal (BMO)
  • Brim Financial
  • Canadian Tire Bank
  • Capital One
  • Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)
  • Collabria Financial Services Inc.
  • Desjardins
  • HSBC Bank Canada
  • MBNA
  • National Bank of Canada
  • President’s Choice Financial
  • Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
  • Scotiabank
  • Servus Credit Union
  • Tangerine
  • Walmart Canada Bank

World and World Elite Program Explained

World and World Elite are premier benefits programs with certain Mastercard credit cards. 

You’ll need a high credit score to be eligible for either program and you must earn a minimum annual income of $60,000 and $80,000 for World and World Elite, respectively.

Here are some of the perks and features available under the World tier:

  • Priceless Experiences – access to a wide range of events and activities in dining, culture, sports, entertainment and more.
  • Mastercard Gold – exclusive invitations to PGA Tour events and access to various golf-related benefits.
  • Travel and lifestyle benefits – hotel and transportation upgrades, free nights, savings on car rentals, airport concierge service, complimentary breakfast and more
  • Professional travel services – access to a personal lifestyle manager to assist you with your travel needs.
  • Everyday discounts – access to exclusive offers from Lyft, Doordash, and ShopRunner.

World Elite offers all of the above benefits plus a few bonuses and upgrades.

These include comprehensive travel insurance, concierge service, and Mastercard Travel Rewards, a cash back rewards program.

Visa or Mastercard: Choosing the Right Card for Your Needs

If you’re considering applying for a credit card, is it better to go with Visa or Mastercard?

The truth is there’s no right or wrong answer. 

Visa and Mastercard are quite similar, and any differences are mainly trivial.

Both card networks boast acceptance from millions of merchants, offer robust security features, and provide a wide array of perks. 

What’s more important to consider are the features and benefits of the actual credit card: interest rates, annual fees, travel perks, rewards program, sign-up bonus, etc. 

Still, minor distinctions between Visa and Mastercard are worth noting.

For example, some retailers like Costco and No Frills don’t accept Visa-branded cards.

If you regularly shop at these brands, you’ll need a Mastercard-branded card handy, as that’s the card network these stores accept. 

Also, more financial institutions in Canada offer Mastercard compared to Visa.

Depending on where you do your banking, you may have access to only one or both.

Guy paying for dinner with Visa credit card

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is Visa or Mastercard more accepted in Canada?
  • Should I have a Visa and a Mastercard?
  • Is Mastercard as safe as Visa?
Mark Gregorski

Mark is passionate about educating people on how the financial markets work and providing tips to help them better manage their money. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and has more than a decade of experience as an accountant.

Outside of writing and finance, he enjoys playing poker, going to the gym, composing music, and learning about digital marketing.