Here are the credit card networks and payment networks you need to know (V, MA, AXP, DFS)

Almost everyone knows the big four largest credit card networks: Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.

American Express and MasterCard credit cards are shown in Washington June 25, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

American Express and MasterCard credit cards are shown in Washington
Thomson Reuters

But the list of credit card networks extends well beyond those three heavyweights, as there are dozens of other companies around the world that each have a piece of the pie.

Below, we’ve outlined each of these companies, identified their credit card network market share, and explained what each brings to the table.


Visa remains the king of the mountain in the card network industry. Visa posted $2.1 trillion in total payment volume (TPV) on 43.2 billion transactions during its fiscal Q2 2019 marking an 11% year-over-year (YoY) increase in transaction volume. Additionally, Visa expects its estimated 100 million contactless cards in the US to triple to 300 million by the end of 2020. 


MasterCard is no slouch, as it has secured the No. 2 spot among card networks. Mastercard posted $3.9 billion in net revenue in Q1 2019, up 9% YOY. Additionally, the card network counts  2.5 billion cards in circulation, and Mastercard-branded cards grew 224 million YoY.

American Express

American Express remains a force among its peer card networks even though it doesn’t have the sheer numbers of Visa or MasterCard.  In 2018, Amex added 1 million new merchants in the US to its merchant network in addition to growing its US billed business by 9% YOY. 


Discover remains in fourth place behind Visa, MasterCard, and Amex. Discover saw 10% year-over-year (YoY) growth in its total network volume (TNV) in Q4 2018, to hit $99 billion. 


Interlink is the electronic funds transfer division of Visa and it operates primarily within the U.S. But unlike a standard Visa check card purchase, and Interlink purchase uses a PIN and can provide cash back from the merchant.


STAR was one of the first networks to focus on PIN debit, and First Data bought the company in 2003. The company prides itself on its innovation, such as the first processing of an envelope-less deposit at an ATM and the first real-time direct electronic check debit.


The Accel interbank network links more than 400,000 ATMs throughout all 50 states, along with a few U.S. Air Force bases around the globe.


Interac is the primary Canadian debit card system and flourishes there because other traditional providers, such as Visa and MasterCard, hardly provide cards in the nation. There are over 59,000 automated teller machines that can be accessed through the Interac network in Canada, and over 450,000 merchant locations accepting Interac debit payments.

Visa ReadyLink

This service allows Visa cardholders to quickly add cash to their prepaid accounts. Retailers such as Safeway and 7-Eleven make ReadyLink available to customers.


Discover owns PULSE, which operates an interbank network for more than 4,400 financial institutions and 380,000 ATMs in the U.S.  In 2019 PULSE, saw 11% YoY growth to reach $47.1 billion in volume. 


Japan Credit Bureau (JCB) established itself in the Japanese credit card market and its cards are even used in over 20 different countries. In 2019 JCB teamed up with Santander , through which the bank will handle JCB acceptance for merchants in Spain. 

More to Learn

These card networks handle so much volume and so many dollars each day, and yet they are still just part of the larger payments ecosystem, which includes issuers, merchants, and more. That’s why BI Intelligence spent months putting together a detailed guide on the world of payments entitled The Payments Ecosystem Report.

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