Alongside Mastercard, Visa is the most common credit card. Over 14 million people in Germany have a Visa card and can therefore use a network of around 36 million acceptance points. The offer ranges from “real” credit cards to prepaid and debit cards.
Visa – a brand from the USA
Visa’s history dates back to 1970 when the Bank of America initiated National Bank Americard Inc. as a credit card company in the United States. In 1976 the name was changed to Visa Inc. – this was the birth of the credit card brand. The company is headquartered in Foster City, California.
In Germany, Visa credit cards were only issued through Bank of America until 1987. Afterwards, individual German credit institutions acquired membership of Visa and also issued cards. Visa cards became more widespread when in 1992 SGZ Bank from the cooperative banking sector and better bank and in 1995 the bank acquired Visa membership.
In 2004 Visa Europe was founded as a European member organization of Visa Inc. In 2007 Visa Europe gained independent status from its American mother and has since been carried as an association of around 4,000 European bank members. In 2016, Visa Inc. then “bought back”. Since then Visa Europe has been a subsidiary of Visa Inc. again.
Contrary to what you might think, Visa itself does not issue credit cards. Rather, card issuers are the individual members – most of them banks. These also determine the price models and the scope of services. Visa only ensures the uniform brand and a uniform product framework. Visa also stands for the technical infrastructure and regulations. Therefore, each Visa card is a bit different and determined by its respective issuer. Nevertheless, worldwide acceptance and use of credit cards with a clear appearance is ensured under the umbrella of Visa Inc.
Overview of Visa credit cards
The Visa card family is multi-layered and encompasses a broad spectrum – some with country-specific features:
- Visa Classic works as a “real” credit card in the standard version. There are also tiered premium variants: the gold card, the platinum card and the Infinite card. Many German banks issue Visa Gold and Platinum cards, while the Infinite card is a rarity
- Visa Commercial Cards are an offer aimed at small and medium-sized companies as a “corporate credit card”. For larger companies and institutions there is the Visa Corporate Card – in the respective corporate design on request
- the Black Card Visa is a very exclusive credit card from Barclaycard USA
- the Visa Electron card can be issued both as a credit card and as a debit card. It is only available in Europe. In contrast to other credit cards, it is not embossed and can only be used for ATM withdrawals, POS transactions and Internet purchases – precisely where electronic data flows;
- Visa prepaid cards only work on a credit basis, and they are usually not embossed either
- Visa V Pay is a debit card issued in Europe with a chip and PIN
- further regional debit cards are the Visa Check Card (USA), the Visa Debit Card – a “credit card design” debit card (including Finland, Japan, Canada, Sweden, USA) and the Visa Carte Bleue (France)
- Visa Plus cards are purely cash withdrawals
Features of Visa cards
Typical features of the Visa, Classic, Gold and Platinum Visa cards – the “real” Visa credit cards for private users – are presented below. The Visa Classic is mostly limited to the pure payment and credit functionality. The Gold Card n are usually equipped with additional services such as travel insurance and / or shopping insurance. Participation in certain bonus and discount programs is also often provided.
The platinum card usually offers additional services. This includes, for example, extended insurance protection or additional discount and bonus options compared to the gold version. Special services are also offered, for example a concierge service when traveling. The range of additional services and their levels depend on the respective issuer.
Visa credit cards use technical innovations for electronic payment and payment security. Most cards use EMV chip technology and are equipped with a chip that prevents duplicate cards and also protects against card misuse by using a PIN.
For online payments there is ” Verified by Visa ” as a protection offer that works based on passwords. Visa cards can be equipped with the option of contactless payment. These credit cards use local radio technology (NFC technology). This technology can also be used to set up smartphones or tablets for paying by Visa.
Visa in comparison to Mastercard
Most banks issue Visa cards in Germany. There is often a choice between a Visa card or a Mastercard. Occasionally, a double card (Visa and Mastercard) is also offered. In 2016, 14.12 million Germans over the age of 14 had a Visa credit card. For comparison: 22.54 million had a Mastercard. Visa is number 2 on the German credit card market after Mastercard. Other credit card companies only follow at a distance.
In terms of card acceptance, Visa and Mastercard don’t take anything. Both systems have around 36 million acceptance points worldwide and can be used at around two million ATMs. There are over 500,000 acceptance points in Germany. At almost all ATMs in Germany, cash can be withdrawn with the Visa card.