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Credit Card Companies: Which Are Biggest? And Which Are Best?
The top two — Visa and Mastercard — are solely networks, which means they facilitate transactions but do not issue their own cards. American Express and Discover, on the other hand, serve as both networks and issuers.
If you want a Visa or Mastercard, you’ll need to apply with one of the banks that issues its cards, like Chase or Citi. The issuing bank will also determine most of the important features of your card, such as its annual fee, perks, and interest rate.
The bottom line? While it’s interesting to see which payment networks reign supreme, it’s not particularly useful. That’s why we’ve focused on issuers (or those who are both issuers and networks) for this list of major credit card companies. (Since the most recent data was from 2018 for most issuers, the following volumes for American Express and Discover differ slightly from those above.)
Largest credit card companies by purchase volume. Image credit: Nilson Report
1. American Express: $754.92 billion
As noted above, American Express is both an issuer and a network. It’s the largest credit card issuer by purchase volume, likely because most of its cards are targeted at high spenders with good or excellent credit.
It’s also one of the best credit card issuers for customer satisfaction, according to studies from J.D. Power.
Chase, the second largest issuer by volume, is the largest issuer of cards on the Visa and Mastercard networks.
Many of its cards are part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, which allows you to earn points redeemable for flights, hotel stays, statement credits, or gift cards.
As with American Express, you’ll mostly need good or excellent credit to snag these cards, many of which come with serious perks and introductory bonuses (that grant a boatload of bonus points for spending a certain amount within the first three months of your account opening).
Wondering which cards you might be eligible for? It depends on your creditworthiness (your credit history and credit scores, along with other factors like income). Here’s how to get your free credit scores from FICO — the better they are, the broader your options will be. Don’t worry if they’re not great, however: There are plenty of cards for rebuilding your credit, with several solid options from Capital One and Discover.
3. Citibank: $410.43 billion
Coming in a distant third, but still with more than $400 billion of annual purchases, is Citibank. Most notably, this bank issues one of our favorite cash back credit cards: the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, which earns a flat 2% cash back on everything.
It also has some interesting co-branded cards, including the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, which earns 2% cash back at Costco and 4% back at U.S. gas stations (the latter up to $7K spent annually), as well as several partner cards with American Airlines.
As one of the largest credit card issuers, it’s no surprise that Bank of America offers a range of cards for people with credit scores from poor to excellent. While you won’t find any premium credit cards here — like you would with Chase or Amex — you’ll find plenty of decent cards with low or no annual fees.
$200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
NEW OFFER: Maximize your cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement /furnishings
Now earn 3% cash back in your choice category and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
You can update your choice category for future purchases once each calendar month using the Mobile Banking app or Online Banking, or do nothing and it stays the same
No expiration on rewards
0% Introductory APR for 12 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 16.24% – 26.24% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to balance transfers
If you’re a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% – 75% more cash back on every purchase
Like Amex, Discover is both an issuer and a network. According to J.D. Power, it’s also the best credit card issuer in terms of customer satisfaction.
While it has a reputation of being welcomed in far fewer places than Visa, Mastercard, or Amex, Discover claims it’s accepted at more than 95% of credit-card-friendly merchants in the U.S. You’ll likely be fine at most national chains, in other words, but may face more difficulties at local mom-and-pop shops.
Although Discover generally doesn’t offer a ton of perks or rewards, its cards are still worth a look. Since they can be easier to get, they’re a good way to get started with credit cards — especially for students and people who are rebuilding.
INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
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With a secured card, you’ll need to put down a security deposit that, in most cases, then serves as your credit limit. Secured cards are different from debit cards in that they offer $0 fraud liability — and help you build your credit. Before applying for a secured credit card, just make sure its issuer will report your behavior to all three major credit bureaus (most do, including all the big issuers).
8. Wells Fargo: $134.06 billion
Rounding out this list of the top credit card companies is Wells Fargo.
We should note, however, that among top credit card issuers, Wells Fargo ranks near last in terms of customer satisfaction. It’s no wonder, given it has experienced a series of scandals in recent years.
As far as cards go, Wells Fargo’s offerings are fairly run-of-the-mill. We’d say the most noteworthy card is the Wells Fargo Platinum card, which offers a 0% APR for 18 months.
Although it’s easy to declare which credit card company is largest, it’s far too subjective for us to say which credit card companies are best.
Among the major credit card issuers, we will note that cardholders are most satisfied with Discover, American Express, Capital One, and Chase — in that order. The rest of the companies on this list received below-average satisfaction ratings. (USAA gets the best ratings, but it’s only for members of the military and their families.)
Best credit card issuers. Image credit: J.D. Power
Ultimately, though, the best credit card company will depend on your needs. If you’re looking for a flashy travel rewards card, Amex or Chase are good bets. If you’re rebuilding your credit, you’ll find fantastic options from Capital One and Discover, or even from your local credit union (or an online union).
What we recommend is choosing the card that works best for you in terms of perks and rewards, annual fee, and credit requirements. As long as it’s from a major issuer, the specific company shouldn’t matter too much.
The largest credit card companies are a who’s who of the finance world. You’ll see a lot of familiar names on the list: credit card networks such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, and credit card issuers such as Chase and Citi.
Credit Card Insider receives compensation from advertisers whose products may be mentioned on this page. Advertiser relationships do not affect card evaluations. Advertising partners do not edit or endorse our editorial content. Content is accurate to the best of our knowledge when it's published. Learn more in our Editorial Guidelines.
The information related to Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi, Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card, and Capital One® Secured Mastercard® have been collected by Credit Card Insider and have not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of these products.
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