What Is a Visa Credit Card?

Read everything you need to know about Visa credit cards.

Updated: January 10, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

 
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Are you looking for an extra cash boost but are not sure where to start? A Visa credit card could provide you with that much needed financial cushion, covering in-store and online purchases as well as ATM cash withdrawals.

However, as with all credit cards and loan products, you must consider the impact of borrowing money and the likelihood that you will pay it back. You must also apply for the best credit card options, offering interest-free deals, cashback or balance transfer cards.

In this article, we’ll cover this and more, looking at what a Visa credit card is used for and the best products available on the market, helping you to compare Visa credit cards.

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1. HSBC Balance Transfer Credit Card★★★★★Click Here
2. Barclaycard Platinum Balance Transfer Credit Card★★★★★Click Here
3. Barclaycard Rewards Credit Card★★★★★Click Here
4. Barclaycard Forward Card★★★★★Click Here
5. Vanquis Credit Builder Credit Card★★★★Click Here
6. Post Office Money Classic Credit Card★★★★Click Here

What Is a Visa Credit Card?

A Visa credit card is the name given to a credit card that interacts with Visa card payment services when a payment is processed. Visa is not a credit card issuer, however. It solely provides a secure network through which payments are processed.

Across the UK, Visa is the most used payment system, claiming 78% of the market share against 20% for MasterCard.

Even when compiling data for online payments and purchases, Visa is the lead competitor, with 54% of current customers choosing to use Visa, according to YouGov.

UK Payments Market
Image: YouGov

How Do Visa Credit Cards Work?

Visa’s aim is to ensure customers experience smooth transactions every time they use their credit card or debit card.

Visa is a processing network that a bank or other financial institution will partner with. Then, when a bank gives a customer a credit card, it will feature a Visa logo to show that all transactions will be processed through Visa.

When a customer uses their Visa credit card, Visa’s systems first check that you have enough money available in your bank account or credit limit. 

Visa’s system will then process the transaction, deducting money from your credit card and sending the money to the retailer’s bank.

Visa makes money from the businesses that use their service, not directly from the customer. So, Visa will receive a fee from the banks and financial institutions that choose to use their processing network for their customers’ transactions. 

The fee charged is usually a percentage of the purchase value.

Who Else Processes Transactions Like Visa?

The main rivals to Visa are MasterCard and American Express. All three companies link up with banks and other financial institutions to process payments and other transactions. 

Their unique logos will feature on your credit card, debit card, or prepaid gift card.

However, despite the surge towards more online and card purchases, Visa’s competitors have still failed to overtake Visa’s popularity. There are currently 1.1 billion Visa cards in circulation around the world. 

This is vast in contrast to MasterCard, although MasterCard’s stock has performed better over the last 5 years.

Current data levels suggest that Visa is the dominant credit card choice in Europe, Africa, and Asia, although MasterCard is the credit card of choice for Americans and Australians.

Most Popular Credit Cards
Image: Merchant Machine

What’s the Difference Between Visa and Mastercard?

The service offered by Visa and Mastercard is almost identical.

The differences between Visa and MasterCard, however, lie in the bonuses and incentives offered, along with a unique 

MasterCard price protection.

Price Protection

Mastercard protects all purchases for 120 days, providing 4 months of MasterCard price protection. Visa’s price protection will only span as far as 30 days, however.

Loyalty Programmes

Visa offers the best loyalty programmes for businesses. Visa enables businesses to create card-linked loyalty programmes for customers. This helps to entice customers to spend more on your business. Likewise, customers can redeem their rewards points using Visa’s loyalty programme.

The consumer benefits for Visa customers include the Visa Premium option. Visa Premium consists of three levels and is tailored for consumers who spend large sums with high credit limits. 

Gold, Platinum and the invite-only Infinite levels are available with Visa Premium. You can also access cash when an emergency arises and receive discounts and rewards from many well-known businesses.

MasterCard triumphs with its Priceless rewards for the consumer. You can unlock travelling experiences with Priceless.com, or donate to the causes close to your heart with Priceless Causes. Alternatively, upgrade when attending events with Priceless Surprises. 

MasterCard users can also receive cash rewards and special offers for their favourite stores when making a purchase.

What Banks Issue Visa Credit Cards?

Some of the biggest banks and financial institutions around the world issue Visa credit cards. This includes Barclaycard, HSBC, Nationwide and Vanquis. 98.5% of online retailers accept Visa for online purchases.

Where Can I Use a Visa Credit Card?

Visa credit cards can be used globally in stores as well as through ATMs. You can also make online purchases when using Visa credit cards.

How Do I Apply for a Visa Credit Card?

Apply for a Visa credit card through your bank or credit card issuers. Your application success will depend on your credit rating, however, with each card issuer requiring a different credit score and application requirements.

When applying for Visa credit cards, you are asking to borrow money from credit card issuers. 

Therefore, lenders will view your credit report and process your details through an eligibility checker to assess the risk of borrowing money to you. 

If you are successful in securing a Visa credit card, your credit card issuer will give you a credit limit. Your credit limit is the maximum amount of money you can spend on your Visa cards.

How Do I Use a Visa Credit Card?

Use Visa credit cards with the contactless payment system in stores, or with a chip and pin. Simply hold the Visa card above the contactless logo and the transaction will be complete in seconds. 

You can use contactless transactions for purchases up to £100, although chip and pin transactions are required after this amount.

When making an online purchase, enter the 16-digit number across the card, along with your name, expiry date and the security code. Choose to complete the purchase and the transaction will be recorded on your account, with the amount deducted from your credit limit.

The Best Visa Credit Cards, Pros and Cons

To gain a quick look at the pros and cons of the best Visa credit cards, look no further than this section. 

Here are the main pros and cons for you to consider:

Pros

✔️ Secure: Visa is a trusted and secure transaction processing network so you know that your money and purchases are safe. You can securely pay for purchases online or in-store as well as withdraw cash safely from ATMs.

✔️ Credit limits: Tailor your credit limit to meet your own needs and expectations. Visa credit cards can offer credit limits of a few hundred pounds through to high limits of many thousands of pounds.

✔️ Balance transfers: Save money and interest by using balance transfer credit cards. Balance transfers allow you to transfer balances from existing credit cards to a new credit card provider who typically will offer 0% interest for up to five months.

✔️ Credit report: You can improve your credit rating and credit score when applying for a credit card account, opening new opportunities in the financial world.

As long as you pay off your credit card purchases as quickly as possible and never default, credit card providers will report favourably about your credit history with them.

Cons

❌️ Debt cycle: It is easy to fall into a debt cycle with credit cards, particularly if you own more than one credit or debit card. You could find yourself unable to pay your bills, or even borrowing money from one credit card provider to pay another.

❌️ High interest rates: The credit card provider may charge a high interest rate for your credit card purchases or withdrawals, particularly if you have bad credit.

❌️ Fraud risk: Even though credit cards are generally safe and provide their own security protection, there is always a fraud risk, or potential scammers lurking around each corner.

❌️ Overspending charges: When spending more money than your credit limit, you may face charges that can soon add up substantially.

Best Visa Credit Card — Reviews

If you want to compare Visa credit cards and look out for great deals with inspiring interest rates, look no further. 

Here are the top 6 Visa credit cards currently available.

1. HSBC Balance Transfer Credit Card — Best Overall

HSBC Balance Transfer Credit Card

HSBC Balance Transfer Credit Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £500
Representative % APR (variable)
23.9% APR
  • 0% interest up to 27 months.
  • Balance transfer fee 2.99% (£5 minimum).
  • No annual fee.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 23.9% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 23.9% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

  • Receive 0% interest on balance transfers for 27 months
  • Additional 0% interest on purchases for 3 months
  • 2.99% fee applies, or a £5 minimum, for each balance transfer
  • 23.9% Representative APR on purchases
  • Typical credit limit: £1,200

The HSBC Balance Transfer Visa credit card is our No. 1 choice. Receive 0% interest on balance transfers for 27 months, helping you to clear your existing credit card balances interest free. 

Ensure to transfer balances within your first 60 days of owning your credit card to qualify for this balance transfer. However, whilst zero interest is charged, you will need to pay a 2.99% fee or £5 for every balance transferred to the credit card.

You can also enjoy 0% interest on purchases made with your HSBC Balance Transfer credit card for 3 months, saving more money with this superb credit card. 

After the 3 month period after your account opening ends, you will need to pay 23.9% Representative APR. This is a good rate for a general credit card provider.

General eligibility requires that you are a UK resident, aged 18 or over, and earn at least £6,800 per year.

2. Barclaycard Platinum Balance Transfer Credit Card — Great for Long Balance Transfer Terms

Barclaycard Platinum Balance Transfer Credit Card

Barclaycard Platinum Balance Transfer Credit Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £50
Representative % APR (variable)
24.9% APR
  • 0% interest balance transfer for up to 30 months.
  • 3.45% transfer fee applies.
  • Four free Apple subscriptions for up to five months.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 24.9% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 24.9% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

  • Receive 0% interest on balance transfers for 30 months
  • 3.45% fee applies for each balance transfer
  • 24.9% Representative APR on purchases
  • Typical credit limit: £1,200

The Barclaycard Platinum Balance Transfer Visa credit card is a great choice for the longest possible balance transfer term. You can enjoy 30 months of 0% interest free balance transfers as long as you transfer balances within the first 60 days of your account opening. 

For every balance transferred to this credit card, you will need to pay a fee of 3.45%, however.

When making purchases with the Barclaycard Platinum Balance Transfer credit card, you will pay 24.9% Representative APR on purchases. This is a standard rate for credit cards.

General eligibility requires that you are a UK resident, aged 21 or over, and earn at least £3,000 per year.

3. Barclaycard Rewards Credit Card — Great for Frequent Travellers

Barclaycard Rewards Credit Card

Barclaycard Rewards Credit Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £50
Representative % APR (variable)
25.9% APR
  • Get 0.25% cashback on your everyday spend.
  • No fees abroad.
  • Protection on purchases over £100.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 25.9% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 25.9% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

  • Cash withdrawal fee: 0%
  • Foreign transaction fee: 0%
  • 25.9% Representative APR
  • Receive 0.25% cash back on purchases
  • Protection for purchases over £100
  • Typical credit limit: £1,200
  • Free Apple subscription

The Barclaycard Rewards credit card is our favourite choice for frequent travellers. You can rest easy whilst abroad with 0% foreign transaction fee as well as 0% cash withdrawal fee. You could gain zero additional fees abroad, resulting in a very relaxing holiday.

Further peace of mind is provided with protection for all purchases over £100. When making purchases, you will pay 25.9% Representative APR which is typical on a credit limit of £1,200.

As this credit card is called Barclaycard Rewards, you would expect a couple of perks to enjoy from time to time. You will not be disappointed as you will receive a free Apple subscription to services such as Apple TV+ and Apple Music, as well as 0.25% cashback on purchases.

General eligibility requires that you are a UK resident, aged 21 or over, and earn at least £20,000 per year.

4. Barclaycard Forward Card — Great for Cashback

Barclaycard Forward Card

Barclaycard Forward Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £50
Representative % APR (variable)
33.9% APR
  • 0% interest on purchases for 3 months (from the date you open your account).
  • Credit limit £50 to £1,200.
  • Minimum repayment £5.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 33.9% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 33.9% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

  • Receive 0% interest on purchases for 3 months
  • 33.9% Representative APR on purchases
  • Gain 15% cashback with certain retailers
  • Reduce your interest rate by 3% with the Forward Price Promise
  • Free Apple subscription
  • Typical credit limit: £1,200

The Barclaycard Forward Visa credit card is the best choice for getting something back from your credit card provider. You will receive 0% interest on all purchases for the first 3 months, saving you a lot of money.

You can also gain 15% cashback on your purchases from participating retailers through the Barclaycard Cashback Rewards initiative. If you make regular purchases from participating retailers, you could receive a substantial amount of cashback.

Further incentives offered by this credit card include the Forward Price Promise. This states that you can reduce your interest rate by 3% if you pay every repayment on time and in full during your first year as a customer.

You can reduce your interest rate by another 2% if you pay all repayments on time and in full during your second year as a customer.

Additionally, enjoy a free subscription to Apple for a set period when you take out this credit card.

General eligibility requires that you are a UK resident, aged 18 or over, and earn at least £3,000 per year.

5. Vanquis Credit Builder Credit Card — Great for Bad Credit

Vanquis Credit Builder Credit Card

Vanquis Credit Builder Credit Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £500
Representative % APR (variable)
29.5% APR
  • Manage your account 24/7 in the Vanquis app.
  • Credit limit £500 to £1,500 (subject to status).
  • Improve your credit score if you manage your card responsibly.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 29.5% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 29.5% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

  • 29.5% Representative APR
  • Perfect for building credit
  • Typical credit limit: £500 – £1,500

The Vanquis Credit Builder is a Visa credit card with a difference. If you have a bad credit score, you can apply for this credit card to improve your credit rating.

A custom credit limit for between £500 to £1,500 is available, although the limit you receive will depend on your circumstances when applying.

However, a credit builder credit card may start you off with a low credit limit, requiring that you pay at least the minimum required amount every month. Over time, if you have never missed a payment, you could increase your credit limit as well as improve your credit score.

General eligibility requires that you are a UK resident, aged 18 or over, and are not bankrupt.

6. Post Office Money Classic Credit Card — MasterCard alternative — Great for Interest-Free Purchases

Post Office Money Classic Credit Card

Post Office Money Classic Credit Card
Credit Limit
Minimum £200
Representative % APR (variable)
34.9% APR
  • 0% on purchases for up to 12 months and 0% on balance transfers for up to 12 months (2.9% transfer fee). Subject to eligibility.
  • Credit limit £200 to £8,000.
  • Minimum repayment 3% or £5, whichever is greater.

Representative Example – If you spend £1,200 at a purchase interest rate of 34.94% p.a. (variable) your representative APR will be 34.9% APR (variable). Your APR and credit limit may vary depending on your circumstances.

  • Receive 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months
  • Gain an additional 0% interest on purchases for 12 months
  • 2.9% fee applies for each balance transfer
  • 19.9% – 34.9% Representative APR 
  • Credit limits between £200 – £8,000

The Post Office credit card is a great choice for interest-free purchases. You can receive 0% interest on purchases for 12 months, saving you a substantial sum of cash. You can also enjoy 0% interest on balance transfers for 12 months, although a 2.9% fee applies for each transfer.

This is a MasterCard credit card demonstrating the alternatives to Visa that are available.

When using your Post Office credit card after 12 months, you will pay a standard Representative APR of between 19.9% to 34.9%. The rate you are offered will depend on your own circumstances when applying for the credit card.

General eligibility requires that you are a UK resident, aged 18 or over.

Leading Visa Credit Cards: The Verdict

The best Visa credit card overall is the HSBC Balance Transfer card. You can receive 27 months of interest-free balance transfers so you can save interest and save money. Enjoy a further 3 months interest-free purchases to get the most out of this leading Visa credit card.

Another great choice is the Barclaycard Forward credit card, which allows you 15% cashback with every purchase from participating retailers. You can also gain 3 months of interest-free purchases and a free Apple subscription. 

But, the top benefit of the Barclaycard Forward credit card is the Forward Price Promise, allowing you to reduce your interest rate when you pay all repayments on time and in full.

Related Guides:

What Is a Visa Credit Card? — FAQs

What are the disadvantages of a Visa credit card?

Are UK banks changing from Visa to MasterCard?

Which UK banks use MasterCard?

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Mentioned Banks

About Vanquis Bank Founded in 2003, Vanquis Bank is a subsidiary of the Provident Financial Group. It works primarily in service of UK customers with poor, limited or uneven credit...
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About HSBC Bank HSBC is a British banking and financial services company. It is the largest bank in Europe and the seventh largest bank in the world. The bank originated in Hong Kong...
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About Nationwide Nationwide is a British building society and mutual financial institution. Headquartered in Swindon, it has additional offices in Glasgow, Bournemouth, Northampton...
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