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Credit cards are a widely accepted, convenient and relatively secure alternative to debit cards, cash and other forms of payment. Perks, including rewards, travel, and purchase protection, make credit cards an even more attractive option for consumers, making credit cards big business.

Credit card companies are the credit unions, banks, payment networks, and other financial institutions that issue credit and facilitate card transactions for consumers and business owners. Card issuers are separate from card networks, although some card networks are also card issuers. Let’s explore the differences.

Find the best credit cards for 2022

No credit card is the best option for every family, every purchase or every budget. We have selected the best credit cards so as to be the most useful for the greatest number of readers.

What are credit card companies?

Credit card companies are classified as payment networks and/or card issuers.

Four major credit card networks dominate the market in the United States: American Express, Discover, Mastercard and Visa. Each credit card network, also known as a card association, may work a little differently, but the basic principles are still similar.

Card networks operate to facilitate the transfer of funds from a cardholder to a merchant. When you make a purchase using a credit card, payment processors use a card network to communicate transaction information between the merchant’s bank (also known as the acquiring or acquiring bank) and the responsible financial institution. of your card issuance.

A credit card issuer is a bank or credit union that provides a credit card directly to an end user, such as a consumer or small business owner. Major banks also often act as credit card issuers in the United States: American Express, Bank of America, Barclays, Capital One, Chase, Citibank, Discover, and US Bank are all card issuers.

Credit card network vs credit card issuer

While credit card networks facilitate the transfer of information, credit card issuers offer credit cards to consumers and businesses. The card issuer is the institution that determines who is eligible for the revolving line of credit, charges the consumer fees, and provides rewards. As a cardholder, you will primarily deal with your card issuer (not the card network) when taking actions such as paying your bill or reporting your card as missing.

American Express and Discover differ from the big four credit card networks because these financial companies also issue credit cards. However, if you want a Visa or Mastercard credit card, you will need to apply for one through another financial institution, such as Chase, Citi, Bank of America, or Capital One.

Some major credit card issuers are not known, although they issue many credit cards. For example, Synchrony Financial and Comenity Bank are the two major credit card issuers behind many store credit cards. Neither bank has high-visibility branches in the United States.

List of credit card companies

American Express

American Express describes itself as a payment service that provides customers with access to “products, ideas and experiences that enrich lives and help businesses succeed.”

The Company’s payment platform consists of issuing cards and operating a payment network. Amex’s customers include consumers, small businesses, midsize companies and multinational corporations.

American Express cards are not exclusively issued by American Express, but many of the best Amex cards are.

Bank of America

Bank of America provides banking and card services to approximately 67 million personal and small business customers.

The company’s card offerings top our list of best student cards, but the company offers a myriad of credit card options for many types of consumers and businesses.


Barclays offers global online services without physical branches. The issuer offers credit card options for consumers and small businesses.

The company issues co-branded cards like the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®* or the JetBlue Card* but also issues cards on their own, including the Barclaycard Platinum (only available in the UK).

Capital one

Capital One Financial Corporation is a conglomerate with many physical branches and a massive online presence. The third-largest issuer of Visa and Mastercard credit cards in the United States based on outstanding credit card loan balance data as of 2021, the company offers top card options for consumers and businesses in multiple card categories.


JPMorgan Chase & Co., engages in investment banking, consumer and small business financial services, commercial banking, financial transaction processing and asset management. The company has physical branches across the country and offers online banking services. Chase credit cards are known as some of the most rewards-oriented and beneficial travel cards on the market.


Citi’s 200 years of banking and financial asset management experience doesn’t translate to two centuries of credit card experience, but Citi’s credit card offerings are renowned among card experts. credit, especially for long introductory APR periods and large rewards.


One of the largest digital banks in the United States, Discover issues cards and acts as a card network. Although the network isn’t known for being widely accepted outside of the United States, Discover Cards top many of our top lists for lucrative rewards structures and other perks.


Synchrony is widely known as a store credit card issuer. The bank primarily specializes in consumer lending as a financial partner to retail and other businesses.

American bank

US Bank operates branches across the United States. The bank offers financial products and services to individuals, businesses, and large corporations, including a variety of credit card options, including US Bank Visa Platinum.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo says it serves at least one in three American homes. Certainly one of the most recognizable brands in consumer-focused finance, the bank offers several solid credit cards for consumers and businesses.

credit unions

A credit union is a member-owned financial institution that, like a bank, makes loans and offers checking and savings accounts. Unlike a bank, a credit union returns its profits to its members. This means you’ll generally find lower interest rates on loans and higher savings rates at credit unions, as well as a potentially friendlier banking experience. Many credit unions offer particularly lucrative reward credit cards. Those who want to be more environmentally friendly or bank in a more sustainable way may be interested in choosing a credit union over a big bank.

Here are examples of credit unions offering credit cards:

  • Alliant Credit Union
  • Federal Digital Credit Union
  • Federal Naval Credit Union
  • PenFed Credit Union

Small banks

Smaller banks or those with regional footprints also often offer credit cards. Here are some examples :

  • BBVA
  • Fifth Third Bank
  • Goldman Sachs
  • HSBC
  • Huntington Bank
  • NCP Bank

How do credit card companies make money?

Credit card companies could profit from consumer transactions, charging consumers fees and charging interest on balances.

Transaction fees

Each time you tap, insert, swipe, or click with a credit card, a transaction fee is charged to the merchant for the convenience of accepting payment. This payment is often built into the cost of the goods or services you purchase and varies between 1% and 4%. Some sellers pass these fees directly on to consumers. In either case, the card networks make money through transaction fees charged directly to the seller for the convenience of accepting credit card payments and indirectly to the consumer via mark-up costs.


An interest rate – often noted as an annual percentage rate (APR) – associated with your use of a card will vary depending on the lender and your creditworthiness and will generally be charged on any balance on the card. Interest charges allow lenders to take advantage when you don’t pay your bill on time. To avoid interest charges, you can pay on time and in full each billing cycle. The grace period (usually one billing cycle) will prevent interest from accruing.

Annual fees

Credit card issuers may charge annual fees on cards that offer premium rewards or on cards advertised and designed for people with bad credit. Annual fees can be extremely expensive, especially for high-end reward cards with lots of benefits.

Other fees and charges

Card issuers can charge cardholders late fees for not paying on time, cash advance fees for withdrawing money from an ATM with a card, balance transfer fees for moving balance on another card, foreign transaction fees for purchases made outside the United States, or over-limit fees when a cardholder spends over a credit limit. All of these fees allow card companies to take advantage of consumers’ financial needs.

Find the best credit cards for 2022

No credit card is the best option for every family, every purchase or every budget. We have selected the best credit cards so as to be the most useful for the greatest number of readers.


Many credit card options exist, but almost all work on one of the four main networks: American Express, Discover, Mastercard or Visa. A myriad of card issuers issue revolving credit accounts and lend money to consumers through credit cards in one form or another. Lucrative reward and loyalty programs can be part of many of these offers to entice consumers to use credit cards, but credit cards also come with a lot of responsibility. Be aware that late or missed payments, or holding a balance for an extended period of time can be costly.