Issuers and NetworksBy Michael Hawthorne
When you sign up for a card you’re entering into a business relationship with the Issuer of the card – a bank. Some of the most prominent issuers are CapitalOne, Barclaycard, Chase, Citibank and Bank of America while there are other issuers you may or may not have heard of that also offer good cards like IberiaBank and Synovus. Each issuer runs their own customer service programs and has their own internet portals for online payment and information. For most people the issuer isn’t a primary concern when choosing a card but for those who want to integrate all their banking and credit card accounts with one provider for convenience, or those who want a higher standard of customer service, the issuer is a consideration. In JD Powers 2012 customer satisfaction survey, American Express, Discover, Chase and Barclaycard all scored above the industry average.
While the issuers are the banks extending you a credit line, the networks are handling the actual routing and acceptance of payments when you make a charge. There are 4 primary credit card networks: Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover. Visa and Mastercard are accepted in the most locations while Discover and American Express are accepted more selectively. In our experience, if you really like a Discover or American Express card offer you should go ahead and take it but consider having a back-up Visa or Mastercard for those times when the other networks are not accepted. All four networks cards do carry some additional perks like car rental insurance, extended warranty protection on purchases and travel insurance. The brochures for these perks extend through 20+ pages of legalese but it's worth knowing what’s offered, especially on higher annual fee cards (Visa Signature, World Mastercard and American Express), as they often carry additional benefits like concierge services.
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