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There are many different types of credit cards available and two of the most popular are visa and mastercard. I have both but I tend to use my mastercard most because I get better points awarded each time I use it and I can get things in return like free hotel stays or cases of wine. Mastercards are issued by different banks and building societies so the levels of interest and services such as billing and points are different depending on your issuer so shop around and see who is giving the best deal. I find that I can use my mastercard in many different places and I have never been stuck for using it in any shop that accepts credit cards which might not be the case with some lesser known cards. Some places for example might not accept american express but they always usually accept mastercards. You can quickly tell if a shop accepts these cards becasue of the logo being displayed which is two overlapping circles of red and orange. I am happy with my mastercard but please if you think of getting any credit card be careful not to get into debt because they are very convenient to use!
It’s a bit strange to have this category here since there are so many versions available, and no one specific type of Mastercard®. There are several ‘makes’ of credit card available these days, but Visa and Mastercard are the big two, at least in terms of worldwide acceptability. I chose this one because I already had a Visa debit card, and I felt the need for variety, no other reason. My bank offered me both with the same terms and conditions, and there was really nothing to pick between them. Credit cards are ways to pay for items without having to hand over, or even possess the cash then and there. They come with a limit but up to this level you can purchase any goods and services you like. At the end of the month you get a bill detailing the minimum amount you need to pay plus the total you owe, and if you only wish to pay the first amount, you will be charged interest on the remainder as you would be with a loan. Some cards come with annual fees and all with interest rates, but these vary from bank to bank, and the make of card has little to do with it, they just depend on the bank offering it. So, while one of the Mastercards available from HSBC has no fee and an APR of 15.9%, a different one from the same bank comes with an annual charge of 70 pounds and a different interest level. Only you and the bank know your personal set up, however. On no card does it list your credit limit or interest rate and all the shop keeper charging your card can really determine is whether you’re a Visa or Mastercard person. I don’t use cards because I need the credit, I use them for the convenience. They can be used worldwide and with most you are not charged a fee for using them abroad. The interest rate they use to calculate your home equivalent might not be as favourable as some, but it almost always works out cheaper than withdrawing cash abroad, and is certainly safer. Most credit card suppliers have some sort of automat
ic fraud protection that gives you some come back if your card or, more specifically, card number is used by someone else, but this differs from institution to institution as the fees etc do, so you can’t automatically assume that simply because your card boasts the Mastercard logo, you’ll be ok. Speaking of the logo, the Mastercard one is two circles overlapping like a venn diagram. The left-hand one is a warm red and the one on the right a rich orangey yellow. The word “Mastercard” stretches across the center. No matter where you are, or who you bank with, whenever you see this symbol, you can use your card. That’s not all, though. If the symbol isn’t shown, but the word “Eurocard” is written, they’ll also take it. That’s just foreigners being a bit, well, foreign. The only thing to look out for is the term “EC Card” – though potentially easy to confuse with Eurocard / Mastercard, this is a completely different one, and acceptance of it doesn’t automatically mean your card will also be accepted. If you want to withdraw cash from a machine, you can also look out for their ATM-brand Cirrus. Still with me? Though I just picked it because I had to choose one of the two types on offer, having a Mastercard does have some added advantages. With one of the online accommodation booking sites you used to get $30 off if you booked 3 or more nights and paid using your Mastercard, and at the moment you get 10% off all purchases with The Cotswold Company when paying with your card. The offers last only for a limited time (this last one ends in September), and change regularly, so it’s worth checking the Mastercard website now and then to see what’s on offer at the moment. The address straight to the relevant page is www.mastercard.com/uk/specialoffers/ The cards can be used worldwide (at more than 32 million shops, restaurants and so on) though how you u
se them depends on the country. In the UK, for example, you usually sign your name on the slip at the till-point to authorize them to debit the money from you account. Over here I’m more frequently asked to punch in a PIN to their special machine, the same way you would to withdraw cash in any country. If you’ve never needed it in the UK, it’s still important to have a PIN for your card for when you’re traveling, and since they’re hard to change abroad, get it well in advance and replace it with a number you prefer in the relevant section at a UK cash-point. Online shopping has taken off hugely in recent years, and to keep up the security side of things, they now often ask for some of the digits printed on the signature strip on the back of your card. These numbers never appear on a receipt as, for example, the card num and expiry date might, so you physically have to have the card in front of you to be able to make the transaction. Safe, see? I’ve always found very good availability with Mastercard or rather, I’ve never wanted to use it but not been able to. From river excursions in Germany to lingerie shops in Rome to pizza takeaways in New York to many, many orders from Amazon UK, they’ve always said yes. Compared to companies such as American Express, Mastercard is very much preferable when abroad, and even to some extent in the UK. Mastercard is a bulk name used to keep things simple. Can you imagine if every bank in the world had its own make of credit card? The small till-point stickers would soon turn into wall-sized posters as they expanded to include every card the shop would accept. It’s much easier to do things this way, but you have to remember that each Mastercard is different. If someone raves on about the low rates and excellent bonus scheme their card offers you need to ask which bank they’re with, and the name of the account rather than whether it’s a Visa or Master
card etc. I’ve never had any problems with having my card accepted throughout the world, but my praises for customer service and efficient account handling are directed at my bank rather than the people who sit in the Mastercard office somewhere. The title is the company’s current slogan and usually comes attached to adverts which are the main reason I almost manage to cry no matter what sort of film we’re seeing – they’re always shown in the trailer ads at the cinema, and though I don’t usually sob like a baby, they usually produce a lump in my throat. Sweet credit card adverts. Whatever next? ** NB MasterCard debit cards are also now available, but since I’ve never seen them in the UK this op was based on the workings of the Mastercard credit card. ** NB2 If you're read (ie not flicked to the bottom of) this op, you'll understand why the questions below are mainly answered with my HSBC student card in mind