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Accounts & Cards

Visa, American Express, Mastercard, or Diners Club?

March 10, 2023 - Daniel Dreier

How are cards from Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Diners Club different? Which is the right option for you? Find a clear overview here.

What is the difference between Mastercard and Visa? Which credit cards and debit cards work in Switzerland? Which Swiss payment cards are best for traveling? In this guide, answers all the most important questions.

What is a payment network?

Payment networks like Mastercard and Visa form a bridge between card issuers (your bank, for example) and merchant acquirers (banks which process payments for stores). They guarantee that the store which accepts a credit card payment will actually get the money. Major international payment networks include American Express (Amex), Diners Club International, Mastercard, UnionPay, and Visa. 

There are also many smaller national or regional networks, such as the Swiss Postfinance payment network for debit cards.

How do I know which payment network my card uses?

The logo of the payment network which your card uses is normally printed on the front of the card itself. 

Table 1: Payment networks used in Switzerland

Payment network Acceptance at
Swiss merchants
Acceptance at
Swiss ATMs
Cards issued
in Switzerland?
American Express Medium High Yes
Dinacard Medium* High* No
Diners Club International Medium High Yes
Discover Medium* High* No
Elo Medium* High* No
JCB Low High No
Mastercard High High Yes
Postfinance High High Yes
Rupay Medium* High* No
Troy Medium* High* No
Unionpay Medium High Yes
Visa High High Yes

*Cards from these networks can be used at merchants and ATMs which accept Diners Club International.

How do I know if I can use my card at a store or ATM?

You can only use your credit card or debit card to pay if the merchant accepts your card’s payment network. For example, you can only use an American Express credit card to pay if the shop, restaurant, or other merchant accepts American Express.

The logos of the accepted payment networks are normally displayed on store windows, POS terminals, in online checkouts, or on automated teller machines (ATMs). However, this is not always the case, so it can be beneficial to ask an employee or customer service whether your card is accepted before you shop or place orders. When circumstances allow for it, it can be worth trying to use your card in any case, as it may work even if the signs and/or employees say otherwise.

Which credit cards can I use in Switzerland?

Visa and Mastercard credit cards and debit cards can be used at most Swiss merchants which accept cashless payments. If you shop at budget stores and small businesses, in particular, then in many cases, Mastercard and Visa may be your only options for credit card payments.

American Express and Diners Club are not as widely accepted in Switzerland as Mastercard and Visa, but can still be used to pay at most large retailers and at many tourist-oriented establishments.

Cards from JCB and Unionpay are accepted by fewer Swiss merchants than cards from Mastercard and Visa. However, Unionpay cards can be used at locations which accept Diners Club. Both JCB and Unionpay can be used to make cash withdrawals at most Swiss ATMs.

You can find a detailed overview of credit card acceptance at major Swiss online stores here.

Which debit cards can I use in Switzerland?

Maestro and Debit Mastercard cards are widely accepted in Switzerland, as are Visa Debit and V Pay debit cards. 

The Postfinance payment network operated by the Swiss postal bank has an established merchant base in Switzerland, and you may still encounter merchants which only accept Postfinance debit cards, and not Visa or Mastercard.

Debit cards which use other networks like American Express, Discover, JCB, Rupay, and Unionpay networks are not issued in Switzerland. However, you may be able to use them at merchants and ATMs which accept credit cards from those networks.

Which credit cards and debit cards are best for international travel?

When planning a trip, it is important to consider how you will make payments or withdraw money at your destination. Things to look at when choosing a credit card to take on a trip include:

  • Which payment networks are most accepted in the specific countries which you plan on traveling to? You can often find this information on travel forums, blogs, and up-to-date travel guide books.

  • How many partner merchants does the payment network have?

  • Do your preferred merchants accept the payment network?

  • How many ATMs are connected to the payment network? This is especially important when you travel to countries where card payments are not common, as you will have to be able to withdraw cash to cover your expenses.

Visa and Mastercard have the most partner merchants and are widely accepted in North America and most of Europe. Visa has a strong presence in sub-saharan Africa. American Express cards are a good choice for travel to Japan thanks to a partnership with Japan’s regional payment network JCB. 

Diners Club has partnerships which let you use its cards with BC Card (South Korea), Bcard (Bulgaria), Cabal (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay), Dinacard (Serbia), Discover (USA), Elo (Brazil), JCB (Japan), Rupay (India), Troy (Turkey), and Unionpay (China). Some of these (Unionpay, for example) have much bigger networks in their home countries than Mastercard and Visa.

Table 2: Worldwide acceptance of payment networks

Payment network Number of
Approximate number
of merchants
Approximate number
of ATMs
American Express 200 66 million 1.5 million
Diners Club International 200 60 million 1.8 million
Mastercard 210 70 million 1 million
Visa 200 80 million 1 million


Note: There are countries where Swiss-issued American Express, Diners Club, Mastercard, and Visa cards cannot be used at all. In some of these countries (Cuba, for example), you can obtain a local prepaid card for tourists upon arrival, which you can top up using cash.

Which Swiss debit cards are best for international travel?

The Visa Debit cards issued in Switzerland can be used at most merchants and ATMs which accept Visa. Debit Mastercard and Postfinance debit cards can be used at merchants and ATMs which accept Mastercard. Postfinance cards can, additionally, also be used to make cash withdrawals at ATMs on Visa’s Plus network. 

Maestro and V Pay debit cards may not work at all stores that accept Mastercard or Visa respectively. In some countries, merchants may not accept debit cards for certain kinds of transactions, such as hotel bookings or car rentals. In that case, a credit card is generally required.

Are Swiss prepaid cards widely accepted?

Swiss prepaid cards are linked to either the Mastercard or the Visa networks. They can generally be used at merchants which accept Mastercard or Visa credit cards, unless the specific kind of transaction in question requires a credit card. That could be the case with car rentals or hotel bookings, for example.

You can find more information in the guide to prepaid cards.

More on this topic:
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Merchant guide to accepting card payments in Switzerland
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Swiss health insurance: Protection while traveling abroad
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Editor Daniel Dreier
Daniel Dreier is editor and personal finance expert at
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