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Modern life moves at a fast pace, that’s for sure. This is especially true when it comes to handling everyday credit card payments for things like groceries, gasoline and drugstore purchases. With impatient people behind you and your own desire to pay and go ASAP, it seems imperative to pay as quickly and efficiently as possible. But, according to a national advertising campaign launched by Visa USA, life takes Visa.  Not just any credit card will do, according to the promotion.

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Does it really require Visa, as they would have you believe? Well, Visa has definitely created one of the world’s most widely accepted payment networks with millions of participating merchants globally. They have also excelled at developing innovative features that make using a Visa card more efficient (like the contact-less Blink card technology) and more safe (like the Verified by Visa and Zero Liability programs to enhance cardholder security).

Visa is actually an association of member banks that issue the cards to consumers, rather than a direct issuer like Discover Card or American Express. Advertising campaigns like “Life Takes Visa” is done on behalf of its member banks in order to drive stronger brand loyalty and encourage more customers to choose Visa over its main rival, MasterCard.

MasterCard does its fair share of this brand advertising with its ubiquitous “priceless” series of television and print campaigns. The current version of this campaign even invites viewers to compete and submit their own version of the now famous sequence by filling in the blanks: (blank — blank dollars, blank — blank dollars, blank, blank, blank — priceless). Whether this type of customer engagement tactic will work for MasterCard remains to be seen, but at least they are getting even more mileage out of this long running brand campaign.

American Express probably created this genre of card branding with its original campaign themed “American Express: Don’t leave home without it.” It was the success of this advertising that drove Visa to create its first counter-advertising thrust with “Visa: It’s everywhere you want to be.” This was followed by another ad offensive targeting American Express that implied that only Visa was accepted at many merchant locations and that “they don’t accept American Express.” Visa used this campaign deftly during major international sporting events like the Summer and Winter Olympic games, with whom Visa locked up exclusive sponsorship deals.

The card brand with perhaps the least amount spent on brand advertising is Discover Card. Discover Card is the youngest of the major card brands and has built its reputation on strong credit card reward programs and a growing merchant network. As a direct credit card issuer, Discover Card has a few advantages over Visa and MasterCard, such as the ability to completely control its product line. Discover Card offers consumers the ability to choose from over 150 unique credit card designs allowing customers to choose a card that best fits them.

Whether life really requires Visa in particular is a matter of conjecture. However, today’s financial world works more smoothly with a credit card of some sort. But Visa does have an incredible array of choices available with everything from 0 percent APR to 5 percent cash back rewards, so choosing the right card may be the biggest challenge.

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Published: March 21, 2006

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