6 mins read Reviews

Choosing Between An Amex Or Visa Gift Card: What’s the Difference?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between an AMEX and a Visa gift card? You might think they are the same, but they are not. Recently, I overheard my cousin telling one of his friends that the Visa and the AMEX gift cards are the same and can be used interchangeably. They kept arguing, and I couldn’t jump in on their conversation to clarify things since I hadn’t known the differences myself. However, that encounter motivated me to do some research to uncover the differences.

I discovered that while American Express and Visa both provide popular prepaid gift card options, they have some key differences. An Amex gift card offers a prepaid balance that is usable for purchases directly from an American Express account. In contrast, a Visa gift card also provides a prepaid balance, but it permits purchases anywhere a Visa is accepted.

In this guide, I will compare and contrast the features, benefits, and drawbacks of AMEX and Visa gift cards and help you decide which one is best for you.

About AMEX And AMEX Gift Cards

American Express is one of the premier financial services companies, offering a popular line of credit cards, banking products, and prepaid gift card offerings. When you get an AMEX gift card, you receive a prepaid balance that can be used for purchases directly through your American Express account.

Unlike traditional American Express credit cards though, an AMEX gift card does not require a credit check or permanent account. You simply load funds to the card; then, the recipient can enjoy access to that initial value for shopping across the AMEX network. 

About AMEX And AMEX Gift Cards

Advantages of AMEX Gift Cards

Some key advantages of AMEX gift cards include reward potential, top-tier customer service, and purchase protection.

1. Rewards potential: Many AMEX credit cards offer robust rewards programs with access to points, airline miles, and statement credits. When you use an AMEX gift card, you can accumulate and redeem these perks.

2. Top-tier customer service: In my experience, American Express customer support stands among the best across banking and finance. Whether you need help with your gift card balance or points questions, AMEX offers reliable reps 24/7 via phone and chat to solve issues quickly.  

3. Purchase protection: Standard AMEX cards deliver some of the strongest purchase protection available, like return guarantees of up to 90 days. So, if you buy an item with an American Express gift card and need to return it months later, you can receive a replacement or reimbursement. 

Disadvantages of AMEX Gift Cards  

A few potential drawbacks to AMEX gift cards compared to Visa include more limited acceptance, restricted online usage and possible added fees.

1. More limited acceptance: Some smaller independent vendors still do not take American Express cards, so prepaid gift cards may face occasional declined transactions until locating AMEX-friendly merchants.

2. Restricted online usage: Similar to the point above, a small portion of websites still turn away American Express digital payments, though acceptance keeps expanding. For maximum flexibility online, Visa gift cards come in handy here.  

3. Possible added fees: When buying AMEX gift cards in retail stores, some merchants add on purchase or activation fees, which cut into the available balance before any spending happens.

About Visa And Visa Gift Cards

Visa operates the world’s largest global payment network, powering a wide range of credit, debit and prepaid card products. When you obtain a Visa gift card, you get a prepaid balance to spend anywhere Visa is accepted, which spans over 200 countries and territories.

Unlike American Express, Visa does not issue its own credit cards. However, it provides a payment processing network for cards from thousands of participating banks and creditors worldwide.

About Visa And Visa Gift Cards

Advantages of Visa Gift Cards

Some key perks of Visa gift cards include unparalleled acceptance, enhanced online convenience, and potential ATM access. 

1. Unparalleled acceptance: Prepaid gift cards on the Visa network are widely accepted, with over 70 million merchant locations globally. This means you can use them almost anywhere in person for various purchases.

2. Enhanced online convenience: Websites big and small readily accept Visa digital payments, enabling seamless online shopping with your gift card balance. 

3. Potential ATM access: Some Visa gift cards allow cash withdrawals from ATMs, adding extra flexibility to redeem your prepaid funds wherever needed.

Disadvantages of Visa Gift Cards

Here are a few downsides to consider with Visa gift cards: no inherent rewards program, international fees potential and less robust cardholder support

1. No inherent rewards program: Since Visa itself does not issue credit cards, there is no central rewards program associated with Visa gift cards. No capacity to earn points, miles, or redemption perks.

2. International fees potential: When utilising a Visa gift card for purchases abroad, some issuers may charge foreign transaction or currency conversion fees that cut into your funds.

3. Less robust cardholder support: Compared to American Express’s renowned customer service, Visa does not offer the same calibre of direct cardholder support or resolution assistance. Issues require contacting your specific card provider instead.

Difference Between Visa And AMEX Gift Cards

Visa and American Express both provide prepaid gift card products for general use. However, they have key differences in acceptance, rewards, fees, cardholder perks, and ATM usage.

What's the Difference between AMEX and Visa

1. Acceptance: The core difference comes down to acceptance capabilities. AMEX gift cards work exclusively on the American Express network. Visa gift cards leverage Visa’s much wider global payment network, opening up to millions more merchants.

2. Rewards: American Express gift cards can sometimes accumulate points, miles or other rewards that cardholders can redeem, depending on the offer. Visa prepaid gift cards themselves do not directly include a rewards program.

3. Fees:  AMEX gift cards purchased in stores occasionally carry activation or purchasing fees that diminish initial funds. Visa gift card fees depend on the issuing bank, but some levy charges for withdrawals or international transactions.

4. Cardholder Perks: AMEX gift cards come with standard complimentary benefits, such as purchase protection. These perks are included due to their connection to the broader services and support offered by American Express. Visa gift card perks vary greatly depending on the bank provider behind each specific card.

5. ATM Usage: Some Visa gift cards allow cash withdrawals from ATMs, adding extra flexibility in funds redemption wherever needed. AMEX gift cards cannot be used at ATMs.

Frequently Asked Questions About Differences Between Visa And AMEX Gift Cards

1. Which Is Better Between An AMEX Or A Visa gift card?

Choosing between AMEX and Visa gift cards is not a straightforward decision. AMEX cards come with potential rewards, excellent service, and benefits due to their association with American Express services. On the other hand, Visa cards have a broader acceptance globally, with some offering ATM access. Your choice should align with your specific spending requirements

2. What Is An American Express Gift Card Used For?

An American Express gift card provides the recipient with prepaid funds that can be used for purchases anywhere Amex cards are accepted. This includes brick-and-mortar retailers, restaurants, travel bookings, online shopping, and more.

3. Does American Express Offer A Visa Card?

No, American Express issues its own credit and charge cards exclusively on the American Express network. It does not currently offer Visa products. AMEX operates its own closed-loop payment processing structure separate from networks like Visa.

4. Is American Express A Visa Or MasterCard?

American Express operates an entirely distinct card network and payment infrastructure unrelated to Visa or MasterCard. While sometimes mistakenly grouped together, AMEX, Visa and MasterCard represent independent card processing systems.

5. Do American Express Gift Cards Expire?

Yes, AMEX gift cards expire 5 years from their activation date. Be sure to spend down balances within that first 60-month window, or the remaining funds can be forfeited.

6. What Can You Use A Visa Gift Card For?

A Visa gift card provides prepaid spending power for practically any type of purchase across Visa’s network. Whether retail, dining, travel, online checkout and more. Anywhere that standard Visa credit and debit is accepted.


While American Express and Visa both offer handy prepaid gift card options, key distinctions exist. As noted up front, that conversation with my cousin debating such differences prompted my in-depth exploration. I realized many find themselves unsure whether AMEX or Visa gift cards better suit their needs. 

Well, after dissecting the exclusive perks, acceptance contrasts, and fees between the two, I’m now confident this guide empowers you to determine which fits your purchasing habits best. 

Gift cards may simplify gifting, but understanding the card network divergence helps ensure you select the very best prepaid product for your personal wallet – or recipient’s – needs. Hopefully, I’ve equipped you to decide whether an AMEX or Visa gift card works optimally for you!


Download The App

Experience the best of Cardtonic on your phone or tablet. Available for iOS and Android operating systems.