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The differences between Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover cards (www.cnet.com)

From processing to issuing, we break it all down.

Plenty of factors go into choosing a credit card — finding a low interest rate, calculating your cash-back potential and browsing through rewards. A card’s particular processing network isn’t likely to be a key part of most people’s criteria. But whether your card is backed by Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover has implications for where and how you can use it.

The four major credit card processors oversee every part of the purchase process — including approving or declining a transaction, protecting shoppers and merchants from fraud and making sure that money flows to and from the appropriate accounts. Here’s everything you need to know about credit card processors and the differences among them.

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