Advertiser Disclosure

What are the Best MasterCard Rewards Programs?

Sept. 25, 2012
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

» This page is out of date

Benefits and perks of Mastercard credit cards have changed since this article was published in 2012. See our guide to Mastercard benefits for updated information.  



If you have excellent credit and no consumer debt, your ideal credit card probably has a robust rewards program and solid benefits.

But many people don’t know that “rewards” and “benefits” are often offered by separate financial institutions. For instance, you may have a card with rewards from Citibank, but many of the benefits come from MasterCard.

We’ll explain where rewards and benefits come from and give the lowdown on MasterCard benefits program. We’ll also recommend some of our favorite MasterCards if you’re in the market for new plastic.

Networks vs. issuers: Where rewards and benefits come from

MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover are all payment networks. Networks handle the processing of your card transactions. Whenever you use your card, the network sends the transaction along to the bank, verifies that you have sufficient credit or funds and makes sure the merchant gets paid. Networks may also offer many of your card’s benefits, such as rental car insurance, price protection and extended warranty coverage.

Networks don’t issue your card, however. Issuers are banks, like Chase or Citi. The bank determines your rewards rate and interest rate, as well as logistical issues such as ATM access and customer service. If you get 1% rewards on a card, it’s because your issuer says so.

Nerd note: American Express and Discover are payments networks and issuers. Visa and MasterCard are exclusively networks.

What you should know about MasterCard benefits

MasterCard has different card levels, from standard non-rewards debit cards to premium credit cards. Non-rewards debit cards don’t make much money for you or MasterCard, so they aren’t heavily incentivized. However, premium cards are lucrative for MasterCard and therefore include perks beyond a standard 1% rewards rate.

MasterCard has three rewards levels: Standard, World and World Elite. The higher the level, the better the protections, discounts and perks. While your issuing bank determines the rewards you’ll earn on your purchases, MasterCard’s perks aren’t contingent on the amount you spend each year.

Standard MasterCard

With a standard MasterCard, you’ll enjoy valuable shopping benefits and perks designed to give you peace of mind. Standard cards give users zero liability for fraudulent transactions, identity theft resolution services and identity theft alerts, as well as Global Service for 24/7 emergency assistance. They also include 60-day price protection and an extended warranty benefit — which doubles manufacturers’ warranties up to 12 months — plus access to the Fuel Rewards Network for additional savings on gas.

World MasterCard

World MasterCards offer improved standard benefits, like 120-day price protection and 24-month extended-warranty protection. They also offer useful travel benefits. World MasterCard cardholders enjoy 24/7 concierge services, as well as airport concierges. There are also hotel and resort perks, including free upgrades, early check-in and late check-out, breakfast for two and more.

World Elite MasterCard

For even more perks, the World Elite MasterCards have you covered. Aside from the standard and World perks, you’ll enjoy the following benefits:

Travel perks

  • Upgrades and discounts on flights through the World Elite air program
  • Cruise benefits and savings through the World Elite cruise program
  • Savings on vacation and tour packages with the World Elite tours and vacations program
  • Reimbursement on qualified nonrefundable travel fees via trip cancellation insurance
  • Complimentary elite status, savings and upgrades on car rentals with the World Elite car rental program
  • Savings on limousines and chauffeured cars through the World Elite chauffeured car service
  • Exclusive savings and benefits on private jet flights from the World Elite private jet program
  • 24/7 access to personal travel advisors


  • Same price protection and extended warranty benefits as World MasterCards
  • Exclusive offers, experiences and opportunities to shop cities around the world through Priceless Cities

Sports and entertainment

  • Exclusive golf offers and experiences via Priceless Golf
  • Exclusive sports offers and experiences through Priceless Cities


  • Exclusive dining offers and experiences from Priceless Cities

Nerd note: Some issuers also offer non-rewards perks. Look at your card’s benefits guide for more information.

Image via iStock.