DEFINITION of 'National Issuers'

Credit card companies that give credit cards to creditworthy consumers in all 50 states. National issuers include companies like Capital One, Chase Bank, Discover, American Express and Citibank. You can sometimes tell if a credit card is being offered by a national issuer by reading the card’s terms and conditions and looking for language such as “Offer only available to U.S. residents 18 and older.” In many cases, the terms and conditions don’t specify residency requirements, but if a credit card company is a major household name, it’s safe to assume it is a national issuer.

BREAKING DOWN 'National Issuers'

If you try to apply for a credit card and aren’t restricted because of your state of residence, you’re dealing with a national issuer. By contrast, a regional issuer only offers credit cards in a limited geographical area. Many local credit unions are regional issuers. To apply for one of their credit cards, you must be a credit union member, and you often need to live in a specific city, county or state to join that credit union. Another type of regional issuer is a bank that is only chartered in certain states, or sometimes just one state, as opposed to having a national charter.

From a consumer perspective, the difference between a national or regional issuer usually boils down to the difference between a credit card offered by a major bank and one offered by a small bank or credit union. Large financial institutions tend to offer credit cards with higher interest rates but better rewards programs, making a card from a national issuer ideal for someone who charges a lot of money to a credit card each month but always pays the balance in full and on time. Credit unions and small banks tend to have inferior rewards programs but lower interest rates, making a card from a regional issuer a better choice for someone who carries a balance.

That being said, someone with financial problems might be better off going with a card from a national issuer despite the higher interest rate. Some credit unions practice cross-collateralization, meaning that if you have an auto loan and a credit card with them and you stop making payments on your credit card balance, the credit union might repossess your car to pay off your credit card.

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