Companies behind the most popular U.S. credit cards said they are severing ties with extremist organizations that incite violence after they came under pressure to stop providing ways for white supremacists groups to raise funds.

Discover Financial Services said it's ending merchant agreements with "hate groups," while Visa and Mastercard said they were cutting ties with a number of sites as part of broader reviews.

"In light of recent events, we are terminating merchant agreements with hate groups, given the violence incited by their extremist views," Riverwoods, Illinois-based Discover said Wednesday in an emailed statement. "The intolerant and racist views of hate groups are inconsistent with our beliefs and practices. While we do not share their opinions, we recognize their right to voice them, no matter how reprehensible we find them."

Advocacy groups have been calling on major credit-card companies to stop providing financial services for groups such as white supremacists. Color of Change, a racial-justice advocacy group, said Monday that financial services provided by major credit-card companies have been enabling hate groups. That came after clashes at a white nationalists' rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in the death of one woman.

Visa, Mastercard, and Discover credit card signage is displayed at a fireworks stand.
Visa, Mastercard, and Discover credit card signage is displayed at a fireworks stand. Bloomberg News

PayPal said in a statement on Tuesday that it will ensure its services aren't used by organizations that "advocate racist views, such as the KKK, white supremacist groups or Nazi groups." The company said it has a team that will evaluate these organizations to see if they adhere to PayPal's acceptable use policy. Color of Change said Wednesday that Apple Inc. had also moved to block hate sites from using Apple Pay.

Payment networks, like Mastercard and Visa, work with so-called merchant acquirers to have their products accepted at stores and websites around the world. Relationships with merchants are dictated by acceptable-use policies created by the acquirers.

Visa, the world's largest payments network, reviewed the list of hate sites, religious organizations, and political groups provided to it by "concerned organizations," Amanda Pires, a spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement. The company determined that a number of the sites weren't adhering to the merchant acquirer's acceptable-use policies or were engaging in illegal activities.

"For this reason, these sites are no longer able to accept Visa payments," Pires said. "Visa does not, however, restrict transactions that are legal and involve free speech or lawful expression of views, even if we may find the organization or its positions to be offensive."

Visa and Discover declined to say how many groups they're ending agreements with, or name them. American Express Co. said it isn't accepted at any of the sites mentioned in the Color of Change petition.

Mastercard said it's in the process of "shutting down the use of our cards on sites that we believe incite violence," according to a statement from spokesman Seth Eisen.

Eisen said in an earlier statement that the company believes that offensive speech "has and will be seen for what it is."

"For that reason, we generally do not prohibit the acceptance of Mastercard-branded payment cards by merchants based on our disagreement with specific views espoused or promoted," Eisen said in the emailed statement.

Bloomberg News