Industry Terms

Access Fees
Fees with using a secure server to approve and process transactions. A credit card merchant account can also be charged gateway processing fees separately or as part of a monthly processing fee.
Accounts Payable
Debts your business owes to creditors.
Accounts Receivable
Debts owed to your business.
Account Information Security (AIS)
Account Information Security is a standards-based compliance validation program designed to protect Credit card Account and Transaction Information. It helps anyone who stores, transmits or processes Credit card account data – financial institutions, merchants, Acquirers and Payment Processors- to assess whether cardholder data is secure within their organization.
The financial institution that initiates and maintains contractual agreements with merchants for accepting and processing transactions.
Acquiring Bank
A bank where merchants hold their account(s). The bank provides merchants with the money from a transaction before the actual funds have been processed via interchange from the various cardholders’ issuing banks. The charge for this service is the discount rate, but the merchant bank also shares in the interchange fee charged by the card associations.
Acquiring Processor
Processor provides credit card billing, reporting, purchasing, and settlement and operational services to acquiring and issuing banks.
Address Verification System (AVS)
A security feature that requires merchants to supply address information for the cardholder in card-not-present transactions, such as those made on a website. AVS matches the billing address of the purchaser against the address that the Credit card issuer has on file. This helps ensure the person making the purchase with their Credit card online, by mail or by phone is the correct card holder.
Affinity card
A credit card offered in conjunction with two organizations, one a card issuer and the other a non-financial group with which consumers have an affinity.  Universities, sports franchises and non-profit organizations are examples of affinity groups that often offer special discounts or deals for using their credit cards issued in partnership with a major bank
American Express
Also known as AMEX, this company is one of the main international credit card issuing schemes. It issues its own credit cards—unlike Visa and MasterCard—and is responsible for its own relationships with retailers.
Annual Fee
An annual (yearly) fee associated with having a credit card. This is a separate fee from interest rate on purchases.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR)
The yearly percentage rate charged when a balance is held on a credit card. This rate is applied each month that an outstanding balance is present.
Application Program Interface (API)
A set of rules and protocols that tells separate software programs how to communicate with one another.
Application Service Provider (ASP)
This is when merchant provider’s servers hold merchant applications online and data while our equipment powers merchant applications and runs transactions on behalf of the merchants (usually called “hosting”).
Approval Response
An authorization response that is received when a transaction is approved.
The process followed by the Card Associations to determine whether an Issuer or an Acquirer has ultimate responsibility for a chargeback. Either member initiates this process after the re-presentment process is completed.
An inspection and verification of financial accounts, records, and accounting procedures.
An authorization is the initial request a merchant makes for a customer’s issuing bank to release funds for payment.
Automatic Bill Payment
Arrangement between a merchant or service provider and a customer that allows recurring automatic charges for a service to an agreed-upon credit or debit account.
A financial institution that handles merchant accounts and issues lines of credit. Also see merchant bank or issuing bank.
Bank Identification Number (BIN)
For cardholders, a BIN is an identification number consisting of a two-part code assigned to banks and savings associations. The BIN makes up the first 6-8 digits of a card number, with the first part showing the location and the second identifying the bank itself. This identifies the institution that issued the card to the cardholder, as well as the card type (e.g., debit, credit, gift card).
Basis Point
One hundredth of one percent. A merchant’s discount rate will usually be quoted in this format, as a percentage or a fraction. Also see discount rate.
A group of authorized transactions, typically used by the merchant in the settlement process at the close of business each day.
Billing statement
A written record prepared by a financial institution, usually once a month, listing all transactions for an account, including deposits, withdrawals, checks, electronic transfers, fees and other charges, and interest credited or earned. The statement is usually mailed to the customer (also simply called a statement or monthly statement).
The card associations or organizations behind the labels on a credit card. Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover are often referred to as “the brands” within the payments industry.
An exploitation of security measures to access and compromise a merchant’s cardholder data environment.
Business Card (Business Credit Card)
Usually issued to corporate executives or business owners in order to more easily keep business expenses separate from personal charges.
Card Association
Credit-card-granting organizations, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover, that make the rules regarding credit card acceptance in conjunction with the government.
The authorized user of a credit card who has established a line of credit (e.g., a typical customer), and is financially responsible for transactions completed using the card.
Cardholder Data
Sensitive information belonging to the authorized user of a credit/debit card, including an individual’s name, address, payment card number, PIN, and verification codes.
Cardholder Verification Value (CVV2)
A three- or four-digit number that is printed on a card to verify its authenticity. The “2” refers to the printed code on the card. (CVV1 is encoded on the magnetic stripe of the card.)
Card-Not-Present (CNP) Transactions
Credit or debit card transactions that take place online, over the phone or through the mail.
Card Member Agreement
The printed agreement that provides the terms and conditions of a credit card account. This agreement is  required by Federal Reserve banking law as a consumer disclosure to be the binding agreement between card issuers and their customers. It must include the Annual Percentage Rate, the monthly minimum payment formula, annual fees and dispute resolution processes. Changes in the cardholder agreement can be made, with written advance notice, at any time by the issuer. Cardholders have the right to cancel their cards if they do not accept such changes in terms, and pay off existing balances under the previous account terms in such instances.   The state in which a bank is chartered laws apply to that bank’s card member agreements.
Cash advance fee
The fee that a credit card issuer charges a customer for accessing the cash credit line on his or her account, either through an ATM, convenience check or at a bank’s teller window.  The fee is typically 3% of the amount withdrawn, with a minimum dollar amount charged for smaller transactions.  Finance charges typically accrue from the date of the advance, without a normal grace period as with purchases.
Cash Back
Cash back returns to you a percentage of the total amount spent on your credit card over a specific period of time, usually monthly or quarterly. This feature is particularly useful if you normally pay your credit card bills in full each month, as it means you get an effective discount on the products bought with your credit card
When a customer does not receive his goods or services or says he didn’t place an order or make a purchase, he can ask his issuing bank to charge back the purchase to the merchant within 30-60 day timeframe. The issuing bank will notify the merchant when this happens, after which the merchant will need to validate and defend the purchase by providing such information as the amount, an invoice or folio, customer signature, or shipping documents. Contact your current provider to confirm.
Chip & PIN
A chip card is a plastic payment card with an embedded chip containing a micro computer. The chip stores encrypted confidential information such as the cardholder’s account number and Personal Identification Number (PIN).
Merchants that accept credit card transactions must meet or exceed regulations set by the local government, federal government, the card associations, and the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC).
Credit Card
A payment card that authorizes the person named on it to charge goods or services to his account. Credit card issuing banks earn money through interest charged to the cardholders and, in some instances, through fees charged for the use of the card or access to rewards programs. Credit card issuing banks also profit from a portion of the fees charged by the card association known as interchange fees.
Debit Card
Debit cards let buyers pay for goods and services with funds from their checking account and are an important part of any merchant’s business. Debit cards give consumers more flexibility in their payment options and can be used in two ways: online debit and offline debit.Online Debit – Sometimes referred to as PIN debit, online debit is processed on the ATM network of the cardholder’s bank. The card is swiped or inserted at the point of sale and the consumer is asked to enter their Personal Identification Number (PIN). As a merchant, you must be specifically set up to accept these types of transactions through your merchant account and you must have special hardware to accept the PIN entry from the customer.Offline Debit – Sometimes referred to as signature debit, offline debit is processed in a manner similar to a credit card transaction. If the debit card carries a card brand, such as Visa or MasterCard, the card may be processed by simply swiping it through a credit card terminal that supports that card’s brand. The transaction is processed over the merchant’s credit card network and the customer provides their signature as approval of the transaction.
Discount Rate
This is the fee paid to a merchant bank to handle the deposit of credit card funds into a merchant account. It is usually quoted as a percentage to hundredths (or the basis point) on the monthly bill. The fee paid by merchants to credit card processors as a fee associated with accepting general use credit cards (like Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover Card).
The terms or conditions for refunds, cancellations, or modifications made to reservations, etc.
Discover Card
Newest of the payment card brands, began in 1986.   Company now has over 50 million card members, but is the smallest of the four payments brands in terms of market share.  Discover Card’s payments networks– Discover Network and PULSE– together processed more than 3 billion transactions in 2006. Discover Network connects millions of merchant and cash access locations throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. PULSE serves more than 4,400 financial institutions and includes nearly 260,000 ATMs, as well as POS terminals nationwide.
Draft/Sales Draft
A record (usually paper) used to document that a good or service was purchased.
Effective Rate
This is the true amount charged by the merchant bank when processing each transaction. It is often more than the quoted discount rate because it is the calculated, bundled rate including the discount rate, assessments, and other per-item transaction fees.
EMV is a smart chip technology that offers an additional step for authentication beyond the traditional magnetic stripe card payment for card-present transactions (commonly called Chip and PIN or smart cards). In addition to the security chip, which is placed inside of a reader during a transaction, EMV also verifies the cardholder’s identity with the use of a PIN or signature. The original EMV standard was created by card-granting organizations Europay, MasterCard, and Visa in 1999, and has been in standard use for credit cards in Europe and Canada. EMV technology is now becoming a global standard, with EMV compliance required of merchants and processors in the United States by October 2015. However, EMV cards still pose a security risk and will not protect merchants or their customers with the level of security offered by the use of point-to-point encryption (P2PE), nor will EMV protect purchases made through websites.
Information has been encoded when it has been put into a cipher or encryption, requiring a specific key in order to be used.
Encryption is a process of encoding or scrambling data so that it can be read only by authorized people or programs with a decryption key.
False Cardholder Data
When a card is swiped at the point of sale, a payment processing system needs a few seconds to authorize the transaction.
Note: False cardholder data is a format-preserving token made up of the first and last few digits of the card number, separated by randomly-generated false data. It is designed only for short-term usage. False cardholder data is not the same as a TrueToken, which is a unique ID that references the actual data associated with a card number or specific transaction.
Financial Institution
Any organization that provides financial services to merchants or individuals, including commercial banks, credit card banks, savings banks and credit unions.
Floor Limit
A specific dollar limit used to determine which Credit card transactions you must authorize. If your business has a floor limit of $100, you must obtain authorization for any transaction over that amount.
Any illicit method used to access or use another person’s cardholder data.
Fraudulent Transaction
A transaction unauthorized by the cardholder of a bankcard. Such transactions are categorized as lost, stolen, not received, issued on a fraudulent application, counterfeit, fraudulent processing of transactions, account takeover or other fraudulent conditions as defined by the card company or the member company.
Fraudulent User
An individual who is not the cardholder or designee and who uses a card (or, in a mail/phone order or recurring transaction, an account number) to obtain goods or services without the cardholder’s consent.
A payment processing solution that protects cardholder data during the payment transaction process.
Gift Card
It’s your favorite thing to open on your birthday! The technical definition is that a gift card is a stored-value payment card for a specific merchant that is usually preloaded with a set monetary value.
Grace Period 
The time during which a cardholder is allowed to pay his credit card bill without any interest or late fees assessed.
Hard Credit Pull
A hard credit pull usually occurs when a consumer has applied for or is seeking some form of credit or loan (e.g., a credit card application).
A hold is placed on a portion of the customer’s credit limit or debit balance if the final transaction balance is unavailable or unknown, such as during a hotel stay. For example, at a hotel, after calculating how many drinks the customer took from the mini bar or room service charges, the merchant can finalize the transaction for the total amount.
The physical impression made from a customer’s card on a sales draft, proving that the card was present when the sale was made. Electronic imprints can be made with a magnetic-stripe-reading terminal that includes the correct point-of-sale (POS) entry code.
A combination of two or more things to create something larger. Merchant provider enables a variety of technological integrations for an enterprise-wide solution featuring the most advanced fraud controls and auditing tools, as well as true bank and processor neutrality.
The exchange of transaction data, in this case credit card payments, between a merchant bank and the issuing bank.
Interchange Fee
This is the fee charged by Visa and MasterCard to complete a transaction and deposit money into a merchant’s account. The fee is based on credit card regulations and the capture of appropriate data, including card swipe, address, and electronic signature, as needed.
Note: American Express and Discover do not participate in the interchange process. Instead, American Express and Discover each act as their own issuing bank, merchant bank, and card associations, handling all aspects of the card transaction and not sharing any of their fees. Merchants must have a separate agreement with American Express and/or Discover in order to process transactions using their cards.
Internet Payment Gateway Service (IPGS)
Provides a standard Internet connection for merchants and merchant aggregators (businesses that provide hosting and other e-commerce processing services for multiple merchants) to securely and reliably send and receive payment transaction messages.
Internet Payment Service Provider (IPSP)
An online entity that contracts with an Acquirer/Payment Processor to provide payment-related services to Sponsored Merchants. The IPSP interfaces with an Acquirer/Payment Processor on behalf of its Sponsored Merchants and must ensure that its Sponsored Merchants are contractually obligated to operate in accordance with Visa requirements.
A financial institution that issues Credit cards and maintains a contract with cardholders for repayment.
Issuing Bank or Issuer
A bank or other financial institution that issues credit cards. Issuers charge cardholders interest and associated fees as they apply to the use of the various branded cards. Issuing banks hold the majority of the power in the credit card industry because they set the rates and terms of credit issued and repaid.
Joint Credit
An instance in which two or more people share credit. For example, the credit of two individuals may be required to make a big purchase, such as a house.
The generic term for a password or table needed to decipher encoded data. It’s usually used in the data storage and encryption process that takes place during credit card authorization.
Late Payment Fee
Usually imposed on a borrower when he does not make the minimum payment on a credit card by the payment deadline.
Loyalty Program
Used by many credit card issuers to maintain and generate new customers, loyalty programs offer incentives for the use of a specific card.
Magnetic Stripe
A type of card, sometimes called a mag stripe, capable of storing data by modifying the magnetism of tiny iron-based magnetic particles on a band of magnetic material on the card.
MasterCard Acquirer
A member that signs a MasterCard merchant agreement or disburses currency to a MasterCard cardholder in a cash disbursement, and directly or indirectly enters the resulting transaction receipt into interchange.
MasterCard Card
A card that bears the MasterCard symbol, enabling a MasterCard cardholder to obtain goods, services or cash from a MasterCard merchant or acquirer.
Merchants are authorized to accept a credit card as payment for goods and services.
Merchant Account
A specific line of credit that enables merchants to accept credit card transactions for goods and services, enabling the bank to pay for authorized credit requests prior to receiving funds from the issuing bank. There are a few different types of merchant accounts, described below.Card-Present Merchant Accounts:
Retail – The most common form of merchant account, retail merchant accounts are used for businesses that provide goods and services in a face-to-face environment. If a merchant will be relying on magnetic stripe data and does not qualify for any of the other card-present categories, then this is the type of account normally used.
Restaurant – Restaurant merchants follow all of the same rules and requirements as retail merchants. However, “tip” and “clerk” are two additional fields that are required by the card associations in order for a transaction to be eligible for the quoted discount rate for a restaurant.
Hospitality – Hospitality merchants have more information to handle than any other merchant type. Things like check-in date, number of nights stayed, incremental authorizations, etc., make it difficult (but not impossible) for hospitality merchants to qualify for their quoted discount rate. In the case of resorts and large, full-service hotels, it’s not uncommon for there to be multiple merchant accounts of varying types on the same property.
Auto Rental – Auto rental merchant accounts are used solely by organizations that rent vehicles. Auto rental merchants must provide a variety of additional information specific to the auto rental agreement along with their transaction data. The majority of these transactions will be carried out face-to-face and a card swipe will occur.Card-Not-Present Merchant Accounts:
Mail Order/Telephone Order (MO/TO) – MO/TO is used when the merchant’s primary mode of sales is not conducted face-to-face with the cardholder. There is a higher risk of fraudulent activities, and, as a result, MO/TO accounts carry higher discount rates than the previously mentioned account types. Additional security checks must be handled as well, such as Address Verification System (AVS) and Cardholder Verification Value (CVV2).
eCommerce – eCommerce merchant accounts carry the highest quoted discount rates. There are two different types of e-commerce accounts: physical and digital. A physical account represents a Web merchant that is shipping or providing some form of tangible product to the cardholder, whereas a digital merchant provides a service.
Merchant Agreement
A written agreement between a merchant and a bank that contains their respective rights, duties and warranties, with respect to acceptance of the bankcard and matters related to the bankcard activity.
Merchant Bank
A bank where merchants hold their account(s). The bank provides merchants with the money from a transaction before the actual funds have been processed via interchange from the various cardholders’ issuing banks. The charge for this service is the discount rate, but the merchant bank also shares in the interchange fee charged by the card associations.
Merchant Identification Number (MID)
An identification number that, to the merchant bank, represents a merchant’s point-of-sale terminal or profit center for the purpose of processing and tracking credit card transactions. For instance, each register in a retail store has an individual MID, so the merchant bank knows exactly at which point of sale each transaction is processed.
Merchant Services Provider (MSP)
This organization handles the setup of the front-end and back-end processors and the paperwork required in order for a merchant account to be able to receive transaction funds. A merchant services provider can work directly for a merchant bank, but is usually an independent sales organization with ties to many merchant banks. In some rare cases, merchant services providers and independent sales organizations are agents for American Express and/or Discover who can enable the acceptance of those cards.
A MetaToken is a token that remains constant for a cardholder’s primary account number (PAN) and shares a similar composition to a TrueToken. MetaTokens allow merchants who don’t want PAN data in their system to still maintain a one-to-one relationship with the PAN for marketing and loyalty analysis. MetaTokens allow merchants to track, trend, and analyze card usage for the life of the cardholder’s PAN. A single MetaToken can reference one or more TrueTokens and may be continually (automatically) updated to include new and subsequent transactions such as credit returns, card-on-file, bill-backs, membership, subscriptions, etc.
Short for mail order (MO) or telephone order (TO)
Near Field Communication (NFC)
Formally known as near field communication, NFC is a set of close-range wireless technologies that enable a connection for processing mobile payments.
As a merchant advocate, Merchant Provider offers the merchant freedom to support their business with the best rates and service available with the ability to choose their own bank or processor. In this way, for your payment gateway empowers you to negotiate the most favorable interchange rates and reduce chargeback, downgrades, and fees while protecting your customers’ data with industry-leading security.
A multi-channel approach to sales, enabling consumers to experience a brand wherever they are, mostly with reference to online channels. Merchants can add an e-commerce outlet to their business without increasing their breach profile. This ensures offering industry-leading security features, supporting mobile, contactless (NFC), and EMV (Chip and PIN) payments for merchants of all sizes – whether you’re a small boutique retailer or have hundreds of stores with online sales. Also see EMV and NFC.
Being over-limit refers to a cardholder’s account that has exceeded its credit limit.
Business expenses such as property taxes, utilities, and insurance that are not directly connected to the goods or services you produce.
Payment Application Data Security Standards (PA-DSS)
PA-DSS is the global security standard created by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC). PA-DSS is meant to provide the definitive data standard for software vendors that develop payment applications. The standard aims to prevent developed payment applications for third parties from storing prohibited secure data, including magnetic stripe, cardholder verification value (CVV2), or PIN.
Payment Card Industry Audits (PCI Audits)
PCI requires any system that stores, processes, or transmits cardholder data to be subject to annual reviews to verify compliance with the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS)
Created in 2004 by the four major credit card companies (American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and Visa) and maintained by the PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC), the PCI DSS is a widely accepted set of policies and procedures intended to optimize the security of credit, cash, and debit card transactions and to protect cardholders against the misuse of their personal information. Also see cardholder data.
Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC)
An open global forum established in 2006 by five founding global payment brands (American Express, Discover, JCB International, MasterCard, and Visa), the PCI SSC is responsible for the development, management, education, and awareness of the PCI Security Standards, which are intended to help organizations ensure the safe handling of cardholder information. In the payments industry, the PCI SSC is commonly referred to simply as PCI.
PIN (Personal Identification Number)
A personal identification number commonly used to verify a transaction being made with a debit card. EMV (Chip and PIN) cards may also require entering a PIN to verify card-present purchases.
Point of Sale (POS)
The mechanism or application through which a payment transaction is processed in exchange for goods or services. The term “point of sale” may refer to the actual mechanism or application that processes transactions, or it may also be used in reference to the point-of-sale system that manages all point-of-sale mechanisms or applications for a retailer. A computerized point-of-sale terminal that processes payment cards and is connected to other systems in a network.
A company (often a third party) that handles credit card transactions for merchant banks and is usually paid per transaction. They are usually broken down into two types: front-end and back-end. However, there is a gray area.
Property Management System (PMS)
A computerized system that streamlines operations by simplifying processes through the use of a single software solution for coordinating tasks and activities such as accounting, budgeting, forecasting, maintenance, and more.
Qualifying Ratio
Lenders use ratios to gauge a credit applicant’s ability to meet the requested debt responsibilities.
A hard copy document that records when a transaction took place at the point of sale. The receipt contains a description of the transaction, which usually includes the date, the merchant name/location, the primary account number, the amount and the reference number.
Recurring Billing
Transactions for which a cardholder grants permission to the merchant to periodically charge his account number for recurring goods or services.
The creation of a credit to a cardholder account, usually as a result of a product return or to correct an error.
Reloadable Card
A prepaid card on which a customer is able to load additional credits multiple times.
Retrieval Request
A request sent by the issuing bank for a merchant to verify that a transaction has taken place. A customer has a 30-60 day window during which they may dispute a given charge. Merchants are charged by their merchant services provider (MSP) for each retrieval request. If the merchant does not respond in a timely basis, they can be charged an additional timeliness fee or lose the transaction completely. Contact your current provider to confirm.
Reference Number-
Number assigned to each monetary transaction in a descriptive billing system. Each reference number is printed on the monthly statement to aid in retrieval of the document, should it be questioned by the cardholder.
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
A security standard that many merchants use to keep their Web sites secure – and to protect the safety, privacy, and reliability of payment data traveling over the Internet. SSL encrypts the channel between browser and Web server so only the intended parties can read certain data, such as payment or customer information.
This is the process merchants must complete at the end of the day in order to be paid for their transactions.
The merchant sends all of the transactions authorized that day back to the front-end processor, who forwards them to the back-end processor (or occasionally directly to the merchant bank).
Note: The product or service must be delivered or performed before settlement can take place. In the case of mail order/telephone order, this specifically means the goods must be shipped before the settlement process is performed.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
This is also known as an application service provider (ASP). Merchant provider’s servers hold merchant applications and data while our equipment powers merchant applications online and runs transactions on behalf of the merchants (usually called “hosting”).
Sponsored Merchant
An online business that contracts with an IPSP to perform some or all of its payment-related operations on its behalf.
(1) Any agreement between two or more parties that establishes a legal obligation. (2) The act of carrying out such an obligation. (3) All activities affecting a deposit account that are performed at the request of the account holder. (4) All events that cause some change in the assets, liabilities or net worth of a business. (5) An action between a cardholder and a merchant or a cardholder and a member that results in activity on the cardholder account.
A unique ID to reference the actual data associated with a card number or specific transaction.
A payments industry term, describing the concept of using a non-decryptable piece of data to represent, by reference, sensitive or secret data.
User Authentication
The process during which the identity of an authorized credit card user is validated.
Validation Code
A unique 4-character value that VISA includes as part of the CPS/ATM program in each authorization response. This code ensures that key authorization fields are preserved in the clearing or settlement record.
Variable Interest Rate
With variable-rate cards, the APR changes when interest rates or other economic indicators change. Also known as a floating rate.
Visa Card
A card that bears the Visa symbol and which enables a Visa cardholder to obtain goods, services or cash from a Visa merchant or acquirer.
Voice Authorization
An approval response that is obtained through interactive communication between an issuer and an acquirer, their authorizing processors or stand-in processing or through telephone, facsimile or telex communications.
A void cancels a transaction that has been recorded for settlement, but has not yet been settled.
The annual rate of return on all investments, such as the return on an issuer’s cardholder portfolio.
Zero Floor Limit
Requires that all cardholder transactions be authorized.
Visa Glossary Terms – Visa Canada, 2015
The Shift4 Glossary – Shift4 Secure Payment Processing, 2015
Credit Card Glossary – Nasdaq Financial Glossary, 2015