Card Associations or Card Networks

A card network (sometimes called a card association) is an organization that facilitates payment card transactions. It regulates who, where, and how cards are used. Examples of card networks include Visa®, Mastercard®, American Express®, Discover®, China UnionPay®, and JCB®.

Some card networks, such as Visa and Mastercard, partner with industry members to perform different tasks throughout the payment lifecycle. For example:

  • Issuing banks issue credit and debit cards to qualified consumers. With these cards, consumers can make purchases at authorized businesses.
  • Acquiring banks provide merchant accounts to qualified businesses. When a customer makes a purchase at a business, the acquiring bank collects the funds from the issuing bank and deposits them into the merchant account

Other networks, such as American Express and Discover, have more independence. For example, these networks may partner with issuers but they predominately issue cards directly to cardholders without any assistance. Likewise, some transactions are processed by acquirers, but the majority are processed by the network.

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