Transaction Process: How it Works

First, Learn The Basics

The payment card business can be somewhat confusing even for experienced merchants.
You may have several unanswered questions, like: Who is the issuer? What is the role of MasterCard? And what the heck is an acquirer, anyway? Don't fear. It's not nearly as complex as you may think.
The following information is a great place to start and begin to make sense of it all.

background Customer Makes Purchase Authentication Transaction Submitted Authorization Request Authorization Response Merchant Payment

Hover over process steps to view additional information.

Merchant: A merchant is an entity that contracts with an acquirer or member bank that accepts card payments for goods or services provided. In other words, this is you when you accept MasterCard payment cards for goods and services.

Acquirer: Also known as a merchant bank, an acquirer is a financial institution licensed by MasterCard that helps a merchant fulfills its obligation to accept MasterCard cards. The acquirer is set up to connect and process transactions over the MasterCard network and sell its processing services to the merchants.

Issuer: Institutions such as banks, credit unions, savings & loan associations or even retailers that provide a credit line to a consumer through a payment card. Please note that MasterCard is not an issuer.

MasterCard: MasterCard is the MasterCard network manager. We provide, secure and maintain that allows transactions between MasterCard accepting merchants, card issuers and acquirers to happen. Again, MasterCard is not an issuer.


Merchants can accept a MasterCard credit card or a MasterCard debit card. A credit product allows the consumer to make purchases based on an established line of credit received by their card issuing bank. The credit limit is the spending amount established by the issuing bank based on a consumer credit profile. A debit product allows the consumer to make a purchase based on funds available in their bank account. Debit purchases are drawn directly from the consumer's bank account and show up directly on the consumer's monthly bank statement.

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