We make payments happen in more than 210 countries and territories

Mastercard is more than the brand you see on your card. We’re the technology making payments happen around the clock. In fact, we operate the world’s fastest payments network, processing transactions in more than 150 currencies.

A typical transaction

There are four parties to each transaction in addition to Mastercard — a cardholder, a merchant, an issuer and an acquirer.

In a typical transaction, a cardholder (or an account holder who may not be using a physical card) purchases goods or services from a merchant. After the transaction is authorized by the issuer, the issuer pays the acquirer an amount equal to the value of the transaction, minus an interchange fee and then posts the transaction to the cardholder's account. The acquirer pays the amount of the purchase, net of a discount to the merchant. The merchant discount rate, among other things, takes into consideration the amount of the interchange fee.

Mastercard connects all parties no matter where a transaction happens — at a physical location, at an ATM, on the internet or through a connected device.

The Mastercard network 

Our vast network is behind every transaction ensuring that payments are completed quickly, securely and reliably. The Mastercard network features an intelligent architecture that adapts to the needs of each transaction by blending two distinct processing structures — distributed (peer-to-peer) and centralized (hub-and-spoke). For example, for transactions that require:

  • Fast processing — think contactless card or a device at a toll booth — we can use the distributed structure, ensuring these transactions are processed close to where the payment occurred.

  • Value-added processing — such as real-time access to transaction data for fraud scoring — we can use the centralized processing structure, which ensures advanced processing services are applied to the transaction. 

Extended processing

Mastercard offers end-to-end processing products and solutions. For example, we offer debit and prepaid issuers a processing platform designed to help create differentiated products and services. And e-commerce merchants can benefit from a single interface that provides the ability to process secure payments and offer value-added solutions.

The transaction process

Step 1: The customer pays with Mastercard

The customer purchases goods/services from a merchant.

Step 2: The payment is authenticated

The merchant point-of-sale system captures the customer’s account information and securely sends it to the acquirer.

Step 3: The transaction is submitted

The merchant acquirer asks Mastercard to get an authorization from the customer’s issuing bank.

Step 4: Authorization is requested

Mastercard submits the transaction to the issuer for authorization.

Step 5: Authorization response

The issuing bank authorizes the transaction and routes the response back to the merchant.

Step 6: Merchant payment

The issuing bank routes the payment to the merchant’s acquirer, who deposits the payment into the merchant’s account.