Credit Card Services8th May 2020
A credit card is a payment card issued to users (cardholders) to enable the cardholder to pay a merchant for goods and services based on the cardholder’s promise to the card issuer to pay them for the amounts plus the other agreed charges. The card issuer (usually a bank) creates a revolving account and grants a line of credit to the cardholder, from which the cardholder can borrow money for payment to a merchant or as a cash advance.
A credit card is different from a charge card, which requires the balance to be repaid in full each month. In contrast, credit cards allow the consumers to build a continuing balance of debt, subject to interest being charged. A credit card also differs from a cash card, which can be used like currency by the owner of the card. A credit card differs from a charge card also in that a credit card typically involves a third-party entity that pays the seller and is reimbursed by the buyer, whereas a charge card simply defers payment by the buyer until a later date.
The credit company provider may also grant a line of credit (LOC) to cardholders, enabling them to borrow money in the form of cash advances. Issuers customarily pre-set borrowing limits, based on an individual’s credit rating. A vast majority of businesses let the customer make purchases with credit cards, which remain one of today’s most popular payment methodologies for buying consumer goods and services.
Credit cards feature higher annual percentage rates (APRs) than other forms of consumer loans. Interest charges on the unpaid balance charged to the card are typically imposed one month after a purchase is made.
By law, credit card issuers must offer a grace period of at least 21 days before interest on purchases can begin to accrue. That’s why paying off balances before the grace period expires is a good practice when possible. It is also important to understand whether your issuer accrues interest daily or monthly, as the former translates into higher interest charges for as long as the balance is not paid.
Types of Credit Cards
Most major credit cards, which include Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express, are issued by banks, credit unions, or other financial institutions. Many credit cards attract customers by offering incentives such as airline miles, hotel room rentals, gift certificates to major retailers and cash back on purchases. These types of credit cards are generally referred to as rewards credit cards.
To generate customer loyalty, many retail establishments issue branded versions of major credit cards, with the store’s name emblazoned on the face of the cards. Although it’s typically easier for consumers to qualify for a store credit card than for a major credit card, store cards may only be used to make purchases from the issuing retailers, which may offer cardholders perks such as special discounts, promotional notices, or special sales.
Secured credit cards are a type of credit card where the cardholder secures the card with a security deposit. Such cards offer limited lines of credit that are equal in value to the security deposits, which are refunded after cardholders demonstrate repeated and responsible card usage. Also known as “prepaid” and “semi-secured” credit cards, these cards are frequently sought by individuals with poor credit histories.
Similar to a secured credit card, a prepaid debit card is a type of secured payment card, where the available funds match the money someone already has parked in a linked bank account. By contrast, unsecured credit cards do not require security deposits or collateral. These cards tend to offer higher lines of credit and lower interest rates on unpaid balances.
The cardholder presents the card as payment to the merchant and the merchant submits the transaction to the acquirer (acquiring bank). The acquirer verifies the credit card number, the transaction type and the amount with the issuer (card-issuing bank) and reserves that amount of the cardholder’s credit limit for the merchant. An authorization will generate an approval code, which the merchant stores with the transaction.
Authorized transactions are stored in “batches”, which are sent to the acquirer. Batches are typically submitted once per day at the end of the business day. If a transaction is not submitted in the batch, the authorization will stay valid for a period determined by the issuer, after which the held amount will be returned to the cardholder’s available credit (see authorization hold). Some transactions may be submitted in the batch without prior authorizations; these are either transactions falling under the merchant’s floor limit or ones where the authorization was unsuccessful but the merchant still attempts to force the transaction through. (Such may be the case when the cardholder is not present but owes the merchant additional money, such as extending a hotel stay or car rental.)
Clearing and Settlement
The acquirer sends the batch transactions through the credit card association, which debits the issuers for payment and credits the acquirer. Essentially, the issuer pays the acquirer for the transaction.
Once the acquirer has been paid, the acquirer pays the merchant. The merchant receives the amount totaling the funds in the batch minus either the “discount rate”, “mid-qualified rate”, or “non-qualified rate” which are tiers of fees the merchant pays the acquirer for processing the transactions.
A chargeback is an event in which money in a merchant account is held due to a dispute relating to the transaction. Chargebacks are typically initiated by the cardholder. In the event of a chargeback, the issuer returns the transaction to the acquirer for resolution. The acquirer then forwards the chargeback to the merchant, who must either accept the chargeback or contest it.