A glossary of terms to help define common payment card industry terms.


A business that is qualified to accept credit or debit cards as payment.

An acquirer is an organization licensed as a member of Visa / MasterCard as an affiliated bank or bank/processor alliance that is in the business of processing credit card transactions for businesses (acceptors) and is always acquiring new merchants.

Acquiring Financial Institution:
An acquiring financial institution (or “acquirer”) contracts with the bank and merchants to enable credit card transactions. The acquirer deposits the daily credit card totals and debits the end-of-month processing fees from the merchants' accounts.

Address Verification Service (AVS):
The process of validating a cardholder’s given address against the issuer’s records, to determine accuracy and deter fraud. This service is provided as part of a credit card authorization for mail order/telephone order transactions. A code is returned with the authorization result that indicates the level of accuracy of the address match and helps secure the most favorable interchange rates.

An adjustment is initiated by the acquirer to correct a processing error. The error could be a duplication of a transaction or the result of a cardholder dispute. The acquirer debits or credits the merchant’s DDA account for the dollar amount of the adjustment.

Assessments are processing fees merchants pay to the Card Associations to finance their roles in operating the network, setting rules, setting pricing, research and development, and marketing/branding. They are a set percentage of the sale and are generally collected on a daily or monthly basis.

Associations are any entity formed to administer and promote credit and cards. The best known examples of Associations are MasterCard and Visa.

Audio Response Unit (ARU):
This is an electronic authorization and capture product where the merchant uses a touch-tone telephone to process transactions.

The process of verifying that the credit card has sufficient funds (credit) available to cover the amount of the transaction. An authorization is obtained for every sale. An approval response in the form of a code is sent to a merchant’s POS (point of sale) from a card issuing financial institution that verifies availability of credit or funds in the cardholder account to make the purchase. Also see Point-Of-Sale.

Authorization Response:
An issuing financial institution’s electronic message reply to an authorization request, which may include:
* Approval -- transaction was approved
* Decline -- transaction was not approved
* Call Center -- response pending more information, merchant must call the toll-free authorization phone number.

Authorization Code:
A code that a credit card issuing bank returns in an electronic message to the merchant’s POS equipment that indicates approval of the transaction. The code serves as proof of authorization.

Auto Close:
A terminal feature that allows an end-of-day batch closing to occur automatically at a specified time, without having to be initiated by the merchant.

Automated Clearing House (ACH) File:
A file with instructions for the exchange and settlement of electronic payments passed between financial institutions. It represents debits and credits to be deducted from an account automatically as they occur.

Average Ticket (Average Sale):
The average dollar amount of a merchant’s typical sale. The average ticket amount is calculated by dividing the total sales volume by the total number of sales for a specified time period.


A credit card issued by a Visa or MasterCard-sponsored financial institution. (American Express, Discover, Diners Club, JCB, etc., are issued directly from their respective operations, rather than through banks.)

The accumulation of captured credit card transactions in the merchant’s terminal or POS awaiting settlement.


The submission of an electronic credit card transaction for financial settlement. Authorized credit card sales must be captured and settled in order for a merchant to receive funds for those sales. Also see Settlement.

To whom a card is issued or individual authorized to use the card .

Cardholder data:
Full magnetic stripe or the PAN (payment account number) plus any of the following:
* Cardholder name
* Expiration date
* Service Code

Cardholder data environment:
Area of a computer system network that possesses cardholder data or sensitive authentication data. Those systems and segments directly attach or support cardholder processing, storage, or transmission. Adequate network segmentation, which isolates systems that store, process, or transmit cardholder data from those that do not, may reduce the scope of the cardholder data environment and thus the scope of the PCI assessment.

Card Issuing Bank:
An EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) Network Member-Bank that runs a credit card or debit card “purchasing service” for their account holders. An example is CitiBank and the CitiBank Visa Card that they issue.

Card Not Present:
A transaction where the card is not present at the time of the transaction (such as mail order or telephone order). Credit card data is manually entered into the terminal or POS, as opposed to swiping a card’s magnetic stripe through a piece of equipment.

A credit card transaction that is billed back to the merchant after the sale has been settled. Chargebacks are initiated by the card issuer on behalf of the cardholder. Typical cardholder disputes involve product delivery failure or product/service dissatisfaction. Cardholders are urged to try to obtain satisfaction from the merchant before disputing the bill with the credit card issuer.

The Center for Internet Security Is a non-profit enterprise with mission to help organizations reduce the risk of business and e-commerce disruptions resulting from inadequate technical security controls.

Close Batch:
The process of sending the batch for settlement.

Commercial Cards:
Credit or charge cards issued to businesses to cover expenses such as travel and entertainment and procurement. Includes the multiple payment card brands of purchasing cards, business cards, corporate cards and multi-utility fleet cards. Visa and MasterCard have special procedures for passing billing information back to the card issuing bank so that the information can be displayed on card holder statements.

Compensating controls:
Compensating controls may be considered when an entity cannot meet a requirement explicitly as stated, due to legitimate technical or documented business constraints but has sufficiently mitigated the risk associated with the requirement through implementation of other controls. Compensating controls must 1) meet the intent and rigor of the original stated PCI DSS requirement; 2) repel a compromise attempt with similar force; 3) be above and beyond other PCI DSS requirements (not simply in compliance with other PCI DSS requirements); and 4) be commensurate with the additional risk imposed by not adhering to the PCI DSS requirement.

Intrusion into a computer system where unauthorized disclosure, modification, or destruction of cardholder data is suspected.

Corporate Card:
A charge card designed for business-related expenses, such as travel and entertainment. Please see Commercial Card

Credit (Reversal):
Nullification of an authorized transaction (sale) that has not been settled. If supported by the card issuer, a reversal will immediately "undo" an authorization and return it to the open-to-buy balance on a cardholder’s account. Some card issuers do not support reversals.


DDA Account:
This is the merchants Demand Deposit Account, otherwise known as the merchant’s home business bank account.

Debit Card:
Payment card whose funds are withdrawn directly from the cardholder’s checking account at the time of sale (online debit on a Debit Network) or after batch settlement (off-line debit on a Credit Card Network).

Deposit Correction Notice (DCN):
Adjustments (debits or credits) made for an out-of-balance condition due to various problems in the transmittal. The correction is made by the merchant’s acquirer at the time of capture prior to being sent out for interchange.

Data Encryption Standard (DES). Block cipher elected as the official Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) for the United States in 1976. Successor is the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

Data Security Standard.

Discount Rate:
The percentage of sales amounts that the bankcard acquirer or travel and entertainment (T&E) card issuer charges the merchant for the settlement of the transactions.

Dues & Assessments:
Dues & Assessments are processing fees merchants pay to the Card Associations to finance their roles in operating the network, setting rules, setting pricing, research and development, and marketing/branding. They are a set percentage of the sale and are generally collected on a daily or monthly basis.


Edit Rejects:
The rejection of a sales draft by Visa or MasterCard before a transaction processes through interchange, but after it has been paid by the acquirer.

Electronic Cash Register (ECR):
A device used for cash sales which can also be integrated to accept credit cards.

Electronic Date Capture (EDC):
The process of electronically authorizing, capturing and settling a credit card transaction.

Also known as “Chip & PIN” transactions, a card that is enabled with EMV has a microchip that’s impossible to duplicate and requires a Personal Identification Number (PIN) instead of a signature.

The process of converting information into an unintelligible form except to holders of a specific cryptographic key. Use of encryption protects information between the encryption process and the decryption process (the inverse of encryption) against unauthorized disclosure.


Fleet cards:
Private label credit cards designed for repairs, maintenance and fueling of business vehicles.

Also known as a trailer, the footer is text printed at the bottom of a sales draft. A merchant can customize the footer (i.e., Have a Nice Day, No Refunds, Thank You for Shopping With Us, etc.).


Various services offered to merchants and other service providers. Services range from simple to complex; from shared space on a server to a whole range of shopping cart options; from payment applications to connections to payment gateways and processors.

Hosting Provider:
Main computer hardware on which software resides.


The standardized electronic exchange of financial and non-financial data associated with sale and credit of data between merchant acquirers and card issuers on various types of MasterCard and Visa transactions.

Interchange Fee:
The interchange fee is a percentage applied, according to Visa/MasterCard regulations, to the dollar value of each transaction. There are multiple categories of interchange, and Visa and MasterCard each have their own criteria for their own categories. A transaction must meet the specified criteria for a category in order for that category’s rate to be applied. Each transaction is evaluated individually, so various interchange rates may apply within one batch of merchant transactions.

Internet Service Provider (ISP):
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are the Website Hosting companies that provide a home for merchant’s web sites.

Issuing Financial Institution:
The bank or other financial institution that extends credit to a cardholder through bankcard accounts. The financial institution issues a credit card and bills the cardholder for purchases against the bankcard account. This is also referred to as the cardholder’s financial institution. The issuer is a bank or other institution that issues a credit or debit card to an individual.

ISV-Independent Software Vendor:
A software application that has a payment solution built into their software program that enables users to have an all-in one business solution.


Level II Transaction:
A Level II transaction contains additional amount of data that is provided for purchase/commercial cards. A Level II transaction includes Sales Tax Amount and Commercial Card Customer Code (many times the customer’s purchase order number).

Level III Transaction:
A Level III transaction contains additional amount of data that is provided for purchase/commercial cards. A Level III transaction includes line item data which are details around what the consumer is purchasing. Level III transactions also include enhanced data such as a summary commodity code, ship to/from ZIP code, freight/shipping amount, etc.

Magnetic Stripe Data (Track Data):
Data encoded in the magnetic stripe used for authorization during transactions when the card is presented. Data includes account number, expiration date, name and service code.

Manual Close:
A batch close that must be initiated by the merchant on a daily basis (also known as merchant initiated batching), as opposed to an auto close at a pre-set time.

Customer of a processor/acquirer.

Merchant Identification Number (MID):
This number is generated by a processor/acquirer and is specific to each individual merchant location. This number is used to identify the merchant during processing of daily transactions, rejects, adjustments, chargebacks, end-of-month processing fees, etc.

Magnetic Stripe:
A strip of magnetic tape affixed to the back of credit cards containing identifying data, such as account number and cardholder name.

Mail Order/Telephone Order (MOTO):
Credit card transactions initiated via mail, email or telephone. Also known as card-not-present transactions.


Company and system used to authorize and capture credit card transactions.

Non-Qualified Transaction Fees (Non-Qual):
Bankcard sales transactions that do not meet set Visa/MasterCard criteria for that particular merchant and are processed at a higher interchange rate. An example of this is a merchant that is retail (card present) that processes a card-not-present transaction (or manually enters card data rather than swiping the magnetic stripe). The merchant will pay the difference between what they should have paid on retail and what they actually qualified for (card not present).


Payment Applications

Payment Application Data Security Standards (PA-DSS):
The goal of PA-DSS is to help software vendors and others develop secure payment applications that do not store prohibited data.

Payment Card Industry

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS):
The PCI DSS is a multifaceted security standard that includes requirements for security management, policies, procedures.

PC Software:
A software program that is designed to perform a specific function on a computer system. Examples would be accounting systems, manufacturing systems, order entry and fulfillment, ticketing, reservations systems. The application is either purchased or built by the merchant, and must be interfaced with a credit card authorization system in order to provide integrated transaction processing.

PCI Compliance:
PCI Compliance refers to industry-mandated security standards that apply to all businesses that handle, process or store credit or debit cards. The three PCI compliance standards are PCI DSS, PA-DSS and the PCI PED.

PCI Compliance Deadlines:
Deadlines for merchants, service providers and software applications to be compliant with the corresponding PCI standard.

Point-to-point Encryption:
Point-to-point encryption ensures cardholder data is protected from card swipe all the way through to the processing banks. State of the art encrypted magnetic card readers scan and encrypt cardholder information prior to performing an electronic payment transaction.

Private Label Cards:
Credit, debit or stored-value cards that can be used only within a specific merchant’s store. Also referred to as proprietary cards.

Point- of-Interaction (POI):
The initial point where cardholder data is read from a credit card; generally this is the keyboard where manual entry is made, or the card reader itself.

Point of Sale (POS):
A location where credit card transactions are performed with the cardholder present, such as a retail store. The card is read magnetically, and the cardholder’s signature is obtained as insurance against the transaction.

POS Terminal:
Equipment used to capture, transmit and store credit card transactions at the point of sale.

Processing Network (Vendor):
The medium of data transport between the merchant application and the processor. This company authorizes and captures credit card transactions. Some examples of processing networks are First Data and Paymentech.

Procurement/Purchasing Cards:
Charge cards used by businesses to cover purchasing expenses, such as raw materials or office supplies.


Real-Time Processing:
Real-Time Processing means that when a web site’s customer conducts an online purchase, the credit card information is conveyed to the Processor at that exact time so that an authorization can immediately be requested and received. Real-Time Processing always implies that a Secure Payment Gateway is being utilized, whether proprietary or third party.

Recurring Billing:
A tool for submitting and managing recurring or subscription-based, transactions.


Sales Draft (Ticket):
A form showing an obligation on the cardholder's part to pay money (i.e., the sales amount) to the card issuer. This is the piece of paper that is signed when making the purchase. Sales draft data can be captured electronically. See Electronic Data Capture.

Secure Payment Gateway:
Secure Payment Gateway companies help other processors conduct secure business on the internet using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology. They provide a system that passes credit card data, authorization requests, and authorization responses over the internet using encryption technology. The transaction information is sent by the payment gateway’s secure server to the credit card network where the validity of the card is checked and the availability of funds on that account is verified. An authorization code is then returned to the payment gateway. The authorization is encrypted by the payment gateway and transmitted in an encrypted form to the web server of the merchant.

Settlement is the process of sending a merchant’s batch to the network for processing and payment. A batch is considered settled once funds appear in the merchants bank account.

Shopping Cart Software Providers:
Shopping Cart Software Providers are software companies that either produce, utilize or resell Shopping Cart Applications (programs) that display merchandise and/or services, and take orders for merchants.

Smart card:
A credit-type card that electronically stores account information in the card itself.

A POS Terminal Application or PC or Internet Application that runs transactions and associated administration.

Secure sockets layer is the industry standard that encrypts the channel between a web browser and web server to ensure the privacy and reliability of the data transmitted.


Equipment used to capture, transmit and store credit card transactions.

Terminal Software:
Programming that determines the characteristics and features of the terminal.

Travel & Entertainment (T & E) cards:
Credit or charge card used by businesses for travel and entertainment expenses. Examples of these cards are American Express, Diners Club, Carte Blanche and JCB. Also see Corporate Cards.

Terminal Identification Number (TID):
A unique number assigned to each POS terminal.

Third-Party Processor:
A Third Party Processor is an independent processor that is contracted with by a Bank or Processor to conduct some part of the transaction processing process. In the world of Internet Credit Card Processing, the Secure Payment Gateway Provider is another type of Third Party Processor.


Value Added Reseller (VAR):
Third-party vendor that enhances or modifies existing hardware or software, adding value to the services provided by the processor or acquirer.

Virtual Terminal:
A tool that allows merchants to process credit card transactions from any computer with an Internet connection.

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