All About Credit Card Processing Fees

All About Credit Card Processing Fees

When you make a payment with a credit card not all of that money goes to the merchant. Your payment has to be authorized by multiple companies or banks along the way and some of them will deduct fees for their services. A portion of your payment goes to your card issuer’s bank, the merchant’s bank, the big payment networks such as Visa and Mastercard as well as payment processing companies. Here’s what you need to know about credit card processing fees.

What Happens When You Make a Credit Card Transaction

Before we break down the individual credit card processing fees, it’s helpful to give a quick rundown of what happens when you make a payment with your credit card.

When you try to make a purchase with your card, whichever credit card processor the merchant uses will need to receive authorization to complete the transaction. To do that, the first step is to send your information and the transaction details to the appropriate payment network, Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover.

The payment network then contacts the bank that issues your credit card. Your card issuer has to confirm that you have enough available credit to cover the purchase you are trying to make. If you have enough available credit, it will approve the transaction. If you don’t have enough, it will deny the transaction. That approval or denial goes back to the payment network, who sends its approval (or denial) of the transaction back to the merchant’s bank.

This entire process only takes a few seconds but it happens every time you make a purchase with your card. It doesn’t matter whether you swipe, insert a card with an EVM chip or manually enter your credit card number.

Average Credit Card Processing Fees Average Credit Card Processing Fees Visa 1.40% – 2.50% Mastercard 1.60% – 2.90% Discover 1.56% – 2.30% American Express 1.60% – 3.00%

The table above lists an an average range for credit card processing fees from each major credit card provider. These ranges are meant only to give you an idea of how it works. There are a number of things that go into the final processing fees for any individual merchant (more on that later). Credit card issuers also are not always transparent with their fees and how they change over time. This is particularly true of Discover and American Express. However, credit card processing fees generally average around 2%. Another key trend is that American Express regularly charges higher fees.

Credit Card Processing Fees: Interchange Fees

All About Credit Card Processing Fees

An interchange fee is money that merchants pay every time they make a credit or debit card transaction. It’s typically a percentage of the transaction plus a flat rate for each transaction. For example, an interchange fee might be 1% of the transaction plus a flat fee of $0.25 per transaction.

This fee goes to the credit (or debit) card’s issuing bank so that it can cover its own fees. In general, a credit card issuer will charge higher fees for cards that offer more perks of benefits. However, the biggest fee that your card issuer has to pay is an assessment fee. This goes to the credit card network (e.g. Visa or Mastercard) and all networks charge the same assessment fee.

Interchange fees make up the majority of credit card processing costs for a merchant. There is a base part of the interchange fee that is non-negotiable because it is the same no matter what credit card companies a merchant works with. There is also a markup fee, which is an additional cost on top of the base fee. The markup goes to credit card processing companies (learn more about them in the next section) and they vary between processors. These fees are negotiable so a merchant should always compare these fees before choosing a company to process their transactions.

Credit Card Processing Fees: 
Merchant Service Providers

Even though merchants have to contact card-issuing banks to approve every transaction, they do not directly contact those banks. Instead, the transaction goes through a middle man that allows merchants and banks to communicate. This middle man is a merchant service provider (MSP). Common MSPs are Square and Payline.

MSPs charge merchants a certain fee for every transaction, whether it’s a sale, declined transaction or return. They may also charge the merchant a setup fee, a monthly usage fee and a cancellation fee.

Some merchants may have a bank that provides these services, but the majority of merchants have to use a third party MSP.

Online Versus In-Store Transactions

Credit card processing fees are cheaper if you pay in-person versus online. That’s because there is a greater risk of fraud with online payments. If you buy something in a store, the merchant has the ability to confirm that someone if using a real card and that they are the cardholder. This is harder to do with an online payment. The result is higher fees as companies try to protect themselves from fraudulent payments.

MSPs also charge additional fees for providing the software that makes an online payment transaction possible for a merchant.

The Bottom Line

All About Credit Card Processing Fees

It only takes a few seconds for a credit card transaction to go through, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes. Multiple banks and companies help facilitate transactions and they all want their cut of the profit. This is where credit card processing fees come in. A merchant has to pay an interchange fee every time a transaction is made, some of which is non-negotiable and some of which varies depending on the merchant service provider that a merchant uses.

A merchant bears the brunt of credit card processing fees and some merchants cannot afford to pay all the fees. This is a common reason why smaller merchants do not accept credit cards. These fees are also the reason that some merchants will require a minimum transaction amount in order to use a credit card.

Common Credit Card Fees to Avoid

  • Some credit cards charge an annual fee. This is a fee the cardholder pays each year simply for the privilege of having the card. Annual fees are particularly common for credit cards that offer valuable rewards. Shop around though because you can avoid an annual fee with some of this year’s best rewards credit card.
  • If you plan to travel, using your card outside of the U.S. could leave you paying a foreign transaction fee. Luckily, we have some cards with no foreign transaction fee in our list of the best travel credit cards.
  • One fee that you can avoid with responsible credit card usage is a late payment fee. This is a fee that your card issuer will charge if you do not pay your bill by the due date. You should always pay on time because paying late will not only result in a fee but your credit score could also be negatively impacted.

Photo credits: ©iStock.com/Juanmonino, Â©iStock.com/NoDerog, Â©iStock.com/andresr

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What Is Cash Back?

What Is Cash Back?

Cash back is a rewards benefit that many credit cards offer to cardholders. By taking advantage of it, you’ll receive back a prespecified percentage of certain purchases you make. Many credit card companies will provide higher cash back rates on certain types of purchases, such as airfare, gas, food and more. Cash back is just one way that credit cards offer rewards, as mileage and points are some alternatives.

Before you spend too much money with your credit cards, make sure you have a financial plan in place. Speak with a financial advisor today.

What Is Cash Back?

The most commonly recognized style of cash back is what you have likely seen advertised as cash back credit cards. This specifically refers to earning a certain percentage of your credit card purchases back as cash rewards. However, cash back rates vary widely, as do the categories that they apply to.

You usually won’t see credit card cash back rates higher than 5%, while 1% is the typically minimum you will earn. Cash back categorization is significantly more complex though, with a merchant category code (MCC) system being the main organizing force.

MCCs run the entire cash back industry, as they ultimately decide how each purchase you make is classified. These designations coincide with cash back rates set by the issuer of your card. For example, you could use your card for a $50 dinner at a steakhouse, which has a “restaurant” code. If your card offers a 2% cash back rate on all spending at restaurants, you’d earn $1 cash back.

Familiar alternatives to cash back include point- and mile-based programs, though many cardholders are partial to cash back. Cash back affords cardholders an independence that is ideal, since you can redeem it for nearly anything.

Popular Cash Back Credit Cards

What Is Cash Back?

Discover, American Express, Mastercard and Visa all have cash back rewards credit cards available for prospective cardholders. Each abide by their own set of regulations, though card issuers decide on cash back rates, promotions and bonuses. Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi and Capital One represent some of the most active card issuers on the market today.

Below are a few examples of what you can expect to earn when looking for a cash back credit card:

Cash Back Credit Cards Card Name Cash Back Rates Cash Back Bonus Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi 4% cash back on eligible gas up to $7,000 per year, 3% cash back on eligible travel and restaurants, 2% cash back in-store and online with Costco and 1% cash back elsewhere None Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card 3% cash back in a category of your choosing, 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs and 1% cash back on all other purchases (up to a quarterly cap of $2,500 in combined grocery/wholesale club/choice category purchases) $200 bonus cash back for spending at least $1,000 over your first 90 days Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Unlimited 1.5% cash back everywhere $150 cash back bonus when you spend $500 during your first three months Citi Double Cash Card 1% cash back on your purchases and another 1% cash back when you pay your bill None Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card Unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% cash back on groceries and 1% cash back elsewhere $300 cash back bonus for $3,000 spent over your first three months TD Cash Visa® Credit Card 3% cash back on dining, 2% cash back at supermarkets and 1% cash back on everything else Earn $150 cash back when spending $500 within the first 90 days (See Terms) USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature Unlimited 1.5% cash back on everything None Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express 3% cash back on up to $6,000/year at U.S. supermarkets (then 1%), 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% cash back on other purchases $150 bonus cash back for spending $1,000 over your first six months Getting Cash Back at Retailers

What Is Cash Back?

Picture this: you’re buying some groceries on a Sunday morning, but know you’ll need $40 cash to fill up your car with some gas later. You could swipe your debit card at the supermarket and then head over to the ATM. Or you could ask for cash back right from the cashier, eliminating the extra errand.

The above situation represents the alternative definition of cash back. It’s ultimately the use of a cash register as if you were swiping your debit card at the ATM. When you request cash back from a cashier, your bank account will be charged the amount you asked for. This enables the funds to be pulled from your account so the cash can be placed in your hand.

Although this generally only applies to debit cards, there are a few exceptions for credit cards. Discover® allows cardholders to ask for cash back at more than 50 large retail stores without a transaction fee.

Bottom Line

There are many benefits to utilizing credit card rewards programs. But spending money that technically isn’t yours will always involve some level of risk. If you’re in good financial shape, though, cash back and other types of credit card rewards can help you take more vacations, save money on purchases and more.

Credit Card Tips

  • Managing your credit cards and any debt you accumulate using them is a major part of your long-term financial outlook. Consider working with a financial advisor to make sure you’re managing your money with your goals for the future in mind. SmartAsset’s free matching tool can connect you with up to three advisors in your area. Get started now.
  • If you’re someone who wants freedom when spending credit card rewards, you may prefer cash back to a points- or mileage-based reward system. However, keep in mind that cash back rates are sometimes less than those in point-centric programs.

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which SmartAsset.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). SmartAsset.com does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/SIphotography, ©iStock.com/MJ_Prototype, Â©iStock.com/Juanmonino

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Help Paying For Prescription Medications

Learn about financial assistance programs that help pay for or reduce the cost of prescription medications for the elderly.

The ongoing cost of prescription medications can be a challenge, especially if you are taking more than one prescribed medication. Some pharmaceutical companies offer prescription assistance programs to individuals and families with financial needs.

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Help With Paying For Prescriptions

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Products For Seniors And Elderly

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Side Effects Of Prescription Drugs

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Medication Education Groups

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Aug 23, 2003  · Although I work with the child/adolescent program, we do "nursing" educational groups – medication education is one we repeat regularly. Other topics that we include are; nutrition, sleep (or lack of..), diagnostic info (geared to specific groups), exercise. Also do a lot with anger maangement. Not sure if this helps, but some a few thoughts.

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Prescription Medication Assistance

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