Computers and Technology
Submitted By vincynation
F E D E R A L R E S E R V E B A N K O F AT L A N TA
Merchant Acquirers and Payment Card Processors: A Look inside the Black Box
RAMON P. DEGENNARO The author is the SunTrust Professor of Finance at the University of Tennessee and a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He thanks Jerry Dwyer, Dick Fraher, Scott Frame, Will Roberds, and Lynn Woosley for useful comments and discussions. He is grateful to Timothy Miller and Mario Beltran of NOVA Information Systems for explaining important institutional details and to Lee Cohen and Victoria L. Messman for research assistance.
ike most consumers, you probably take your credit and debit card transactions for granted. You and others like you carry millions of cards and use them billions of times annually. But unless a transaction goes awry, you rarely think about how your cards work. In fact, a great deal happens after you produce your card to pay for a purchase and before the merchant receives funds and you receive your bill. What happens during the few seconds between the time you swipe your card and the terminal flashes a result? How does that swipe translate into a line on your bill from the institution that issued the card? When making a purchase using a card online or over the telephone, why are you sometimes asked for the three- or four-digit number printed on the back of the card, the card’s expiration date, or arcane information such as your mother’s maiden name? From the merchant’s perspective, how is that same card swipe turned into cash to pay for the goods or services provided? Why does a merchant pay a larger fee when it accepts a card in some circumstances than it does in others? And why was the representative from the payment card company so interested in the merchant’s personal information before the merchant was even permitted to accept cards? This article answers such…...