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Glossary of Electronic Payment Processing Terms

Please select a letter to navigate to appropriate portions of the glossary.


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ABA Routing Number
A unique, nine-digit number assigned to each banking institution, used to identify the bank and direct ACH debits and credits. The ABA routing number is usually found at the bottom of a personal or business check.

Automated Clearing House - group of processing institutions linked by a computer network to process electronic payment transactions between financial institutions.

Accounts Receivable Conversion (ARC)
An electronic debit created from a consumer check processed in a lockbox, drop box or other payment receivable processing environment.

Acquirer, Acquiring Bank
A financial institution that is a member of Visa® and/or MasterCard® and maintains the merchant credit card processing relationship. The acquirer receives all transactions from the merchant to be distributed to the issuing banks.

Address Verification Service (AVS)
A service supported by Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express®that verifies the cardholder's billing address against the one on file with the issuer. AVS is designed to help combat fraud in non-face-to-face transactions.

Advanced Programming Interface (API)
APIs allow users to program to a pre-constructed interface, instead of individually programming a device or piece of software.

Altered Card
A card on which the original embossed or encoded information has been altered for fraudulent purposes.

American Bankers Association (ABA)
The trade association of American bankers. This body also has the registration authority to assign identification numbers.

American Express
A company that specializes in the issuance of Travel and Entertainment (T&E) cards. American Express services the cards it issues, serving as its own transaction processor with its own processing network.

Application Service Provider (ASP)
An organization that hosts software applications on its own servers within its own facilities. Customers access the application via private lines or the Internet. Also called a "commercial service provider" (CSP).

Approval Response
An affirmative reply following a transaction authorization request.

A procedure used by an acquirer on behalf of the merchant to resolve a chargeback-related dispute with a card issuer.

MasterCard International, Visa U.S.A. or Visa International, which are licensing regulatory agencies for bank card activities.

ATM (Automated Teller Machine)
An unattended computer terminal that performs basic teller functions when a cardholder inserts a card into the ATM and enters the correct PIN. Typical functions include dispensing cash, accepting deposits and loan payments and accepting account transfers and inquiries. Also used by credit cardholders for receiving cash advances.

The process by which a transaction is approved by the issuer, or by Visa/MasterCard on behalf of the issuer. Permission is given to (or denied) the merchant, via the acquirer, to accept a specific transaction from the cardholder account. An authorization indicates only that the card is valid and that sufficient funds are available on the cardholder's credit limit at the time the request is made.

Authorization Approval Code
The numerical code designated by the issuer, assigned to a sales transaction as verification that the sale is authorized.

Authorization Only (Auth Only)
Used to reserve an amount against a credit card's available credit limit for intended purchases. Authorization Only is most frequently used in the lodging (check-in), restaurant (tab) and car rental (pick-up) industries, where an approval is received for an estimated amount prior to the finalization of the charge amount.

Authorization Request
A merchant's request for an authorization to accept a cardholder's sales transaction. An authorization request can occur electronically via a credit card processing terminal or via telephone as a voice authorization.

Auto Representment
Automatically sending information to resolve a chargeback on a merchant's behalf without the need for merchant intervention.

Average Ticket
The average dollar amount of sale for credit card transactions.

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Business to Business - refers to one business communicating with or selling to another.

Back-End Network
The settlement provider responsible for finalizing transactions, routing payment to a merchant's account and generating statements.

Balance Sheet
A financial statement that lists assets, liabilities and net worth as of a specific date.

Bank Identification Number (BIN)
A unique series of numbers assigned by Visa/MasterCard to a member institution, which identifies that institution in transaction processing. The BIN comprises the first six digits of a standard credit card number.

Bank Card
A card issued by a banking institution with a MasterCard or Visa brand.

A group of approved credit card transactions, usually accumulated during one business day.

Batch Deposit
The electronic depositing of a batch file transmitted to the transaction processor for settlement.

Batch Processing
The authorization of transactions offline when immediate approval is not required. Transactions are collected in a batch and sent as one transmission for authorization and/or settlement. Batch processing is generally used with mail order/telephone order (MOTO) transactions.

Bisynchronous Communication
A communication method that transmits continuously with no start and stop between the information bytes.

A software application used to locate and display Web pages.

Business Card
A payment card typically issued to and used by owners of small businesses.

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Call Center
An authorization request response displayed on the credit card terminal screen, generated by the issuer or through stand-in processing. The merchant must then call for a voice authorization. If an approval is given, the user must enter the approval code manually into the POS device as a "force" or "post-authorization."

Receiving and storing transaction data at the processor's host computer, to be submitted later for processing and payment.

Card Identification Number/Card Identifier (CID)
An American Express and Discover verification process that utilizes a non-embossed three- or four-digit number printed when authorizing credit card transactions where the physical card is not present.

On American Express cards, the CID is a four-digit code printed on the front of the card. On Discover cards, the CID is a three-digit code printed next to the card number in the signature panel.

For a list of CID codes, click here.

A type of card transaction in which the card is not present at the point of sale for the magnetic stripe to be read. These are considered higher risk transactions.

Card Present
A type of transaction in which the card is present and is swiped through an electronic device that reads the contents of the magnetic stripe on the back of the card.

Card Reader
Input device on a card terminal that translates the information stored on the magnetic stripe on the back of a card.

The person to whom a payment card is issued, or an additional person authorized by the original cardholder to use the card.

Cardholder Account Number
A sequence of numbers assigned specifically to a cardholder account that also identifies the issuer and type of payment card. The cardholder account number is the embossed number imprinted on the payment card.

Cardholder-Initiated Chargeback
A chargeback that results when a cardholder contacts the card issuer and refuses to accept a charge appearing on a monthly billing statement. A cardholder has 90 days to initiate a chargeback.

Cash Advance
A transaction in which a cardholder obtains cash in person at the branch of a member financial institution or ATM. This is the only method of receiving cash from a credit card that is approved by the payment brands.

A credit or debit entry, initiated by a merchant, to consolidate funds of that organization, from its branches, franchises or agents, or from other organizations; or to fund the accounts of its branches, franchises or agents or of another organization.

A challenge to a transaction initiated by the issuer or cardholder that is returned to the acquirer for resolution.

Chargeback Fee
The amount assessed by the acquirer for processing chargebacks.

Chargeback Reason Code
A numerical code that identifies the specific reason for a chargeback. MasterCard and Visa each have their own chargeback codes.

Check Card
A bank card that can be used with a PIN at an ATM or without a PIN at the point of sale, also known as an offline debit card. When used at the point of sale, the transaction is processed through interchange as a credit card transaction with the funds debited from the cardholder's checking account.

Check Digit Verification (MOD-10 check)
A check digit is the last position of a card account number, generated from an algorithm performed on a primary card account number. Verification of this number is referred to as a MOD-10 check and is used to validate a credit card number.

Check Guarantee
A service that guarantees check payment to a merchant up to a specified amount. However, merchants are required to perform correct authorization procedures.

Check Reader
A device that reads the numbers encrypted on the bottom of most checks.

Check Verification
A service that provides merchants with some security against bad checks. The person writing the check is matched against a national negative file database to flag outstanding or bad checks on record from other members of this service.

The encrypted text of a message, which may be decrypted only by someone who has the correct key.

Sending a merchant's completed transactions to the host for processing. (See also "Settlement")

Code 10 Authorization
If the POS device displays "Lost or Stolen Card," or "Pick Up Card" or a similar message, the merchant should call the authorization center for a Code 10 Authorization. The operator will ask questions to determine if the transaction is valid.

Commerce Service Provider (CSP)
An organization that hosts commerce software applications on its own servers within its own facilities.

Commercial Cards
Formal name for the following three types of cards:

  • Corporate Card – usually issued to the employees of a large corporation where the corporation assumes all liability for the card's usage.
  • Purchasing Card – issued to corporations. It allows the corporation numerous parameters to control daily and monthly spending limits, total credit limits and where the card may be used. Many employees may be issued the same card number.
  • Business Card – similar to the Corporate Card, but issued to a business with fewer employees. Each employee is responsible for his or her purchases.

Compliance to the Visa and MasterCard regulatory bylaws. Also, a method of resolving a dispute between members if no chargeback reason code applies. The challenging member must prove financial loss due to a violation of MasterCard or Visa rules by the other member.

Counterfeit Card
A plastic card that has been fraudulently printed, embossed or encoded to appear to be a genuine bank card, but which has not been issued by a Visa or MasterCard member. It could also be a card which was originally issued by a member, but was subsequently altered without the issuer's knowledge or consent.

A refund or price adjustment given for a previous purchase.

Credit Card
A plastic card with a credit limit used to purchase goods and services and to obtain cash advances on credit. The cardholder is then billed by the issuer for repayment of the credit extended.

Credit Slip
A form stating a refund or price adjustment will be credited to a cardholder account. Also referred to as a credit voucher or credit draft.

The process of protecting information by transforming it into an unreadable format. The information is encrypted using a "key" that makes the data unreadable. It is later decrypted, making the information readable again.

Card Validation Code - MasterCard term for the three-digit code printed next to the card number in the signature panel and used as part of the authorization process.

Card Verification Value - Visa term for the three-digit code printed next to the card number in the signature panel and used as part of the authorization process.

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Data Encryption
The scrambling of data so only the intended users can read and understand the encrypted information.

Doing Business As - the name a business uses to operate.

Debit Card
A bankcard used to purchase goods and services and to obtain cash, which debits the cardholder's personal checking account. During online debit transactions, the cardholder must enter a PIN.

Debit Switch
A portal that transmits debit data between gateway banks and debit card issuers - also referred to as "Debit Network." Only financial institutions may be members of debit switches.

A response from the card issuer denying the use of the card for the attempted transaction. If a request for approval is declined, the merchant must ask the cardholder for another form of payment.

Demand Deposit Account (DDA)
A checking account.

Derived Unique Key Per Transaction (DUKPT)
A method of PIN pad encryption.

Dial-Up Terminal
An authorization terminal that uses a telephone line to communicate with the authorization center.

Digital Certificate
An encrypted attachment to an electronic message, used for security purposes. The most common use of a digital certificate is to verify that a user sending a message is who he or she claims to be. The receiver is also provided with a way to encode a reply.

DIP Switches
Dual In-Line Package Switches - a series of connected switches that determine the proper configuration for a payment card terminal printer.

Direct Response
Term used to describe a merchant processing primarily non-face-to-face or card-not-present transactions.

Discount Rate
The fees charged by the card acquirer to the merchant for processing payment card transactions.

The backlit panel on a payment card device that shows characters on the screen.

The membership of a financial institution in both MasterCard and Visa associations.

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Electronic Commerce - the sale and purchase of goods or services over the Internet.

Electronic Cash Register - a cash register that also emulates a point-of-sale terminal for processing credit card transactions.

Electronic Draft Capture - the use of a point-of-sale device to authorize and settle credit card transactions.

Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT)
The automation of government benefits through electronic authorization, data capture and settlement processes. Plastic cards with magnetic stripes are used, eliminating paper benefits and coupon distribution.

Electronic Check Acceptance/ Electronic Check Processing (ECA/ECP)
Process that converts a paper check into an electronic check at the point of sale. The check is electronically processed through the ACH network.

Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
An electronic system that automatically moves funds, e.g., an ATM withdrawal or pay-by-phone transaction.

Method of scrambling data to protect a cardholder's personal information.

License or permission to accept a particular type of payment card or other payment vehicle.

Erasable Programmable Read Only Memory (EPROM)
Industry-initiated standards used to identify terminal types and components.

Exceeded Timeliness
A transaction that is deposited too late to qualify for the best interchange rate.

Expiration Date
The embossed date on a bankcard. After that date, the card becomes invalid and should no longer be accepted.

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When a legitimate merchant processes another merchant's transactions in return for payment. This practice is forbidden by the associations.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
A protocol used to transfer files over a TCP/IP network (Internet, UNIX, etc).

Financial Institution
Any organization in the business of moving, investing or lending money, dealing in financial instruments or providing financial services. This includes commercial banks, thrifts, federal and state savings banks, saving and loan associations and credit unions.

Fleet Card
Payment card designed mainly for fueling, maintenance and repairs of corporate motor vehicles. Fleet cards are normally used to provide specialized reporting.

A number assigned by a lodging merchant for tracking a guest's charges.

The process by which a voice-authorized transaction is key-entered to be settled electronically with a batch of transactions. Also known as a post-auth.

Frame Relay
A TCP/IP link for data that has high transmission speeds, low network delay, high connectivity and efficient bandwidth use.

Fraud Investigation
The process of identifying suspicious merchant or cardholder activity.

Front-End Network
Network provider responsible for authorizing and capturing transactions and forwarding the information to the back-end network.

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Manages the electronic connection between consumers and their financial institutions and transmits data.

Gift Card
A reusable, stored-value card that enables merchants to have an electronic alternative to paper gift certificates.

Good Faith
An attempt by a card association member to resolve a dispute with another member in writing. A good-faith attempt at resolution must be made before filing a compliance case.

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Hard Decline
A declined authorization attempt resulting from a lost or stolen card, pick-up card, etc. A Code 10 call should be made by the merchant to the authorization center.

A laser-created photograph that uses a three-dimensional image that is difficult to duplicate. Used as an anti-counterfeiting measure on many payment cards.

Host Capture System (HCS)
A transaction is transmitted with an authorization request to the host computer at the front end, the information is captured at the host, then sent back to the POS device. Since the information is already stored at the host, it can be settled without the merchant performing a settlement function.

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Idle Prompt
The standard display on a payment card terminal waiting to process the next transaction.

A device used to imprint embossed card information onto a sales draft for payment card transactions. An imprinter is used if the card is present and the POS device cannot read the contents of the magnetic stripe.

Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN)
A digital phone service link capable of supporting up to three types of communication devices simultaneously.

National debit card network in Canada.

The exchange of transaction data between acquiring and issuing institutions.

Interchange Fees
Fees paid by the acquirer to the issuer to compensate for transaction-related costs. MasterCard and Visa establish interchange fee rates.

Internet Service Provider (ISP)
An organization that provides access to the Internet.

Issuer, Issuing Bank
The financial institution and member of Visa or MasterCard that holds contractual agreements with, and issues cards to, cardholders.

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Leased Line
A dedicated telecom connection with either point-to-point or multi-point configuration.

Level I Data
Level I purchasing card data includes the same information captured during a traditional credit card purchase transaction. This includes: total purchase amount, date, merchant category code and supplier/retailer name.

Level II Data
Level II purchasing card data includes the same information captured at Level I, plus the following: sales tax amount, customer's accounting code, merchant's tax ID number, applicable minority – and women-owned business status and sales outlet ZIP code.

Level III Data
Level III purchasing card data includes the same information captured at Levels I and II, plus the following: quantities, product codes, product descriptions, ship to ZIP, freight amount, duty amount, order/ticket number, unit of measure, extended item amount, discount indicator, discount amount, net/gross indicator, tax rate applied, tax type applied, debit or credit indicator and alternate tax identifier.

Line of Credit
The amount of credit a lender will extend to a borrower over a specified period of time.

A service that processes payments by check and credits the appropriate business.

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Magnetic Ink Character Recognition Number (MICR Number)
The bank routing and transit, checking account number and check number encoded at the bottom of a check that can be used to authorize the check.

Magnetic Stripe
A panel located on the back of a payment card containing magnetically encoded cardholder account information.

Magnetic Stripe Reader
A point-of-sale device that reads the encoded information from the magnetic stripe when the card is passed through the reader. Readers may read Track Two, which contains the cardholder account number and expiration date, or both Track Two and Track One, which contains the cardholder name.

MasterCard International Incorporated
A member-owned international bankcard association, governed by a board of directors, which licenses members to issue cards or accept merchant drafts under the MasterCard Program. MasterCard owns and operates its own international processing network.

The documentation of monetary transactions (i.e., sales drafts, credit slips, computer printouts, etc.).

Media Retrieval Requests
Media retrieval is the process of obtaining paper documents from a centralized location. There are two types of media retrieval requests:

A financial institution that is a member of Visa and/or MasterCard. A member is licensed to issue cards to cardholders (issuer) and/or accepts merchant drafts (acquirer).

Store owner or seller of products.

Merchant Agreement
The written contract between the merchant and acquirer that details their respective rights, responsibilities and warranties.

Merchant Bank
See Acquirer.

Merchant Category Code (MCC)
A universal four-digit merchant classification code that identifies the merchant by type of processing, authorization and settlement. Similar to a Standard Industrial Classification (SIC), but more defined.

Merchant Discount
The fee an acquiring member charges the merchant to cover the costs of providing deposit credit and handling credit card sales transactions. See Discount Rate.

Merchant Identification (MID) Number
The identification number assigned to a merchant by the acquirer.

Method Of Payment (MOP)
The way a merchant chooses to accept payment for products or services. Examples include: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Carte Blanche, Diners Club, JCB, Electronic Check and private label cards.

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NACHA develops operating rules and business practices for the Automated Clearing House (ACH) Network and for electronic payments in the areas of Internet commerce, electronic bill and invoice presentment and payment (EBPP, EIPP), e-checks, financial electronic data interchange (EDI), international payments and electronic benefits services (EBS). Additional Information: http://www.nacha.org/

An entire system of communication hardware and software used to transfer electronic information during the authorization and settlement process.

Non Face-to-Face Transaction
Any transaction in which the card is not presented, such as a phone, mail or Internet purchase. See Card-Not-Present.

A charge to a cardholder account by a lodging merchant if the person either fails to arrive or fails to cancel the guaranteed reservation.

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Offline Debit
Debit transaction that occurs when a Visa/MasterCard check card is authorized through the credit card system and the amount is debited from the cardholder's checking (DDA) account.

Offline Transaction
A transaction that is authorized through a voice authorization and later keyed into a POS terminal prior to settlement.

OK Number
A validation number from the host computer confirming a successful batch deposit.

Online Transaction
A transaction that is authorized electronically from the front-end network.

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PBX Access Code
An access number that is dialed to reach an outside line.

Personal Identification Number (PIN)
A numeric code used as verification to complete a transaction via a payment card. The number is entered into a keypad and is encrypted to travel along with the authorization.

Pick Up Card
An issuer's electronic response to an authorization request, asking that the card be retained by the merchant and returned to the issuer.

Point-of-Purchase Conversion (POP)
A one-time ACH debit from a consumer's bank account for in-person purchases made at the point-of-sale; upon receipt of a check and signed authorization.

Point-of-Sale (POS)
The location at which a payment card transaction occurs, usually by way of a device such as a credit card terminal or cash register.

Point-of-Sale Terminal (POS Terminal)
A terminal at the point of sale, connected via telecommunication lines to a central computer. Authorization, recording and transmission of electronic transactions are performed through the terminal.

The process of recording debits and credits to an account.

A credit or debit entry, initiated by a merchant, pursuant to a standing, or one time authorization from a consumer, to effect an electronic funds transfer, to or from a consumer's bank account.

In the electronic check-processing environment, a non-dollar transaction sent through the ACH network for the purpose of verifying the accuracy of the cardholder's account data.

Presentment Currency
The currency in which a purchase is authorized through Visa, MasterCard or American Express.

Private Label Card
A card issued by a merchant that can only be used in the issuing merchant's business. An example would be a department store credit card.

Processing Fees
The fees associated with the processing of credit card transactions.

A company responsible for processing interchange transactions - operated by an acquirer or acting on the acquirer's behalf.

A set of rules that allow data communications to work.

Purchasing Card

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RAM (Random Access Memory)
Short-term memory for a computer or payment card terminal.

Reason Code
A two-digit code identifying the reason a chargeback was initiated.

Re-authorization (re-auth, add auth)
To request an additional amount to be authorized on an existing transaction. Used in the lodging industry when the original authorization is not sufficient to cover the charges.

Recurring Transaction
A transaction charged to a cardholder's account (with prior permission) on a periodic basis for recurring goods and services, i.e., health club memberships.

The message received from an issuing bank when an attempt for authorization requires a call to the Voice Authorization Center.

A refund occurs when the merchant rebates all, or a portion, of an original transaction amount to the cardholder. Refunds are made to the same card that was used for the original transaction. Similar to a Credit.

An attempt to reverse a chargeback initiated by a merchant or acquirer to the issuing bank that presented the chargeback, backed by supporting documentation.

Retail Transaction
A face-to-face transaction in which the cardholder presents a card to the merchant to pay for goods or services.

Retrieval Request
A request by the issuer to the acquirer for a copy of the original sales ticket.

When an acquirer successfully represents a chargeback to the issuer, the chargeback is reversed and the funds are returned to the merchant.

ROM (Read-Only Memory)
Memory and information that cannot be changed.

The standard port on POS device used to support a wireless transmission via VSAT, Frame, VPN or Motient. May also be used with various peripheral devices i.e. Check Reader or Personal Computer.

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Sales Transaction Fee
The amount the financial institution charges a merchant for each sales transaction.

The process in which a merchant transmits batches of transactions to the acquirer. In interchange, it is the process by which acquirers and issuers exchange financial data resulting from sales transactions, cash advances, merchandise credits, etc.

Settlement Currency
The currency in which a merchant receives funds after the completion of a foreign exchange conversion.

Smart Card
A payment card with a built-in microprocessor (chip) that stores information. Smart cards can be used for stored-value cards, credit cards, loyalty programs and security access.

Soft Decline
A declined authorization attempt that does not necessarily mean the card is bad (i.e., call referral, issuer unavailable or cardholder over limit). These transactions may be resubmitted a day or two later in an attempt to obtain a valid authorization.

Software Development Kit (SDK) 
A "kit" that is built to help a developer incorporate software into another program or system.

Split Dial
The capability of a card terminal to dial different telephone numbers to obtain an authorization or settlement of different card types.

Standard Industrial Code (SIC)
A universal four-digit code that designates a merchant's industry type. Similar to an MCC code.

Stored Value Card
A stored value card is used by a merchant to issue spending credit to their customers. The merchant's customers are given a magnetic stripe card in exchange for money received, merchandise returned or other considerations. The card represents a dollar value that the merchant's customer can either use or give to another individual. There is no security associated with the card itself. The actual record of the balance on the card is maintained on a stored value card database.

A file sent by the merchant that contains one or more transactions.

Summary Adjustment
A correction to a deposit, made by the acquirer, when there is an error in the submitted deposit.

Communication method that transmits continuously with no stops and start bytes between information bytes.

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T&E Cards
Cards that are developed for and used primarily in travel-related services.

T&E Merchant
An airline, car rental company or lodging establishment with a primary function of providing travel-related services.

An electronic debit from a consumer's bank account based on oral authorization by phone. A company can only initiate the telephone call when there is an existing relationship with the consumer.

Selling goods or services over the phone, for payment by credit card.

Terminal Capture System (TCS)
The process in which transactions are stored in the terminal until the batch is settled to the host. Most often used in restaurant applications where tip adjustments need to be made.

Terminal Identification Number (TID)
Number identifying a merchant to the front-end network.

Track One
Track One information, stored on the magnetic stripe on the back of a card, has the cardholder's name in addition to the account number and expiration date stored in it.

Track Two
Track Two information, stored on the magnetic stripe on the back of a card, has the account number and expiration date.

Any action between a cardholder and a merchant or member that results in activity on the account, such as a purchase, cash advance or credit.

Transaction Date
The actual date on which a transaction occurs.

Transaction Fee
The amount a merchant pays per transaction for processing.

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Valid Date
The date embossed on a payment card stating when the card may first be used.

Value Added Reseller (VAR)
A third-party that certifies their software to be used on a processor's system.

Visa USA
A member-owned national bankcard association, governed by a board of directors, which licenses members to issue cards and accept merchant drafts under the Visa Program. MasterCard owns and operates its own international processing network.

Voice Authorization
Transactions authorized by a voice operator. Voice-approved transactions must be "forced" into a terminal batch for settlement.

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An electronic debit from a consumer's bank account created during a secure Internet session between a company and consumer.

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Zero Floor Limit
Requires that all transactions receive authorization.

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