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A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding the intricacies of payment processing is crucial for every business owner. While the concept of transaction fees is familiar, delving into the nuances of payment processing reveals a complex system with various fee structures. In this comprehensive guide, we will break down the key elements of payment processing, shedding light on negotiable and non-negotiable fees, as well as different rate structures.

The Anatomy of Payment Processing:

When a card payment is made, funds traverse from the issuing bank to the processing bank before reaching the business bank account. Four primary fees constitute each credit card payment: Interchange, Dues and Assessments, Network Fees, and Processor Markup. While Interchange and Dues and Assessments are non-negotiable, Network Fees and Processor Markup are areas where negotiation can significantly impact costs.

Interchange or Issuing Bank Fees:

Issuing banks, such as Capital One or Chase, earn a substantial portion of fees associated with card payments. Interchange fees, set by card brands like Visa and Mastercard, vary based on factors like card type and transaction method (present or not present). Downgrades, triggered by specific scenarios, can lead to higher interchange fees.

Dues & Assessments or Brand Fees:

Card brands like Visa and Mastercard impose non-negotiable fees, influenced by the Merchant Category Code, business locations, and credit card volume. Understanding these fees is crucial for businesses processing foreign cards, as additional charges may apply.

Network Fees:

Semi-negotiable, network fees represent the cost of authorizing and settling payments. Processors often inflate these fees, affecting businesses with high transaction volumes.

Processor Markup:

Fully negotiable, the processor markup is the most critical factor in determining overall processing fees. The processing bank, responsible for risk management, PCI compliance, and customer service, plays a pivotal role in influencing this negotiable fee.

Rate Structures:

Interchange Plus+:

Pros: Transparent, allows merchants to see the processor’s earnings, and suits businesses with varying transaction volumes.

Cons: Potential interchange inflation, complex statements, and the processor’s earnings rise with increased business revenue.

Tiered or Flat-Rate Pricing:

Pros: Simple statements, ease of reading, and consistency in pricing.

Cons: Lack of transparency, potentially expensive, and processor’s earnings tied to business success.

Cash Discount Pricing:

Pros: Significant savings, straightforward statements.

Cons: Customer resistance, strict compliance requirements, and non-transparent pricing.

Subscription-Based Pricing:

Pros: Cost-effective for most merchants, transparent fee structure, and processor income independent of business revenue.

Cons: May not suit low-volume merchants with large transactions, potentially confusing statements.


Choosing the right payment processing model is vital for business success. Whether opting for transparency with Interchange Plus+, simplicity with Tiered pricing, innovative Cash Discount, or cost-effective Subscription-Based pricing, understanding the intricacies empowers business owners to make informed decisions. For personalized advice, consult experts in payment processing to explore options tailored to your business needs.


Prequalification is not a commitment to provide credit card processing solutions. All merchant accounts must be approved through partner company underwriters.