Credit Card Network vs Issuer: What Is the Difference?

While credit card networks and card issuers both play a role when you use your credit card to make a purchase, they do different things. Credit card networks facilitate transactions between merchants and credit card issuers. Meanwhile, credit card issuers are the ones that provide credit cards to consumers and pay for transactions on the cardholder’s behalf when they use their card.

Where it can get confusing is that some credit card networks are also card issuers. To get a better understanding, keep reading for a closer look at the differences between a credit card network vs. issuer.

What Is a Credit Card Network?

Credit card networks are the party that creates a digital infrastructure that makes it possible for merchants to facilitate transactions between merchants and the credit card issuers — meaning they’re key to how credit cards work. In order to facilitate these transactions, the credit card networks charge the merchants an interchange fee, also known as a swipe fee.

Here’s an example of how this works: Let’s say someone walks into a clothing store and uses their credit card to buy a pair of pants. They swipe or tap their credit card to make the purchase. At this point, the store’s payment system will send the details of this transaction to the cardholder’s credit card network, which then relays the information to the credit card issuer. The credit card issuer decides whether or not to approve the transaction. Finally, the clothing store is alerted as to whether or not the transition was approved.

Essentially, credit card networks make it possible for businesses to accept credit cards as a form of payment, making them integral to what a credit card is. Credit card networks are also responsible for determining where certain credit cards are accepted, as not every merchant may accept all networks.

The Four Major Card Networks

The four major credit card networks that consumers are most likely to come across are:

•   American Express

•   Discover

•   Mastercard

•   Visa

All of these credit card networks have created their own digital infrastructure to facilitate transactions between credit card issuers and merchants. These four credit card networks are so commonly used that generally anywhere in the U.S. it’s possible to find a business that accepts one or more of the payment methods supported by these merchants. When traveling abroad, it’s more common to come across Visa and Mastercard networks.

Two of these popular payment networks — American Express and Discover — are also credit card issuers. However, their offerings as a credit card network are separate from their credit card offerings as an issuer.

Does It Matter Which Card Network You Use?

Which credit card network someone can use depends on the type of credit card they have and whether the credit card network that supports that card is available through the merchant where they want to make a purchase. Most merchants in the U.S. work with all of the major networks who support the most popular credit cards, so it shouldn’t matter too much which credit card network you have when shopping domestically. When traveling abroad, however, it’s important to have cash on hand in case the credit card network options are more limited.

Merchants are the ones who are more likely to be affected by the credit card networks that they use. This is due to the fact that credit card networks determine how much the merchant will pay in fees in order to use their processing system.

Recommended: Charge Cards Advantages and Disadvantages

What Are Credit Card Issuers?

Credit card issuers are the financial institutions that create and manage credit cards. They’re responsible for approving applicants, determining cardholder rewards and fees, and setting credit limits and the APR on a credit card.

Essentially, credit card issuers manage the entire experience of using a credit card. Cardholders work with their credit card issuer when they need to get a new card after losing one, when they have to make their credit card minimum payment, or when they want to check their current card balance.

Credit card issuers can be banks, credit unions, fintech companies, or other types of financial institutions. Some of the biggest credit card issuers in the U.S. are:

•   American Express

•   Bank of America

•   Barclays

•   Capital One

•   Chase

•   Citi

•   Discover

•   Synchrony Bank

•   U.S. Bank

•   Wells Fargo

Credit Card Network vs Issuer: What Is the Difference?

Credit card issuers and credit card payment networks are easy to confuse. The main difference is that credit card networks facilitate payments between merchants and credit card issuers whereas credit card issuers create and manage credit cards for consumers. If you have an issue with your credit card — like in the instance you want to dispute a credit card charge or request a credit card chargeback — it’s the issuer you’d go to.

These are the main differences to be aware of when it comes to credit card networks vs. issuers:

Credit Card Issuer Credit Card Payment Network

•   Creates credit cards

•   Manages credit cards

•   Accepts or declines applicants

•   Sets credit card fees

•   Determines interest rates and credit limits

•   Creates rewards offerings

•   Approves and declines transactions

•   Processes transactions between credit card companies and merchants

•   Creates the digital infrastructure that facilitates these transactions

•   Charges an interchange fee to merchants

•   Determines which credit cards can be used at which merchants

How Credit Card Networks and Issuers Work Together

Credit card networks and issuers need each other to function. Without a credit card network, consumers wouldn’t be able to use their card to shop with any merchants, and the credit card issuer’s product would go unused. Credit card networks create the infrastructure that allows merchants to accept credit cards as payment.

However, it’s up to the credit card issuers to approve or decline the transaction. The credit card issuer is also the one responsible for getting credit cards into consumers’ hands when they’re eligible and old enough to get a credit card, thus creating a need for the credit card networks’ services.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Get a New SoFi Credit Card Online and Earn 2% Cash Back

Credit cards can be a useful financial tool, but it’s important to understand their ins and outs before swiping — including the difference between a credit card network vs. card issuer. Both are critical to credit card transactions, with the credit card network facilitating the transaction between the issuer and the merchant, and the credit card network approving or denying the transaction.

While the major credit card networks are available at most merchants in the U.S., this may not be the case abroad, which is why it’s important to be aware of when choosing a credit card. This among many other considerations, of course, such as searching for a good APR for a credit card and assessing the fees involved.

If you’re on the search for a new card, consider applying for a credit card with SoFi. SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. Cardholders earn 1% cash back when redeemed for a statement credit.1

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FAQ

What is a credit card network?

A credit card network is the party that creates the necessary infrastructure to process transactions between a credit card issuer and a merchant. Whenever someone makes a purchase with a credit card, it is processed by a credit card network. In return for processing the transaction, the merchant pays the credit card network an interchange fee, which is how the credit card networks make money.

How do I know my credit card issuer?

To find out a credit card’s issuer, simply look at your credit card. There will be a string of numbers on the credit card, and the first six to eight digits represent the Bank Identification Number (BIN) or the Issuer Identification Number (IIN). The Issuer identification number identifies who the credit card issuer is.

Who is the largest credit card issuer?

The four largest credit card networks are American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa. Most merchants in the U.S. work with all four credit card networks. When traveling abroad, it’s more common to come across Visa and Mastercard networks.


1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
The SoFi Credit Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri (TBOM) (“Issuer”) pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.

Photo credit: iStock/Poike
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Source: sofi.com

How to Check Your Credit Card Balance: A Step-By-Step Guide

It’s easy to swipe a credit card and lose track of exactly how much you’re spending. That’s why it’s critical to check your credit card balance on a regular basis. By checking your credit card balance, you’ll know how much you owe so you can make payments or adjust your spending accordingly.

As for how to check a credit card balance, you can do so online, over the phone, or on the monthly statement that comes in the mail. Keep reading to learn more about how to check a balance on a credit card and why your credit card balance matters.

What Is a Credit Card Balance?

There are two different types of balances consumers will come across when it comes to their credit cards: current balances and statement balances.

The statement balance is the total balance owed at the end of the billing cycle. If someone wants to avoid paying interest, they need to pay off their statement balance in full each month. The current balance, on the other hand, is the total amount owed plus any fees, charges, credits, and payments that have been added to the account since the billing cycle ended. Given how credit cards work, it’s not necessary to pay the entire current balance to avoid interest charges.

In addition to their current balance and statement balance, each month the cardholder will also be told what their credit card minimum payment is. This is the lowest amount of their balance that they can pay in order to remain in good standing with their credit card issuer. They’ll need to pay interest on the remaining unpaid balance.

Recommended: Charge Cards Advantages and Disadvantages

Why Is It Important to Know Your Balance?

A credit card balance represents the total amount owed to the credit card issuer. If the cardholder wants to avoid paying interest on their remaining balance, they’ll need to pay off their credit card balance in full each month. So, for budgeting purposes, it’s helpful to know what that balance is.

A credit card balance also can indicate how high or low someone’s credit utilization ratio is. This ratio compares how much credit someone is using to how much credit they have available based on their credit card limits. It’s generally advised to keep your credit utilization ratio under 30% — but the lower, the better. Paying off a credit card balance in full each month can also help keep credit utilization low.

Additionally, checking your credit card balance each month can allow you to spot any unusual or potentially fraudulent charges on your credit card. If anything is amiss, you could then quickly contact your issuer and dispute the credit card charge. This could result in a credit card chargeback, allowing you to get the money back.

Reviewing a credit card statement can also help consumers identify where to cut back their spending so they can save more or afford to pay down more credit card debt.

How to Check a Credit Card Balance

Even if you’re confident you can pay off your balance in full each month, it’s smart to stay on top of your credit card balance for the reasons mentioned above. Read on to learn how to check the balance on your credit card.

Log In to the Mobile App or Go Online

Thanks to mobile banking and credit card apps, it only takes a few seconds to check a credit card balance from a smartphone. These mobile apps are helpful for checking a credit card balance on the go. It’s also possible for consumers to check their credit card balances by logging onto their online accounts from a computer, smartphone, or tablet.

Call the Card Issuer

It’s also possible to call the credit card issuer directly to confirm what your current credit card balance is. The phone number to call is printed on the credit card and also listed on the credit card issuer’s website. Keep in mind your issuer may provide different numbers to call depending on your reason for calling.

Send a Text to Your Bank

Don’t love making phone calls? Some banks and credit card issuers also allow account holders to text them to check their account balance, which is a speedy and convenient way to get an update.

Check Paper Statements

Each month, the account holder will receive a paper credit card statement through the mail or over email. The Account Summary section of the statement will outline what the statement balance on the credit card as well as the following details, which are given what a credit card is:

•   Payments and credits

•   New purchases

•   Balance transfers

•   Cash advances

•   Past due amount

•   Fees charged

•   Interest charged

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Consider the SoFi Credit Card

As you can see, making a point to regularly check your credit card balance is smart for a number of reasons. In addition to helping you stay on top of your spending and how much you owe, it can also help you to monitor your credit utilization and check charges for any fraudulent activity. Checking your credit card balance is easy to do online, over the phone, via text, or on your credit card statement.

Feeling on top of your credit card balances and looking for a new credit card? The SoFi Credit Card doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. Plus, SoFi cardholders earn 2% unlimited cash back when redeemed to save, invest, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. Cardholders earn 1% cash back when redeemed for a statement credit.1 Apply for a credit card online today with SoFi.

Check out everything the SoFi credit card has to offer.

FAQ

Can you transfer a balance to a new credit card?

It’s possible to transfer a balance from one credit card to a new one by using a balance transfer credit card. Typically, balance transfer cards come with a low or 0% introductory APR, which makes it possible to pay down debt without spending too much on interest for a temporary period of time. Keep in mind that balance transfer fees will typically apply.

What is a credit card balance refund?

When someone pays off their credit card balance before getting a refund for a purchase they made, that results in what is known as a negative credit card balance. To get that money back, you can either request a refund or wait for the funds to get applied to future credit card balance.

What happens if I overpay my credit card balance?

If someone overpays their credit card balance for whatever reason, they can either have that balance applied to a future purchase or they can request a credit card balance refund.

What does a negative balance on a credit card mean?

Having a negative credit card balance means that someone has a credit card balance that is below $0. For example, if someone pays off their credit card balance and then requests a refund from a merchant for $250, they would end up with a negative balance of $250. The credit card issuer would then owe that money to the account holder.

What happens if you cancel a credit card with a negative balance?

If someone chooses to close a credit card that has a negative balance, they need to request a refund before they close their account as they won’t be able to apply that negative balance to a future bill. Some credit card issuers will issue this refund automatically, but it’s best to confirm the refund is happening before closing an account.


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The SoFi Credit Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri (TBOM) (“Issuer”) pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
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