Acquiring Bank vs Issuing Bank


In the process of processing payments, two banks are obligatory participants – the issuer and the acquirer. The
payment scheme of an online store is quite complicated, and if you are planning to start selling goods or services
on the Internet, it is important to know the difference between issuer vs acquirer. In this article, we will explain
what an issuing bank and an acquiring bank are and how they interact with each other when processing transactions.

Definition of an acquiring bank

Every online merchant must have a bank account to accept payments. This is the so-called merchant account. The bank
in which it opens an account is called the acquirer. Acquiring services are provided by financial institutions as
part of the payment process when the seller accepts payments from a bank card – that’s the meaning of the merchant

The acquirer acts as an intermediary for transactions for debit and credit cards. It collects and processes
information on card payments on behalf of the merchant. The acquirer also has the role of ensuring the security of
the financial transaction. Transactions themselves carry risks, such as:

  • Fraud.
  • Leakage of user data.
  • Initiation of a refund by the seller after authorization but before settlement.
  • Challenging the validity of a transaction by the client, etc.

To prevent such problems, acquirers work in accordance with PCI DSS standards.

Issuing banks

An issuing bank is a financial institution that issues a bank card on behalf of global payment systems, such as Visa
or MasterCard. An issuer is a bank that directly serves the buyer of goods or services in an online store. Its main
tasks are:

  • Confirmation or rejection of transactions.
  • Collection of payments from cardholders.
  • Customer support.

There are over 100,000 banks that can issue cards from global payment operators.

After the buyer submits an application for payment for a product or service, it goes to the card issuing bank. The
financial institution authenticates the client. It also checks the balance of funds in the account.

Issuers also face significant risks. They take responsibility and guarantee payment in case of loss of a bank card.
There are also other risks:

  • Opening a bank account under a fictitious identity or stolen data.
  • Fraud with financial transactions.
  • Credit risks.

Payment process

The payment process itself is quite complicated. It includes four main steps. We’ll consider them below.

  1. Purchase

    The first stage is the direct ordering of goods or services. The client chooses everything they need and adds
    it to the cart. After that, they submit a request and specify payment information in a special payment form.
    Its content may differ, but to pay with a bank card, you must usually specify the card number, expiration
    date, and CVV code. Also, the application automatically adds the account number to which the payment will be
    made and the amount to be paid.

  2. Authorization

    At the authorization stage, the identity of the client must be confirmed.

    After the client has indicated all the necessary information, it goes to the acquiring bank. In turn, the
    acquirer sends two requests:

    • to the credit card network to clear the payment;
    • to the issuing bank to authorize the payment.

    If this phase completes successfully, transaction processing proceeds to the authentication phase.

  3. Authentication

    At this stage, the issuer must verify that the specified card exists and is valid. The issuer must either
    approve the financial transaction or reject it and state the reason for the refusal. If the transaction is
    approved, the authentication is completed, and the bank blocks the necessary amount on the buyer’s account
    for the financial transaction.

  4. Clearing and settlement

    At the end of the business day, the merchant sends the approved authorizations to the acquiring bank, which,
    in turn, sends this information to the credit card network for settlement. The card network confirms
    readiness, and then the issuing bank sends the funds to the acquiring bank. After receiving the funds, the
    acquirer credits the money to the seller. In turn, the issuer places information about the financial
    transaction in the buyer’s payment report.

The difference between acquiring banks and issuing banks

Acquiring banks and issuing banks are the main participants in transaction processing. The issuer is directly responsible for issuing credit and debit cards to customers, while the acquirer ensures that payments are processed and credited to the merchant’s account. Sometimes, one bank can act as an issuer and acquirer. This is possible if the seller’s merchant account and the client’s bank card are opened in the same financial institution. The key differences between issuers and acquirers are as follows:

Issuing bank

  1. Is responsible for financial transactions that customers make through banking networks.
  2. Sends a payment to the acquiring bank.
  3. Approves or rejects credit card applications.
  4. Executes a transaction.

Acquiring bank

  1. Is responsible for financial transactions that are made to the address of the person who opened the merchant account, that is, the seller.
  2. Accepts payments.
  3. Allows online stores to accept payments through credit and debit card networks.


The issuing bank and the acquiring bank are the main participants in the payment process. The issuer is the bank that issued the card with which the payment is made. This financial institution acts on the side of the buyer. An acquirer is a bank in which a merchant account is opened. This financial institution acts on the side of the seller. Both banks are responsible for their customers and ensure the security of payments. The same bank can act as both an issuer and an acquirer if both the buyer and the seller use its services.

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