Card association fees vs. interchange fees

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Card association fees vs. interchange fees

You may have seen or heard the terms “card association fees”, “card brand fees” and “interchange fees” while doing your research around card processing, or perhaps you’ve noticed some mysterious fees on your processing statement for the first time. Maybe you’re filling in your application for a merchant account and have seen a chart full of confusing and mysterious fees.

Whatever your situation, let’s get to the bottom of card association fees and interchange fees and what they could mean for your business. In this guide we’ll take a look at what they are, how they’re charged, and how they’re different from one another.

In this article:

  • What are card association fees?
  • How are card association fees charged?
  • What are interchange fees?
  • How are interchange fees charged?

What are card association fees?

Card association fees, also known as card brand fees and card assessment fees, are the fees that credit card associations like Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express charge for their services every time you take a credit card payment.

These fees make up part of the wholesale fees you have to pay as a merchant to process credit card transactions. It’s worth noting that some businesses decide to pass card processing fees on to the customer - a system known as surcharging.

Pretty simple so far. But things get a little more complicated because each card association charges fees differently, and some even use different names and terminology for the same service. There are dozens of different fees charged by card associations that apply in different situations.

To make things more digestible, we’ve compiled a list of the different card associations, the terminology they use and some of the main fees they charge.

How are card association fees charged?

Card association fees are typically charged as either a percentage of volume or a flat fee per transaction. Some apply to all transactions, while others apply to specific situations. Here are some of the most common fees broken down by card association.

Visa fees

Fee type

Fee cost

Credit Assessment

0.14% of credit card volume and $0.0195/transaction.

Debit Assessment

0.13% of debit card volume and $0.0155/transaction.

International Service Assessment (ISA)

0.80% international surcharge on transactions you accept in USD from outside the US.

International Service Assessment (ISA) – Non-US currency

1.40% international surcharge for any transactions settled in another currency.

Transaction Integrity Fee (TIF)

$0.10/transaction when a settled debit card doesn’t meet CPS requirements.

Misuse of Authorization Fee

$0.09/transaction on all authorized transactions that are not followed by a matching cleared transaction.

Zero Floor Limit Fee

$0.20/transaction owed when a settled transaction is submitted without an authorization.

Zero Dollar Verification Fee

$0.025/transaction owed when cardholder information is verified without authorizing a transaction.

Fixed Acquirer Network Fee (FANF)

A flat fee based on volume per month.

Mastercard fees

Fee type

Fee cost

Credit/Debit Assessment for sales under $1,000

0.1275% of card volume and $0.0195/transaction.

Credit/Debit Assessment for sales over $1,000

0.1475% of card volume and $0.0195/transaction.

Digital Enablement Fee

0.01% owed on all card-not-present transactions for consumer credit cards, commercial credit cards and signature debit cards.

Cross Border Assessment Fee (Domestic)

0.60% international surcharge on transactions you accept in USD from outside the US.



Cross Border Assessment Fee (Non USD)

1.00% international surcharge for any transactions settled in another currency.

Network Access and Brand Usage Fee (NABU)

$0.0195 owed on all US-based authorizations, regardless if settled.

AVS Fee (Card-Not-Present)

$0.01/transaction for using Address Verification Services (AVS) in a Card-Not-Present environment.

AVS Fee (Card-Present)

$0.005/transaction for using Address Verification Services in a Card-Present environment.

Merchant Location Fee

$15 annually for each location, billed monthly at $1.25/month. This fee does not apply to merchants processing under $200/month, nor to charitable or religious organizations.

Discover fees

Fee type

Fee cost

Credit/Debit Assessment

0.13% of card volume and $0.0195/transaction.

International Processing Fee

0.55% on transactions you accept in USD from outside the US.

International Service Fee

0.80% on transactions you accept from outside the US - in the same circumstance as above.

Network Authorization Fee

$0.025 owed on all authorized transactions.

(H3) American Express fees

Fee type

Fee cost

Credit/Debit Assessment

0.15% of card volume.

International Assessment

0.40% on transactions made by cards from outside the US.

Card-Not-Present Surcharge

0.30% of all Card-Not-Present transactions.

Non-Compliance Fee

0.75% on transactions that do not meet Amex standards, such as an authorization not obtained at the same time as a sale.

What is an interchange fee?

As if that wasn’t enough to get your head around, there’s another type of fee to consider too: interchange fees (or more accurately, interchange reimbursement fees). These are separate to card association fees, though they’re often confused with one another.

The reason for this confusion is that both of these fees are part of the wholesale cost of card processing. Both card association fees and interchange fees are part of your card processor’s costs - which you, the merchant, pay (unless you choose to pass this fee on to the customer).

The key difference between card association fees and interchange fees is that interchange fees are paid to the card’s issuing bank, while association fees are paid to the credit card associations.

Interchange fees cover the costs and risks associated with fraud, plus the costs associated with sending the payment to the acquiring bank and on to your bank account.

How are interchange fees charged?

Interchange fees are typically the single largest expense you’ll have to pay when taking credit card payments. The rates are set directly by the different card associations, and they’re generally non-negotiable.

Typically, an interchange fee is made up of a percentage of the total transaction, plus a fixed amount, and debit cards have significantly lower interchange rates than credit cards.

Discover and American Express don’t publish their interchange fees, but click these links to view Visa’s Interchange Fees and Mastercard’s Interchange Fees.

Find out about interchange optimization and how to lower interchange fees.

Whether you’re in the process of opening your first business or you’ve been running your company for years, there’s no time like the present to get to grips with card processing and the associated fees.

For more information on card association fees or interchange fees, or to chat more about payment options, contact us at https://cardconnect.com/signup.