A card network (sometimes called a card association or the card brands) is an organization that facilitates payment card transactions. It regulates who, where, and how cards are used. The most popular card networks are Visa®, Mastercard®, American Express®, Discover®, China UnionPay®, and JCB®.
Some card associations, such as Visa and Mastercard, partner with its members to perform different tasks throughout the payment lifecycle. For example:
o Issuing banks issue credit or debit cards to qualified consumers. With these cards, consumers can make purchases at authorized merchant outlets.
o Acquiring banks provide merchant accounts to qualified businesses. When a customer makes a purchase at a merchant, the acquiring bank collects the funds from the issuing bank and deposits them into the merchant account.
Other card networks, such as American Express and Discover, have more independence. These networks predominately issue cards directly to cardholders without any assistance from Issuers. Likewise, some transactions are processed by acquirers, but the majority are processed by the network itself.