Credit Card Brand Fees: Everything You Need to Know in 2022

Our expert explains what credit card brand fees are and how much you have to pay credit card networks. Find out if there are ways for you to save on fees.

If you want to accept credit card payments, you’ll need a merchant account or a payment service provider. If you have one of those, you’ll inevitably have to pay several fees. And if you’re facing a host of fees, it’s best that you know exactly what they are, so you can prepare accordingly.

Card fees can fall into several categories, but in this guide, I’m going to focus on brand fees. These fees, which commonly show up on statements as NABU (Network Access and Brand Usage) fees, go to the credit card networks. For example, if you accept Visa card payments, the brand fees will go directly to Visa. 

Let’s take a deeper look at this common credit card fee. I’m here to give you a better understanding of what it is, why it’s charged, and how much it can cost.

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What Are Card Brand Fees? 

Card brand fees are, in essence, fees that you pay to a credit card network like Visa so you can accept credit card payments through your merchant account. Think of it like a monthly subscription to Visa or MasterCard that opens up the network’s credit card as a viable payment method for your customers.

I mentioned that card fees can fall into different categories, so let’s briefly take a look at them and see where brand fees fit in.

Interchange Fees

Interchange fees can often be confused with brand fees, but be warned - they’re not the same. These fees go to the card issuer, and will change according to several factors, such as the transaction sum and type of card the customer uses.

Payment Processor Fees

Payment processor fees, as you might imagine, represent the markup taken by your payment service provider. These fees are like a cut for the middleman, since the processor makes each transaction possible. Some providers charge additional fees, such as monthly fees or statement fees.

Also known as merchant services fees, these charges are what payment processors make their money from. To make sure you aren’t hit with fees you’re uncomfortable with, choose a payment service provider that’s upfront about its rates, like Pay.com.

Assessment Fees

This is where brand fees come in. Brand fees are considered to be assessment fees, which are paid directly to the credit card network. When you take assessment fees with interchange fees, you have what is known as a swipe fee - a total sum of fees that go to the card issuer.

Just to recap, interchange fees go to the card issuer, which is the bank that provides the card. Assessment fees, or brand fees, go directly to the credit card network. When you combine them, you have a swipe fee which can be a useful sum to track your business expenses.

When Are Card Brand Fees Charged? 

Some card brand fees will be taken on a per-item transaction basis, while others will come out of your account on a monthly basis. As such, it’s important to keep an eye on your statement to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Card Brand Fees and Pricing Structures 

Card brand fees can be split up into various pricing structures, so it’s worth knowing what you do that can affect how much you’ll owe to the credit card network. Bear in mind, some MSPs (Merchant Service Providers) will absorb some of the fees, so be sure to read the fine print and find out what fees you may be able to avoid.

Even if you’re clued up on your MSP and all the fees that you could face, it’s still a good idea to double check your statement to be 100%. 

Here are the various card brand fee pricing structures you might come across:

Per-item Transaction Fees

Per-item transaction fees are calculated on an individual transaction basis, and are fees you’ll be charged for each time you process an electronic transfer payment. Generally, these fees will fall in the range of 0-5%, depending on the card network.

The fees for each transaction are broken down into a series of different types of charges, from a card-not-present charge to a network authorization charge. 

Volume-Based Fees

Volume-based fees are charged according to the gross dollar volume of sales. As such, the more units you sell, the more you’ll pay in fees.

These fees are also divided into several different charges, including acquirer license fees and cross-border assessment fees.

Miscellaneous Fees

Finally, there are several miscellaneous fees that I’ve grouped together for convenience. They include the following:

  • FANF (Fixed Acquirer Network Fee)
  • ISA fee
  • Disputed charge
  • Merchant location fee
  • Dispute case
  • Yearly registration fee

How Much Are Credit Card Brand Fees? 

Credit card brand fees can add up, but to make sure they don’t take you by surprise, I’ve compiled a comprehensive overview of each major card network’s fees. 

Visa Network Fees

Per-item transaction:

Type of fee Charge Description
APF (Acquirer Processing Fee) Credit - $0.0195 Debit - $0.0155 Applies to credit or debit card transactions for US-based businesses when the card holder or issue is in the US.
Credit Voucher Credit - $0.0195 Debit or prepaid - $0.0155 Applies to any refunds you issue in the US for credit, debit, or prepaid cards when the card holder is in the US.
System File Transmission $0.0018 Applies to any authorized transactions that are submitted for settlement.
Settlement Network Access $0.0025 -
KB (Kilobyte) Access $0.0047 Won’t be charged if you already pay a settlement network access fee.
TIF (Transaction Integrity Fee) $0.10 Applies to debit and prepaid Visa transactions which don’t meet CPS requirements
Misuse of Authorization $0.09 Applies to authorized transactions which are timed-out, canceled, or don’t match a cleared transaction.
Zero Floor Limit $0.20 Applies to any unauthorized settlement transactions that a merchant submits.
Zero Dollar Verification $0.025 Applies to unauthorized transactions for which the merchant has verified the cardholder’s information.
Dispute Image $1.00 Applies to electronically sent supporting documents or images for disputes.

Volume-based:

Type of fee Charge Description
ASF Credit - 0.14% Debit - 0.13% Applies to gross monthly volume for Visa credit and debit transactions.
ISA (International Service Assessment) 1.00% A surcharge which applies to any transaction that is processed in the US and for cards that have been issued outside the US.
ISA – Non-US currency 1.40% A more expensive surcharge which applies in the same circumstances as above, but when the cardholder’s local currency isn’t USD

Miscellaneous:

Type of fee Charge Description
FANF (Fixed Acquirer Network Fee) Variable Applies as a flat fee based on several factors:
• Your monthly sales volume
• MCC (Merchant Category Code)
• The number of locations you sell from
• Whether it's a card-present or card-not present transaction
The fixed fee is taken from your account on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Dispute Related Charges Variable - ranges from $0.50-$1.65 per disputed charge Applies as a flat fee, regardless of whether you dispute the charge. The fee is calculated according to whether the merchant accepts or refutes the dispute and based on the timing of the decision. The fees will be different for the following time periods: 0-20 days
21-25 days
26-30 day
31 days+

Mastercard Network Fees

Per-item Transaction:

Type of fee Charge Description
NABU (Network Access and Brand Usage) Fee $0.0195 Applies to every US-based authorization, whether they’re settled or not.
AVS (Address Verification Service) Fee (Card-Not-Present) $0.01 Applies to card-not-present transactions that have been processed with the AVS. It’s not uncommon for the AVS fee to show up on statements as ‘Authorizations’.
AVS Fee (Card-Present) $0.005 Applies to card-present transactions that have been processed with the AVS. Like the above fee, this one can also show up as ‘Authorizations’ on your statement.
Account Status Inquiry Fee (Intrarregional) $0.025 Applies when the merchant verifies AVS or CVC2, in the case that both the merchant and the cardholder are located in the same region.
Account Status Inquiry Fee (Interregional) $0.03 Applies when the merchant verifies AVS or CVC2, but the merchant and cardholder are located in different regions.
Processing Excellence Fee Pre-Authorization - $0.045
Undefined Authorization - $0.045
Final Authorization - $0.040 as a minimum or 0.25%
Excessive Authorizations - $0.100
Nominal Authorizations - $0.045
Applies to transactions that aren’t in compliance with Mastercard best practices. Usually, this will be because a transaction hasn’t been settled or cleared within Mastercard’s stated timeframe for the transaction type in question.
Processing Integrity Fee Detail Reporting $0.012 Applies to every authorization that has a processing integrity fee for the pre-authorization undefined authorization, or final authorization processes.

Volume-based:

Type of fee Charge Description
Assessment or Acquirer Brand Volume Fee 0.13% Applies to every sale transaction.
Assessment or Acquirer Brand Volume Fee $0.01 Applies to all gross commercial and consumer credit transactions which exceed the sum of $1,000. This fee doesn’t apply to signature debit and will often be shown as a 0.01% surcharge on a merchant’s statement.
ALF (Acquirer License Fee) 0.0075% Applies to gross transaction volume. The fee used to be lower, at 0.0045% prior to October 2017.
The fee can also be factored in with the two assessment fees listed above.
International or Cross-Border Assessment Fee (Domestic) 0.60% This fee is a surcharge that applies to merchants based in the US when transactions are made from a card that has been issued outside the US, and the transaction is in USD.
International or Cross-Border Assessment Fee (Foreign) 1.00% This fee is a surcharge similar to the one above, except it applies at a higher rate to transactions made in the cardholder’s local currency.
Digital Enablement Fee 0.01% Applies to every card-not-present transaction for commercial credit cards as well as signature debits and consumer credits
Global Wholesale Travel Transaction B2B 1.57% Applies in lieu of standard assessments, international surcharges, and NABU fees in cases that a customer uses the Mastercard B2B card for a transaction. The fee is charged in accordance with the MCCs associated with the travel and entertainment sector.

Miscellaneous:

Type of fee Charge Description
Merchant Location Fee $1.25/mo./location ($15 per year)
$15 annually for each location with traditional MSPs/processors ($3 annually for payment facilitators like Square).
Only applies to merchants that process more than $200 per month. The fee doesn’t apply to religious or charitable organizations.
Yearly Registration Fee $500 This fee exclusively applies to online businesses that sell vaping products and e-cigarettes.
Dispute Case Fee $1.35 Applies to every dispute that has been opened by Mastercard or the card issuer. There’s also an additional $0.20 to pay if you submit supporting documents to Mastercard electronically.

Discover Network Fees

Per-item Transaction:

Type of fee Charge Description
Data Usage Fee $0.0195 Applies to every authorized transaction.
Network Authorization Fee $0.025 Applies to every authorized transaction. This fee used to be known as the Data Transmission fee prior to 2012, which was only applied in the case of settled transactions.

Volume-based:

Type of fee Charge Description
Assessment 0.13% Applies as a result of the merchant’s gross transaction volume.
International Processing Fee 0.55% Applies to every transaction made in the US with a card that has been issued outside the US.
International Service Fee 0.80% Applies in addition to the above fee.

American Express Network Fees

Volume-based:

Type of fee Charge Description
Assessment 0.15% Applies as a result of the merchant’s gross transaction volume.
International Assessment / Inbound Fee 0.40% Applies as a surcharge for transactions that use a card that has been issued outside of the US.
Card-Not-Present Surcharge 0.30% Applies as a surcharge for every card-not-present transaction, and also includes ecommerce and keyed transactions.
International or Cross-Border Assessment Fee (Domestic) 0.60% This fee is a surcharge that applies to merchants based in the US when transactions are made from a card that has been issued outside the US, and the transaction is in USD.
Technical Specification Non-Compliance 0.75% Applies to every transaction that fails to meet the Amex standards. If, for example, the merchant does not obtain authorization at the moment of the sale.

How Can You Keep Track of All Your Credit Card Merchant Fees? 

While it’s absolutely imperative that you know all of the card fees you’re subject to as a merchant, I realize that it can seem overwhelming. If you feel this way, you’re not alone. Many merchants are faced with the tricky issue of how to stay on top of the torrent of fees that flood through the door every month.

Unless you’re a meticulous note-taker and love nothing more than recording information by hand, it’s unlikely that you’ll sit down each month or quarter to record all your credit card merchant fees. So how can you keep track of them without giving up a lot of your valuable time?

Here at Pay.com, we do the behind-the-scenes heavy lifting that merchants like you shouldn’t have to worry about. We’re not afraid to crunch the numbers and present you with a convenient way of tracking all your payments and fees.

The Bottom Line: Credit Card Brand Fees

Credit card brand fees are an inevitability if you accept card payments, so it’s worth learning about them to understand how much you’ll have to pay. Each network will have its fees, and payment processors will often charge their own too.

If you want a quick and easy way to accept payments on your website, Pay.com is the best solution. If you’re tired of spending all your spare time stressing over card fees on your statement, you can leave it to us. We’ll make it easy for you to see if you’re paying over the odds. Click here to find out how to get started.

FAQs

What are card brand fees?

Card brand fees are assessment fees that go directly to the credit card network, be it Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or American Express. They can be classified as per-item, volume-based, or miscellaneous charges.

How much do credit card companies charge merchants?

As a general rule, if you accept credit card payments, you can expect to pay 1.5% to 3.5% of the total of each transaction to credit card companies. Fees include interchange fees, card brand or assessment fees, and payment processor fees.

Who pays credit card processing fees?

As a merchant, you can expect to pay some credit card processing fees, though others may be absorbed by your payment service provider. It’s always a good idea to check the fine print and make sure there are no hidden fees.

Is it legal to charge my customers a credit card processing fee?

As a merchant, you can’t pass on the processing fees to customers, but you can apply a surcharge fee to customers for paying with a credit card. With a surcharge fee, you can offset some or all of the fee charge, but this can be a risk.

Meet the author

Sam Dixon

A writer with a keen interest in software and finance, Sam has spent the past several years producing content out of Seville, Spain. He keeps up to date with all things tech and enjoys reading when he has a spare minute.

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