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Merchant University: Simplified

You’re considering becoming an agent; but are beginning to find the terminology a little confusing—let’s get it cleared up for you.

What is an ISO?

Independent Sales Organization (ISO) is a term used within the payment industry to identify an individual or organization that is not an Association Member. ISOs have bank card relationships with an Association Member (banks) who participate in issuing or acquiring functions.

What’s an Association?

Bank Card Associations are organizations owned by financial institutions that licenses bank credit card programs. The Bank Card Association also performs operational functions for its members, including transaction processing and authorizations, interchange settlements and fee processing.

The two national and best-known bank card associations are VISA and MasterCard. However, there are many regional bank card associations that may be owned by a single bank. Although Visa and MasterCard associations are only card true associations, they rely on issuing banks to issue credit cards branded as Visa and MasterCard to consumers. On the other hand, Discover Financial Services and American Express act as both a card association and issuer as they issue their credit cards directly to consumers.

What are the ISO’s relations with member banks?

It is important to understand that ISOs are not banks and the actual handling of the merchant funds is done by the processing bank that has contracted with the ISO. Each ISO must be sponsored by such a processing bank, in order to be registered by either Credit Card Association. Usually, processing banks are members of both Associations and the registration process for each Association is done simultaneously.

How can you tell if a company is a registered ISO?

Each ISO must display the name and location of their sponsor bank on their website and marketing materials. This is most often disclosed in the footer of a company’s website.

Who is the merchant?

A merchant is the business owner who offers products and/or services at a charge and needs to accept payments in form of a credit card at the point of sale.

What are agents?

Agents are professional sales consultants that have experience or have undergone training to be a certified merchant advisor. You can find a TouchSuite agent near you at to get some help, ask some questions and get feedback. We have designated Business Development Managers to help you become a successful agent and set you up to thrive. TouchSuite’s dedicated support team answers any questions you may have that can come up along the way too. Interested in becoming an agent? Click here to learn more.


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