A payment card is a payment instrument that allows bills in payment transactions to be charged to a designated account, which is linked to the card.
A card association or a payment system operator plays the central role in the card business. They have founded payment card brands to promote their payment card products, to establish and enforce rules for their use and acceptance, and to provide networks to connect end-to-end issuing and acquiring financial institutions. The brand signifies acceptance of a payment card with ATMs and POS terminals in shops , restaurants , and hotels, guaranteeing the availability of the payment service anytime and anywhere the logo of the brand is displayed. The logo is represented as a payment card decal that appears in the store window of the merchants accepting the corresponding card product. The decal itself is a representation that the merchant has a relationship with an acquirer, allowing it to accept the payment card brand. Each brand develops the necessary network infrastructure to support its cards, providing the availability of retail financial services for the customer. Some of the most known card associations are Visa , Master-Card , American Express , Europay , Diners Club , Discover , and JBC , to name only those reaching a global scale. Some of these card associations, like Visa, MasterCard, and Europay, are built as membership associations of banks, which mutually recognize and guarantee the payments done with their payment cards.
Each card association or payment system operator develops specific card products, addressing credit and debit payment behavior, but also electronic purse or virtual cards. Even in the same category of payment behavior, various card products are marketed. They address groups of people with various financial possibilities, within different categories of age, for ATM or POS services. Card products are designed for either face-to-face interaction or more recently for remote interaction, using the Internet or wireless telecommunication networks. There are card products that can answer both interaction modes simultaneously .
Each payment product implies a payment mechanism that describes the protocol of the payment transaction between the consumer and the merchant, as well as the processing performed by the acquirer, the card association, and the issuer on the payment message generated by this transaction.