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If you inspect your merchant statement, you might find a range of fees that make little sense. Unfortunately, credit card fees can be confusing if you don’t have experience in the payments industry. A credit card assessment fee is one of the many credit card processing fees that your business pays.
This guide explores assessment fees and what they mean for your business. We’ll also overview why these types of fees are challenging for business owners and what you can do to keep track of them. Let’s get started!
What Are Credit Card Assessment Fees?
Credit card assessment fees refer to the costs passed through to credit card brand companies. For example, when someone uses a Visa card to pay for products or services at your business, the assessment fee you pay will cover the operating costs for the card network, Visa. Each credit card brand, such as Visa, American Express, Mastercard, and Discover, has its own credit card assessment fees.
Credit card assessment fees are also referred to as:
- Card brand fees
- Network Access and Brand Usage fees (NABU fees)
- Card network fees
- Card association fees
How are assessment fees different from interchange fees?
Assessment fees and interchange fees are two separate charges that most credit card transactions incur. Interchange fees are costs that go to the issuing bank through the card brands. Assessment fees go directly to the card brands.
While many issuing banks partner with card associations to supply credit cards to clients, such as Visa and Mastercard, some card associations act as card issuers too. For example, American Express is a card issuer and card brand.CNBC. “Here’s the difference between a credit card network and card issuer“. Accessed June 3, 2022.
What Is a Credit Card Association?
A credit card association, also known as a credit card brand or credit card network, is an organization that plays a major role in credit card transactions and facilitating payments. While some of these associations will partner with issuing banks to provide services to clients, others will issue their own cards directly to customers.
So, what are the major credit card associations?
- American Express
These card associations compete with one another to provide value and benefits to both consumers and merchants. As of 2011, Visa is accepted at over ten million locations in the United States.WalletHub. “What is the most widely accepted credit card“. Accessed June 3, 2022.
Keep in mind that while these are the major credit card associations, there are many other regional associations that don’t have the same brand recognition.
List of Card Brands and Their Assessment Fees
Understanding the various card association assessment fees is essential if you want to know what you pay to process credit card transactions. Unfortunately, these fees can be complex with each association charging its own fees at different prices.
We compiled a list of card association brands and their assessment fees to help you navigate this complex area of credit card transactions: Dharma Merchant Services. “What are card brand (NABU, assessment) fees?“. Accessed June 3, 2022.
Visa assessment fees
Below, let’s take a closer look at Visa assessment fees:
|Type of Fee
|Fee Received by Visa
|Credit Assessment Fee
|$0.0195 per transaction + 0.14% of all credit card volume
|Debit Assessment Fee
|$0.0155 per transaction + 0.13% of all debit card volume
|International Service Assessment Fee
|0.80% per transaction for US-based merchants transacting in US dollars must pay this fee when overseas Visa cards are used for payments
|Transaction Integrity Fee
|$0.10 per transaction is charged when a settled debit/prepaid card transaction doesn’t adhere to CPS requirements
|International Acquirer Fee
|0.45% per transaction as an international fee that is applicable to non-US Visa cards when accepting payments in the US
|Misuse of Authorization Fee
|$0.09 per transaction is charged when authorized transactions do not match a settled sale
|Zero Dollar Verification Fee
|$0.025 per transaction if you verify an AVS or CCV but don’t authorize a sale, this fee is applicable
|Zero Floor Limit Fee
|$0.20 per transaction if a settled transaction has no corresponding correct authorization
|Base II System File Fee
|$0.0018 per transaction fee charged when an authorized transaction is submitted for settlement
|A flat-rate price that is dependent on overall processing volume
Mastercard assessment fees
Below, let’s take a closer look at Mastercard assessment fees:
|Type of Fee
|Fee Received by Mastercard
|Credit and Debit Assessment Fees (For transactions under $1,000)
|$0.0195 per transaction + 0.1275% of total card volume
|Credit and Debit Assessment Fees (For transactions over $1,000)
|$0.0195 per transaction + 0.1475% of total card volume
|Digital Enablement Fee
|0.01% of total volume for CNP transactions on signature debit cards, consumer credit cards, and commercial cards
|Cross Border Assessment Fee (Domestic)
|0.60% surcharge for cards outside the United States (in USD)
|Cross Border Assessment Fee (Non-USD)
|1.00% surcharge for cards outside the United States (in non-USD)
|Processing Integrity Fee
|$0.055 per transaction is charged when Card-Present sales are not settled in 24 hours and when CNP transactions are not settled in 72 hours
|Processing Integrity Fee Detail Reporting
|$0.012 per transaction is applicable to an authorization that requires a processing integrity fee for final authorizations, undefined authorizations, and pre-authorizations
|Account Status Inquiry Fee
|$0.025 per transaction occurs if your business verifies AVS or CCV details without an authorized sale
|AVS Fee for Card-Present Transactions
|$0.005 for Address Verification Services for a Card-Present transaction
|AVS Fee Card-Not-Present (CNP) Transactions
|$0.01 for Address Verification Services for a CNP transaction
|Card Validation Code Fee
|$0.0025 occurs when you submit a CCV code with a payment
|Pre-Authorization Integrity Fee
|$0.045 appears when you pre-authorize a card without reversing it or clearing it in 30 days
|Undefined Authorization Integrity Fee
|$0.045 appears when an undefined authorization is not reversed or cleared within seven days
|Final Authorization Integrity Fee
|0.25% of total volume ($0.04 minimum) occurs in three instances: the final authorization is not cleared or reversed within seven days, the authorization currency code is not the same as the clearing currency code, or the authorization amount is not the same as the clearing amount
Discover assessment fees
Below, let’s take a closer look at Discover assessment fees:
|Type of Fee
|Fee Received by American Express
|Credit and Debit Assessment Fee
|$0.0195 per transaction + 0.13% of all card volume
|International Service Fee
|0.80% surcharge for payments with cards issued outside the United States
|International Processing Fee
|0.55% international fee for payments in dollars from cards issued outside the United States
|Network Authorization Fee
|$0.025 per transaction when an authorized transaction is submitted for settlement
American Express assessment fees
Below, let’s take a closer look at American Express assessment fees:
|Type of Fee
|Fee Received by American Express
|Credit and Debit Assessment Fee
|0.15% of total card volume
|International Assessment Fee
|0.40% for overseas-issued cards accepted in the United States
|Card-Not-Present (CNP) Surcharge
|0.30% of total CNP volume
|0.75% of total volume that does not comply with American Express protocols, such as a sale that is not settled during the seven days after authorization
How Card Association Fees Can Get Complicated for Merchants
Unfortunately, it’s never plain sailing when it comes to card association fees. This is one of the many parts of payment processing that can be highly confusing for business owners. Let’s take a closer look at why so many business owners struggle with these fees:
- They are hard to find: As these fees routinely update, it can be hard to find them online. You won’t find any information on the card association website.
- Card associations don’t offer much help: You won’t receive a straight answer if you ring a card association to ask about its fees. They will tell you to speak to your merchant service provider.
- Fees continuously change: These fees can increase at random, so you will need to stay updated on these fees if you want to keep on top of your card brand costs.
- Fees can have varying names: Fee names can vary depending on which card association is responsible for the transaction. Make sure to be aware of how each card brand titles its fees.
- Multiple fees can apply to a single transaction: Depending on the type of transaction, multiple fees might be applicable to a payment.
Keeping Track of Assessment Fees and Other Merchant Fees
Credit card transactions are now the dominant payment method for American consumers.Debt.com. “Dvorkin On Debt: Credit Cards Overtake Cash For The First Time Ever“. Accessed June 3, 2022. This means that most transactions in your business will have processing fees associated with them. To help your business keep track of assessment fees, make sure to incorporate the following tips:
Seek clarification before you choose a payment processor
If your business is in the market for a new payment processing company, make sure to ask for clarification about assessment fees before you make any agreements. It’s always good to know if your payment processor is willing to absorb any of these fees.
Ask your merchant service provider for a breakdown of fees
Your merchant service provider should provide all the card brand fee information you need. Call your merchant service provider and ask for a breakdown of fees.
Make a list of credit card brand fees you routinely see on your statements
Start taking note of which credit card brand fees you find on your statements. This can help you detect any unusual fees.
Always ask questions
Don’t hesitate to ask questions if you find a fee you don’t understand. It’s always a good idea to carry a healthy dose of suspicion. Not doing so can result in you paying unnecessary fees.
Keep your eyes peeled for changes in fees
Your merchant service provider should offer updates on fee changes. Make sure to remain aware of any fee change notifications.
Never make a commitment without double-checking the fees
As with any financial decision in a business, it’s best to double-check the terms and conditions of your merchant agreement before you make a commitment.
Final Thoughts: Managing Assessment Fees
Now that you understand what you need to know about assessment fees and how to manage them, it’s time to speak to your merchant service provider about the fees you pay. There’s never been a better time to clarify your existing assessment fees!
- CNBC. “Here’s the difference between a credit card network and card issuer“. Accessed June 3, 2022.
- WalletHub. “What is the most widely accepted credit card“. Accessed June 3, 2022.
- Dharma Merchant Services. “What are card brand (NABU, assessment) fees?“. Accessed June 3, 2022.
- Debt.com. “Dvorkin On Debt: Credit Cards Overtake Cash For The First Time Ever“. Accessed June 3, 2022.