Credit Card Processing – The right to know

One could have expected, that in March 2011, when US most embarrassing secrets are all in the open, getting access to Visa and MasterCard rules would be an easy task. Surprisingly as it may sound, this is not the case.

Visa and MasterCard both, disable the general public, as well as merchants, ISOs and IPSPs access to the rules which are only shared with Members. This lack of transparency generates an incoherent processing market, in which, each acquirer, comes up with its own set of processing “rules”, all based, believe it or not, on same rules set by the associations…

From a simple MCC definition, up to complex aggregation models, each acquirer will present its own interpretation and enable a different processing flow.

While most acquirers will enable FX merchants to report under MCC 6211, others will demand same activity to be reported under the notorious MCC 7995.

Same would apply to different aggregation models – some acquirers would religiously argue that aggregation or IPSP models are not supported by the associations, while others would happily enable different models to run through them.

Regional processing is also interpreted differently by different acquirers. Some would request a real entity, within their region, to enable a merchant to process through them. Others would accept a shell entity, or a subsidiary which is not directly related to the processing flow, up to acquirers that believe that merchants coming from different geographies can process through them.

It’s about time the associations publicize the rules, and eliminate the need to use “experts” that have “first hand access” to “the rules” as well as “experience” with different processing “Schemes”.

Until such occurs, the associations’ policy to maintain opacity with regards to credit card processing rules effectively generates a ‘black market’ environment, where neither rules nor logic applies. Inventive solutions can always be reached with the right acquirer.

Gidi Argov, Founder and CEO

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18 Responses to “Credit Card Processing – The right to know”

  1. Dane says:

    Dear Gidi,

    Looking at things from a different angle – stating that I’d hate to sacrifice diversity just for the sake of transparency…

    As I see it, diversity is much needed for the development of the market and adoption of new models, mainly in the higher risk markets. Such diversity can exist only where the rules leave room for interpretation.

    To sum it up, my prescription for a better market contains both transparency and diversity!


  2. CCPrUs says:

    Can’t argue with that :)

    I too would like to go for it all…

  3. Roy says:

    What is MCC?

  4. CCPrUs says:

    MCC stands for Merchant Category Code – a 4 digit number used to classify a business by the type of goods or services it provides.

  5. Brian says:

    I thought that the 4 digit number used for merchant classification is called SIC – not MCC

  6. CCPrUs says:

    Brian – you are correct!

    The ‘Standard Industrial Classification’ (SIC) is a similar 4 digit code system used by the US government for merchant classification purposes.

    The SIC system was largely replaced by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) – a 6 digits system used in the: US, Canada & Mexico.

    MCC, SIC & NAICS all classify merchants by industry categories, however the one used by Visa and MasterCard is the MCC system.

  7. Todd Nelson says:

    Hi Gidi,

    I’ve been in the industry for quite a while. You’re are absolutely correct about MC/Visa not letting anyone other than Members see the rules.

    The thing that absolutely makes me want to pull my hair out though is the fact that the associations have no problem passing out fines (in the tens of thousands of dollars) for breaking the rules! This just seems crazy.

    It’s kind of like getting a speeding ticket on a highway that doesn’t have a posted speed limit.

  8. Steven says:


    This Steven. I have submitted my article with the Title : “Does credit card consolidation affect your credit score in any way?” for review in your site. If you have reviewed my article please post it.

  9. CCPrUs says:

    Hi Steven,

    Thanks for submitting an article for review!

    Though debt consolidation is indeed an important issue cardholders in debt should consider, it is of little interest to merchants straggling with card processing.

    As our blog is all about helping merchants to process cards, we cannot post the suggested article.

    BTW – Very nice article :)


  10. Sharon Amit says:

    Hi Gidi.

    I searched the web and couldn’t find a short divisional/two digits master MCC/SIC/NAICS list.

    Can you please provide such a master list?



  11. CCPrUs says:

    Hi Sharon,

    There’s little CCPrUs wouldn’t do for our loyal readers…

    See the below two comments:
    • Divisional MCC List
    • Master two digits MCC List


  12. CCPrUs says:

    Divisional MCC list:

    A. 01-09 Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
    B. 10-14 Mining
    C. 15-17 Construction
    D. 20-39 Manufacturing
    E. 40-49 Transportation, communications, electric, gas, and sanitary service
    F. 50-51 Wholesale trade
    G. 52-59 Retail trade
    H. 60-67 Finance, insurance, and real estate
    I. 70-89 Services
    J. 91-97 Public administration
    K. 99 Nonclassifiable establishments

    Gidi Argov, Founder and CEO

  13. CCPrUs says:

    Master two digits MCC list:

    DIVISION A. Agriculture, forestry, and fishing

    01 Agricultural production-crops
    02 Agricultural production-livestock and animal specialties
    07 Agricultural services
    08 Forestry
    09 Fishing, hunting, and trapping

    DIVISION B. Mining

    10 Metal mining
    12 Coal mining
    13 Oil and gas extraction
    14 Mining and quarrying of nonmetallic minerals, except fuels

    DIVISION C. Construction

    15 Building construction-general contractors and operative builders
    16 Heavy construction other than building construction-contractors
    17 Construction-special trade contractors

    DIVISION D. Manufacturing

    20 Food and kindred products
    21 Tobacco products
    22 Textile mill products
    23 Apparel and other finished products made from fabrics material
    24 Lumber and wood products, except furniture
    25 Furniture and fixtures
    26 Paper and allied products
    27 Printing, publishing, and allied industries
    28 Chemicals and allied products
    29 Petroleum refining and related industries
    30 Rubber and miscellaneous plastics products
    31 Leather and leather products
    32 Stone, clay, glass, and concrete products
    33 Primary metal industries
    34 Fabricated metal products, except machinery and transportation
    35 Industrial and commercial machinery and computer equipment
    36 Electronic and electrical equipment and components, except computer
    37 Transportation equipment
    38 Measuring, analyzing and controlling instruments; photographic
    39 Miscellaneous manufacturing industries

    DIVISION E. Transportation, communications, electric, gas, and sanitary

    40 Railroad transportation
    41 Local and suburban transit and highway passenger transportation
    42 Motor freight transportation and warehousing
    43 United states postal service
    44 Water transportation
    45 Transportation by air
    46 Pipelines, except natural gas
    47 Transportation services
    48 Communications
    49 Electric, gas, and sanitary services

    DIVISION F. Wholesale trade

    50 Wholesale trade – durable goods
    51 Wholesale trade – nondurable goods

    DIVISION G. Retail trade

    52 Building materials, hardware, garden supply, and mobile home
    53 General merchandise stores
    54 Food stores
    55 Automotive dealers and gasoline service stations
    56 Apparel and accessory stores
    57 Home furniture, furnishings, and equipment stores
    58 Eating and drinking places
    59 Miscellaneous retail

    DIVISION H. Finance, insurance, and real estate

    60 Depository institutions
    61 Nondepository credit institutions
    62 Security and commodity brokers, dealers, exchanges, and services
    63 Insurance carriers
    64 Insurance agents, brokers, and service
    65 Real estate
    67 Holding and other investment offices

    DIVISION I. Services

    70 Hotels, rooming houses, camps, and other lodging places
    72 Personal services
    73 Business services
    75 Automotive repair, services, and parking
    76 Miscellaneous repair services
    78 Motion pictures
    79 Amusement and recreation services
    80 Health services
    81 Legal services
    82 Educational services
    83 Social services
    84 Museums, art galleries, and botanical and zoological gardens
    86 Membership organizations
    87 Engineering, accounting, research, management, and related services
    88 Private households
    89 Services, not elsewhere classified

    DIVISION J. Public administration

    91 Executive, legislative, and general government, except finance
    92 Justice, public order, and safety
    93 Public finance, taxation, and monetary policy
    94 Administration of human resource programs
    95 Administration of environmental quality and housing programs
    96 Administration of economic programs
    97 National security and international affairs

    DIVISION K. Nonclassifiable establishments

    99 Nonclassifiable establishments

    Gidi Argov, Founder and CEO

  14. Christena says:

    Where can I get the full MCC list?

  15. CCPrUs says:

    Merchant Category Codes are provided by the associations to the general public. Here are the Merchant Category Codes, provided by Visa.

  16. George says:

    He who smiles in a crisis has found someone to blame…

  17. Louis says:

    Unlike willful blindness, intentional opacity enables acquirers the needed flexibility to react to business opportunities, best serving the interests of acquirers and associations alike.

    As long as the rules are only shared among members, a member might take a calculated business risk, which might or might not be shared with the associations… The associations have the right to accept the operated workflow, fine the acquirer or cancel the membership altogether.

  18. Disney Card says:

    Best serving the interests of acquirers and associations alike.

    Disney Dollars

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