What is a Card Association?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2019
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A card association is a network or group of banks that process credit or payment cards that are related to a specific card type. In some cases, the cards will carry only the specific brand associated with the network, while at other times the cards may be issued under the name of the issuing or acquiring banks along with the brand name. Networks of this type help to establish payment systems that allow consumers to obtain payment cards through a specific institution and use those cards for purchases at any location that accepts that particular brand.

The function of the card association greatly enhances the process of electronic commerce around the world. Thanks to the fact that several brands are known and accepted just about everywhere in the world, associations of this type make it possible for someone who obtains a credit card from a local bank in the United States to utilize the credit assigned to that account while visiting another country. In like manner, a card that is issued through a bank that is part of a card association in the United Kingdom can be used for purchases in nations across the world.


One of the more popular options today is for members of the card association to co-brand the cards they issue through the network. In some cases, an issuing bank may develop a specific name for the card that is then coupled with the brand related to the association. A slightly different approach calls for utilizing the name of the bank along with the brand. Both these approaches are common with credit and debit cards issued by various financial institutions, and often help to serve as another means of getting the name of the institution in front of consumers who may in turn be interested enough to look into the range of financial services offered by the bank.

Gift cards are another example of payment cards that may be issued through the auspices of a card association. Cards of this type are typically co-branded, allowing the issuing institution as well as the brand to receive some recognition from consumers who purchase and use the cards. Typically, cards of this type are loaded with a specific amount and cannot be reloaded with additional funds at a later date. In practical use, these gift cards function in a manner similar to credit or debit cards, although the total amount of purchase cannot exceed the current balance on the account.


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