Understanding Interchange

Find out what interchange is and the value it delivers

What is interchange?

Interchange is a small fee paid by a merchant's bank (acquirer) to a cardholder's bank (issuer) to compensate the issuer for the value and benefits that merchants receive when they accept electronic payments. It enables banks that issue electronic payments to deliver tremendous value to merchants, governments and consumers.

Interchange helps maximize the value delivered to all stakeholders


Merchants benefit from guaranteed payment, increased sales and lower processing costs than those associated with paper payments such as cash and checks. Electronic payments also provide them with the quality to attract and retain customers with a fast and efficient buying experience. 


Governments experience significant efficiencies while promoting financial inclusion when they distribute social benefits, collect receivables and enable services via electronic payments.

  • Electronic payments help safeguard against waste, fraud and abuse
  • Using electronic payments to deliver social benefits is more efficient and secure
  • Black and grey economies fueled by untraceable and untaxable cash payments flourish where electronic payments use is low



Convenience and safety, increased opportunity for financial inclusion, access to rewards and incentives and the choice of thousands of innovative credit, debit and prepaid payment products are among the many benefits consumers derive from electronic payments.

  • Payments allow consumers to access money whenever and wherever they want
  • Interchange makes it possible for issuers to provide consumers with interest-free periods on credit cards
  • Electronic payments provide consumers with a more secure and efficient way to pay - whether in-person, online or in-app

Our role 

Mastercard does not earn revenue from interchange.

Where not fully regulated by the government, Mastercard sets interchange rates based on the value delivered by the issuing bank and the benefits of accepting electronic payments. Setting interchange at the right level is important because if interchange rates are set too high, merchants may choose not to accept cards; and, if interchange is set too low, issuing banks have no incentive to cover the risks of issuing payment cards.

Setting interchange rates at the appropriate level also helps ensure that both issuers and acquirers deliver services that optimize the effectiveness of the payments system and spur development of innovative payment solutions.

Flexible interchange rates make it possible for electronic payments to deliver maximum value at the lowest cost for both merchants and consumers. Interchange also promotes credit availability for small businesses and is a key driver for financial inclusion when set at the optimal level.