Today we do a deeper dive into the world of processors. They handle the money — they’re very important, so it’s important for merchants to have some insider knowledge about them and the merchant services they provide.


The world of processing is split between two realms: front-end authorizations and the back-end clearinghouses that settle the transaction. Front-end processors authenticate that the cardholder and merchant are who they say they are and that they consent to the transaction; they’re the gatekeepers. The back-end processors handle the actual money as it moves from customer to merchant. Once the front-end authentication requirements are met, they open the gates and the back-end processors move the money through them.

Most merchants never deal directly with the actual processors; high-risk merchants absolutely should not deal directly with them. Direct processors are the megalithic handful of conglomerates like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank… literally the too-big-to-fail. They’re also too big to deal with merchants effectively as processors. Which is why most of us deal with agents who are contracted to sell the front- and back-end processing.

More About Merchant Services


These agents are known by a few terms: Independent Sales Organizations (ISOs), Member Service Providers (MSPs) and Agents. ISOs are contracted to VISA, MSPs to MasterCard, and Sales Agents are like a subcontractor providing said services for the ISO/MSP. Collectively, all three are referred to as “merchant services“. They are essentially the processor as far as the merchant is concerned. The difference between the processors and merchant services, like for support issues, is the difference between a labyrinthian AI call center and an actual person who buys you lunch from time to time.

Since these ISOs, MSPs, and agents exist solely to serve merchants and their processing needs, you should be getting the absolute best from them. If you’re not, ChargebackHelp can help. With decades of experience with processors, ChargebackHelp has built a solid network of reliable processors, particularly for high-risk merchants. Let us help you optimize your merchant processing services. Drop us a chat down on the right, shoot us an email, or go old-school and call us 1.800.975.9905.