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Guide:

TOP Card Issuing Providers

Payment cards play a key role in facilitating seamless transactions, providing individuals and businesses with a convenient and efficient means of financial interaction. Recent years have witnessed a significant transformation in the realm of money transfers, with the rise of card issuing playing a primary role. This comprehensive guide aims to provide you with a deep understanding of card issuing, card types, the latest trends, a curated list of top card issuing providers in 2024, and how to choose a card issuing provider.

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Author: Alena Tomchuk

Last updated December 28

Contents

What is a card issuer?

A card issuer is a financial institution or a company that issues credit or debit cards to consumers. These institutions play a crucial role in the payment card industry by providing individuals with a means of making electronic transactions. The card issuer is responsible for issuing the card, managing the cardholder's account, and facilitating transactions.

 

Issuers provide cards to account holders on behalf of major card networks like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. Mostly, issuers act as go-betweens, giving cards to users and handling the accounts connected to those cards.

What do card issuers do? 

  • Card issuance. The card issuer is responsible for creating and distributing payment cards, which can be credit cards, debit cards, or prepaid cards. These cards are typically branded with logos of major payment networks like Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or others.

  • Account management. The card issuer maintains and manages the financial accounts associated with each card. This includes recording transactions, calculating balances, and sending periodic statements to cardholders.

  • Credit risk assessment. In the case of credit cards, the card issuer assesses the creditworthiness of applicants before issuing a card. This involves evaluating an individual's credit history, income, and other relevant factors to determine the credit limit and terms of the card.

  • Security. Card issuers implement security measures to protect cardholder information and prevent fraudulent activities. This includes PINs (Personal Identification Numbers), CVVs (Card Verification Values), and advanced fraud detection systems.

  • Customer service. Card issuers provide customer support services to address cardholder inquiries, handle issues related to transactions or account management, and assist with lost or stolen cards.

  • Transaction processing. When a cardholder makes a purchase, the card issuer processes the transaction, verifies the transaction's authenticity, and facilitates the transfer of funds between the cardholder's account and the merchant's account.

  • Fee structure. Card issuers may charge fees to cardholders for various services, such as annual fees, late payment fees, and cash advance fees. Additionally, they may earn revenue through interchange fees, which are fees paid by merchants for accepting card payments.

According to Forbes Adviser, there are over 80 active card issuers in the U.S. in 2023. Typically, banks and credit unions issue cards in the US. Some significant bank card issuers are American Express, Bank of America, Barclays, Capital One, Chase, and Discover. Penfed Federal Credit Union and Navy Federal are among the largest credit unions that issue credit cards.

Issuers vs. card networks

A card network (often referred to as a card scheme or payment network), is a financial infrastructure that enables the processing and authorization of electronic transactions between merchants, card issuers, and cardholders. These networks facilitate the flow of information and funds when a payment card, such as a credit or debit card, is used for a purchase. The main credit card networks are American Express, UnionPay, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa. Notably, American Express and Discover stand out as they not only operate as networks but also issue their own cards.

What do card networks do? 

  • Authorization and processing. Card networks play a crucial role in authorizing and processing payment transactions. When a cardholder makes a purchase, the network verifies the transaction's validity and checks if the cardholder has sufficient funds (in the case of debit cards) or credit (in the case of credit cards).

  • Communication channels. Card networks establish communication channels between the various entities involved in a transaction, including the merchant, the cardholder's bank (issuer), and the acquiring bank (merchant's bank). This communication ensures a secure and efficient transfer of information.

  • Global reach. Major card networks, such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover, operate on a global scale. They facilitate transactions internationally, allowing cardholders to make purchases in different countries and currencies.

  • Security protocols. Card networks implement security measures to protect cardholder data and prevent fraud. This includes technologies like EMV (chip cards), tokenization, and sophisticated fraud detection systems.

  • Interchange fees. Card networks set interchange fees, which are fees paid by the merchant's bank to the cardholder's bank for each transaction. These fees help support the infrastructure and services provided by the card network.

  • Branding and standards. Card networks establish standards for card design, transaction processes, and security features. They also contribute to the branding of payment cards, often appearing on the card alongside the issuing bank's branding.

The difference between card issuer and card network. 

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What is BIN sponsorship?

BIN sponsorship allows fintech businesses to access payment processing and card management services from major card networks like Visa or Mastercard without undergoing the complex process of joining a major card scheme. Acting as intermediaries, BIN sponsors, which are usually card issuers, expedite the card issuing process, offering a faster and more cost-effective route to market for new card products. They handle payment processing, regulatory compliance, and adherence to card scheme rules, enabling fintech companies to focus on their products without forming a direct relationship with the card scheme.

A Bank Identification Number (BIN) is the initial sequence on a payment card, identifying the card issuer and ensuring proper payment routing. BIN sponsors, as members of major card schemes, offer services to fintech businesses without the need for time-consuming regulatory processes. This intermediary role is crucial in the card issuing process, connecting card schemes with smaller fintech firms. Businesses in need of a BIN sponsor include digital banking startups, prepaid card providers, or those seeking to issue loyalty cards.

The role of a card issuer in a payment process

Card issuers play a pivotal role in the payment lifecycle by issuing credit and debit cards to customers and managing associated accounts. We provide a simplified overview of the various participants in the payments value chain. 

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Here are some key functions of card issuers:

  • Card application and approval involve card issuers assessing customers' creditworthiness, income, and other factors to decide whether to approve their application for a credit or debit card.

  • After approval, card activation follows: the card issuer dispatches the physical card to the customer, who must then activate it before using it.

  • Transactions. Customers can make purchases or withdraw cash from ATMs. The card issuer is tasked with processing these transactions and deducting the relevant amounts from the customer's account.

  • Account management involves card issuers overseeing customer accounts for potential fraudulent activity, establishing credit limits, and computing interest and fees on outstanding balances.

  • Payment processing. When a customer makes a purchase, the transaction is routed through a card payment network linking the card issuer, the merchant, and the customer's bank. The card issuer then decides to approve or decline the transaction based on available funds and other factors.

Types of cards used in the banking system

There are several types of cards, each designed for specific purposes and financial needs. Here are some of the most common types:

  • Credit cards. Credit cards allow cardholders to borrow funds up to a predetermined credit limit.The card issuer establishes this limit. Cardholders can use the card for purchases within the credit limit and are required to make payments to the issuer, covering the borrowed amount along with applicable interest and fees. Credit cards are the most popular type in the card industry. They are widely used for everyday purchases, emergencies, and building credit history.

  • Debit cards. Debit cards are linked to a cardholder's bank account and allow direct access to available funds. When a purchase is made, the amount is immediately deducted from the associated checking or savings account. They are used for everyday transactions, and they are often issued with checking accounts. 

  • Prepaid cards. Prepaid cards are loaded with a specific amount of money in advance. Cardholders can only spend the loaded amount, making them a convenient and budget-friendly option. They are useful for budgeting, travel, or as an alternative to traditional banking for those without a bank account.

  • Forex cards. Forex cards, also known as travel cards, are prepaid cards specifically designed for international travel. They allow users to load multiple currencies onto a single card, providing a convenient and secure way to make transactions abroad with currency conversion at the prevailing exchange rates.

  • Charge cards. Similar to credit cards, charge cards allow users to make purchases without immediate payment. However, the entire balance must be paid in full by the due date; there is no option to carry a balance over time. They are commonly used for business expenses and by individuals who prefer to pay off their balance monthly.

  • Secured cards. Secured credit cards are designed for individuals with limited or poor credit. Cardholders are required to provide a security deposit, which becomes the credit limit. Responsible use can help build or rebuild credit. Geared towards individuals looking to establish or improve their credit history.

  • Business cards. Business credit cards are designed for business expenses. They offer features such as expense tracking, employee cards, and rewards tailored to business needs and used by business owners and employees for company-related expenses.

  • Rewards cards. Rewards cards offer benefits such as cash back, travel rewards, or points for every purchase. These rewards can be redeemed for various perks, such as discounts, travel, or merchandise. Reward cards are popular among individuals who want to earn rewards for their spending.

  • Co-branded cards. Co-branded cards are created in partnership between a card issuer and a specific brand or organization. These cards often offer special discounts, rewards, or perks associated with the partnering brand. 

Card issuing: trends and market overview

According to Juniper Research, surging from 500 million in 2023, the annual issuance of payment cards through digital platforms is projected to hit 1.3 billion by 2027, marking a substantial 170% increase. This notable surge is driven by heightened interest in improving how customers obtain and renew cards from issuers, amid intense competition from digital-only banks and emerging fintechs providing card services.

Traditional banks and financial institutions hold a significant market share in card issuing, utilizing their established customer base, infrastructure, and regulatory compliance for card issuance. However, fintech startups have become influential players in card issuing, leveraging innovative technologies, user-centric experiences, and streamlined processes to cater to niche markets or offer alternative banking solutions.

 

In 2023 card issuers are witnessing several notable trends:

  • Increasing adoption of contactless payments. The growth of contactless payments continues as people value the speed and convenience of transactions without physical contact, supported by technologies like near-field communication (NFC). This trend involves using cards or phones that quickly connect with readers, enhancing security and reducing the need for physical card insertion or PIN entry.

  • Virtual card payments growth. Virtual credit cards, now widely offered by major technology and payment service providers, serve as digital representations of physical cards. These digital cards come equipped with unique numbers, expiration dates, and security codes, enabling users to securely conduct online purchases without needing a physical card. 

  • Digital wallets. The use of digital wallet apps on phones, particularly for in-store purchases, has increased in recent years. Mobile wallets like Google Pay and Apple Pay fall under the broader category of digital wallets, which store payment, gift, and loyalty card information. Offering convenience in transactions, digital wallets, including popular options like PayPal, are on the rise, with a Bloomberg survey predicting that over half of the world's population will use mobile wallets by 2025.

  • Security innovation. The growing preference for digital payments has led to an increase in the demand for secure payment methods, prompting the introduction of advanced security solutions. One such example is 3-D Secure 2.0, a security protocol enhancing the safety of online transactions by instantly verifying customer identification. Additionally, consumer perceptions of payment security are evolving positively with the adoption of user-friendly and secure biometric technologies, including fingerprint scanners, voice, and face recognition systems.

  • Increasing usage of BNPLIncreasing usage of BNPL. The Buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) trend is becoming increasingly popular in consumer finance, aligning with the rise of digital wallets and virtual cards. This payment method provides flexibility and affordability, appealing to consumers seeking more manageable ways to shop. Consumers are increasingly choosing BNPL as their primary payment method.

Find out how Velmie white-label software can help to start your card program 6x faster.

TOP card issuing providers in 2024

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Marqeta stands as a contemporary card issuing platform, offering businesses a diverse array of payment and money management solutions. Within Marqeta's card issuing functionality, businesses can effortlessly create and oversee both virtual and physical debit and credit cards, tailoring their card programs to suit individual needs. Noteworthy features of Marqeta's card issuing platform encompass:

  • Customization. Businesses have the flexibility to devise custom card programs, incorporating elements like spending limits, transaction restrictions, and rewards programs.

  • API-driven approach. Marqeta operates on an API-driven model, facilitating seamless integration of card programs with other systems and services.

  • Advanced fraud protection. The platform is equipped with sophisticated tools for fraud detection and prevention, enhancing security against unauthorized transactions.

Marqeta's card issuing platform empowers businesses with a comprehensive toolkit for crafting and overseeing tailored card programs, prioritizing flexibility, security, and seamless integration with other systems.

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Enfuce is a fintech company that offers a range of services in the payment and banking industry. Their offerings include white-label card issuing, payment processing, digital banking, open banking solutions, risk management, sustainability services, API services for integration, currency conversion, and regulatory compliance assistance. Enfuce's services empower businesses to optimize their financial operations, offer modern payment solutions, and ensure secure and compliant transactions.

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Wallester is a licensed financial institution based in Estonia, specializing in financial digital technology and the issuance of Visa cards. Functioning as a Visa Principal Member, the fintech provides both physical and virtual cards, which can seamlessly integrate with popular contactless payment services like Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and more.

The primary focus of Wallester's operations lies in white-label card issuing, with a notable strength in the employee cards market. Wallester stands out in terms of affordability, offering a cost-effective solution for corporate cards—no registration fees, no card issuing fees, and a complimentary subscription that includes 500 virtual cards and an unlimited number of physical cards.

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Galileo, a leading digital financial services provider since 2001, is a key player in powering fintech companies and financial institutions globally, recently bolstered by its acquisition by SoFi. With a focus on B2B and B2C financial services, Galileo offers a comprehensive suite of payment processing solutions, including card issuing, payment processing, money transfers, ACH payments, loans, and investment services. Leveraging open, ultra-flexible APIs and AI fraud detection, Galileo stands out with preexisting relationships with 20+ issuing banks and a track record of serving major players in the market. The company provides customizable card programs, such as debit, credit, and prepaid cards, which can be personalized to suit the specific requirements of businesses and financial institutions.

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Fiserv, founded in 1984 and headquartered in Wisconsin (USA), offers a diverse range of products, including digital and mobile banking solutions, payments and card processing, risk management, data analytics, and core processing services. Serving clients across various industries, such as banking, credit unions, investment services, insurance, and government, the company provides 24/7 customer support for cardholders, rewards programs, and self-service tools for account management. With operations in over 40 countries and a global workforce of over 44,000, Fiserv is listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange (ticker symbol FISV) and boasts a market capitalization of about $80 billion as of 2023.

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NymCard is a BaaS provider in the MENA region, specializing in embedded finance. It offers a cloud-based or on-site payment issuing platform for Fintechs, large enterprises, and banks in MENA to instantly create, control, and distribute virtual or physical payment cards. NymCard adopts a flexible, locally relevant approach in each country by collaborating with local financial institutions and providing operational support, leveraging a common product for efficiency. The platform accommodates various emerging use cases, such as real-time payments, alternative authorization flows, multi-currency wallets, and buy now pay later offerings. Open, developer-friendly APIs are available on a LIVE Sandbox environment for simulating product configurations before going live. Additionally, PCI widgets support customers in achieving compliance without the need for certification

How to choose a card issuing provider?

When searching for a reliable card issuing company, it's crucial to verify that they fulfill all the necessary requirements vital to your business. Here are key factors to consider:

Functional coverage. The core functionality of a card issuing platform may vary based on the unique requirements of a business or organization. However, typical features encompass card creation and activation, top-up and funding options, as well as transaction monitoring and reporting. Additionally, it's crucial to assess the technology platform offered by the provider, considering its customization capabilities and integration ease with your current systems. Verify that it aligns with your business needs and is scalable to accommodate future growth.

Technical capacity. Financial institutions need to be sure that their chosen payment processor has the technical prowess to handle the escalating volume of daily transactions. Critical considerations involve:

  • Security. Compliance with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) is imperative for data breach prevention, customer data protection, and avoiding penalties. Vendors should offer encryption, tokenization, fraud management, disaster recovery support, SSL certification, and CVV2 verification to enhance transaction security.

  • Cloud capability. As payment processing shifts to cloud-based infrastructure, vendors should enable secure payment processing in the cloud.

  • Data storage. Understanding the vendor's data storage infrastructure, whether they own data centers or use third-party providers, is crucial. Knowledge of the number of centers and transaction copies flowing through the system is essential.

Support and customer service. Streamlining business processes is crucial, and banks should assess a vendor's agility in swiftly deploying new features or programs to meet evolving customer demands. To make informed decisions, banks need to understand the vendor's capability in rapid feature rollout, the specifics included or excluded in the project scope, and the extent of customer support provided. This includes considerations such as on-premises or local support, 24/7 remote customer support, and the overall level of support offered. A collaborative and adaptive partnership between banks and vendors is essential for staying competitive and supporting innovative initiatives.


Total pricing. When selecting a vendor, it's crucial to understand both the explicit and hidden expenses they factor into their pricing structure. While it's widely acknowledged that payment processors incur 2% to 3% fees per transaction based on factors like card type and transaction specifics, banks should also be vigilant about less apparent costs. This includes potential charges for API calls, PDF statements, online reporting, access, and more. In addition to direct and indirect fees, banks must meticulously consider the total cost of ownership (TCO), encompassing expenses related to fees, hardware and software updates, support, opportunity losses due to delays, customer service, change management, operational costs, and beyond. This comprehensive assessment aids banks in strategic budget planning.

Utilizing a card issuing platform offers several benefits for businesses, including:

  • Cost savings. Businesses can avoid the expenses associated with becoming a licensed card issuer or partnering with traditional banks.

  • Control. Greater control over the card issuance process, covering design, features, and transaction monitoring.

  • Customization. Platforms can be tailored to fit specific business needs, integrating seamlessly with other financial or payment services.

  • Speed. Rapid card issuance, enabling businesses to quickly launch new products or services.

  • Scalability. Platforms can easily scale to meet the growing demands of businesses, facilitating the issuance of cards to a large customer base.

Checklist of core card issuing platform features

When evaluating card issuing solutions, it's essential to ensure that they offer a comprehensive set of features to meet businesses' needs. Here's a checklist of features to consider:

  • Account management including API access for account creation, management, and closure? support for different account types (individual/business/joint, savings, checking, multiple bank- or business-based accounts) and management of multiple expense cards out of a single account. 

  • Real-time authorization. Real-time authorization stands out as a crucial feature in card issuing platforms, offering businesses immediate feedback on transactions. This ensures efficient processing, minimizes the chances of declined transactions, and enhances overall customer satisfaction.

  • Digital wallets and mobile payments. Card issuing platforms incorporate digital wallets and mobile payment options, empowering businesses to diversify payment methods, including popular services like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. This variety not only caters to customer preferences but also contributes to improved sales and overall satisfaction.

  • Cash flow management. Card issuing platforms support cash flow management by providing real-time access to financial data. This enables businesses to monitor and make informed decisions about their cash flow, contributing to effective financial management.

  • Expense management. Expense management tools within card issuing platforms simplify expense tracking and reimbursement processes for businesses. This automation saves time and reduces errors, enhancing the accuracy of financial reporting.

  • Security and fraud prevention. Ensuring security, card issuing platforms feature robust risk management and fraud prevention mechanisms. These include real-time alerts and security measures to prevent fraudulent transactions, safeguarding businesses and customers from financial losses.

  • Open APIs for seamless integration. With open APIs, card issuing platforms facilitate seamless integration with other financial tools and services, such as accounting software and banking services. This integration streamlines financial processes, enhancing operational efficiency.

Looking for a card issuing provider?

Reach out to us to see how Velmie can help with cost-efficient card issuing.

Addressing key challenges in card issuing

In the dynamic financial landscape, there are various challenges in card issuing.

  • Fraud and Security. Identity theft, data breaches, and unauthorized transactions pose constant risks. Crad issuing platforms address this challenge through robust security measures, including multi-factor authentication and advanced fraud detection systems.

  • Regulatory compliance. Card issuers navigate a complex regulatory landscape covering consumer protection, data privacy, and anti-money laundering. Adhering to these regulations demands substantial investments in time, talent, and oversight.

  • Technology development. The rapid evolution of technology presents both opportunities and challenges for card issuers. Adapting to innovations like mobile payments, contactless transactions, and blockchain solutions is essential for competitiveness and meeting evolving customer expectations.

  • Shifting consumer demands. Constant changes in consumer preferences and expectations require adaptation from card issuers. To meet evolving needs, issuers must offer tailored rewards programs, integrate with digital wallets, and provide a seamless user interface across all channels.

How to overcome these challenges?

Velmie seeks to address these challenges by offering a next-generation banking software solution with unique attributes:

  • Security and compliance. Velmie banking platform is designed with cutting-edge security and compliance tools to ensure the utmost data protection. The solution is equipped with biometric authentication, data encryption, role-based access control (RBAC), audit trail, and other security features to ensure that users' information remains confidential. It is compliant with GDPR and PCI DSS, ensuring customer data is fully protected and meets European industry standards.

  • Ecosystem. Velmie has built up an extensive network of partners. Our open API platform ensures seamless integrations with payment companies, card issuers, banks, and other providers to implement such services as mobile wallets payments, contactless transactions, and blockchain solutions and ensure instant card issuing and payment processing. 

  • Modular approach. The platform's modular architecture allows for swift adaptation to emerging technologies without disrupting existing operations.

  • Customization and flexibility. Card issuers can customize their card product by selecting the features and services unique to the offering. Our platform also provides an easy path to market with a “build once and grow” model and offers you the flexibility to scale across multiple currencies and different countries without incurring additional costs. The platform supports customizable rewards programs, facilitates integration with digital wallets, and provides a user-friendly interface across various channels, meeting the evolving demands of cardholders.

 

  • End-to-end delivery. Customers don't have to gain the expertise and resources required for system integration and support as it all handled by Velmie.

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Get actionable insights from industry experts on Fintech market trends and opportunities in 2024

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What is a card issuer?
Types of card used in the banking system
Card issuing: trends and market overview
TOP card issuing providers in 2024
How to choose a card issuing provider?
Addressing key challenges in card issuing
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