The issuing bank is the institution that backs the cardholder’s credit card or other payment method. Typically, issuers are major commercial banks, e.g. Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, etc. When the cardholder swipes, dips, or enters credit card data online, the issuing bank pays the charge and bills the cardholder.

Plainly stated, this is the bank that “issues” payment.

Issuing banks rely on card brands like Visa and Mastercard to facilitate the acceptance of payments across global networks. Most credit cards display a logo for both an issuing bank and a card brand. “Private label” credit cards, as well as cards issued by retail services, are ultimately backed by an issuing bank as well.

Some card issuers, like American Express and Discover, operate differently. These major brands not only issue credit cards, they maintain their own payment networks independent of Visa or MasterCard.

In cases of fraud, the issuing bank is the party that demands payment is returned on behalf of the cardholder.