Card Scheme Rules

This information is intended to summarise the primary rules and regulations contained in the International Rule Books of the Card Schemes as amended from time to time (the “Rules”) so as to enable Merchants to operate within those Rules. For the avoidance of doubt, the Rules always prevail over this information in the event of any dispute.

Copies of the Visa and Mastercard and other key documentation can be found at the following links:

The Payment Schemes have the right, either in law or in equity, to enforce any rules pertaining to the relevant Payment Scheme and to prohibit conduct that creates a risk of injury to that Payment Scheme and other stakeholders, or which may adversely affect the integrity of that Payment Scheme’s systems, information, or both.

Display of card scheme symbols

Merchants should display and exhibit (and keep displayed and exhibited) to the general public at each of their points of sale, including website checkout and payment page(s), at which cards are accepted for payment for product(s), such identification symbols or decals as are approved or supplied and updated by the Acquirer/Processor from time to time.

Display and use of logos, artwork and language to indicate acceptance of applicable payment scheme brands must be in accordance with payment scheme rules and as advised by the Acquirer/Processor.

At no time should a merchant indicate or infer that they are a member or client of that payment system, nor should they indicate that their activities are endorsed or sponsored by the payment system.

Cardholder authority

Merchants should always obtain authority to debit the cardholder’s account for each sale. It is the Merchant’s sole responsibility to secure the authority of the cardholder and the Merchant is responsible for producing evidence satisfactory to the Acquirer / Processor that authority was sought and obtained for debiting/crediting the cardholder’s account.

In the event of a subsequent customer dispute, Merchants should retain documentary evidence of customer participation and dispatch of the approved product(s) or services(s) purchased or downloaded, as applicable for digital goods. Merchants should take all reasonable steps to avoid customer disputes and ensure that transparent and working procedures are in place for a customer to query or seek redress for any element of the purchase and/or returns process.

Merchants must adhere to all applicable payment scheme rules to ensure payment transactions, including credits and refunds, are captured and completed successfully. This ensures that a merchant may seek reimbursement for all successfully completed transactions. To minimise payment acceptance risk and transaction disputes, merchants should ensure all applicable and reasonable steps are taken to validate the transaction details and verify the cardholding customer’s participation in the transaction, e.g. through a combination of online transaction authorisation and applicable cardholder verification, including PIN entry for card present chip-read transactions, plus 3D Secure (3DS) for internet payments, whether browser or mobile-initiated.

Terms and conditions of sale

Merchants should at all times clearly display at their points of sale the terms and conditions of sale. Transparency and convenience are key to effective customer service, meeting your legal obligations and operating in accordance with payment system rules.

Merchant points of sale should contain clear details and information about customer service, the merchant contact details and options (including legal entity name, trading name, legal address, business address, email, phone and fax, web chat), currencies accepted. The merchant must ensure that all customer contact channels are operational and sufficiently resourced with appropriately trained and empowered staff.

The merchant must indicate its shipping/delivery policy as well as its customer refund/returns policy.

Where relevant, the merchant must clearly indicate applicable and valid licenses or permissions, with use of approved symbols, artwork or language, to perform the sale of goods and/or services. In the event of customer/merchant legal dispute, the merchant must indicate the legal jurisdiction under which it is governed and any legal action will be heard.

Merchants should also comply with all requirements and guidelines in respect of Internet payments issued by the Bank/Processor or any Card Scheme together with all legal and regulatory requirements that apply from time to time.

A merchant must not at any time attempt to complete a transaction where:

The transaction will be processed for or on-behalf of another merchant or individual, or the sale of specific goods and/or services, that are not included in the payment processing agreement with the merchant’s acquirer and/or processor

The transaction may be illegal in either the country jurisdiction of the merchant and/or the cardholding customer, e.g. restriction on the provision of goods/services for sale and age verification

A card issuer or payment provider has declined transaction authorisation

Confirmation of the legitimate participation of the genuine cardholder is not reasonably obtained

The transaction details are not in accordance with the prior agreement(s) of the cardholding customer.

Merchants should clearly inform the cardholder that they are committing to payment before they select to continue with any action that should result in a payment to the Merchant. Merchants should afford the cardholder an unambiguous option to cancel the payment at this juncture. The Acquirer/Processor may investigate any complaint, which it receives from a cardholder directly or indirectly about the Merchant and should be entitled to require that the Merchant amends and/or clarify the terms and conditions of sale immediately upon the receipt of a notice from the Acquirer/Processor to this effect.

If the Merchant processes recurring sales, the Merchant should offer an online cancellation facility to cardholders. Merchants should notify cardholders at the outset that subsequent charges will be debited to their card for such recurring payments, the frequency and amount of such payments and the options to cancel such payments.

Similar processes must be indicated where the merchant provides, and the customer agrees to, instalment transactions.

Subject to applicable legislation and payment scheme rules, a merchant must not apply discriminatory surcharges or fees to a transaction or a customer. Merchants should not directly or indirectly require any cardholder to pay a surcharge, to pay any part of the fees or Merchant Service Charge, whether through any increase in price or otherwise, or to pay any separate charge in connection with the transaction in which a card is used. A surcharge is any fee, charged directly or indirectly, deemed by the Payment Schemes to be associated with the use of a card that is not charged if another payment method is used. Merchants may not engage in acceptance practices that discriminate against, or discourage the use of a specific card brand in favour of any other card brand or payment method that is also accepted. Note: specific exceptions exist, subject to payment scheme rules, e.g. the acceptance of identified commercial card programmes.

Performance monitoring

The merchant’s acquirer and/or processor, subject to payment scheme obligations and their own risk policies, will monitor both transaction and merchant performance. Excessive levels of unacceptable or unexplained trading activity, including issuer authorisation declines, suspicious transaction activity, confirmed fraud, refunds, customer disputes leading to chargebacks, as well as spikes in transaction activity are subject to an Account Review by the Acquirer/Processor.

Such a review may require onsite investigations, urgent corrective actions, operating restrictions and/or a corrective action plan to avoid specific risks, operating expense or non-compliance.

For further information, please refer to our Terms and Conditions.


The merchant’s refund policy will determine how the use of refunds will be applied to address operational transaction errors, customer service issues and prevent avoidable chargebacks. Refunds (in any form) are not permitted to Mastercard or Visa cards for the payment of winnings on gaming/gambling transactions.

For further information on the use of Original Credit transactions, please refer to our Terms and Conditions.

Refunds to a card account, when there has been no corresponding sale on that same card are not permitted under the Payment Scheme Rules. The Merchant should only process Refunds where there is a corresponding sale and then only up to the value of that sale and no more. Merchant’s refund policy and procedures will also determine the necessary steps where the original payment card details are no longer applicable, e.g. through card replacement.

Each Refund must be processed in the original sale currency and to the value of the original sale or part thereof (at the rate of exchange prevailing at the time of the Refund as advised by the Bank/Processor if applicable).

Transaction invalidity, chargebacks, and disputed sales

The card Issuer reserves the right not to honour transactions from the Merchant, for instances when the submission provided by the Merchant to the Acquirer/Processor does not comply with the specifications referred to in Payment Scheme Rules.

A sale/purchase transaction may be invalid if:

  • The original transaction is disputed by the account holder as not performed or authorised by the cardholder, and the Merchant is unable to prove to the satisfaction of the Acquirer/Processor that the debit of the cardholder’s relevant account was authorised by the cardholder; or
  • It is split into two or more connected sales; or
  • Incurred, where the card issuer and/or the cardholder to whose account that the charge is made to, disputes in writing to their card Issuer, the authenticity of the sale; or
  • In respect of which the original receipt or copy thereof was requested in writing by the Acquirer/Processor but not supplied by the Merchant within a reasonable timescale; or
  • Product(s) were not dispatched to the address held on file by the card Issuer and the cardholder disputes in writing the receipt of such product(s); or
  • The copy of the sale receipt presented to the Acquirer/Processor is inconsistent with the copy of the sale receipt provided to the cardholder; or
  • Previously submitted to the Acquirer/Processor, e.g. a duplicate transaction in error; or
  • The card has expired or not yet become valid at the time of the sale; or
  • It does not contain a valid card account number assigned by the appropriate Issuer; or
  • In violation of the law or currency regulations as applied to card payments in the country in which the transaction was incurred or the country of the cardholder; or
  • The total amount of the sale does not agree with the sum of the individual approved product(s) purchased; or
  • Presented to the Acquirer/Processor in a currency other than that of the original sale or not as agreed by the cardholding customer at the time of completing the transaction; or
  • The Merchant has not provided the product(s) and/or services purchased by the cardholder in accordance with the agreement of the customer, e.g. not as described or not as ordered.

In the event that the total value and /or volume of invalid transactions, e.g. disputed, confirmed fraud or charged-back, effected by the Merchant exceeds a level that the Acquirer/Processor considers excessive or unreasonable, the Acquirer/Processor reserves the right to instruct the Merchant to:

  • Cease operations that are leading to customer service issues and excessive customer disputes
  • Cease operations that may or will lead to the merchant, and the acquirer/processor, being identified on applicable payment scheme non-compliance reporting
  • Implement new / additional anti-fraud and risk management measures
  • Implement new / additional procedure sand practices to avoid situations that could lead to customer service issues
  • Provide a realistic action plan that will lead to the correction of those issues, practices and procedures leading to higher than necessary levels of invalid transactions.
  • Failure of a merchant to comply with the above requirements, to deploy corrective action within a mutually agreed timeframe or to address the problem transactions may lead to further operating restrictions being deployed by the acquirer/processor or in extreme situations, the immediate termination of the Merchant Agreement.
  • Where required of the Merchant, and for legitimate purposes, the Merchant should provide reasonable and timely co-operation and access to the Acquirer/Processor, the Acquirer/Processor’s authorised agents, law enforcement or other applicable local investigators regarding suspected fraud or other criminal activity.


Merchants are strongly advised to monitor chargeback activity and investigate them down to customer and account level for learning points and corrective action.

The merchant has the right and opportunity to defend itself against invalidly presented chargebacks.

If the Merchant fails to notify the Bank/Processor that it disputes a chargeback within the specified period, of receipt of the Bank/Processor’s notice, the Bank/Processor may pass the debit to the Merchant and the Merchant forfeits their right of dispute.


The Payment Scheme rules are there to set-out the ground rules and protect all stakeholder participants in the transaction processing environment. Adherence to the rules and transparency in the payments process will ensure customer service issues are effectively managed.

Merchants must consistently demonstrate their understanding and compliance with such rules and other requirements as identified by the Acquirer/Processor. In case of doubt, please refer to Judopay or your Acquirer.