Visa, Account Identifiers and EMV Acceptance

Sometimes Visa can’t get out of their own way.  In June 2016, Visa issued attempted to “clarify” merchant policies and in the process managed to slow down EMV adoption, anger merchants and frustrate consumers.  Nicely done.

The EMV chip on your Visa, Mastercard or Discover contains two account identifiers (AIDs).  The AID provides information necessary to route the transaction across a payment network.  Two standards exist:  a global AIDs and the US Common Debit AIDs.

  • Global AIDs allow access to only one of the global payment networks.
  • The US Common standard allows access to all US debit networks enabled by the issuer.  There are many payment networks in the US including:  AFFN, ATH, CO-OP, Jeanie, NETS, NYCE, Presto!, PULSE, SHAZAM, and STAR.

The general approach in the industry based on Dodd-Frank regulations is to use the US Common standard for all debit transactions inside the US and the global AIDs for all cross-border transactions.

As EMV terminals rolled out in 2013,  the goal was to permit continued competition and choice by allowing a merchant to choose between global AIDs and US Common standards for routing debit card traffic.

Fast-forward to June 2016.  Does this screen look familiar?


The Visa debit choice required a signature and routed your debit card across Visa’s global AID, overriding the merchant debit payment network.

The bottom line here, like most bottom lines, comes down to money.  Payment networks charge fees.  More use, more fees.

Consumer frustration and complaints to the FTC helped nudge Visa back in the direction of fair competition.    Visa had to back-track in November, 2016.  Read the statement HERE.     You should no longer find the screen prompts in use.




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