Credit card issuers: What to know

If you’ve ever applied for a credit card, then you’ve worked with a credit card issuer. Credit card issuers, along with credit card networks, play a big part in how credit cards work.

A credit card issuer is a financial institution that offers loans in the form of credit cards. As part of the deal, an issuer’s cards may come with rewards. Keep reading to learn more.

Key takeaways

  • A credit card issuer is a lender that offers credit cards.
  • As part of the application and approval process, issuers determine credit limits, interest rates, rewards and more.
  • Card issuers work with credit card networks like Mastercard® and Visa® that facilitate credit card transactions between issuers and merchants.

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What is a credit card issuer?

Credit card issuers are institutions—like banks and credit unions—that supply credit cards to consumers. They’re the lender a cardholder borrows money from. Capital One is an example of a credit card issuer.

An issuer’s name, logo or contact information is usually displayed on the card. Cards from businesses like airlines, hotels and retail stores are often backed by card issuers. Those kinds of cards are referred to as co-branded cards, and they may show both the issuer’s and partner’s logos.

Photo of Quicksilver Secured credit card from Capital One.

Quicksilver Secured credit card from Capital One.

Credit card issuer vs. credit card network

Credit card issuers and credit card networks aren’t the same—although they often work together to facilitate credit card use. A credit card network processes transactions made with a credit card and may charge processing fees.

Credit card issuers typically partner with one of the four main credit card networks—American Express®, Discover®, Mastercard and Visa. American Express and Discover are both credit card networks and issuers. A network’s logo is also often shown on the front or back of the card.

How do credit card issuers work?

Credit card issuers offer credit cards to consumers and businesses in the form of revolving credit.

A card issuer reviews an applicant’s creditworthiness, including their credit score and credit history. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, “Credit scores are used to determine the interest rate and credit limit you receive.”

If the issuer accepts an applicant, they’ll share a credit card agreement. A credit card agreement usually outlines terms like:

Issuers typically send cardholders a monthly credit card statement that lists payment information and a summary of the account, including things like balances, transactions, charges, fees, available credit and account notifications.

What benefits do credit card issuers offer cardholders?

Eligible cardholders might be able to access benefits from their credit card network. But issuers can also set credit card benefits, including:


Rewards programs may include things like the ability to earn cash back or travel miles, which can then be redeemed for things like gift cards and other options.

Fraud prevention and protection

Issuers like Capital One have security features in place to help cardholders protect themselves from fraud—including fraud alerts, instant purchase notifications, a card lock option and paperless statements. Eno, your Capital One assistant, also helps protect credit card accounts by monitoring charges and creating virtual card numbers for shopping online.

And if you need help, a card issuer’s customer service team can help cardholders navigate other concerns.

Credit reporting

Credit cards can be great tools to build credit. But that’s only when they’re used responsibly, which means doing things like paying on time every month and only using the credit you need. This information makes it to credit bureaus’ credit reports thanks to issuers. But issuers also report things like late payments and other derogatory marks.

Credit card issuer example

As a credit card issuer, Capital One offers:

Credit card issuers in a nutshell

Credit card issuers extend credit to cardholders—making it possible to spend what you need, earn rewards and build credit scores. Issuers are different from credit card networks, although cardholders can also tap into benefits from their network. And with card issuer security features in place, cardholders can be protected from fraud.

Whether you love to travel, dine out or earn cash back on everyday items, there’s a Capital One card for you. Compare credit card rewards and get pre-approved with no impact on your credit.

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