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Today credit cards have found massive usage due to the convenience they offer. Unlike the old days, you do not have to carry cash all the time. Whenever you go out for shopping, all you need to do is take your credit card with you, shop whatever you want, swipe your credit card at merchant’s machine and walk out with your purchase. Simple, isn't it? In addition to the simplicity, Card issuers offer many type of benefits like cash back, reward points, interest free credit and discount offers on purchases made at select stores. All this makes it attractive to use a credit card in lieu of cash for your purchases. If you are wondering, "What happens after I swipe my card at merchant’s machine?", then read on to know more.
When you hand over your credit card to the cashier to pay for your purchases he takes it and swipes it in the merchant's point of sale (POS) system. This system is connected to the merchant's bank via a communication link. This POS system helps in verifying your data by using an electronic verification system. The details verified include the validity of your card and the availability of sufficient balance on your credit card to pay for the purchases.
Once your details are transmitted to the merchant's bank, they are sent to your bank which then authorizes the payment if all the details are in order. This authorization is then sent to the merchant's bank, which then blocks the amount from your credit limit so as to reimburse it to the merchant later on. The authorization generates an approval code and is transmitted to the merchant. This code has to be keyed in by the cashier, after which two copies of charge slip are generated. This charge slip is your agreement to pay your issuing bank the amount of purchase. You then sign one copy of the charge slip and take the other one with you, along with your purchase.
Just like you, there are many others who use credit cards for their purchases. They also generate their own charge slips. All these charge slips are stored in batches and submitted by the merchant to his bank, once a day at the end of the working day. But remember, the nature of the relationship of the merchant with his bank is far different from your relation with your bank. It is called a merchant account and is actually a line of credit rather than a regular account. As per this contract, the bank agrees to undertake collection of payments on behalf of the merchant from his customers' banks. These payments are credited to the merchant's bank accounts after deducting the fees for all the services involved.
When the merchant deposits these batches in his bank, they are sent by the merchant's bank for clearing and settlement through the credit card association. This association charges your purchase amount to your bank and pays the amount to the merchant's bank. The merchant's bank then reimburses this amount to the merchant.
Your bank now charges your purchase amount to your credit card account. On the specific date, your bank will generate an account statement, listing all the credit and debit transactions in your account. If the debits are higher than credits, you have to pay the difference to your bank. You will also be given a due date, which is the last date by which you have to repay your bank in full. Failure to pay off this amount in full by due date will mean you will have to pay late fees as well as interest charges to the bank. These fees and charges can be very high, so be very careful.
Credit cards are a powerful credit tool to help you tide over short term financial requirements. However they must be used judiciously, as any misuse of the credit card can lead to high charges and make you fall into a debt trap, besides dropping your credit score drastically. So the watch word is - BE DISCIPLINED TO REPAY your credit card!
As the time is changing, the credit card providers have started tailoring their cards as per one’s requirements.