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The link between merchants and the Financial Intuitions (FIs) responsible for processing payments.

ISOs (Independent Sales Organizations) are third-party entities that act as an intermediary between FIs and merchants that process electronic transactions.

ISOs market and sell electronic payments services of banks and credit card companies. Before doing so they must establish a relationship with a sponsor bank and register with the card brands (Visa and MasterCard) directly or indirectly through their partners. ISOs manage an estimated 80% of all merchant accounts in the US today.

Retail ISOs 

Retail ISOs are resellers who partner with larger wholesale ISOs or processers to offer electronic payment processing services.

They typically focus on sales and customer service while passing on the responsibilities of risk, underwriting, and compliance to their partners. Retail ISOs operate under their partner's registration umbrella.

  • No registration required. 

  • Easy entry to market.

  • Partner manages operational aspects. 

  • Lower entry costs, but less control over pricing. Not a party to the merchant agreement.

Wholesale ISOs

Wholesale ISOs register directly with the card brands and typically manage risk, underwriting and compliance in-house utilizing their own policies and standards. Wholesale ISOs are usually larger, more established organizations.

  • Registration required. 

  • Difficult entry to market.

  • Manages all operational and risk aspects. Added responsibilities and liabilities.

  • Significant entry costs, but higher profits due to more pricing control. Party to the merchant agreement.

ISO & ISV Evolution

As the payments industry evolves, the distinctions between ISOs and ISVs are diminishing. ISOs recognize the advantage of offering value-added software solutions, while simultaneously, ISVs see the merit in adding payment services to their software applications.

  • ISO subvertical integration is becoming increasingly popular.

  • 5 years ago, all point-of-sale (POS) systems were processor agnostic. Only about 20% are today. Integrating payments adds a new revenue stream.


Expert ISO Guidance


Retail and wholesale ISOs each present unique advantages and challenges. Our expertise lies in guiding you to the option that aligns with your organization’s risk profile, desired operational control, and infrastructure investment capacity.

Vendor Assessment & Selection

We recommend ISO providers that match your merchants’ payment processing needs with the right technology, strong industry relationships, reliable support, and adaptable services.

Market Insights

Our relationships with industry players, independent experts, and thought leaders keep us informed about the ISO market, enabling us to provide you with the most current and relevant insights.

Navigate the complexity of payments with confidence

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