Merit 3 (or Merit III) is a Mastercard interchange category that determines credit and debit card processing fees.
Merit 3 is Mastercard’s way of referring to a card-present transaction for most restaurants and retailers. It can actually apply to several different interchange categories based on card type and other details.
This article explains specific Mastercard interchange categories. If you’re not already familiar with interchange, it’s a good idea to start with our piece on how interchange fees work.
- What is Merit 3?
- Merit 3 Rates
- Merit 3 Credit Card Interchange Fees
- Merit 3 Debit and Prepaid Card Interchange Fees
- Merit 3 Interchange Requirements
- Statement Abbreviations
What is Merit 3?
Mastercard uses a number of variables such as card type (credit or debit), card category (core, rewards, etc.) and processing method (card present or card not present) to determine the interchange rate that will apply to a transaction.
Merit 3 (or Merit III) refers to several Mastercard interchange categories for credit and debit card processing fees. It specifically pertains to “card present” transactions. That is, to payments where you physically run the card through a machine. The actual entry method can include swiping a magnetic stripe card, dipping a chip card, or tapping a contactless payment, but it must be processed in one of those manners. It cannot be “keyed” and still qualify for Merit III.
It also applies to multiple card types: consumer credit, debit, and prepaid Mastercards.
In that sense, Merit 3 qualification has more to do with how a transaction is processed than what kind of card is being processed. As noted above, Merit III means that a transaction is processed by using a piece of electronic equipment such as a credit card machine to read and transmit the information on the card’s magnetic strip.
Merit 3 Rates
Since multiple card types have Merit III interchange categories, I’ve broken them down by credit, debit, and prepaid. Additionally, credit splits further into consumer rewards and non-rewards. In both cases, the categories are broken down by tiers, which have an annual minimum volume threshold. Since those are the basis for Merit III, let’s first look at those tiers.
Credit Tier Thresholds
The Merit III minimum yearly thresholds for credit cards are as follows:
- Tier 1: $1.8 billion / year
- Tier 2: $1.25 billion / year
- Tier 3: $750 million / year
Note that these tiers refer to cumulative yearly credit card volume among all types of consumer credit cards. (Including Core, Enhanced, World, World High Value, and World Elite.) If your business does not have annual volume for those tiers, you can expect to receive Merit III Base rates instead.
Keeping your tier in mind, let’s take a look at the interchange rates.
Merit III Credit Card Interchange Fees
Mastercard’s Merit III has categories for both non-rewards cards (called “core”) and rewards cards. (Called “Enhanced,” “World,” “World High Value,” and “World Elite.”)
Consumer Core Merit III Interchange Fees
There are currently four consumer core Merit III interchange categories. However, they’re technically all just “tiers” – your annual volume will affect the categories for which your transactions are eligible.
|Volume Rate||Per-Transaction Fee|
|Merit 3 Base||1.58%||$0.10|
|Merit 3 Tier 1||1.43%||$0.10|
|Merit 3 Tier 2||1.48%||$0.10|
|Merit 3 Tier 3||1.55%||$0.10|
If you don’t have volume to meet the minimum threshold for the lowest tier (tier 3), your eligible Merit III transactions will qualify for the “Base” category.
Consumer Rewards Merit III Interchange Fees
For transactions using a Mastercard that produce “rewards” for cardholders (such as airline miles or cashback) there are different rates and fees. Depending on the rewards card, it may fall into the category Enhanced, World, World High Value, or World Elite. In the table below, you’ll see that the Merit III tiers still apply.
|Enhanced Rate||World Rate||World High Value Rate||World Elite Rate|
|Merit III Base||1.73% + $0.10||1.77% + $0.10||2.20% + $0.10||2.20% + $0.10|
|Merit III Tier 1||1.43% + $0.10||1.53% + $0.10||2.05% + $0.10||2.05% + $0.10|
|Merit III Tier 2||1.48% + $0.10||1.58% + $0.10||2.10% + $0.10||2.10% + $0.10|
|Merit III Tier 3||1.55% + $0.10||1.65% + $0.10||2.15% + $0.10||2.15% + $0.10|
Mastercard’s rewards interchange can look a little complicated. Essentially, you’d just need to know your Merit III tier level, and then only look at that row. The four rewards categories would apply to only the Merit III tier level of your business.
For example, if you accept a card in the “World Elite” rewards category and have transaction volume that qualifies you for Merit III Base, you’ll be charged the amount in the Merit III Base row / World Elite column: 2.20% + $0.10 per transaction.
Keep in mind that this is just the interchange fee. Since interchange is only one component of your total processing costs, the actual fees you pay overall will be higher.
Merit 3 Debit and Prepaid Card Interchange Fees
There are four possible categories for debit and prepaid, though they’re simply “tiers” of the same category. Note that the rates are the same whether it’s a debit or prepaid card.
|Volume Rate||Per-Transaction Fee|
|Merit 3 Base||1.05%||$0.15|
|Merit 3 Tier 1||0.70%||$0.15|
|Merit 3 Tier 2||0.83%||$0.15|
|Merit 3 Tier 3||0.95%||$0.15|
These rates come directly from Mastercard’s published interchange table and are subject to change.
These rates apply to unregulated debit card transactions. Regulated debit card transactions (that is, transactions made with a debit card issued by a bank that has more than $10 billion in assets) have different interchange fees that are capped by law.
Debit and Prepaid Tier Thresholds
As with credit, Mastercard debit and prepaid Merit III categories have thresholds for the various tiers. For debit and prepaid interchange purposes, the Merit III tier thresholds are as follows:
- Tier 1: $400 million / year
- Tier 2: $275 million / year
- Tier 3: $175 million / year
Note that the annual totals refer to required minimum consumer debit and prepaid volume.
If your business doesn’t meet these minimum volume requirements, you can expect to see Merit III Base interchange.
Merit 3 Interchange Requirements
As with all interchange categories, you’ll need to meet certain requirements to receive Merit III rates. If a transaction fails to meet criteria, it can “downgrade” to a more expensive interchange category.
For a transaction to qualify for Merit III, it must be:
- Settled within one day of authorization
- Processed by electronically reading information from a customer’s card
The Merit 3 qualification can apply to credit cards and debit cards across different card categories such as World, Enhanced or High Value.
As noted earlier, each Merit 3 Mastercard interchange category has three pricing tiers used to provide lower rates to businesses that have higher gross Mastercard sales volume. Merit 3 Base does not have a volume requirement and has the highest associated fees, followed by Tier 3, then Tier 2, and finally Tier 1 which has the lowest interchange fee but requires the highest amount of annual sales.
On monthly processing statements that show interchange categories, the Merit III categories may be abbreviated. Processors can use their own names or abbreviations. However, here are some common ones you may see:
- MERIT III (for Merit III Base credit)
- MER3 T1 C (for Merit III tier 1 credit)
- MER3 T2 C (for Merit III tier 2 credit)
- MER3 T3 C (for Merit III tier 3 credit)
For rewards cards, the abbreviation often starts with ENH (for enhanced), MCW (for Mastercard World), HV (for High Value), or MWE (for Mastercard world elite.) As with the core credit abbreviations above, you may see “T1,” “T2,” or “T3” to refer to the tier. If there is no tier number, it’s likely base merit 3.
With that in mind, here are some of the common abbreviations for rewards Merit III.
- ENH MER 3
- MCW MERIT3
- HV MERIT3
- MWE MERIT3
- ENH MER3T1
- MCW MER3T1
- MEW MER3T1
- ENH MER3T2
- MCW MER3T2
- MEW MER3T2
- ENH MER3T3
- MCW MER3T3
- MEW MER3T3
However, keep in mind that your processor may use other names or abbreviations.
Debit and Prepaid Abbreviations
For debit and prepaid Merit III categories, you may see similar abbreviations as the non-rewards credit card categories above, just with a “D” or “PP” (for debit or prepaid) instead of C for credit. Some examples include:
- MERIT 3 D
- MER3 T1 D
- MER3 T2 D
- MER3 T3 D
- MERIT 3 PP
- MER3T1 PP
- MER3T2 PP
- MER3T3 PP
As with the credit abbreviations, your processor makes the final decision on labeling. Additionally, on some statements, you won’t see interchange-level detail. For example, many flat rate processing companies (such as Square and Stripe) don’t provide information about the interchange categories that applied to your transactions. That doesn’t mean that you were exempt from interchange fees. Rather, it means your processor is not showing you which interchange categories applied.