CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This application asserts priority under 35 U.S.C. §119 to the provisional application Ser. No. 60/307,179, titled “Multiple Account Advanced Payment Card” and filed Jul. 24, 2001.
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to financial account cards such as credit cards, debit cards and stored value cards. More specifically, the invention includes a multipurpose card having the attributes of a credit card, a debit card and a stored value card. The invention relates to financial account cards that access multiple accounts.
Many point-of-sale and other financial transactions take place using card transactions. In these transactions, to provide payment, a card user presents a credit card, a bank, debit or automated teller machine (ATM) card, or possibly a stored value card. The cards presented are conventionally of one and only one of these types. The cards presented typically access only a single account.
For example, a user may present a credit card to pay from a credit account maintained by the issuer of the card. The credit card is typically embossed with a unique account number, the cardholder's name, and the expiration date of the card. Data is also encoded on a magnetic stripe on the card. The data identifies the cardholder's account and may be accessed by magnetic card readers connected to a credit card processing system.
An ATM card is used in similar manner. The ATM card is a plastic card that is typically embossed with an account number and the holder's name. The ATM card also includes data encoded on a magnetic stripe of the card. The data identifies the cardholder's account and may be accessed by a magnetic card reader to use the card.
A stored value card is typically used to pay for a specific product or service. The stored value card includes data regarding a limited use account that is limited to providing payment for a specific product or service or for products and services at a specific merchant. The data permits processing equipment at the point of sale to determine the value of funds in the account.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In a typical card payment transaction, for example a credit card transaction, a buyer presents a credit card to a merchant at the point of sale. The apparatus at the point of sale reads account information from the card and passes this information along with the transaction data to the merchant's card processing system for approval from the card processor or qualifier that maintains the buyer's account. This approval transmission typically passes through a chain of processors. The merchant's card processing system typically interacts with a merchant acquirer's system. The merchant may also use a third party pre-router to process card transactions. The merchant acquirer is a middleman that provides card services to businesses that accept card transactions. The merchant acquirer typically sends the data to a card association or network such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express and others. The card association then obtains approval from the processing or qualifying institution for the individual card. The approval (or denial) is transmitted back down through this chain of processors. This chain of processing systems is also used during settlement of the transaction to provide transfer of the funds from the issuing institution to the merchant's account.
The present invention provides a single card having the benefit of accessing multiple accounts and if desirable multiple types of accounts. This is accomplished through the routing of card transactions based on additional information beyond the single account number read at the time of sale. The financial card of the present invention may have the benefits of a credit card, a bank card, and a stored value card. This multiple account advanced payment card may be encoded with credit card account, bank account, and stored value account information. The information is encoded on the card in manner that is machine readable in systems that read credit cards, in a systems that reads bank cards, and in at least one system that reads stored value cards. The multiple account payment card may also be processed through a system that permits the card to access different accounts. The multiple account advanced payment card enables the issuer of the card to maintain multiple types of accounts for access by the cardholder. The card enables the cardholder to employ a single card to conduct transactions by accessing different accounts.
The use of the multiple account advanced payment card permits the cardholder to enjoy the benefits of multiple types of accounts while carrying a single card. This card beneficially further allows a card issuer to route transactions to a particular type of account based on the particular transaction and other factors. This enables the multiple accounts accessed by the multiple purpose card to complement one another and to provide flexibility to the cardholder to complete a wide variety of transactions.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Advantages of this invention in addition to those described above are apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 1 is a basic flowchart of a method of accessing multiple accounts from a single card according to a first embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 2 is a basic flowchart of a method of accessing multiple accounts from a single card according to a second embodiment of the invention.
FIG. 3 is a basic flowchart of a method of accessing multiple accounts from a single card according to a third embodiment of the invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 4 is a diagram of a processing chain infrastructure that may be used in conjunction with the present invention.
A financial card of the present invention appears similar to a conventional credit card or debit card. For example, the multiple account advanced payment card may have the form, fit and function of a conventional credit, bank or stored value card. In a first embodiment, the multiple purpose card is an embossed plastic card including machine readable data. The card is styled to identify to the cardholder the bank or other financial institution that issued the card. The card is embossed with identification information that renders the card unique to the cardholder. Typically, the identification information includes the cardholder's name and an account number of an account held by the user. The account number typically identifies a credit account to permit the card to be used as credit card in all transactions in which a credit card account number is required to be read or recorded from the embossed account number on the card.
The machine readable data included on the card includes data pertains to different accounts. An advantage to encoding information of different accounts is that a card reader capable of selectively reading multiple accounts may access the existing card processing system to access any account encoded on the card. A method according to this embodiment is shown in FIG. 1, which refers to processing a transaction for a card wherein data of multiple accounts is stored on a magnetic stripe on the card. Data input is acquired at the point of sale as shown at 102. The magnetic stripe is read by card readers based on the data input as shown at 104. For example, a card reading system would query the user which account (or what type of account) should be accessed at 102. Based on data input in response to the query, the card reader will read the selected account data at 104. In this embodiment, additional data is input at the point of sale to select from the multiple account numbers stored on the card. The transaction is processed normally based on the selected account number as shown at 106.
Preferably, the magnetic stripe on which the account numbers are stored conforms to industry standards. These standards provide the location of magnetic data on the card so that standard readers may access the stored data. The standards provide for the data to be located on multiple tracks on the magnetic stripe. On a typical credit or bank card, the storage capacity of the magnetic stripe is significantly greater than the account data stored on the card. Typically data is only stored in tracks 1 and 2 of a magnetic stripe that includes 3 or 4 tracks. Therefore in the card according to this embodiment of the invention, the excess capacity of the magnetic stripe is employed to store account data for multiple accounts. The different accounts may be accessed by the single card. Thus, the cardholder is able to use a single card in wide variety of financial transactions. For example, a card may have account data pertaining to a credit card account stored on a first track on the card, account data pertaining to debit account stored on a second track, data pertaining to a first stored value account in a third track, and data pertaining to second stored value account in a fourth track.
The different types of accounts that may be linked to the multiple function card of the present invention include credit card accounts; bank, debit or automated teller machine (ATM) accounts; and stored value accounts. The financial institution issuing the card maintains accounts for the cardholder that are each accessed by the card so that the card may have all the functions of a credit card, all the functions of a bank, debit, or ATM card, and all the function of a stored value card. The machine-readable data on the card includes account identification data in a format that is readable by credit card readers. Accordingly, the card of this embodiment may function as a credit card in transactions in which the card reader is configured to search for credit card account data without the query and responding data input. The card includes machine-readable data in a format that is readable by ATMs. Therefore, the card may function as a debit or ATM card in transactions in which the card reader is configured to search for bank or debit account information also without the query and responding data input.
In situations where a transaction may be accomplished through the use of either a credit card account or a debit to an account linked to a bank or ATM curd, either account linked to the card of the present invention may be accessed. In a typical point-of-sale transaction, the cardholder must identify the card as a credit card or as a debit or ATM card before the card reader reads the card. According to the novel approach taken for the present invention, the user may select whether the card will function as a credit card or whether it will function as a debit or ATM card. Based on the selection of the cardholder, the account data will be read in either the form of a credit card account or in the form of a bank or other account to be debited. The transaction is processed by the merchant, and subsequently by the card issuer, based on the selection of the cardholder.
As discussed above, the card of this embodiment is useable in a financial card processing system in which the user chooses the account (or account type) to be accessed during a particular transaction. The selection is made at the point of sale at the time of the transaction. The selection is input to the card reader. Based on the selection, the card reader reads the appropriate account information. The transaction is processed based on the account information read. For example, a card of this embodiment may have credit information account encoded in a first location on the magnetic stripe of the card and debit account information encoded in a second location on the magnetic stripe. At the time of use, the card reader is programmed to request input regarding whether the first account or the second account is to be accessed. If the user selects the first account and then swipes the card, the credit account information is read from the first location. The card reader and point of sale processing terminal sends the transaction information with the credit account information to the processor. The processor routes the transaction to the card issuing institution and the selected account is debited. If the user selects the second account, the debit account information is read from the second location and ultimately passed to the issuing institution, which debits the selected account.
The choice of which type of account to be accessed may also be made automatically in certain situations. The card issuer is able to route transactions through a chain of processors based on an appropriate type of account based on transaction data. In the scenario in which the card is used to conduct a transaction where only credit cards are accepted, the card issuer will receive a query to authorize a credit card transaction through a credit card processing system. When the merchant settles this transaction, the card issuer will automatically process the transaction as a credit card transaction. Similarly, if the card is used in an ATM transaciton, the card issuer will receive a query through an ATM network to debit the cardholder's account. In this scenario, the card issuer will automatically process the transaction as a bank or ATM transaction.
In a second embodiment, the card functions to access multiple accounts by routing the transaction based on additional data. The selection of an account (or type of account) is transmitted with the transaction data from the point-of-sale terminal. An advantage of this embodiment is that the card may be encoded with information in the form of a single account. The card itself may have many forms. The card need only to store the account number in a form that is readable during a transaction. Acceptable forms include the standard financial card described above, but may also include other electronically readable account number storage devices. The method of accessing multiple accounts according to this embodiment is shown in FIG. 2. The account information is read from the card by the point-of-sale terminal as shown at 202. The point-of-sale terminal is programmed to request input that indicates the account (or type of account) to be accessed as shown at 204. The point of sale terminal then transmits the transaction data, including data indicating the selected account. The transaction may then be routed by the merchant, the third party pre-router, the merchant acquirer, the card association or network, or the processor or qualifier based on the data input at the point of sale as shown at 206. The authorization decisions and subsequent settlement are based on the selection data transmitted.
According to one aspect of the second embodiment, a customer holds multiple accounts accessed through a card issuing institution. The card issuing institution issues to the customer a card encoded with alias master account information. The alias account information indicates that the account is with the card issuing institution and that a personal identification number (PIN) is required to access the account. The card issuing institution assigns a PIN to each of the customer's multiple accounts. When using the card, the card is swiped at the point-of-sale terminal to read the alias account information. The customer enters the PIN that corresponds to the account desired to be accessed. The point-of-sale terminal then processes the transaction using the alias account information and the PIN. This alias account information and the PIN are ultimately transmitted to the card issuing institution. The alias account information is sufficient to identify the card issuing institution and within the institution the customer. The card issuing institution makes authorization decisions and debits the correct actual account based on receiving a PIN that corresponds to one of the customer's multiple accounts. Thus, a specific account of the customer is accessed when the card issuing institution receives transaction data for the customer's alias account with the correct PIN designating a specific actual account.
It should be understood that although requesting a PIN is familiar to those presently engaging in card transactions, the data input at the point of sale may take other forms. For instance, the point-of-sale terminal may query the user to select an account or type of account. The response to the query would be transmitted with the transaction data. For example, a cardholder may have a credit, debit, and multiple stored value accounts associated with a master account number. The cardholder may select whether to conduct each card transaction by accessing the credit, debit, or one of the stored value accounts. This selection would be transmitted with the transaction data and be used to route the transmission through the correct network to debit the selected account. The data may be input by either the buyer or seller at the point-of-sale. For example, a salesperson accepting an in-house credit card for a transaction may respond to a query regarding the apparent risk of the transaction. Based on the factors such as the transaction amount, the type of merchandise purchased, the time, the demeanor of the purchaser, etc., the salesperson could designate the purchase as higher or lower risk. Based on this input, the transaction could be routed to either an account that could be approved by the merchant system or to an account that requires real-time approval from the qualifier.
In a third embodiment, the card is linked to multiple accounts and the selection criteria are set in advance of using the card. Again, in this embodiment the card may take any form to store the account information, so long as it may be read during the transaction. In this embodiment additional data is stored at any point in the processing chain and used to route the transaction. An advantage of this embodiment is that the card is processed in the standard. manner at the point-of-sale. A method of accessing multiple accounts according this embodiment is shown in FIG. 3. The customer has multiple accounts accessed through a card issuing institution. The card issuing institution issues to the customer a card with account information that identities the card issuing institution and also identifies the customer to the card issuing institution. It is then determined how transactions using the card will be routed under certain conditions. For example, the customer and the card issuing institution may determine under what conditions each of the customer's multiple accounts will be accessed when the card is used by the customer.
The criteria used to conditionally route card transactions may include data regarding the transaction and the status of the cardholder's accounts at the time of the transaction. Data setting forth the conditions for each potential routing scenario are programmed into the processing system in the form of routing rules. These programmed rules are stored in the processing system in which the routing decision is made as shown at 302. The programmed rules may be stored at the merchant system, the third party pre-router, the merchant acquirer system, the card association or network's system, or the card processor or qualifier's system. The account information is read as usual at the point-of-sale as shown at 304. The transaction data is transmitted as discussed above. Such data may include the type of merchant or the type of goods or services involved in the transaction, the identity of the merchant, the location of the transaction, the amount of funds involved in the transaction, whether the transaction is a payment or credit, etc. The programmed rules may cause the transaction to be routed based on any of the data, or combinations of the data, received regarding the transaction as shown at 306. For example, credits from a certain class of merchant could be applied to increase the value of a selected stored value account of the customer. The card issuer may also route the transaction based on the status of an account. For example, transactions could be debited from a bank account when the balance exceeds a set value, but debited from a linked brokerage account when the balance of the bank account falls below the set value.
The additional data used to route the card transactions in this embodiment includes the conditional programmed rules that are predetermined and stored. The data may also include data not derived from the transaction itself that is stored and used in conditional routing decisions. For example, account status data, such as account balance ranges, may be provided from the account issuer to the card association or networks or to merchant acquirers for making routing decisions. Such data may be periodically updated throughout the processing system.
The embodiments of this invention permit a single card to function as different types of cards. The machine-readable data on the card may include data related to a prepaid stored value. The stored value can either be on the network in which the card is used or the value may be stored on the card. If the stored value is on the card, the data encoded on the card includes the current value of the stored value function of the card. The stored value data is altered as the cardholder spends down the value of the card. The data is stored on a portion of the card accessible to a card reader/writer for writing. Whether value is stored on the card or on the network, the transaction and account calculations may take place locally to the transaction. The stored value may be reduced without accessing data maintained by the card issuer. This enables the multiple purpose card to be used in transactions where data exchange with the card issuing institution is impossible or undesirable. However as the stored value account is linked by the card to other accounts such as the cardholder's credit and bank or debit accounts, the stored value account may be replenished through appropriate transactions when data exchange occurs with the institution that issues the card. The replenishment may be directed per automatic instructions or may be requested by the cardholder.
The institution issuing the card of the present invention enables the cardholder to use the multiple function card in a flexible manner. The institution has the flexibility to define the rules regarding how transactions are processed. The accounts can be effectively managed by the institution and the cardholder to ensure that the cardholder accounts are put to the best use. The institution can route any particular transaction to the appropriate account and may adjust the value of the stored value portion of the card according to instructions that maximize the ability of the cardholder to satisfactorily complete card transactions as desired.
The card issuing institution and the customer may also permit certain transactions to be ultimately routed to a final customer account based on a later selection by the customer. In this scenario the transaction is held by the card issuing institution or is posted to a general account of the customer. The customer, at some time after using the card, selects which account will be accessed. The selected account is finally debited or credited based on the transaction data and the subsequent customer selection.
FIG. 4 illustrates the processing chain infrastructure which may be used in conjunction with the present invention. The exemplary processing chain includes the following processors: merchant processor 400, merchant acquirer 415, association/network 420, and processor 425. Merchant processor 400 processes transactions requested at the merchant site, and may include the subsidiary components of point-of-sale (POS) unit 405 and merchant system 410. POS unit 405 comprises one or more point-of-sale devices for allowing cardholders to transfer funds from selected accounts to the merchant. Merchant system 410 coordinates transaction requests from multiple POS units 405 and may submit them for processing. Merchant system 410 may be an on-site server (e.g., a server for an entire store) or may be an off-site server (e.g., a server for multiple stores).
Transaction requests may be transmitted from merchant processor 400 to merchant acquirer 415 directly from POS device 405 (along route (2)) or from merchant system 410 (along route (1)). Generally, merchant acquirer 415 receives transaction requests from merchant processor 400 and routes them to the appropriate association/network 420. Examples of association/network 420 include the VISA interchange, MasterCard interchange, AMEX, STAR, PLUS, and similar organizations created for processing and settling certain types of transactions. Association/network 420 performs this function by routing transaction requests to the appropriate member processor 425. Just by way of example, a transaction request for a VISA charge to an account issued by Bank One will be routed by merchant acquirer 415 to the VISA network association 420, which in turn will route the transaction to a Bank One processor 425 (or third party processor processing such transactions for Rank One).
The multiple purpose card of the present invention may be processed based on the infrastructure of FIG. 4 and certain decisioning logic implemented thereon. At the outset, it is noted that the invention is amenable to processing along one of multiple mutes on the processing chain of FIG. 4, including route (1) (conventional processing route through the processing chain), route (2) (conventional processing route bypassing merchant system 410); route (3) (non-conventional route bypassing merchant acquirer 415), route (4) (non-conventional route bypassing by merchant acquirer 415 and association/network 420, and route (5) (non-conventional route where the route runs from the merchant acquirer 414 to processor 425, skipping or bypassing association/network 420).
It should be understood that the decisioning logic discussed below not only performs the function of selecting an appropriate account, but the corollary is that the selection also determines the route for the transaction. For example, if the decisioning logic selects a credit account for a transaction request involving the multiple purpose card, then the routing typically is through one of the credit interchanges (e.g., VISA). On the other hand, if a debit account is selected, the routing is typically through a debit network. Therefore, in one sense the invention is understood to be a technique for not only dynamically selecting accounts from a multiple purpose card on a transaction-by-transaction basis, but also dynamically selecting routing on such a basis.
- Operations at the POS
The decisioning logic for processing transactions initiated via the multipurpose card of the present invention may be implemented according to several embodiments.
A first embodiment focuses on decisioning occurring at the POS device based on a multiple purpose card having information corresponding to multiple accounts. For example, the multipurpose card may store information for several different account types, such as a credit account, bank/debit/ATM account, and a stored value account. The account data may be stored on the several tracks of the magnetic stripe.
According to one aspect of the first embodiment, the cardholder initiating a POS transaction selects which transaction type (account) prior to swiping the card. Accordingly, the POS device reads the account information for the selected account based on the user's input. According to this approach, the cardholder's pre-swipe input effectively tells the POS device which account data (e.g., which track) to read.
Because the correct account has been selected, the POS device can then formulate the transaction request in the usual fashion. For example, the transaction request may include account information a bank ID and an account number. The transaction request may also include transaction information such as one or more of a merchant ID, an amount, and a transaction type identifier. This transaction request can then be forwarded from the POS device (i.e., from merchant processor 400 (or from either of its components, POS device 405 or merchant system 410)) down the processing chain for approval processing and ultimately, settlement. For example, the formulated transaction request can be transmitted via route (1), route (2), route (1)/(2) combined with route (5), route (3), or route (4). Some of the aforementioned routes bypassing certain elements (e.g., bypassing association 420) may improve speed, efficiency, and avoid certain interchange processing fees.
According to another aspect of the first embodiment, the cardholder swipes the multipurpose card without first selecting a transaction type. According to this aspect, the POS device reads all of the account information from the multiple purpose card (e.g., the account information for the credit account, bank/debit/ATM account, and a stored value account). The cardholder then, after swiping the card, provides an input selecting the preferred type of account for the transaction. In this approach, the POS device may provide a query to the cardholder after recognizing that the card is a multiple purpose card. According to this aspect of the first embodiment, the POS device preferably reads all tracks from the magnetic stripe. Because the correct account has been selected, the POS device can then formulate the transaction request in the usual fashion.
As with the previous aspect of the first embodiment, because the correct account has been selected the POS device can then formulate the transaction request in the usual fashion. This transaction request can then be forwarded from the POS device down the processing chain for approval processing and ultimately, settlement, such as by using route (1), route (2), route (1)/(2) combined with route (5), route (3), or route (4).
According to a first aspect of a second embodiment focusing on operations as the POS, the multiple purpose card is a card having a single master account (e.g., an alias account) corresponding to the multiple accounts associated therewith. According to this aspect, the cardholder will select an account associated with the card after swiping the card. Alternatively, he cardholder may select an type of account. The cardholder selection comprises additional information that will ultimately be used to retrieve (and perhaps validate) the proper account (e.g., the account corresponding to the user's selection and/or the account that is selected based on certain rules applied by the processor chain to select one of the accounts associated with the master account).
This aspect of the second embodiment entails decisionmaking logic elsewhere in the processing chain so that the proper account (as described in the previous paragraph) is selected and used to formulate the transaction request that is processed to approval and settlement.
Therefore, in this embodiment the POS device/merchant processor will forward a preliminary transaction request comprising the master account information (alias) and additional information comprising the user selection. The user selection expressing an account preference or requirement (or account type) may take various forms, including customer-specific information that selects and validates an account (e.g., a PIN number or similar code associated with the specific account) or other information such as simply selecting the transaction type (e.g., C for credit; D for debit; A for ATM; and S for stored value). In either case, the additional information will be appended with the master account information (or alias) in the preliminary transaction request. The decisioning for the formulation of the actual transaction request (e.g., a request including the selected account) may then take place at one of the “downstream” elements in the processing chain (e.g., at the merchant acquirer, at the association, at the issuer, or at a processor), to be discussed below.
Finally, according to a first aspect of a third embodiment, the multiple purpose card includes the master account and is swiped as previously described, but the cardholder is not required to make a selection. Rather, in this approach, the master account (alias) information will be transmitted in the preliminary transaction request without the so-called additional information. Therefore, the decisioning logic for selecting the appropriate account from the multiple accounts associated with the master account will be based on predefined rules that may be set by various parties to the transaction, including the cardholder, the merchant, the merchant acquirer, the association, and the issuer.
As reflected by the descriptions above, the first embodiment (wherein the card includes the multiple account data and the user makes a selection at the POS to ensure the correct account is used to formulate the transaction request) does not necessarily require decisioning after the POS.
- Operations at the Merchant System
On the other hand, the second and third embodiments (wherein the card includes the master account which will be subsequently used to access one of its associated accounts) entail decisioning after the POS because the “proper” account must be selected/retrieved to formulate the transaction request.
In the invention according to the second and third embodiments (where the card includes a master account/alias) discussed above, the decisioning can occur at the merchant system. Thus, the merchant system can receive the preliminary transaction request (PTR) provided by the POS device. This PTR data may include (a) the master account and some additional data reflecting a user selection (second embodiment above), or (b) the master account without user selection data (third embodiment above).
In the first scenario, (a), therefore, the merchant system may use the master account and the additional information to retrieve the corresponding account. For example, if the additional information comprises a user PIN designating one of the user's credit accounts or a “C” for credit (or similar information designating a transaction type where only one account of the type is associated with the card), the merchant system may access a database (local or remote) to retrieve the designated credit account corresponding to the master account. The merchant system can then use that information to formulate the transaction request in the usual way. The merchant system can then forward the transaction request for further processing along one of the various routes from FIG. 4, such as route (1) (continuing all the way through the processing chain) or one of routes (3) or (4) that bypass certain elements. The routing, of course, will be based on the type of transaction (e.g., a credit transaction will be routed appropriate for credit transactions).
In the second scenario, (b), the merchant system accesses rules to decide where to route the PTR request. These rules may be rules set by the cardholder or merchant, for example. These rules may be “hard” rules insofar they must be complied with, or they may be preferences insofar they must be complied with if possible (e.g., they are complied with as long as they do not conflict with others' rules). Exemplary cardholder rules used in the decisioning to access the proper account would be the following: Cardholder A for Master Account X wants his credit account to be used for transactions at WaWa; his stored value account to be used for transactions at Starbucks; otherwise, all transactions less than $5 levied against the stored value account; otherwise, all transitions between $5 and $50 to be levied against his debit account; otherwise, all transactions more than $50 to be levied against his credit account). In another example, the cardholder may designate a personal credit account as a default account, but designate that all airline and hotel transaction be levied against a company credit card account. Exemplary merchant rules used for the decisioning might be such things as: all transactions less than $10 must be either stored value or debit transactions (no credit transactions).
Because the rules considered by the merchant system may conflict, the decisioning logic may include arbitration. This arbitration could seek a solution acceptable to all parties without consulting any party. For example, if the cardholder's rules are identified as preferences, then the outcome (selected account for the transaction) that best satisfies the cardholder's preferences without violating a merchant “rule” (i.e., riot a mere preference) may be selected. On the other hand, the arbitration could operate to give either the cardholder or the merchant the option to override a rule if the transaction requires it. For example, take the scenario where the transaction is for $9, the cardholder's rule is all transactions greater than $5 are executed to a particular credit account, and the merchant's rule is that all transactions less than $10 must be non-credit transactions. The decisioning logic may issue a query to allow either the cardholder and/or the merchant to override the party's respective rule for that transaction.
Continuing with the processing flow, after the decisioning logic makes a determination as to the proper nature of the transaction, the proper account corresponding to the master account is accessed, a complete transaction request is formulated, and the request is forwarded as described above for the first scenario.
It should be noted that it is possible that the second and third embodiments could be combined. For example, the PTR received might include the master account and user selection information. That user selection information might be assessed in conjunction with the rules (i.e, both the cardholder rules and the merchant rules or just the merchant rules) to select an account. On the other hand, the decisioning logic could be configured to always make a decision based on user selection information if it is present, and if it is not present the decisioning logic defaults to the rules (i.e., the cardholder rules).
- Operations at the Merchant Acquirer
It should also be noted that a further variation exists where the account lookup occurs further down in the chain. In other words, the decisioning regarding which account to access (or which type of transaction is to occur, e.g. stored value or ATM/debit/bank or credit) occurs at the merchant system. Information regarding this decision is appended to the master account, and this amended PTR is forwarded down the chain. The amended PTR (e.g., the master account appended with additional information comprising a designation of the nature of the selected transaction) can then be processed by, for example, the downstream merchant acquirer to look up the proper account. The point is that the decisioning and the account lookup may or may not be carried out at the same points in the processing chain.
The decisioning can be performed at the merchant acquirer, rather than at the merchant system. Therefore, for the first scenario, (a), discussed in the previous section, the merchant acquirer may use the master account and the additional information to retrieve the corresponding account. The transaction request is formulated and transmitted further for approval and settlement in the usual way.
- Operations at the Associations/Networks
For the second scenario, (b), discussed above, the merchant acquirer may refer to rules or preferences (e.g., cardholder rules, merchant acquirer rules, association rules, processor rules, and/or issuer rules) using decisioning logic that selects the proper type of transaction. Then the merchant acquirer can look up the account for that transaction type based on the master account and formulate the complete transaction request. Or alternatively, the merchant acquirer can simply append the decisioning result (e.g. account selection or transaction type) as additional information that will be used by a downstream element to look up the account.
Decisioning can be performed at the association level, rather than the merchant system or merchant acquirer. Therefore, for the first scenario (a) discussed in the previous section, the association system may use the master account and the additional information to retrieve the corresponding account. The transaction request is completed and transmitted further for approval and settlement in the usual way.
For the second scenario (h) discussed above, the association system may refer to rules or preferences (e.g., cardholder rules, association rules, processor rules, and/or issuer rules) using decisioning logic that selects the proper type of transaction. Then the association system can look up the account for that transaction type based on the master account and complete the complete transaction request. Or alternatively, the association system can simply append the decisioning result (e.g. account selection or transaction type) as additional information that will be used by a downstream element (e.g., a processor for that transaction type for that issuer) to look up the account.
Examples of rules that might be imposed by associations would be a rule that forces credit transactions or a rule for/against online (need a PIN) debit transactions or offline (do not need a PIN) debit transactions.
- Operations at the Processor
At this juncture, it should also be noted that any arbitration logic for the sets of rules may operate according to a hierarchy, such as the following in order of dominant to least dominant rules: cardholder, merchant. merchant acquirer, and association. The priority of the rule sets can be varied from this example without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.
As discussed above for FIG. 4, the processor is the system element that actually processes transactions to approval for the selected transaction type for a given issuer.
According to the invention, the decisioning can be performed at the processor level. Therefore, for the first scenario, (a), discussed in the previous section, the processor may use the master account and the additional information to retrieve the corresponding account. The complete transaction is then processed for approval and settlement in the usual way.
- Post-Transaction Decisioning
For the second scenario, (b), discussed above, the processor may refer to rules or preferences (e.g., cardholder rules, processor rules, and/or issuer rules) using decisioning logic that selects the proper type of transaction. Then the processor can look up the account for that transaction type based on the master account and complete the complete transaction processing.
A further variation to the invention provides for post-transaction decisioning. In this approach, a transaction is processed to approval and actually settled vis-à-vis the merchant through a generic pool account for the cardholder. However, the settlement vis-à-vis the cardholder can be deferred pending a selection by the cardholder (or other entity) based on a set of rules or based on a cardholder selection.
This variation would permit, for example, a cardholder to use the multiple purpose card with a master account to fully process the transaction with respect to the merchant. However, the cardholder could decide in time-late fashion which specific account the transaction would be applied to. Thus at a time convenient to the cardholder, the cardholder is able to review the transactions settled in the generic pool. During this review the cardholder associates each transaction with an account for final posting. For example, the cardholder may designate a specific account (e.g. a credit card account, debit/bank/ATM account, or stored value account) for each individual transaction in the generic pool. Alternatively, the cardholder may provide rules to address multiple transactions (e.g. designating a business credit card for all travel charges for a certain time period, or a designating an account linked to a brokerage account for all transactions exceeding a given amount). The cardholder may use various interfaces to the issuer to select an account, such as an interactive voice response unit (dial-up and touchtone selection), a phone call (interface with a human being), Internet access, and the like.
Other embodiments, uses and advantages of the present invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art from consideration of the specification and practice of the disclosed invention. The specification and disclosed embodiments are exemplary.