The Importance of Analyzing and Assessing Data

The Importance of Analyzing and Assessing Data
Eric O'Brien Vice President, Collaboration and Education Merchant Advisory Group
Jul 21, 2021




Do these look familiar? Do you know what they have in common? Spoiler Alert: They are all descriptions for the exact. same. fee. These are descriptions for the Visa FANF fee – and there are dozens of other descriptions for this fee not listed above.

As we were wrapping up the Downgrades Community of Practice in 2020, the group of merchants quickly realized there was more work to do. One of the recurring realizations throughout the discovery on downgrades was that in general, merchant payments data is complex and inconsistent, to put it nicely. This transcended downgrades to all aspects of the data merchants (hopefully) receive on a regular basis to evaluate the health of their business – approval rates, fraud and chargebacks, product type breakdowns, cost of payments, and the the list goes on.


Merchants are constantly trying to keep up with the latest card network releases while navigating their way through complicated statements and authorization reports to bring clarity and efficiency to their payments programs to assess its health which is no simple task. From raw data files to summary reports, understanding the underlying data, which is constantly changing, of a merchant payments program is paramount to success. The concluding efforts of the Downgrades COP set the foundation for a new community of practice to emerge.

The reality is that merchants are structured in many ways – sometimes with different MCCs, many sales channels (which 2020 amplified), different fraud rules and attributes depending on the transaction, and MID hierarchies. Combine this with disparate POS systems, acquirers, and acceptance mechanisms, and analyzing payments data is about as clear as mud.

Assuming a merchant is even getting the data to start the analysis and organizing process, we ask ourselves:

  • How do I absorb all this raw data? “Excel can’t handle all this!”
  • How do I analyze this level of data to optimize interchange? “I can’t even tell where my downgrades are in all this!”
  • How do I analyze network fees to validate that my acquirer assessed it correctly?
  • How do I map this data to the correct data codes? “I’m starting to re-think my multi-acquirer strategy!”
  • How do I validate the fee is being assessed accurately? (For example – fees assessed by the message size in kilobytes, how does a merchant even validate its accurate?) “Where do I even start here? Just trust and have faith?”

If you’re a merchant, you’re probably smiling by this point, realizing you’ve asked yourself these same questions repeatedly (and probably others). 


So, the group then took on the task of making sense of all these questions to figure out what our mission was. We identified two main objectives and the corresponding deliverables that meet them:


We need merchant engagement to be successful in our mission to bring clarity to payments data and establish future-proof processes!

  1. Are you passionate about data management and analytics? Join our Community of Practice! The more verticals we have represented in the conversation, the more valuable the output will be. Reach out to me to come join in on the fun!
  2. Interested in benchmarking your data against your peers? We’d love to talk to you about it and in what capacity you may be interested in sharing your own data to get the full value out of the end deliverable. Send me a note if you are interested in talking about data and our forthcoming ‘State of Payments’ report.
The Merchant Advisory Group

Driving positive change and innovation in the payments industry that serves the merchants interest through collaboration, education, and advocacy.