I am currently writing my Bachelor thesis on electronic payment systems and I began without any previous knowledge, since I study computer science.
So I started to read "Payment System Technologies and Functions" by Masashi Nakajima and he describes payment systems as systems to discharge obligations between two parties. It is mainly a tool for transferring funds between two financial institutions.
He then classifies payment systems by various key factors, one being the volume of funds being transferred. It's in this book where I first read about Step2 (PAN-EUROPEAN ACH) for small value transaction, like in retail.
Now I am confused regarding the flow of credit card payments. My understanding is, when a customer pays with a credit card, the payment network (e.g. Visa) requests the amount from the issuing bank (whose responsibility is to check whether the customer has enough money). It then transfers the money to the bank of the merchant. So is Visa in this example a payment system and all the money is first transferred to Visa and Visa transfer the money further to the Merchant's bank?
Or does Visa tell the issuing bank (customer) to transfer a certain amount of money to a certain bank account (merchant) and it's the responsibility of the issuing bank to do the transfer?
If the first is true, I don't quite understand what Step2 is used for.
And another thing is, and I'm not quite sure how this fits into all of this: I have been running a small web shop for a few years now and I utilise Stripe for all my credit card payments. When I receive my payout, I receive the payment from Stripe and not from Visa or MasterCard. I found a help entry on Stripes support website but I don't know what they mean with "merchant account" (https://support.stripe.com/questions/are-you-a-merchant-account-or-a-gateway-or-something-else). Maybe someone can explain me how Stripe handles payments.
I really appreciate any response in advance. This topic is getting quite complicated really fast.
I just found an answer on quora from Wellington W. Sculley (https://www.quora.com/What-exactly-is-Visa-and-Mastercard-if-theyre-not-banks#__w2_SPJBoDf_answer). He states that Visa and similar card networks "[...] will use the local settlement system.". I think this is the answer I was looking for.