1. What is ICS?

ICS stands for Issuers' Clearinghouse Service. The Visa U.S.A. Operating Regulations require Issuers to submit information on all consumer credit card applications to ICS. The service was developed at the request of Visa Issuing Members to help reduce card losses on applications. ICS is not a credit bureau, but is similar in some ways and is subject to the same laws, for example, the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). It is a nationwide database that contains bankruptcy, and bankcard application activity, fraud, and questionable data information.

2. If I already use a credit bureau, why do I need ICS?

ICS is not a credit bureau. It was not designed to replace existing credit bureau information, but to add incremental value to it. ICS handles a subset of the data credit bureaus use, and handles it differently than credit bureaus do. Credit bureaus use relational databases, whereas ICS uses only critical data elements from an application (address, phone, social security number) and tracks information separately by those elements. This enables ICS to provide views of these elements that are not available from credit bureaus.

3. What value does ICS offer me?

Each year the Issuer Risk Management team at Visa U.S.A. conducts an ICS Value Assessment study. The objective of this study is to provide Members with statistical validation of the value of ICS. The Value Assessment focuses on bankcard fraud loss savings, and recognizes best practices in use by Members. Through this study ICS has consistently demonstrated a median return in loss avoidance benefits of $20 per $1 spent.

For the last two years the Issuer Risk Management team has also conducted an ICS Alert study. This study looks specifically at the impact ICS has on reducing credit card losses from accounts charged off for bankruptcy or poor performance. These studies have shown that the most powerful predictor of such credit loss is application activity for a social security number (SSN). Accounts with SSN bankcard application activity greater than selected thresholds are significantly more likely to become bankrupt or charged off than accounts below those thresholds. The most telling SSN activity threshold is 6 or more applications within 90 days. As many as 75% of accounts that hit this threshold are likely to become bankrupt or charged off.

4. What are my processing options with ICS?

In 1989, when ICS was started, the only option for processing was via a batch connection through BASE II. Many Members continue to process this way, but there are now several other more efficient options available. The batch turnaround time for alerts (2-4 days) can be compressed to a day or less with some of these other options. The processing options include File Transfer, online real-time mainframe access, and the ICS Direct website access.

5. How much does ICS cost?

There is no charge to submit transactions and inquiries to ICS. A fee is assessed for alerts returned, and the volume of alerts returned is controlled by the thresholds and options you select. In addition, the alert fee is offset by a credit applied for any fraud transactions submitted. Other factors may also affect your total fees. For more specific information, contact your Visa Account Executive.

6. What are the system requirements for ICSDirect?

To use ICSDirect you need:

  • A personal computer (Pentium 90 MHz or greater) with 32 Mb RAM running Windows 9x or Windows NT 4.x. There are no disk drive or space requirements.

  • A mouse

  • A Hayes or Hayes-compatible modem running at 28,800 baud or faster.

  • Browser software (Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or later, or Netscape Navigator 4.0 or later) and access to the Internet. The browser software must support strong encryption (128-bit) due to stringent security in the ICSDirect system, and have JavaScript, Java and cookies enabled.

ICSDirect can check to see if your browser conforms to ICSDirect requirements via the Check Browser option on the Welcome screen. It also offers a link to the appropriate site for upgrading your browser, if necessary.

7. What steps should be taken if a customer of a Visa Issuer has been a victim of fraud or identity theft?

Contact the fraud department of one of the three major credit bureaus (see contact information below) to request:

  • that a fraud alert be placed on their file.

  • that a consumer statement be added to their file asking that creditors call before opening or changing any accounts.

  • a copy of their current credit report on file at the credit bureau.

Contact the ICS consumer office, Advanced Resolution Services, at 1-800-392-8911 to place a fraud alert on ICS and request a copy of their ICS consumer report.

Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Hotline at 1-887-438-4338 (1-887-IDTHEFT).

Credit Bureau Contact Information:

  • Equifax
    PO Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
    To order your credit report: 1-800-685-1111
    To report fraud: 1-800-525-6285

  • Experian
    PO Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013-0949
    To order your credit report: 1-888-397-3742
    To report fraud: 1-888-397-3742

  • Trans Union
    PO Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022
    To order your credit report: 1-800-916-8800
    To report fraud: 1-800-680-7289

Consumers can be victims of fraud or identity theft even if they have been very careful with their personal information. If consumers suspect that their personal information has been used fraudulently, they should take, at a minimum, the following steps: