Agent of the Payee (ATOP)

Understanding ATOP: Agent of the Payee in the US Money Services Business

The world of financial transactions is filled with various intermediaries that facilitate payments between two parties. In the U.S., the concept of “Agent of the Payee” or “ATOP” is one of these intermediaries, crucial in the realm of money services. Let’s delve into what ATOP means, its role, and its establishment.

What is ATOP?

“Agent of the Payee” or ATOP represents a particular business model in the U.S. money services sector. It’s a designation wherein the agent (ATOP) is authorized to receive funds on behalf of a third-party, the payee.

How does it work?

Imagine you’ve ordered a customized painting from an artist across the country. Instead of directly paying the artist, you send the payment to a trusted gallery, which the artist uses as a collection point for all their transactions. Once the gallery confirms they’ve received your payment, the artist ships the painting to you. Here, the gallery acts as the “Agent of the Payee” (ATOP), receiving funds on behalf of the artist.

In the Financial Realm

In the context of financial transactions, an ATOP functions as a trusted intermediary. When a payer needs to send funds to a payee, they transfer the money to the ATOP. The ATOP, upon receiving the funds, acknowledges the payment. This confirmation assures the payee that they can deliver the goods or services since they trust the ATOP to pass on the payment to them.

It’s crucial to understand that the ATOP is acting on behalf of the payee, not the payer. The relationship and the contractual obligation is between the ATOP and the payee.

How does one achieve the status of ATOP?

The designation as an ATOP isn’t something acquired through a regulatory certification or license in the same way one might get licensed as a Money Services Business (MSB). Instead, it’s established through a contractual relationship. The payee (e.g., a service provider or merchant) enters into an agreement with another entity (the agent). In this agreement, the payee authorizes the agent to receive funds on their behalf from payers.


  1. Online Marketplaces: Consider an online platform where various sellers offer their products. When a buyer makes a purchase, they pay the platform. The platform, acting as ATOP, then informs the seller that the payment has been received, prompting them to dispatch the product. Later, the platform forwards the payment to the seller, deducting any applicable fees.
  2. Property Management: A property management company might act as an ATOP for landlords. Tenants pay their rent to the management company, which then notifies the landlords of received payments. After taking its management fee, the company forwards the rest of the amount to the landlords.


The concept of ATOP simplifies transactions, especially in scenarios where direct payments might be cumbersome or inefficient. By having a trusted intermediary, both payers and payees can ensure smooth, efficient, and trustworthy transactions. Whether it’s online shopping or property management, the presence of an Agent of the Payee streamlines financial exchanges in various sectors.

This page was last updated on October 31, 2023.

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