What are Merchant Accounts?
Merchant accounts allow you to accept credit and debit cards from your customer. There are different types of merchant accounts, and the best one for your business depends on your needs and how you process cards.
If you have a physical store, you can apply for an over-the-counter account. Businesses that operate online only will need an e-Commerce merchant account. They both work similarly, but the difference is the level of risk involved.
When you have a storefront, the customer can walk into the store and present their card for you to swipe. They then enter a PIN for a debit card or sign a slip for a credit card transaction. This reduces the risk of credit card theft and fraud.
Since there is no signature required for an online or phone sale, the risk of accepting a stolen credit card is higher. Since the bank will lose money on these transactions, the processing fee is higher than if the customer hands you the card to swipe.
Merchant accounts charge a percentage of the total sale in fees for every transaction. The fees for over-the-counter accounts are up to 2 percent lower than for Internet or telephone sales. For high risk categories like online gambling or adult websites, the processing fee can be even higher because of the risk of fraud.
Some merchant accounts offer volume discounts. If your sales reach a certain amount per month, your processing fees are lower. Some companies offer different tiers, and these can help you save money on fees.
Most but not all merchant accounts charge a flat fee for every transaction. This fee may also be reduced if you sell a high volume of merchandise, so ask your merchant account about a per transaction fee. You may also have to pay a monthly fee in addition to a flat fee and a percentage on each sale.