By: Javi Calderon
on Thursday, September 09, 2010
What is a Merchant Account?
A merchant account is an agreement between a business that provides goods or services (a merchant), a merchant bank and a payment processor. The agreement allows that business to accept payment via debit or credit card. A merchant must set up separate merchant accounts for the different credit cards – MasterCard, American Express, Visa etc. – they wish to accept. A specific bank will only be able to issue one type of card and account. If the business is also looking to accept payments online they will have to establish yet another merchant account. Credit card processing software and hardware (known as credit card terminals) will be necessary to complete the transaction and send the information to the processing company and banks.
The Benefits of Merchant Accounts
In a world where personal checks are virtually obsolete, and cash has its limitations and dangers, credit and debit cards have certainly become the preferred method of payment. To be frank, if you’re not accepting credit cards you are certainly missing out on potential sales and customers.
Allowing your customers the choice of payment type is nowadays expected. With cash, customers can only buy as much as they can pay for with what is in their wallets. With a credit card they can buy as much as they want, therefore immediately increasing the dollar amount of your average sale. People simply tend to spend more money when paying with a card.
Instead of taking time to count out payments and then change, customers can be in and out with the swipe of a card, thus streamlining check-out and allowing more customers to make purchases.
If your business has a website, selling your product online and allowing your customers to make credit card payments through a payment gateway could unlock success for your business that you had never dreamed imaginable. Instead of being locked into your local market, customers from California, to New York, to Florida will be able to buy from you 24/7 from the convenience of their home or office.
Choosing the Right Merchant Account
Yes, accepting credit card payments means that a small percentage of the sale goes to the processing company, but the increase in sales will surely make up for it. There are chances that not every merchant bank will accept your application for merchant status, and certainly different banks that offer the same card will offer you different rates. So, it is important to shop around and compare rates and perks.
If one company offers you rates that seem way too low, there are probably additional fees that will end up being more costly in the long run.
Always identify the quality and reliability of the processing company’s merchant services. Even if they offer you low rates, if their customer service is unreliable, the last thing you’ll be thinking about when you have a problem and get their answering machine is how low their rates are. Even worse, if their software is unreliable, your processing system could be out for days at a time!
In the long run the pros certainly outweigh the cons. For a fractional fee, establishing merchant accounts will increase your sales, profits and customer base – giving a fledgling business a boost towards success, and transforming a successful business into a mainstay in their industry. Don’t spend another day waiting while card holding customers walk by your doors and into your competitor’s.
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