Merchant Processing 101
Frequently Asked Questions
Q.: How Do I Choose a Merchant Account?
A.: Will you be accepting credit cards over the Internet?
•If so, merchants should lean towards using an online payment gateway in conjunction with their shopping cart. Payment gateways are a type of credit card processing software which is hosted by a third party on a server outside of your business. Your shopping cart, or other payment software, communicates with the payment gateway via the internet and it manages the actual transactions. Merchant Industry sells several payment gateways including: Authorize.net, VeriSign, and LinkPoint. We also offer our own product, MerchantWare Payment Gateway, which has all the features, flexibility and compatibility standard to these products.
How many credit card transactions will you need to handle at any one time?
•For most merchants the answer is usually only one, but some merchants who have more than one user or customer running transactions at the same time will need a more robust credit card processing software solution. If there are multiple internal users and they are on a network you can use PC Charge Pro. If the users are not on a network, then a merchant can use a virtual terminal such as the one offered by of Authorize.Net. This virtual terminal will allow users to log in using their web browsers and charge cards from anywhere they have Internet access. Transaction information is centrally located and can be accessed from anywhere.
Will you be charging the same customer's cards on a regular basis?
•Merchants whose customers are frequently reordering or those who bill their customers on a monthly basis may wish to use credit card processing software that stores credit card information and can charge customers at specified intervals. PC Charge Pro has this feature built in and makes it easy to manage charging customers.
Q.: What is the Industry Terminology?
Automatic Teller Machine (Direct Connect sells only cash dispensing ATMs - they will not accept deposits.)
ATM / Debit Card
Automatic debit to consumer’s checking account when used. Extends no credit and can only be used if money is in the consumer’s account. Can be used at ATM machines and POS equipment with a pinpad - pin number required.
The process of verifying the credit card has sufficient funds (credit) available to cover the amount of the transaction. An authorization is obtained for every sale. An approval response in the form of a code sent to a merchant's POS equipment (usually a terminal) from a card issuing financial institution that verifies availability of credit or funds in the cardholder account to make the purchase.
Term used when credit card terminal automatically closes at a specified time at time and deposits transactions at the processor, enabling funds to be transferred into the merchants’ bank account. Most merchants set up on auto-close. Exception: merchants accepting tips.
The average dollar amount of a merchant's typical sale. The average ticket amount is calculated by dividing the total sales volume by the total number of sales for the specified time period.
The accumulation of captured credit card transactions in the merchant's terminal or POS awaiting settlement.
Term used when consumer unable to settle a return/refund on a credit card transaction with the merchant. Consumer calls credit card issuer to charge back the sale to the merchant and act as a mediator in resolving the dispute. A charge back fee is charged to the merchant if merchant is found at fault.
Mail Order / Telephone Order (MOTO)
Credit card transactions initiated via mail, email or telephone. Also known as card-not-present transactions.
The process of sending a merchant's batch to the network for processing and payment. For non-bankcards, the issuer pays the merchant directly (less applicable fees) and then bills the cardholder. For bankcards, the acquirer pays the merchant (less applicable fees) with funds from Visa/MasterCard. The bankcard issuer then bills the cardholder for the amount of sale.
Q.: How Does Credit Card Processing Work?
A.: Some form of the modern credit card has been in use since the late 19th century, mostly as department store charge cards representing lines of credit. Things have changed and today, the step a merchant needs to take in order to accept credit card payments is to establish a merchant account with a bank or third-party payment provider. Once your account is live, the transaction process generally works as follows:
•1. A customer presents a credit card for payment.
•2. By swiping the credit card through an electronic point-of-sale (POS) transaction terminal, typically provided by the bank or payment provider, an electronic request is submitted to the processing network for authorization.
•3. The processing network receives your electronic request and determines if the cardholder’s account is valid and if the funds are available. If so, a response called an “authorization code” is transmitted, guaranteeing your access to the funds.
•4. A receipt is then printed for the customer using the POS terminal or your computer. The customer then signs the receipt and, for their part, the transaction is complete.
•5. At the end of the business day, a merchant will electronically submit a final request to the processing network to “capture the funds” for all authorized transactions in a given day. This process is referred to as settlement. Once approved, a response is generated to your electronic terminal or computer.
•6. From there, the funds associated with the batch you settled are deposited electronically into your business bank account, usually within 48 to 72 hours. Typically, the rate and any fees paid to your merchant account provider are deducted from your account at the end of the month.
•7. At the end of the month, your merchant account provider will send a statement to you, detailing the credit card activity for the month and the associated fees you’ve been charged.
Q.: How long does the approval process take?
A.: Typically the industry standard is from 24-48 hrs depending on how the paperwork is obtained either through an online application or mailed application. I would give yourself a week time in advance so you can cross you T's and dot your I's. If you are started a new business then I would take time in discussing your needs and go over the rates and credit card terminals you will be using. If you are switching over the process is much more immediate and you can expect a speedy turnaround time.
Upon receipt of the application and required supporting documents, our in-house Underwriting Department will begin the review process of your application. The average timeframe for approval is 24-48 hours for domestic accounts, 10-14 days for Canadian accounts, and 3-4 weeks for International accounts. The setup and deployment of your merchant account will be within 24 hours of approval.
Q.: How fast can you set up my merchant account?
A.: Typically the industry standard is from 24-48 hrs depending on how the paperwork is obtained either through an online application or mailed application. I would give yourself a week time in advance so you can cross you T's and dot your I's. If you are started a new business then I would take time in discussing your needs and go over the rates and credit card terminals you will be using.
If you are switching over the process is much more immediate and you can expect a speedy turnaround time. Also, you must consider there are different types of merchant accounts as well. If you are obtaining a virtual payment type system there will be programming involved typically and this could prolong the process.
Always ask the customer service representative these questions if time is an issue. If you are a retail business and will be using a credit card terminal then the software download in the terminal as well as arrival could be an issue as well.
Q.: Can I process for more than one business with my merchant account?
A.: Unfortunately, there can only be one merchant account associated with your business. This is required by the credit card associations and works with your tax id. If you have more then one business you can definitely have separate accounts for each one.
Also a reminder is that VISA / MasterCard rules and regulations prohibit more than one business processing on a merchant account. Keep in mind, however, that you can have more than one merchant account as long as the business name and tax ID are unique for each account.
Q.: Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to open a merchant account?
A.: For the most part you do have to be a U.S. citizen with a valid social security card. We offer other programs and application processes for Non U.S. based citizens and will be happy to point you in the right direction.
Yes, in addition to U.S. domestic accounts, we also provide merchant accounts for Canadian and International merchants. You must be a U.S. citizen to open a domestic merchant account. If you are a Canadian business owner, you can apply for a Canadian merchant account. International accounts are available for those citizens living outside the continental United States and Canadian borders.
Q.: What are the underwriting requirements to open a merchant account?
A.: Well, while we don't disclose our requirements, we do provide the following guidelines which are industry standards:
1) We don't open accounts for sex businesses, on-line adult content, roving merchants (door-to-door sales), drug paraphernalia, and similar businesses.
2) We'll require a copy of your business license, fictitious business name filing (DBA), seller's permit, articles of incorporation, tax privilege license or vendor's license and whatever is applicable.
Once your completed merchant account application is received, you MUST provide:
1.Copy of signor's driver's license
2.Copy of voided check with business name on check OR copy of letter from merchants business bank on bank letterhead:
1.a) Account name
2.b) Account number
3.c) Routing number
4.d) Signed by bank staff member
3.If currently processing credit cards, merchant will be required to submit 1-3 months processing statements.
4.If customer is asking for more than $10,000 in monthly processing volume OR risk is considered high, the merchant may be required to submit the following:
1.a) Copy of Checking Account Statements
2.a) Copy of business license OR articles of incorporation
Q.: Are there application fees involved?
A.: Once again its dependent of what category your are considering when applying for a merchant account. There are different pricing structures for different merchants. For example: A High Risk Merchants rates differ then that of a conventional type merchant. Any one who can offer you just one rate is not giving you the whole story. It's like buying a house; there are different factors involved that get you the lowest APR percentage. We advise that you ask plenty of questions and want to give you the resources in doing so.
Q.: How do I apply for a merchant account?
A.: It is very simple, you simply can call our (888) 459-0660 number or fill out the pre-application form and a customer service representative will contact you shortly. If you have any questions you can also email firstname.lastname@example.org. The application process is very simple and usually only takes a few minutes. Applying for a merchant account is easy.
Q.: How much all this will cost?
A.: Now that you know how processing works and what the available options are, you’re probably wondering how much all this will cost. While service fees and rates vary from provider to provider, “bundled” pricing is the most common type of agreement used in determining which per-transaction rate applies to which type of merchant. In the simplest terms, pricing is based on risk: the higher the risk involved in the transaction, the higher the rate the merchant will have to pay.
•Inquiry Fee - A fee that is assessed on the number of credit card transactions a merchant has.
•Monthly Minimum - The minimum that a processor dictates a merchant must incur on a monthly basis in Discount Fees and Inquiry Fees (in other words, a minimum usage fee for accepting credit cards).
•Statement Fee - Monthly statement reporting fee.
•Chargeback Fee - A flat fee charged to the Merchant in the event a chargeback is incurred.
•Transaction Fee - A flat fee charged to the Merchant every time a payment is processed.
•(Discount) Rate - A percentage of the purchase transaction charged to the Merchant every time a payment is processed based on card type, risk, and payment method (in person, over the phone, etc.).
Again, these rates are used to determine the cost to the merchant on a per-transaction basis. There are additional costs associated with payment processing, including start- up fees, equipment costs, charge back fees and more.