What is a merchant account?

Published: 25/10/2018

If you want to take credit and debit card payments, you’ll need to be set-up with a verified merchant account. Anytime you take a card payment; the funds will be deposited into it.

This account acts separately to your business bank account and holds the funds whilst the customers’ card details are checked. It also confirms whether the customer has enough money in their bank for the transaction to be processed.

Once processed, a percentage charge will be deducted by the provider of your merchant account, before the money is automatically transferred into your business bank account.

A merchant account, or merchant service account, can help detect fraud and ensure that you’re processing safe card transactions for both you and your customers.

What are the benefits of taking card payments?

The use of cash is declining, whilst paying by card is becoming increasingly popular. UK Finance recently reported that 13.2 billion debit card payments were made in 2017, along with 3.1 billion payments made using credit cards that same year.

With more and more customers using their credit or debit cards to make payments instore and online, it’s key for businesses to consider getting set-up with a merchant service account so they can accept these payments.

If you don’t, you could be missing out on potential sales.

There are also many more benefits to taking card payments. You can read our blog on why your business should start taking them, to find out more.

What are the different types of card payments you could take?

A merchant service account enables you to use a range of payment solutions, which are designed to fit a number of different business needs:

Card machines – this is one of the most popular ways to accept card payments, and card machines are becoming a standard must-have in most independent businesses. They allow you to take card payments directly from your customers and are available as a countertop machine, that you can use at your till, a portable terminal, so you can use it around the shop floor or mobile, which you can use whilst out on the road.

They all use secure Chip and PIN technology. They’re also Apple Pay and Android Pay compatible, as well as Contactless enabled.

Online payments – a payment gateway is a merchant portal which allows you to take payments through your website and are an ideal solution for businesses who trade online. They can be integrated a number of ways. If you don’t have a website, there’s also a solution for you. You can offer customers online payments through eInvoicing or Pay by Link.

Phone payments – if you’re a mail or telephone order business, you’ll need to be able to accept payments over the phone. With a virtual terminal, you can, simply by connecting to the internet on a computer or tablet and accessing a merchant management system or portal.

How much does a merchant account cost?

Before going ahead, you should consider checking and comparing a number of card providers to see what fees you may have to pay, and to find the right solution for you.

Some providers may charge you joining and exit fees, and it’s also wise to check there’s no hidden costs. You should also consider looking at what contract lengths are available as some providers offer contracts as long as 3-5 years, whilst others have shorter ones available.

You’ll should expect to pay a monthly card machine rental, a merchant service charge (transaction fees) and an authorisation fee (acquirer charge). Your processing fees will depend on what types of card payments you take. For example, credit cards could have a different transaction fee compared to debit cards.

The merchant service charge will be agreed between you and your acquirer, but if you don’t meet the agreed fee, a minimum monthly service charge is likely to apply. To ensure you’re processing secure payments, you’ll also need to pay a PCI compliance fee.

How do I get a merchant account?

There are a number of different providers available if you’re looking to get set-up with a merchant service account, including Payzone.

Get in touch so we can help get you set up. We’ll take the time to get to know more about you and your business. We like to do this face-to-face, and by meeting with your local card specialist, we can find the best card payment solution for you.

Our local card payment specialists will come to visit you and learn more about your business and discuss which card payment solution is best for you.

Your CPS will create a bespoke pricing package to suit your needs. These rates will be based on your current or expected card transaction volume. There are no separate card machine rental costs, as this is all included in your pricing package. Your package will also cover any transaction and authorisation fees.

You won’t be expected to sign into a long contract. Unlike other providers who can tie you in for up to 5 years, we’re happy to offer our customers short and flexible 12-month contracts.

We don’t charge any joining fees and if you choose to leave at the end of your 12 month contract, we don’t charge exit fees.

We’re dedicated to supporting thousands of UK independent businesses with card payment solutions. Find out more about us and get your free quote today.

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