Having an online business merchant account is imperative for e-commerce sites as more than 85% of purchases made online are paid for by credit cards. If your business is still insisting on getting paid through old fashioned checks, or worse, cash, you may as well put it up as a museum exhibit!
If you don’t have a clue of how to go about getting an online business merchant account,don’t sweat. It involves a fairly simple procedure and there are a number of service providers who will be only too happy to sign you on.
But, first things first. Arm yourself with a little knowledge of how credit card processing works so that you ask the right questions when you begin discussions with a provider.
Basically, the key players are the credit card companies like Visa or MasterCard; banks, which tie up with these companies to issue credit cards to their customers; and clearing houses, which actually process and verify transactions. Then there are the merchant account providers or independent sales organizations, whose goal is to ensure that your company is successfully fixed up with a credit card merchant account. These are the guys that you will be talking to, so make sure you choose a reliable provider. Some providers like Merchant Accounts Express (www.merchantexpress.com) offer a price protection guarantee to safeguard the interest of the credit card merchant account holder.
Right! Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s come to grips with what infrastructure you need in order to operate your online business merchant account. Well, the most important thing is to establish a gateway, which is a means of communication with the clearing house.
One option is to install special software in your computer which will facilitate the exchange of information between your credit card merchant account and the clearing house. However, this requires manual keying in of customer card data, value of transaction etc., therefore you will have to factor in the extra time and effort and also the possibility of data entry error.
Still not happy? No problem. Most e-commerce websites use a real time payment gateway, like PayPal (www.paypal.com) or Worldpay (www.worldpay.com) which completes the data transfer and validation process while the buyer is online. The credit card merchant account owner need not be hassled by any manual processes. The only precaution that needs to be taken is to ensure compatibility of the gateway with the other software and systems that are part of the e-commerce process (for example shopping cart software).
Most merchant account providers charge a small commission for each transaction on your site. It is generally in the range of 2.5% to 7%. Some also charge an initial set up fee or a monthly fee (if the number of transactions on your site fall below a certain minimum). Shop around the various providers until you find the one that suits you.
That’s pretty much all you need to know about an online business merchant account. Make sure you get one and you will see your sales rocket up!