A merchant account is a facility offered by a bank or financial provider that allows you to accept payments by credit or debit cards. These accounts are becoming increasingly important as more and more single, older and busy people find reason to spend money over the internet in a genuine and dignified search for a fun or more permanent relationship.
Because of the financial nature of the beast, such facilities can be complicated, although they often simply consist of an agreement between you and the bank that accepts the payment. Because of this, it is important that if you are seeking to open a merchant account you should choose the right provider, ensuring that you find a trustworthy, financial services merchant who has a good reputation.
Sometimes an account may involve a third party who will process the payment before passing the payment to your bank account. This relationship is more complex although it usually involves a contract between the payment processor and the bank, agreeing that the processor will adhere to any financial standards that the bank has in place. The fact that third-party payment processors are bound to bank standards can guarantee some financial peace of mind for you who are understandably concerned about the competency and legitimacy of a third-party.
A merchant account is suitable both for online and offline transactions, so can therefore process payments both in-person and with the customer absent. For an internet transaction this may mean the integration of a bankís software. Some websites will send the information directly from their own website to the bank over a secure connection, whereas other websites will integrate part of the merchant service providerís website into their own.
Many merchants offer a service along these lines, whereby users will be directed to a third-party website in order to complete a transaction and the third party will in turn report back to you if the transaction is successful. A payment gateway is a third-party service between you and your merchant account provider, although some banks provide their own gateway. A gateway usually has two aspects, a virtual terminal that will allow a customer to enter card details, and a facility for your websiteís shopping cart to connect to the gateway via an API for real-time processing of the transaction.
Phone sales usually involve another type of transaction that can be performed without the customer being present ñ this is known as an ARU, an Automated Response Unit. It allows you to manually key the details of a credit or debit card into a terminal, and accept voice authorization over the telephone to charge the customerís card for an agreed amount. You can then send the receipt to an agreed address.
In-person transactions have largely switched to the use of a credit card terminal that allows a customer to insert or swipe their card and to then key in their pin. Currently, it is still possible to perform a transaction without requiring a pin, although it is becoming increasingly rare due to the fraud protection that the chip and pin system offers.