You will often hear the terms “payment gateway” or “ecommerce payment processing” and suchlike and it’s important to draw the distinction between these, and merchant accounts.
Here’s the primary difference.
The merchant account is the license, the service that allows you to process Visa, Mastercard and a range of other credit cards online.
However, in contrast, the payment gateway is, if you like, the technological vehicle that passes credit card information from merchant accounts to the banks for them to process the charges.
So in essence, you need both of them in order to process credit cards online. Some startups have been known to get these two mixed up, meaning they carefully apply for a payment gateway, but haven’t got the merchant account to begin with.
You have two options. If you already have a merchant account for offline business, go back to the company that provided you with the merchant account service and request to be given an internet merchant account, then apply simply for a payment gateway lease online. Alternatively, most online merchant accounts (especially those we recommend here at Merchant Account Forum) come complete with payment gateway.
Keep your eyes peeled – and ensure you know what you’re applying for. All recommendations from this site include both in one package.