Any smart business owner knows that accepting credit cards as a payment option will dramatically increase revenues. Not only do credit cards offer customers the convenience and ease of not having to carry around cash or checks, it lends a sense of professionalism to your establishment as well. The process of applying to become a credit card merchant can be a bit confusing and frustrating, so let's take a look at how it all works.
The Credit Card Account
The credit card account that you will use is called a merchant account. These accounts are different from a regular business checking account in that they are accounts that have been secured through a bank that offers credit card processing. This account enables you to process your credit card transactions through their banking establishment. This is a safe and secure process which provides both you and the buyer security and protection from the beginning of the transaction right through to the end.
Since most of the merchant accounts are offered by a third party vendor, you are not obligated to use any specific bank or institution. You are free to choose the one that offers the options that will work best for you and your company.
What you do need to pay attention to are the fees. These fees will come in three different forms. First, the initial setup fee (pretty self-explanatory), moving on to the percentage fee (the provider will take a percentage of each transaction based on amount of sale), and then ending with the monthly service fee. Read the fine print of any contract before signing it. Pay attention to all three fee categories, not just one.
Also, look for contract obligations. Some providers will offer you great deals but will want you to sign on with them for a long period of time. You need to be aware of what, if any, penalties will be charged for getting out of the contract if things don't work out.
How Do I Actually Get Paid
Obviously, this is pretty important. If a customer has used a credit card, no money has actually changed hands. Since more and more customers are now using credit cards, how that money gets into your account and how fast has become vitally important.
Any of the reputable merchant account providers will provide the business owner with payment into their account within the first 24 to 48 hours of the initial transaction. Whether that customer has a balance on that card is not a concern of yours. The bank will pay you anyway.
If the customer disputes the said transaction, the bank is usually under no obligation to pay the business owner, especially if that dispute has been deemed acceptable. If a business owner has a high number of legitimacy claims against them, the provider may just drop them.
The majority of the time, though, things go as planned and the money shows up in your account within a day or two.
By Keith Baxter