Merchant Account Services
Merchant Account Services
A merchant account is a type of bank account that allows businesses to accept payments by payment cards, typically debit or credit cards. A merchant account is established under an agreement between an acceptor and a merchant acquiring bank for the settlement of payment card transactions. In some cases a payment processor, independent sales organization (ISO), or merchant service provider (MSP) is also a party to the merchant account services. Whether a merchant enters into a merchant agreement directly with an acquiring bank or through an aggregator such as PayPal, the agreement contractually binds the merchant to obey the operating regulations established by the card associations.
Methods of processing credit cards
Today a majority of credit card transactions are sent electronically to merchant processing banks for authorization, capture and deposit. Various methods exist for presenting a credit card sale to “the system.” In all circumstances either the entire magnetic strip is read by a swipe through a credit card terminal/reader, a computer chip is read, or the credit card information is manually entered into a credit card terminal, a computer or website. The earliest methods, submitting credit card slips to a merchant processing bank by mail, or by accessing an Automated Response Unit (ARU) by telephone, are still in use today but have long been overshadowed by electronic devices. These early methods used two-part forms and a manual device for mechanically imprinting the embossed card number information onto the forms.
Credit card terminal
A credit card terminal is a stand-alone piece of electronic equipment that allows a merchant to swipe or key-enter a credit card’s information as well as additional information required to process a credit card transaction. A credit card terminal is a dedicated piece of equipment that only processes credit cards although it is common for related transactions including gift cards and check verification to also be performed. A credit card terminal typically must be plugged in to a power supply and connected to a telephone line. However, some terminals may be powered by batteries and communicate over the Internet or through a cellular phone data network. When a credit card is processed (either swiped through the magnetic stripe reader or keyed-in to the keypad), it contacts the network to verify if the credit card can be authorized. The transaction is then stored on the machine until the polling window is opened. The machine will either upload the electronic funds directly to the merchant bank, or a polling service provider will dial in to collect, process then submit the data to the merchant bank. The most popular credit card terminals consist of a modem, keypad, printer, magnetic stripe reader, power supply and memory card. They have had the same basic design since the 1980s. As with computers, there is a wide range of memory capacities and other features like built-in printers and debit card pinpads that affect the manufacturing cost of a credit card terminal.
Automated Response Unit (ARU)
An ARU (also known as a voice authorization, capture and deposit) allows the manual keyed entry and subsequent authorization of a credit card over a cellular or land-line telephone. With this method a merchant typically imprints their customer’s card with an imprinter to create a customer receipt and merchant copy, then process the transaction instantaneously over the phone.
A payment gateway is an e-commerce service that authorizes payments for e-businesses and online retailers. It is the equivalent of a physical POS (point-of-sale) terminal located in most retail outlets. A merchant account provider is typically a separate company from the payment gateway. Some merchant account providers have their own payment gateways but the majority of companies use 3rd party payment gateways. The gateway usually has 2 components: a) the virtual terminal that can allow for a merchant to securely login and key in credit card numbers or b) have the website’s shopping-cart connect to the gateway via an API to allow for real time processing from the merchant’s website.
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