Internet Merchant Account Tips: Make Your Business More Convenient and Profitable
Are you running – or planning on starting – an online business? Then you’ll need to accept credit cards. Consumer research indicates more than 90 percent of all online shoppers use their credit cards when they make a purchase from an online retailer. With figures like that, it’s easy to see why accepting credit cards for your online store or business is not just an optional luxury – it’s a business necessity.
Opening a merchant account is simple, and today’s accounts are much less costly than they were even just a few years ago. Equipped with knowledge and understanding of what services are available, the search process is easy.
Here are a few things to consider when looking for a merchant account provider for your own online business:
One of the primary decisions you’ll have to make when you open a merchant account for online credit card purchases is whether you want to use a real-time processing system or a delayed processing system. There are advantages – and disadvantages – to both.
In a real-time processing system (probably most familiar to customers today), credit card transactions are processed “instantly” after an order is submitted. Customers enter their credit card and other billing information into your web store’s online shopping cart system, and that information is transmitted to the card issuer via a special connection called a gateway.
The gateway is a separate layer of security for your transactions, helping to limit your business’ exposure to fraud and also helping to facilitate the transaction and card validation. In some cases, you merchant account provider will offer its own gateway system, but some merchant account providers will ask you to find a system on your own.
In those cases, it’s essential you ensure the software being used by the gateway provider is compatible with that being used by the merchant account provider. Software incompatibility can cause serious delays in processing your credit card sales, resulting in a loss of sales and possibly customers.
Once the card is validated and the transaction is approved, a virtual receipt is issued and the transaction is complete. The funds from the credit card are earmarked for withdrawal at the end of business, at which time the proceeds from all your credit card transactions will be transferred to your bank account. To all appearances, this type of transaction occurs almost instantly, within just a few moments’ time.
Some of the perks of real-time processing include: ease of use, nearly instant transaction completion and the ability to handle high daily sales volumes
The disadvantages include a higher cost than delayed processing system and the potential inconvenience of selecting your own gateway provider and dealing with software compatibility issues.
In a delayed processing system, the customer still enters his or her credit card and other billing information through your web store’s online shopping cart. But instead of transferring that information instantly to the credit card issuer for approval and validation, the delayed processing system holds the information, storing it until later in the day when you or your business staff will need to access the information and enter it into your own computer or virtual terminal for processing. Only then will a virtual receipt be issued, which can be emailed to your customers.
Delayed processing advantages include lower cost than real-time system, and the ability for the business owner to oversee each transaction personally
However this system requires a business representative to process each transaction manually, and is generally useful only for businesses expecting small daily sales volumes that can be easily processed by hand.
Whether choosing a merchant account provider for an online business or a retail establishment, most of the considerations are the same. When comparing providers, look for a merchant account provider with:
Experience in working with Internet businesses. The needs and processing steps used for online businesses are different than those for other types of accounts. Make sure your account provider has the experience to help you run your online venture successfully.
Great technical support. If your system breaks down or experiences an error in processing credit card transactions, you want the peace of mind of knowing the technical staff is on hand and easily accessible, to handle and correct both minor and major problems that can result in a loss of sales or customers.
Excellent customer service. As with tech support, you want to work with customer representatives who are courteous and prompt in dealing with your own questions and concerns.