What Is a Merchant Account and How Do I Get One?

Merchant Account - Complete Controller

Merchant accounts are a type of bank account for businesses that enables them to accept debit and credit card payments. It is an agreement between three parties (retailer, payment processor, and merchant bank) to settle transactions involving credit and debit cards.

The process concerning the transfer of funds is simple. First, the payment is deposited into the merchant account. From there, they are shifted into the bank account owned by the business. This transfer into the business account can occur daily or weekly, varying according to the merchant bank providing the merchant account services.

It is necessary to have an internet merchant account if you want to start an e-commerce business that accepts credit card payments. Check out America's Best Bookkeepers

Getting a Merchant Account

Getting a merchant account isn’t that simple. There are a lot of factors that come into play when you’re applying for a merchant account. Merchant account providers have to minimize their risks. They look at a variety of things before approving your merchant account. Here are some questions that give you an idea of what information the bank considers.

  • Does your business have a high risk of credit card fraud?
  • How long has your business been operating?
  • Is there an event of interest in your business’ history? (e.g., Bankruptcy, Default)
  • Does your business have any other merchant accounts?
  • How is your personal credit history?

It is easier to get approval for a merchant account from a bank that holds your business and personal account.

If the answers to the questions above do not look favorable, your account may still be approved. However, the merchant bank will likely charge higher transaction fees as reassurance for their risk. That high fee can then be renegotiated later on when the business has a better standing.

Internet Merchant Accounts

An internet merchant account is specifically used to hold and transfer funds that originate from online credit card transactions. These accounts usually have a higher fee than a typical merchant account as there is a higher risk involved in internet card transactions. Check out America's Best Bookkeepers

Internet card transactions include one more thing, a payment gateway that carries out the authentication of credit card information like a POS machine does in a retail store. The payment gateway forwards the transaction information to the credit card company, which then authorizes the payment. Some merchant banks offer a solution which finishes the requirement of having a separate payment gateway.

You must know that you will need a separate internet merchant account for the different types of cards you want to accept. It is convenient to get your internet merchant account through a third-party provider, including Moneris, PS iGATE, Internet Secure, and many others.

The Structure of Fees

There are many different types of fees attached to merchant accounts. Some may be mentioned in the contract; other fees might not be mentioned. Here are a few that you should expect:

  • Setup Fees
  • Application Fees
  • Discount Rate
  • Monthly Fees
  • Per Transaction Fees
  • Credit Card Terminal Rent
  • Cross Border Fee

Excessive fees might hurt your business margin, so it is important to compare how much you will have to pay for your business’ merchant accounts. Also, carefully looking into merchant account contracts can help you avoid minimum term agreements that require a penalty to be paid for cancellation.

Alternatives to Merchant Accounts Check out America's Best Bookkeepers


This service offers a complete solution for online transactions. You can avoid several fees if you use PayPal by only paying on a per transaction basis. It can be used to improve your margin, which gets smaller and smaller due to the extra fee associated with utilizing internet merchant accounts.

You can have a PayPal pay button placed on the checkout page of your website. You can also choose to use the Website Payments Pro option, which offers a more professional payment interface for your e-commerce website.

Credit Card Reader

These are devices that connect to your phone to carry out transactions. Offered by a variety of service providers, they are very cheap (or even free) and charge a reasonable per transaction fee.

Check out America's Best Bookkeepers About Complete Controller® – America’s Bookkeeping Experts Complete Controller is the Nation’s Leader in virtual bookkeeping, providing service to businesses and households alike. Utilizing Complete Controller’s technology, clients gain access to a cloud-hosted desktop where their entire team and tax accountant may access the QuickBooks™️ file, critical financial documents, and back-office tools in an efficient and secure environment. Complete Controller’s team of certified US-based accounting professionals provide bookkeeping, record storage, performance reporting, and controller services including training, cash-flow management, budgeting and forecasting, process and controls advisement, and bill-pay. With flat-rate service plans, Complete Controller is the most cost-effective expert accounting solution for business, family-office, trusts, and households of any size or complexity. Check out America's Best Bookkeepers