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Getting a Real Merchant Account or Using 3rd Party Processors Like PayPal(R) - Which is Better?

Aug 17, 2007
A lot of folks see PayPal, ClickBank and other third-party agents as the optimal method of doing business excluding a Merchant Account. This view is substantiated because there is usually no application process, and a few companies, PayPal for example, do not have any fees up-front. This feature boosts their appeal to "shoestring" start-ups and companies that deal in online (digital) products. A bargain is not always the 'cheapest' product.

Why don't we discuss the real differences between going with a third-party company (such as PayPal) and setting up a merchant account of your own...

1. A regular merchant account will charge between $100 - $250 initially to set up, a minimum monthly fee (minimum charges incurred) of $25 and $5+ to send out statements. These companies will bill you somewhere around 1% to 4% or even more per transaction (discount rate) - this varies with your business type - and a majority also use some kind of flat-fee for transactions. These fees range from $0.05 to $0.25

In contrast, PayPal does not charge a set up fee. They do have a 2.9% discount rate and charge 30 cents for each transaction. CC Now lacks fees except a 9% per transaction charge. ClickBank's set-up fee is $49.95. They charge no monthly fee, but a transaction fee of $1 in addition to 7%. DigiBuy has a set-up fee of $29.95 and no monthly fee. They do charge 13.9% or $3 per transaction (you pay the larger fee).

To better explain the fees involved, essentially, as soon as you build up a noteworthy sales volume ($1000/month or more), the costs involved with utilizing companies such as ClickBank, CCNow and DigiBuy far exceed what you would pay for a true merchant account that really works with your business. The advertised discount rate is normally where most of the money is used anyway, and this is how third-parties usually take in all their money.

PayPal, however, has a quite affordable discount rate, and the sole extra charge incurred for a regular account is the 30 cents transaction fee. In fact, if the average charges of a traditional merchant account are compared with PayPal's strictly from a "numbers" standpoint, the only time it is less expensive to use a merchant account is if your transactions are upwards of $50,000 monthly.

This perspective is only taking considering the actual numbers involved - and not any other variables that crop up when conducting business online, or offline...

2. Initially, it seems like PayPal is by far the better choice. Their low discount rate and transaction fees are without equal, and there is almost no entry impediment. You can start a PayPal account at no cost in a few minutes, and you are able to begin taking payments the moment your details are verified. For some small-time sellers and internet entrepreneurs, PayPal is just the ticket.

However, there are huge shortcomings that are not disclosed in the black and white contrast table that deals with cash - the value of the service could be different after you understand the following:

a. Many times these alternatives don't deal with support requests quickly; there have been times that delays persisted for several weeks.

b. Paypal does not give you access to your customer's credit card number, neither do any of the other third party service bureaus

c. A great majority of the alternatives cannot calculate shipping charges and taxes in their shopping carts

d. Some other companies are only serviceable for large profit-margin sales because of the expensive charges per sale (eg. DigiBuy charges 14% per sale which is huge)

e. Many alternatives to the merchant account lack a shopping cart altogether (eg. ClickBank), while like Paypal's is crude to say the least

f. PayPal has been known to shut down accounts and freeze funds - without warning - based solely on the hunches of employees that feel that vendors have violated their terms of service.

g. If you're especially accomplished at marketing, and if you render an ample amount of sales during a launch - you should not be startled if your account ends up being "red-flagged", frozen and audited. And this will take place, once again, without warning.

In comparison, this is what you can anticipate from a merchant account:

1. If you are processing sales online, you will have the ability to enter your merchant details into an easy to use, uncomplicated menu-driven (shopping-cart) interface/gateway - and there are several that are readily obtainable, even free ones such as OSCommerce. These are is simple to use by potential clients, and all-inclusive in terms of assembling crucial data

2. You can allow you to modify the shopping cart to fit your precise purpose including the shipping costs and taxes

3. It will show you your clients' credit card numbers to make tracking, refunds, etc. easier.

4. It will assist you in fully automating your business's payment processing

In other words, when you are starting out and your sales volume is low, a more cost-effective approach could be to use services like PayPal. However, when your sales increase - or if you desire more control over your ordering process, at the same time saving cash on higher sales volumes, a merchant account is a better choice.

In conclusion, if you're sincere about making your small business succeed, you will sooner or later need to obtain a merchant account. It's more cost effective, and you have much greater control over the money being processed.
About the Author
Chris Rempel highly recommends www.AcceptByPhone.com, which enables anyone to accept credit cards using any touch-tone phone (or cellular) for a FRACTION of the regular cost - and it's completely mobile.

Find out why Chris and others think this service is the ultimate mobile merchant account service.
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