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What You Need to Know About Merchant Accounts, E-commerce, and Payment Gateways

Aug 17, 2007
Whenever you read about an internet venture, you see phrases like "e-commerce payment processing" and "payment gateway". If you are just getting into the field, you should know a bit about the differences between a merchant account and a payment gateway - sometimes called an "e-commerce" payment processor.

If you are looking to peddle your wares on the net, then go ahead and read this article so you can understand more concerning the way payment processing works, what it costs, and the options that are there for you...

Here's the basic definitions:

What is a merchant account? A merchant account is a specific kind of bank account provided by a financial institution on a set contract. This will allow you to take credit card payments when conducting transactions. This is an approval-based product, that has separate fees and terms and conditions.

A merchant account allows you to take credit card payments from your clients. Depending on the merchant service, it is possible that you could also be able to accept debit cards and e-check payments.

For an online business, you will be required to get a payment gateway after you set up a merchant account. This will provide you with a shopping cart system with which your customers are able to buy and pay for whatever product they select.

The asset that a merchant account provides is that it has the capacity to automate your business - people will be able to put money into your account on the Internet, around the clock.

What is a payment gateway? - A payment gateway, exactly as the name says is the direct link between the shopping cart and the bank that processes the payment. This is generally completed online, in real time and involves authorization, processing and management of all online transactions. Immediately after the payment is authorized the organization would need to access their gateway graphical user interface in order to finish the transaction.

As you can see, the main difference between the merchant account and the payment gateway is that one is the license that allows you to take payment by credit cards, and the other is the medium through which the receiving of online payments takes place, including credit cards.

You should know that having access to payment gateway does not entitle you to take credit cards. The merchant account is an entirely different service that must be applied for and gotten before you are able to accept credit card payments. Keeping that in mind, many merchant providers also provide payment gateway services. A well liked payment gateway is Authorize.net.

Many times when you establish your business you will be given the option of opening some payment gateways or other services with which you would be able to receive credit card payments. When you accept this offer , many times you will not have to pay for set up charges that you would be required to pay when you apply for a merchant account. Sometimes, these may be beneficial when compared to a regular merchant account if you have low sales volume.

(Generally, if you are looking to do any sort of volume with your company - and I'm speculating that you are - it's better to simply obtain a merchant account of your own. It's more dependable, more affordable over the long haul, and you retain more control over the payments that are processed - also access to card/customer data)

Remember, a payment gateway will rarely include the approval of receiving credit cards, while numerous merchant accounts in reality offer the set up of payment gateways as part of the extra features affiliated with the contract with you.

Both the payment gateway and the merchant accounts are vital steps in establishing your online business on the way to complete automation. In fact, you may not understand how many sales you're forfeiting until you take the plunge and set up your own merchant account with a gateway...
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 best way to accept credit card payments.
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