The central focus of merchant card services is an array of offerings for retailers and etailers whose primary goal is to be able to accept credit cards. In order to conduct cashless commerce, merchants turn to merchant card service providers or banks to set up a merchant account, or payment gateway or services like PayPal® or Google Checkout® in order to accept credit cards without having a merchant account. A merchant account is an agreement between a merchant and a credit card processor that allows the merchant to accept credit card purchases and transfer funds. A payment gateway is the program that sends the credit card information of an online customer between the merchant’s website and the merchant account provider. Along with being able to accept credit cards, there are other offerings that may be available through merchant card services, with or without additional fees.
Even though the point of merchant card services is to allow merchants to accept credit cards, the basic service may not include all cards. Frequently, VISA® and MasterCard® are included, and while Discover® and American Express® are available, they are not necessarily included in the basic service. An extra fee may be assessed for setting up acceptance of these cards.
Accepting debit cards is another merchant card service. The standard is a debit card for which the customer enters a PIN to complete the transaction. Non-PIN debit card sales are a separate case. Other types of card are each separately dealt with as well. This includes check cards, gift cards, and credit cards that are part of a loyalty, reward, or frequent flyer program.
Merchant card services often include services that are ancillary to accepting cards. For example, another merchant card service that is typically offered include Mail Order and Telephone Order (MOTO) support. Accepting fax orders is another alternative, as is accepting electronic checks. Hosting an ATM in a retail store and having a web shopping cart for an ecommerce site are two examples of services that are even farther from the core offerings. Merchants can put together a package of services that suit their business.
Various merchant card services have differing fee structures. Some incur a one-time charge. Others may have a monthly fee, a transaction batch fee, or a percentage fee.