If you own a business, creating a merchant account is in your best interest. Regardless of the products you sell, customers carrying cash is becoming less and less common. As credit card purchases become more popular, opening a merchant account with a merchant service provider not only makes things simpler for your customers, but also makes things easier for you.
But what exactly is a merchant account, and how do you start one? We’re glad you asked! Keep reading below to learn everything you need to know about merchant accounts and how to get your business running more efficiently than ever before.
A merchant account is a service where a financial provider enters an agreement with a business in which the provider handles all of the business’ payment processing needs. With the newly-created account, a company is now able to accept and process credit card payments, and the provider gives the business a secure location to deposit the funds.
Once the funds have been processed and deposited with the provider, they are then issued back to the company after processing fees have been deducted.
Not every merchant account is the same, as each will have its own set of requirements. However, the process of creating a merchant is generally the same regardless of the service provider. That being said, there are several things to consider before starting the process and making a final decision.
Before creating a merchant account, it’s vital that you already have a place to store business funds. Most merchant service providers require proof of a business bank account to show how serious you are about the business.
Having a separate bank account for your business will also significantly reduce your personal liability with the company and protect personal assets should financial issues occur.
Once you’ve opened a business bank account, it’s time to start the actual journey in opening a merchant account by deciding which credit cards your business will accept.
Start by analyzing the different brands of credit cards and determine if any of them provide benefits that are unique to your business. Visa is often the preferred choice, but your decision will depend on which brand caters directly to the needs of your business.
Depending on the type of products or services your business provides, you will also want to consider the different payment models your company will offer if any. Whether it be recurring billing or one-time payments, it’s essential to have this finalized to make things easier in the long-term.
If your bank allows for various payment models, it’s also necessary to find out what rates they can offer you, as it may alter your decision.
If you plan on running your business online, it’s critical that you have an official website up and running. Merchant accounts must have a website with its own hosting and a unique domain, so it’s essential that both are taken care of ahead of time. Even if you don’t plan on running your entire business online, it’s still crucial to have a website where customers will be able to find your business and learn more about you.
Once you have all of the above completed, the next step is to organize your paperwork. Before you can submit an application form for a merchant account, there are several required documents you must have readily available. These documents include:
You’ll need to provide bank statements that demonstrate your company’s financial competence. Most merchant accounts will require two years of financial statements from a business bank account, as well as any processing statements. Processing statements will show merchant accounts precisely how many transactions you typically process and any vital information regarding those transactions.
In some cases, you may be required to provide a merchant account with a business license. This will give the merchant account with your company’s sales tax registration, as well as professional or occupational licenses. As mentioned, your business may not require a license, but it’s essential to check with your merchant account provider beforehand to make sure.
Whether you’re an LLC, sole proprietorship, or corporation, articles of incorporation provide proof that your business is legally a business. In essence, articles of incorporation are what legitimizes your business in the eyes of the government. If you don’t have these already, you can typically find resources on how to do so through your state government’s website.
In order for your merchant account to be approved, your business must also abide by a particular set of rules determined by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) and Data Security Standards (DSS).
PCI compliance protects the information of your customers and requires a business to use a specific set of security procedures when handling customer data. While this will depend on which state your business is located in, check with your merchant account provider to determine if PCI compliance is something you must abide by.
While you may not need some of these documents, it’s still worth having them close by as every merchant account provider may require multiple forms of documentation to complete your application. Some documents worth having on hand include:
Finally, once you have completed all of the above, you are now ready to complete and submit your application for a merchant account. While the application is somewhat straightforward, be sure to read each section carefully and double-check the information you’ve provided to prevent any errors in the submission process. Additionally, the merchant account will also require a setup fee along with the application.
Once you’ve submitted the application alongside all of the required documents, your application will be reviewed, and a final decision will be made. As soon as the application has been approved, your business can now start processing and accepting credit card payments both in-store and online, if applicable.