Plastic, Not Paper

If you own or run a business — especially an online business — you know that it's imperative that you be able to accept credit cards. To do this, you'll need to obtain something called a merchant account. This is an agreement between a bank and a merchant whereby the bank extends a line of credit that allows the merchant to accept credit card payments.

Merchant Account Providers

A merchant account provider is an organization that — you guessed it — provides merchant accounts to businesses. They fall into two main categories. The first is called a member bank, which is a bank that has a merchant processing agreement with Visa or MasterCard. The other is called an Independent Selling Organization / Member Service Provider, or ISO/MSP for short. An ISO/MSP has a merchant processing agreement with Visa and MasterCard, as well as with a bank that vouches for its financial stability.

It's safest to obtain a merchant account through a bank, but if you choose to go that route, there's often a lot of restrictions and red tape to navigate. If you decide to go through an ISO/MSP, it's extremely important to make sure it's legit. One good way to tell if an ISO/MSP is the real deal is to look for a statement like this in either its informational literature or Website:

"This organization is a registered ISO/MSP of Bank, Town, State. FDIC insured."

If you don't see this anywhere (and it should be fairly easy to find), find another ISO/MSP. You don't want to run the risk of you or your customers getting scammed.

The following Websites should serve as a good jumping-off point for anyone looking for an ISO/MSP:

United Bank Service
Merchant Warehouse

Gotta Spend Money to Make Money

You should expect to pay some fees for your merchant service account. These charges differ from provider to provider, and may be applied as a flat fee, a percentage of your total, on a per-sale basis, or all three. The good news is, they can be negotiable.

Your best bet when choosing a merchant account provider is to compare price, services such as technical support, and reputation. Based on these criteria, you'll be able to decide which provider is best suited for your business's unique needs.

We can't stress enough how important it is to thoroughly do your homework about merchant accounts. The more research you do, the more likely you are to find a secure merchant account that's well-suited to your needs.

Note: The reason why CoffeeCup Shopping Cart Creator works only with Google Checkout, PayPal, and Authorize.Net is because these merchant account providers have an open Application Programming Interface (API). This allows them to work seamlessly with our software. We will continue to add more providers throughout the year.