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An online merchant account allows you to accept credit and debit cards for Internet purchases. Even if you accept plastic in a storefront, setting up a separate online merchant account is a smart business decision. Imagine the possibilities for growth when you expand your customer base to the world.
You might already accept online payments through services like PayPal or Google payments, but that's not enough these days – even if you're doing just a small portion of your business online.
Allowing payment directly through your website is more convenient for customers and demonstrates that you're an established, reputable business. In fact, some customers who can't pay with a credit card won't do business with you for that reason alone.
Cost of Online Merchant Accounts
The cost of an online merchant account varies so greatly from business to business, it's nearly impossible to predict. Contrary to what some companies may tell you, there's no such thing as a standard rate.
Online merchant accounts come with two types of recurring fees:
- Assessment fees are flat fees set by the credit card company. Say if Visa's assessment rate, for example, is 0.10% to 0.15%, meaning a $100 transaction would carry fee of $.10 to $.15, respectively.
- Interchange fees are complex fees based on the type of transaction. There are more than 150 categories of interchange fees, which deduct a percentage of the total purchase price based on factors like the type of card, the size of the merchant and geographic region. The average fee is 44 cents per debit card transaction, but Congress recently passed a proposal to cap that rate at $.12 beginning July 1. Credit card fees are typically higher.
You can also expect to pay:
- A monthly service charge of $10 to $30
- A monthly customer service fee of $10 to $25
- A fee for failing to meet monthly minimums of $25 to $35
- Refund or charge-back fees
Online merchant account fees are a little higher than traditional retail merchant account fees because of the risks associated with online payment. Internet transactions are more likely to be fraudulent than face-to-face transactions.Choosing an Online Merchant Account Provider
Cost is an important consideration in choosing a provider for your online merchant account. Be sure to ask for a complete list of fees – and ask for it in writing. Read the fine print.
Cost isn't the only consideration, particularly considering that the biggest fees – assessment and interchange – are set by credit card companies, not the company that sells you an online merchant account. Research the company's customer service record, too, and find out if the provider has experience in your industry. You may want to look for a provider that offers 24-hour technical support.