A Merchant Account allows you to receive money from credit and debit cards and is a specialist bank account used for receiving the payment. It is separate from your normal business bank account and can be with a different bank. An IMA is an Internet Merchant Account that allows you to receive payment from transactions online.
There is a wide choice of Merchant Account Providers in the UK including:
- First Data
- The Co-operative Bank
- Lloyds TSB Cardnet
Obtaining a merchant account is dependent on your business and credit rating. Not all business sectors are accepted by the major banks, if you are in what is deemed to be a high risk industry there are companies that specialise in providing merchant services in these areas, but expect to pay more in transaction fees.
In order to accept credit cards in person or over the phone your business will need to be granted a Merchant Status by a Merchant Account Provider and obtain a MID (Merchant ID). The Merchant Account verifies card details and provide security checks at a charge per transaction. To accept payments online you must additionally have a secure payment gateway. The payment gateway acts as an intermediary between your website and the Merchant Bank in order to process the payment. The payment gateway provider will also charge a fee per transaction.
Some popular payment gateway providers include:
- Amazon Pay
Once a transaction has been processed by the payment gateway provider then payment to your Merchant Account normally occurs within a week. Funds are then transferred automatically to your business bank account, minus any transaction fees.
Businesses should be aware when taking any type of Credit or Debit Card the Merchant Bank can issue a chargeback and be diligent in all procedures.