The Internet Age Way: Visa Merchant Accounts
Long ago, when I was working somewhere very mundane, I set up a Visa merchant account for my employer - a way for them to accept credit cards in transactions. I was shocked at the cost: the bank we did regular, lucrative business with wanted $100 to set up the account, a set minimum amount in the account, as much as $3 each in transaction fees, and charged us for the electronic scan machine and paperwork. I thought, "!" How does anyone make money that way? Well, people shop where it's convenient, and if you can take their credit cards, they'll be more likely to shop with you. But the cost of setting up a Visa merchant account can be prohibitive for a small business, especially one starting out on the Internet. But today there are many more choices, pioneered by Paypal and copied and improved on by many others. You can set up an account online to accept Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, JCB, and Diners Club, as well as other methods of payment, and it won't cost you a dime in setup, nor will it cost you more in transaction fees than a regular bank-setup Visa merchant account would. The difference is that these online financial companies act as a gateway; they process your charges and cover any fraud involved, getting a better rate from credit card companies due to the bulk of their business. Then they pass some of the savings on to you, after making their profit. So you can now set up your storefront online, create your catalog and shopping cart, and accept payments via credit card - the most convenient way to get money online - without paying a dime up front to a bank. Better yet, if you shop around online, you can find Visa merchant account providers who also provide special services to home-based merchants like storefronts in a box - a free package with your databasing, shopping cart, and checkout pages already set up for you; phone order services; mail order services; Ebay tools; and reasonably priced website hosting services as well. These package deals are often much cheaper than purchasing everything separately, but not always; make certain you shop around. There are a few other advantages to using online gateway services to process your Visa merchant account. As a small business, you may not have a lot of transactions; in fact, you may only have one or two credit card transactions over a few months. If you went to a traditional bank for this processing, you would pay a monthly fee, whether you had any credit card transactions or not; with an online gateway, you don't pay any fees at all unless you have transactions. A bank would have you wait to get your Visa merchant account, but most gateway services will allow you to set up and begin using your account for credit card purchasing right away. Many Visa merchant account gateway services will aggressively fight fraud and chargebacks on your behalf - try getting a bank to do that for you these days! And read the fine print - many of them also provide you free a seller protection policy to help shield you from legal liability if things go wrong in transactions. In short, gateway services for Visa merchant accounts can be a great deal. But be certain to shop around and compare services; what's best for one merchant isn't so great for another. Be sure that your chosen gateway provides all the services and protection that you need for your small business. And keep up on new technology; advances make Visa merchant account services better every day.