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A merchant account is a type of bank account for businesses that allows accepting and processing credit and debiting card transactions. Merchant account is often required for various businesses, especially for online operations. This account is specifically used to identify the vendor as the owner of the purchase. Information about the owner and transactions is sent directly to the bank.
This bank account is issued by acquisition of a bank for a certain vendor under an agreement to settle payment card transactions. Sometimes, an independent sales organization, a member service provider or other payment processor takes place as the third party in the merchant agreement. After signing a merchant agreement, the vendor is contractually bound to obey the regulations of card associations, such as MasterCard or Visa.
There are two main categories of merchant accounts that are usually chosen by different businesses depending on their type of operations. 'Swiped' is referred to transactions when a customer pays for his/her purchases in person and is required to swipe or insert credit or debit card. This kind of merchant account is mostly used in retail. 'Keyed' is referred to transactions when the credit or debit card information is entered through a virtual terminal, typically using internet. This kind of merchant account is mostly used by e-commerce merchants, but some merchants decide to use this method also during face to face transactions as it is less expensive.
Similarly, as you are able to deposit another person’s check into a checking account, a merchant account lets you accept a card payment from a client. Meanwhile, merchant account does not hold any money like checking or other deposit accounts. Instead, card payment goes through the merchant account via payment gateway and after the funds are cleared, they are deposited on a checking account. Commonly it takes up to 48 hours from the moment of the transaction for money to be deposited onto the vendor’s checking account. In addition, instead of receiving numerous deposits for each transaction, all payments from one business day are put together into one deposit payment called a “batch”.
Merchant account can also be explained as a line of credit account due to the fact that vendor gets paid before the actual funds are collected from the customer. This means that the vendor may be subjected to a personal credit check or requirement to sign a personal guaranty.
Even though merchant accounts are widely used for trading and e-commerce, you should understand that it significantly differs from other types of accounts. Those differences may be technical, but you must be aware of the merchant account payment system and its functions, prior to choosing to open one.
Generally speaking, when a customer performs transfer (payment) to your company via merchant account, the whole payment procedure can be split into 4 major steps: