Sunday, June 17, 2012

Merchant Account Providers

Merchant account providers like UniBul enable businesses to accept credit and debit cards for payment. Whether an organization accepts cards in a card-present or in a card-not-present environment, they need a merchant account to do that.

In order for a company to become a provider of merchant account services, it first has to be authorized by the Credit Card Associations of Visa and MasterCard. The process involves a check of the credit worthiness of both the business and its principals, a review of the applicant's business and marketing plans and the payment of the registration fees which are $5,000 for each Association. Although banks, that are members of Visa and MasterCard, can and do provide merchant processing services, more typically they outsource this responsibility to third parties. By doing so, they become sponsors of these third parties in their applications with Visa and MasterCard. Merchant account processors are known as Independent Sales Organizations ISO) when they are registered with Visa and as Member Service Providers (MSP) when they are registered with MasterCard. Businesses apply for both registrations at the same time, through their sponsor bank. Upon approval of the application, the sponsor bank becomes an acquiring bank for the ISO/MSP. This means that it acquires the sales receipts that the merchants, using its payment processing services, generate and it is then responsible for paying the merchant the transaction amounts, minus its processing costs and the interchange fees. In the mean time the merchant processing bank submits a payment request, through Visa or MasterCard, to the bank that issued the card used in the particular transaction. ISOs and MSPs are obligated to display the name(s) of their acquiring bank(s) on every page of their website and other promotional materials. Usually this sign is placed in the footer of the website.

Once registered, ISOs and MSPs can sign up sales agents to source merchants for them. The sales agents, however, cannot advertise themselves as providers of merchant account processing services. They are only authorized to represent the ISO/MSP and must identify themselves as agents to these companies.

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