Merchant Services vs. Credit Card Processing

What’s the difference between a merchant account and credit card processing?  You might know – as a business – that you require a merchant account which offers affordable merchant services. However, you may be unclear on exactly what these services are. Merchant accounts are opened at companies called merchant processors or payment processors. These are third-parties that enable your customers to pay you. They function as an intermediary, processing your customer payments and linking your bank to your customer’s credit card issuing bank.

While credit card processing is the primary service offered by merchant processors, there are many more services as well. That’s a key difference – that credit card processing is just one facet of the myriad financial services your business requires. For example, you need the physical and virtual tools to accept these credit cards. These may include a portable electronic card reader, mobile apps, eCommerce websites, or shopping carts. Each of these are billable services, though some payment processors offer them for free.

Paper, plastic, or plugged

Also, while some payment processors will only deal with credit card transactions, there are others that cover e-checks and bank transfers. Since all these services can help your business, it can make sense to find a merchant services provider that includes them all on the same platform and at a friendly pricing package. Other merchant services are more security oriented. For example, your online store needs to guarantee to your customers that their card data is safe. Security measures can include encryption, firewalls, and anti-virus software. Many payment processors offer these as part of their package. They may offer you free SSL/TLS or other security modules.

Set-up and processing

Customers can pay you by swiping their cards, typing in their details, pre-instructing their bank, or calling in their information. Whether you’re using a web store or an electronic reader, there’s some tech involved. Your payment processor has to program your payment system for various cards. This set-up fee could be a paid service for each new card, but some merchant processors offer it at no additional charge, so make sure to ask before you sign up for your account.  Some merchant service providers even provide the card readers for you to use at no additional cost. It all depends upon who you sign up with.

For more information on the difference between merchant services and credit card processing, or to sign up for a merchant account, please call (888) 924-2743 or go to


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