The ability for customers to pay for goods and services via a range of payment cards is one offered by many contemporary businesses. In order to accept such payments, a merchant account is required. These accounts not only allow for the processing of transactions by traditional credit and debit cards, but also store cards specific to a merchant’s business.
To obtain a merchant account, the merchant must first gain approval from a merchant acquiring bank. A number of factors will be taken into account when determining approval, chief amongst which is a credit check of the merchant’s personal and business credit history.
If approved, the account will be set up and attempted transactions will be processed and authorised accordingly by the merchant acquiring bank. The funds will later be transferred to the merchant’s personal business account.
Relevant details of the transaction are therefore required to be sent to the merchant acquiring bank, a task which is typically accomplished through electronic point of sale (EPOS) systems. EPOS systems can include physical systems such as payment card terminals in which the magnetic strip of a payment card is scanned, electronically sending the necessary account information to the merchant acquiring bank.
The popularity of merchant accounts lies in large part to the freedom offered to customers with regards to payment. In addition, increasing the speed and ease with which transactions can be processed also increases the volume of potential transactions in any given day. Indeed, estimates indicate a 30-70% raise – which has to be good news for any sole trader.
PayPoint is one provider which offers merchant accounts for sole traders. However, there are certain restrictions. Specifically, the business must be EU based, with the merchant residing in the same country as the business.
PayPoint tailor their services specifically to online payments and are therefore an ideal choice for sole traders operating an online business. They offer their internet merchant account in conjunction with an online payment gateway, providing in-built fraud protection systems and the ability to process transactions made by all major payment card providers (i.e. Visa and MasterCard). Additionally, PayPoint report levels of reliability of their gateways to be 99.99% and access to a dedicated technical support team is available.
Fees for PayPoint’s services are charged on a monthly basis, with customers advised to contact them directly for an accurate and personalised quote. This monthly fee covers 500 transactions, with any subsequent transactions incurring an additional fee of 10p per transaction.
Customer testimonials for PayPoint are typically positive, with many successful companies implementing their services such as WHSmith, Urban Industry and Colchester Zoo.
To find out more, check out our summary of PayPoint.net’s online reviews.
Another provider offering an internet merchant account to sole traders is WorldPay. Similar to PayPoint, WorldPay offer a combined internet merchant account and online payment gateway package.
As part of the package, WorldPay offer a range of features as standard. The range of credit and debit cards accepted covers all major providers, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Diners. Additionally, PayPal and V.me by Visa are also accepted. The transfer of funds into the merchant’s personal business account occurs on a weekly basis.
WorldPay also offer an extensive range of online shopping carts as part of their standard package, with a promise to seamlessly integrate these into the merchant’s website. A small selection of the shopping carts supported by WorldPay include 1-Ecommerce, CubeCart, Fastcart, and OpenCart.
Additional services available upon request include support for the processing of foreign currencies, and support for recurrent payments (e.g. customer subscriptions).
Once again, direct enquiries are recommended to ensure a tailored service and accurate information regarding associated fees.
For more information, read our overview of WorldPay.
Major Financial Services
Many of the major financial institutions in the UK are able to offer sole traders access to merchant accounts. Barclaycard, for example, offer a sole trader merchant account package with an initial three months debit and credit card processing free of charge, and a subsequent low fixed rate guarantee for 15 months. HSBC also offer sole traders access to a range of merchant accounts with a variety of tariffs depending upon the size and revenue of their business.
For accurate information regarding the fees set by these (and other) providers, merchants are advised to directly request a personalised quote.