To common users of banking services, money transfers are money transfers. As in, you don’t consider them complex: just a tool to send and receive funds. But then, you face a plethora of terms like bank transfers, wire transfers, electronic payments, online transfers, and so on. And you start to wonder – “is there a difference between all of these?” and “what should I use?”. Well, let’s figure it out together! In this article, Genome will primarily focus on bank transfers and wire transfers and how they differ and compare wire payments to other transfer options as well. Wire transfer:
A merchant account is essential for an eCommerce business. It allows a company or a freelancer to receive electronic payments. This Genome article describes what a merchant account is, what are other merchant services, how to compare providers, and which one to select.
What is a merchant bank account?
A merchant account is the only financial account that permits a business owner to accept electronic payments made in retail or online with credit cards and other electronic payment methods. A merchant account differs from a business account by the functions.
Basically, a business bank account offers all the same basic services as a private one, such as accepting funds, storing them, transferring money online, and performing purchases. Plus, additional services for managing incomes better and regulating shared access.
While a merchant account, unlike private and business, allows only to accept funds from payments and then transfer them to the business account of the exact same owner. No payments, no other transfers, no deposits can be made within this account. Thus, a business owner must obtain all three accounts to operate and function well within the financial payments system.
Who can have a merchant bank account?
If you own a company or you are a freelancer you can have an account. The main purpose of the account is to allow electronic payments acceptance, so anyone who has the legal status to do so is welcomed. The process would not differ much between opening a merchant bank account for low-risk or high-risk companies.
What would you need to open a merchant bank account:
- open private and business bank accounts;
- obtain legal business/freelance status;
- create a website for the eCommerce distribution;
- get proof of domain ownership;
- get a certificate of incorporation and a memorandum along with articles of association;
- have the info about the company shareholder structure and a list of directors;
- obtain a business plan for new companies;
- have a processing and a chargeback statement for those who already had an account.
3 types of merchant account service providers
A merchant account provider is legally authorized to issue merchant accounts for businesses and provide merchant services. Merchant services are the set of hardware and software financial solutions that facilitate payment acceptance in retail and online.
List of the most common merchant services:
- A merchant account issuing;
- Software solution for e-payment acceptance such as payment gateway and payment processor;
- Hardware solutions for e-payment acceptance such as point of sale terminal;
- Fraud prevention services;
- Chargeback alert services.
Basically, there are three types of merchant account providers: acquiring banks, payment service providers, and payment gateway providers. Each provider offers a different range of services and suits various businesses. Let’s get a closer look at all of them.
An acquiring bank is the primary and cardinal financial institution that issues merchant accounts and provides other merchant banking services for retail businesses and eCommerce. There is a significant characteristic of acquirers that makes them so special. It is only acquiring banks that can legally and legitimately issue merchant accounts. All the other financial structures that offer the very same service do that on behalf of acquirers partnering with them.
Regarding the business partnership with acquirers, it can be a bit tricky. The nature of an acquiring bank is the same as the nature of a classical banking institution. It means that they demand complex documentation for the partnership, mostly offer long-term contracts that would bring financial consequences of early agreement termination, require higher fees as institutions of acquiring banks are quite large and exist both physically and virtually.
Also, high-risk businesses might find themselves quite unwelcomed within acquiring banks due to chargeback events. Thus, acquirers are not the best option for freelancers, small businesses, many eCommerce medium businesses, and even some big ones.
But, on the other hand, large businesses with massive infrastructure would benefit from acquiring banks for two reasons. First of all, the more transactions are processed per month, the less transaction fee if proposed by the acquirers as the business is considered valuable. And the second reason is that big businesses require a well-established banking institution that can support them offline and online in terms of a large infrastructure.
When it comes to payment service providers and payment gateway providers, they are similar in the way of operating on the financial market. Both are financial institutions that might issue merchant accounts online on behalf of acquirers if they have the authorization, both offer other merchant services, and both exist only online. Thus some offer retail solutions to merchants, but it is rather rare for PSPs and PGPs to do so.
Payment service providers and payment gateway providers are surely focused on eCommerce. They are way easier to partner with as they do not require very complicated documentation, and the onboarding process is quite fast, meaning that the time between registration and merchant bank online account opening is quite short.
Concerning fees, PSPs and PGPs will cost cheaper to a company or freelancer than an account at the acquirer. Fees here also have a clearer composition which makes it simpler to calculate. A merchant would have to pay definitely for an online account issuing, transaction processing, and sometimes a monthly fee. Additional charges can be added depending on other needed services such as fraud protection.
And at last, due to its flexibility and innovative character, payment service providers and payment gateway providers are known for better customer support and a general more human-oriented approach. Briefly working with PSPs or PGPs would mean less bureaucracy, fewer charges, more fluency for eCommerce, and better customer care.
And to make it clear, the main difference between payment service providers and payment gateway providers is that PSPs provide a wider range of services while PGPs usually supply a merchant with a payment gateway tool and sometimes other services such as a merchant online account.
How to compare merchant account service providers?
To differentiate account providers, we must rely on particular factors that would enable a fair comparison. In one way or another, each factor would point to a certain perspective of a provider’s functions. Notice that we do not include the price factor in this list, as the exact number would strictly depend on the business itself. Such characteristics as low- or high-risk, transaction processing amount, and other criteria tremendously influence a merchant’s monthly bill.
Countries factor is about those physical locations where a business with a certain merchant account can operate, which is equal to accepting payments. It is not always the same country with an actual address, though. A business can reside, for example, in the UK but function in Europe.
Payment methods refer to those payment options that a merchant can make available for a customer on the eCommerce website. Usually, in online business, the main accent is on the alternative payment methods, which are basically all the payment options except cash. Surely, eCommerce can operate with checks and physical money sent by post or via banking, but these cases are rather rare.
Meanwhile, popular alternative payment methods are the following ones:
- Credit and debit cards;
- Apple Pay;
- Google Pay;
- Digital wallets;
- Mobile wallets;
- Buy-now-pay-later such as Klarna.
The currencies factor is quite easy to understand: in which currencies would a merchant accept payments. Merchants choose currencies and countries depending on the location of a business’s target audience. In comparison, payment methods should be set up according to more precise characteristics like age, the field of occupation, and the nature of a product or service itself.
Any provider would propose statistical reports and analytics. But there are differences in the data provided. We want to emphasize how deep and broad the analytics that a merchant has access to with this factor.
As a merchant account can only collect electronic funds for them later to be sent to a business account, often providers propose various solutions to ease the money flow process. The factor of the financial ecosystem refers exactly to this activity: is there any facilitation of funds redirection.
Some providers also have fraud prevention services. But there can be only requested measures applied for the provider’s business to be legal, or there can be extras that in the long term protect businesses significantly.
Even though customer service might seem less important than some of the previous ones, it would only be so until the problem arose. It is known that good customer support solves situations and makes businesses stay longer and become way more loyal to providers.
Merchant account providers comparison table
|Stripe||40||135||Cards, Sepa DD,iDEAL, Alipay|
|Helcim||CanadaUSA||all with 1% conversion||13|
|Square||US, UK, EUCanadaAustralia||of the processing countries||Cards mostly|
|PayPal||200||26||Cards, local payments,PayPal|
|PaymentCloud||US||US dollars||Cards, Apple Pay|
6 best merchant account providers in 2022
Stripe is one of the most common financial services providers. It offers merchant accounts online, payment acceptance in many currencies, fraud protection. Also, the service does provide detailed analytics and issues business cards to merchants.
Helcim provides merchants with software and hardware solutions. It has quite a strong fraud defense. Regarding currency acceptance, all options are welcomed but with an exchange rate. The support is human-oriented, as the company claims.
Square also works with both offline retailers and online merchants. It proposes business accounts as well for the fluent cash flow. Service obtains fraud email notifications and allows to view deep analytic reports.
PayPal is probably the most famous provider and a payment method as well. PayPal works within 200 countries and accepts 26 currencies along with PayPal itself, which gives it an ecosystem characteristic. The service is well-protected from fraud and proposes daily reports.
PaymentCloud is mostly oriented towards risky clients. It is fraud protected, with strong analytics. Regarding the ecosystem, PaymentCloud offers merchants loans and various funding options.
Genome proposes the full financial ecosystem of personal, business, and merchant accounts. It provides fraud prevention system services, allows accepting payments in over 20 currencies, and lets a business create accounts in EUR, GBP, and USD. The customer support in Genome is personal, which means each client gets their manager, and analytics reports are deep and broad.
Which merchant account is the best?
The one that suits the merchant best. Basically, there is no definite best merchant account for the small business or big one. Depending on the needs, a merchant shall decide which provider to follow.
How do I choose a merchant account?
First of all, select the main needs of the business. Then, search the market and choose several providers that seem to offer needed services. And after, try to contact them to find out more details regarding your business precisely.
Can anyone get a merchant account?
Basically, yes. Anyone with a business bank account and registered business or a freelance status can have a merchant account. But such factors as business size, high- or low-risk, and the transaction amount will influence the choice of the provider.
Which banks offer merchant accounts?
Acquiring banks offer merchant accounts and other merchant services. But there are also other financial institutions such as payment service providers and payment gateway providers that also open merchant bank accounts on behalf of acquirers.