The Beginner's Guide to Understanding a Merchant Account and Why Your Business Needs One
-By Priyasy Bokadia July 24, 2023 6 min read

Highlighting the importance of merchant accounts for SMEs, providing a beginner's guide, benefits, and essential tips for management and protection.

Small and medium enterprise (SME) merchants make up a significant portion of all businesses worldwide, and they play a vital role in driving economic growth and development. However, many SME business owners struggle with financial inclusion due to challenges like limited access to credit and payment processing facilities. Merchant accounts provide these business owners with access to reliable payment processing facilities while also increasing customer satisfaction.

And, if you are a business owner struggling to understand merchant account you have come to the right place. In this beginner's guide, we're going to unravel the mystery of merchant accounts and why your business needs one. Sure, it may sound like a daunting task, but trust us, it's not rocket science. In today's world, accepting credit and debit card payments is a must for any business that wants to thrive. And that's where merchant accounts come in. So, grab a cup of coffee, sit back, relax, and let's dive into the world of merchant accounts together!

What is a Merchant Account?

A merchant account is a type of bank account that allows businesses to accept credit and debit card payments. When a customer makes a purchase using a credit card, the funds are transferred from the customer's bank account to the merchant's account. From there, the merchant can transfer the funds to their business bank account.

With this account, transactions are processed quickly and securely, giving customers the convenience of paying with their preferred payment option. Moreover, a merchant account also offers businesses the benefit of improved cash flow, as payments are deposited directly into their account within a short period of time. So if you're looking to boost your sales and take your business to the next level, a merchant account is definitely a payment solution worth considering!

By offering different payment options, SME merchants can accommodate the diverse preferences of their customers, promoting a better customer experience. Furthermore, merchant accounts offer secure payment processing, which protects both the business owners and the customers' sensitive financial information and helps them grow their businesses and stay competitive in the ever-evolving world of commerce.

How To Open a Merchant Account?

If you're looking to open a merchant account for your business, you'll have to apply for an account with a merchant-acquiring bank and get their approval. They'll review your application and consider a range of factors to determine if you qualify.

These factors typically include how long your business has been operating, whether you have a history of bankruptcy, any past credit issues you may have had, and whether you've had previous merchant accounts. Additionally, they might assess the level of risk your business carries in terms of credit card fraud. If your business is categorized as high-risk, the merchant bank may initially set higher transaction fees. This is done to help offset the potential risks associated with your business. It's important to keep in mind that this is just an initial assessment, and as you build a positive track record, these fees can be adjusted accordingly.

Overall, the process of opening a merchant account involves careful consideration of various factors by the acquiring bank. They want to ensure that your business is reliable, financially stable, and not prone to fraudulent activities. These six steps will guide you through the process of getting a merchant account -

  1. First, you'll need to obtain a valid business license to prove the legitimacy of your business.
  2. Then, you'll need to open a business bank account, where your merchant account provider will deposit funds and withdraw fees.
  3. Before proceeding, assess your business needs, such as which types of credit and debit cards you'll accept from your customers. Would it be Amex, Visa, RuPay, Mastercard, etc.?
  4. Next, compare and choose a merchant account provider that suits your needs the best based on features like strong security, flexible customer service, instant funding, and transparent pricing models.
  5. Once you've selected a provider, fill out the application with detailed information about your business, such as contact information, authorized signer information, bank account number, and tax ID.
  6. After the provider approves your application (which typically takes one business day to a week), you can start accepting payments right away.

Managing & Protecting Merchant Account as an SME Business Owner

Once you've got hold of your merchant account, it is important to manage and protect it. Here are some points you need to keep in mind:

  • Ensure that your account information is kept secure by safeguarding your login credentials and regularly updating passwords.
  • It is crucial to monitor your account activity by regularly reviewing statements and transaction history to identify any suspicious or unauthorized transactions and reporting them promptly.
  • Implement strong security measures such as reliable antivirus software and consider enabling two-factor authentication for added protection.
  • Educate your staff on security best practices and the importance of confidentiality.
  • Stay compliant with payment card industry (PCI) standards to safeguard cardholder data.
  • Regularly reconcile your transaction records with bank statements to promptly address any discrepancies.
  • Utilize fraud prevention tools and services provided by your merchant-acquiring bank and prioritize the protection of customer data through encryption and adherence to data protection regulations.
  • Stay informed about industry trends and updates regarding payment security, and regularly update your security practices to mitigate emerging threats.

All in all, having a merchant account for SME business owners is a smart move because it offers a plethora of benefits, particularly in terms of payment processing. Apart from providing a seamless checkout experience for customers, it also enables businesses to track financial data such as sales volume and customer information. The ability to access this valuable information can help owners make more informed business decisions, ultimately leading to better financial outcomes. So if you're an SME merchant, consider investing in a merchant account to stay ahead in the game.

After all, as the saying goes, knowledge is power, and when it comes to payments, it's no different.