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Your merchant account

Choosing an acquirer

Before merchants can start accepting card payments, they will need an agreement with an acquirer to process their card transactions for them. There are a number of acquirers in the UK, all of which offer a wide range of products, services and prices that can be tailored to the different ways businesses operate.

As an integral part of the card transaction process, a merchant’s acquirer will be aware of any changes made by the card schemes on how a transaction should be processed, the rules that they make, or the introduction of new card types (for instance, the termination in the UK of the Solo card completed in 2011). Acquirers will amend their systems, provide guidance on actions that need to be taken and communicate these changes to their merchants. This may also include changing the way in which an acquirer-owned terminal works, which in most cases, can be done without disrupting a merchant’s business.

Apart from the key function of processing card transactions and obtaining an authorisation for the merchant, an acquirer can also offer a wide range of services; examples are listed in the products & services section.

How to accept cards

There are two ways a merchant can accept a card transaction for purchases depending on where the cardholder is at the time.

Traditionally, the majority of card transactions have been face-to-face where cardholders hand their cards to merchants to pay for their purchases; this is known as a card present transaction.

Alternatively, there are an increasing number of purchases made where cardholders are not on the merchant's premises but are making a purchase using a remote channel e.g. buying over the telephone or internet. This is known as a card-not-present transaction and additional steps may be required to accept this kind of transaction.

Merchant may find that their business plan starts with a shop which sells goods on the high street and they subsequently may want to add a remote sales channel or vice versa. In either case it is important to discuss these plans with an acquirer when applying for a merchant account.

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