Which Type of Merchant Account Works Best for You?

Deciding which processing solution is the right one for your business is a big decision.  Should you apply for a Direct Merchant Account?  Or would an IPSP or Payment Facilitator arrangement suit you better?  What are the differences and which one best matches your needs?  At Segpay we specialize in online credit card processing for e-commerce and subscription services for global merchants.  Recently we launched our Merchant Services Group, a dedicated team able to offer all of these solutions and help businesses determine the arrangement that best meets their needs.  Making this decision can be both challenging and confusing.  So, this month we are breaking down this financial decision, what it means and how to best decide which way to go.

Start by considering a few key things: your current resource level, risk tolerance, experience level with payment processing and how much control you want over your payment processing.  Let’s consider the options available.

IPSP/Payment Facilitator

IPSP (Internet Payment Service Provider) and Payment Facilitator (a MasterCard term that is largely interchangeable with IPSP) are arrangements whereby merchants are pooled together under their processor’s “master” merchant account. The processor assumes all the risk since the account is in their name.  IPSP/PF accounts are held to the same chargeback rules as direct merchant accounts, meaning 1% or 100 total chargebacks per year.  Payments must be processed on a page that is hosted by the processor and the processor handles all end-user customer support as well. 

IPSP or PF solutions are ideal for merchants with little to no experience taking payments.  No previous processing history is required and you don’t need to worry about PCI requirements (for payment data security) since the processor is responsible for that.  Because IPSP/PF accounts are fully managed, merchants can focus on their core strengths without having to worry about administering payments, refunds, chargebacks, etc.  IPSP and PF providers help you stay compliant with chargeback rules and data protection requirements, allowing you to build a reputation which you can later present to a bank when you’re ready to transition to a direct account.  Of course, you’re free to remain under an IPSP/PF arrangement if you choose. Segpay has many $1M+ merchants that choose this approach, allowing them to take advantage of tools such as one click payments, customer-retention programs, bundled additional payment options and end-user customer support.

Direct Merchant Account/Gateway

However, if you are an established business in a space considered low to moderate risk for chargebacks, a Direct Merchant Account with gateway service is a more cost-effective solution. Merchants considered high risk who have built a processing history and reputation through an IPSP can also transition to a direct account, Segpay and many other Independent Sales Organizations (ISOs), which are agents for specific banks, offer this service.  With a direct merchant account, you are the one taking the risk and you will be asked to guarantee the account.  A Gateway is a processing platform that connects to many different acquiring banks.  It offers features such as cross sales, load balancing, risk management tools and, in some cases, end-user customer support. 

Direct merchant accounts are typically suited for experienced merchants that understand payment processing and the management of risk, and perhaps have staff that can handle billing-related tasks in-house.  For example, you might already have a call center in place and can leverage that team to handle your payments-related customer service.  Or, over time, you may have added staff to help with the billing and payment processing and now they’re well trained and can manage the risk components of your business.  A Gateway also gives merchants more control of their payment flow.  If you want to have your own payment form or even host your own platform, you’re able to do that, keep in mind you’ll need to complete a PCI SAQ (Self-Assessment Questionnaire) or, depending on your volume, and if you’re storing card data, a more in-depth look into your PCI compliance.

Look for a service provider that can help guide you to the best solution for your business, including weighing the pros and cons of the myriad solutions available.  Feel free to reach out to us via Twitter @Segpay.  Our team will help you every step of the way. 

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