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Merchant Account Set-Up Timeline

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If you’ve never had a merchant account before, you probably have a lot of questions. One of the most pressing is how long does it take to set one up? Generally speaking, the more prepared you are when dealing with your merchant account provider, the quicker the process will go.

A merchant account is your ticket to accepting credit card transactions. It is a business arrangement with a merchant account provider (also called merchant services provider or credit card processor), who equips you with the hardware, software, support and access you need to accept payment cards. The provider also facilitates the authorization process and deposits the proceeds of your credit card transactions into your designated bank account.

The first step in setting up a merchant account is the application process, which is similar to applying for credit. The merchant account provider will ask for information that it will use to determine if you qualify for an account with them. Typically this information includes the official company name and contact information, including address, phone, fax and website; the name and Social Security number of the principal owner; type of ownership; applicable business licenses (if required); the company’s federal tax identification number; several recent tax returns; a company bank account number; your average credit card transaction amount and your average monthly sales volume.

As always, you should be honest in reporting all the required information. If the merchant account provider comes across any discrepancies, they will not reflect positively on you or your business and you can kiss that merchant account goodbye.

The merchant account provider assesses all the information and checks your credit rating to determine if you qualify for a merchant account. If so, your application is approved. This can be accomplished in as little as 24 hours for well-qualified, well-prepared applicants.

Once your account is approved, the provider will set you up with the necessary technology to get you started accepting credit cards. This will be determined by the type of merchant account you have. For example, a retail merchant account for a brick-and-mortar operation typically requires a POS credit card terminal that’s linked to the provider by a phoneline or Internet connection for processing. If you do business on the Web, you’ll need an electronic payment gateway that supports your virtual shopping cart and provides a virtual terminal for processing. Mobile merchants and service providers can rely on mobile or wireless processing solutions to get the job done. If you value a business solution that’s flexible, powerful and portable, a business solution like ProcessNow® from TransFirst® may be your best bet.

Look at it this way: You’ve already established a business — how difficult can setting up a merchant account be after that? The benefits of accepting credit cards with a reputable merchant account provider far outweigh the effort you’ll put into the application process. Credit card processing is one of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to grow your business — and you can’t do it without a merchant account!

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