Merchant Account Questions and Answers

How can I tell if I am paying too much for merchant services?

Three signs that you are paying too much:

  • You have the Same rate for both MasterCard and Visa – remember these are competing card companies. Visa has lower rates and greater market share.
  • You have only One qualified rate -- blended credit and debit can be a disadvantage based on card market share.
  • You pay Mid & Non qualified rates -- artificially increasing the price of your non-qualified transactions may lower your qualified rate but increase your overall costs.

How can I avoid accepting non-qualified card payments?

Start with an understanding of Interchange and avoid tiered non-qualified merchant service pricing plans. Non-qualified surcharges are typically defined as not meeting Visa’s CPS (Custom Payment Services) & MasterCard’s Merit guidelines for the basic data elements required to qualify for the best consumer Interchange. When these transaction requirements are not met, or when rewards cards or commercial cards are accepted, many merchant services plans charge non-qualified surcharges. Managing Interchange requires an Interchange pass-through pricing plan, and an understanding of the card qualification guidelines.

How can I avoid 'Standard' Interchange downgrades?

For the Interchange categories that have the word 'Standard' in the name (like Visa Corporate Standard or Visa Domestic Standard Card Not Present), these are manageable downgrades. In other words, these transactions are downgrading to a Standard Interchange level because they do not contain the required data, and are not adhering to specific timelines. The most common reasons for Standard Interchange include: Exceed Timeliness, Authorization and Settlement amounts don’t match, and non-compliant payment application.

How do I calculate my effective rate (my Real Rate)?

Visit to compare your real rate with your industry’s average.

What can I do to get the best rate on merchant services?

Your business profile has a direct impact on the Interchange rates you can qualify for as well as your payment acceptance policies. In addition, once you calculate your real rate calculation, there are several steps you can take to lower your bottom line costs of accepting card payments as detailed at myRealRate.

What is the difference between signature debit and PIN debit?

Signature debit is the term used when a merchant processes the transaction as they would a credit card, and then having the cardholder sign for the sale. To complete a PIN debit transaction the cardholder must enter their 4 digit secret personal identification number. While both types of transactions come out of the customer’s bank account, the rates and fees billed to the merchant differ, requiring a break even analysis. Read more at Signature & PIN Debit Processing .

What is an ISO/MSP?

These are the Visa and MasterCard designations for registered merchant services providers. Visa maintains a U.S. List of Registered Independent Sales Organizations. For more on this topic read the Middle Man Myth.

How soon are funds transferred to my bank account?

Funds transfer is handled through the ACH (automated clearing house) and is the method all merchant service providers use. For bankcard deposits it is typically next day, depending on the time of day your point of sale device settles your batch. Your bank will first see the ACH memo post and then will hard post the deposit the next business day. This constitutes the normal turn around time on bankcard funds. American Express can take up to a day longer.

Who can waive my merchant account termination fee?

Use extreme caution if you are entertaining a contract with a termination fee. Most contracts will contain language stating who has authority to modify the contract terms, meaning sales reps and others not party to the agreement cannot waive terms. Ask yourself, would a true merchant advocate present a contract like this in the first place?