A merchant account is a type of bank account that allows businesses to accept payments by debit or credit cards. A merchant account is established under an agreement between an acceptor and a merchant acquiring bank for the settlement of credit card and/or debit card transactions.
Methods of Processing Credit Cards
Various methods exist for presenting a credit card sale to "the system." In all circumstances either the entire magnetic strip is read by a swipe through a credit card terminal/reader, a computer chip is read, or the credit card information is manually entered into a credit card terminal, a computer or website.
Credit Card Terminal
A credit card terminal is a stand-alone piece of electronic equipment that allows a merchant to swipe or key-enter a credit card's information as well as additional information required to process a credit card transaction. When a credit card is processed (either swiped through the magnetic stripe reader or keyed-in to the keypad), it contacts the network to verify if the credit card can be authorized. As of October 1st of 2015, all credit card terminals are required to be EMV Compliant in order to avoid possible fraud liability. If you think your credit terminal is not EMV Compliant or you are not sure if it meets the requirements, please click here: EMV Compliance.
A payment gateway is an e-commerce service that authorizes payments for e-businesses and online retailers. It is the equivalent of a physical POS (point-of-sale) terminal located in most retail outlets. A merchant account provider is typically a separate company from the payment gateway.