Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Credit Card Processing

Ever given any thought to what happens during a credit card transaction immediately after you swipe your card? It’s not all smoke and mirrors, but rather a highly-secure, high-tech process that transpires in mere seconds. In a nutshell, Merchant Account® presents Credit Card Processing 1.0.

Credit Card Processing begins with a card swipe (or, alternatively, with the manual entry of data on a website payment page or a PIN pad) by the customer or merchant. The credit/debit card account number, sale total and merchant ID number are transmitted electronically and simultaneously over the merchant’s credit card processor’s network. Companies like Merchant Account® that provide credit card processing services are known by several names: credit card processors, merchant services providers, processors and acquirers.

Once the transaction clears the processor’s network, it’s sorted by card brand and routed to the proper credit card computer network — MasterCard® transactions to the MC network, Visa® to Visa, and so on. From there, the transaction is routed to the bank that issued the card, which is responsible for checking the account to make sure the customer has adequate credit to cover the transaction charges. If so, the bank authorizes the sale and notifies the merchant over the network. The merchant issues a receipt to the customer, who leaves with their merchandise. But the sale is not yet complete.

Each day at the close of business, the merchant must send all that day’s charges through the merchant services provider to the credit card processing network. This is known as batch processing. Individual transactions are sorted out by issuing bank and sent on to the banks, which debit the cardholders’ accounts and pay the processor through the Federal Reserve’s Automated Clearing House (ACH).

The credit card processor, in turn, credits the funds to the merchant’s account. This part of the process can take up to two days. The processor charges fees, typically on a monthly basis, to the merchant account, although sometimes this is done on a per-transaction basis. The fees encompass payments to the issuing banks, the credit card networks and the processor for services rendered.

All merchants who accept credit cards must first establish a merchant account, which is the basis for credit card processing. This account is strictly between the merchant and the credit card processor and is totally separate from any other bank accounts the merchant may own.

If you’re interested in adding credit card processing to your business, Merchant Account can help. Contact a sales representative today to get started.

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