How Do I Apply for a Merchant Account?
In order to accept credit cards, you have to apply for a merchant account. The process usually takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, but you should do your homework before choosing a company to make sure you find a reputable service with reasonable rates.
Submitting applications to banks, credit card companies and/or third-party providers is the first step. Many will allow you to do this online. Apply for several merchant accounts in order to compare fees and services. If one bank asks for huge upfront fees, you can choose someone else. This also allows you to pit one bank or provider against another to get the best deal. If company X wants money upfront, let them know that company Y does not. Chances are, company X will offer you a better deal to get your business.
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In order to approve you, banks want to see that your financial house is in order. So clean up your finances before submitting applications. This will expedite the process. Make sure you pay down as much debt as possible and are making payments on time. If your credit history is shaky or banks detect similar red flags, the approval process could take months.
Once you’re approved, the merchant account is typically up and running within days. You can start accepting online payments almost immediately. However, if you have to order and setup equipment such as card readers and pin pads, allow a couple extra weeks.