A payment gateway is a technology or system that merchants use to accept electronic payments. Payment gateways can either be physical POS card terminals or the online checkout page where one inserts payments and personal information in eCommerce transactions. Payment gateways use industry-standard encryption during the transfer of payment information to the business owner’s account, which secures the transaction and protects both participating parties from potential fraud.
In brick-and-mortar stores, the POS card terminal is connected by cables to send and receive the customer’s payment information. In eCommerce, that information is transmitted through an application programming interface (API), which allows two applications to securely transfer data.
A merchant account is a business bank account. A merchant account allows a business to accept funds in a variety of ways including from electronic payments such as credit or debit cards. Since it’s a business bank account you’ll need a business license to set one up.
Payment Gateway vs Merchant Account
The major difference between payment gateways and merchant accounts is that the first is the application through which the transaction is completed, and the other is where the money earned from that transaction is received. Both are useful for business owners. In order to accept card payments, as a business owner you will need to incorporate both a payment gateway and a merchant account. Both are needed because they work together to process card transactions, whether in person or online.
Advantages of using Payment Gateways and Merchant Accounts
Using payment gateways and merchant accounts can grow a business’ customer base because it expands the forms of accepted payment. It is a win-win result, customers are offered varied and convenient payment options, and business owners benefit from the increased security for these payments.
How to select the payment gateway and merchant account that best fit your business
There are many payment gateways and merchant account provider options out there but knowing what to look for can make all the difference. Consider a provider who offers more than just low pricing. Although tempting, low costs are not always commensurate with better value. Instead, seek a provider that offers:
- More features,
- Wide spectrum of payment technologies,
- Transparent pricing structures,
- And a dedicated customer support team.