A Simple Guide to Accepting Credit Card Payments Without a Merchant Account
These days, accepting credit card payments is crucial to the success of any business. In fact, credit and debit cards are now the main e-commerce payment method in Spain, accounting for 54% of purchases in 2021. In other European countries, many of the most popular local payment methods are types of payment cards. Equipping your business with the right tools to accept customer-preferred payment options is a must.
But figuring out how to accept card payments online or in-store can feel impossible. Especially when you need to set up accounts with banks and multiple service providers. Or you could save time and money by accepting credit card payments without a merchant account.
Let’s learn how.
Table of contents
- What is a merchant account and how does it work?
- How to accept credit card payments without a merchant account
- Accepting credit card payments without a merchant account FAQs
- Accept card (and more) payments with MONEI
What is a merchant account and how does it work?
Generally, businesses that want to accept credit card payments from customers (online or offline) need to open a merchant account. A merchant account is a type of bank account that hold funds during credit card processing after the cardholder initiates the transaction. If the payment is approved, funds are deposited into your business bank account. In Spain, it’s commonly referred to as a merchant ID, merchant code, or TPV Virtual for online payments and it’s required to process credit card transactions.
Banks provide merchant acquiring services, but it requires a lot of time, monthly fees, and lengthy contracts to set one up for your business. You also need software to process online payments and point of sale (POS) hardware to process card payments in-store. Sounds daunting, right? It doesn’t have to be this complex and expensive. Many online and physical businesses avoid the headache by using a one-stop-shop payment service provider (PSP) that has built-in merchant acquiring services. This means the PSP has one main merchant account for all its users and assumes the risk the merchant acquiring bank would usually deal with.
How to accept credit card payments without a merchant account
The key to securely and successfully accepting credit card payments without a merchant account (while also saving money) is to find a PSP or payment gateway that has merchant acquiring services.
Payment service providers hold funds from credit card transactions and settle payments into your business bank account in the same way an acquiring bank would do it through a merchant account. The transaction processing fees are generally lower, and you can usually sign up in minutes and manage all your business payments from an online dashboard.
📚Further reading: What’s the Difference Between a Payment Gateway and Virtual POS?
Accepting online payments without a merchant account
The easiest way to accept online payments for your business is by integrating your e-commerce website with a PSP. This way, you’ll have built-in payment processing, and depending on the payment service provider, you’ll have the ability to accept a wide range of online payment methods.
And if you don’t have a website, some PSPs let you email payment links to shoppers via email, SMS, or WhatsApp.
📚 Further reading: PrestaShop vs Shopify: Compare E-commerce Platforms
Accepting in-store payments without a merchant account
Nowadays, point of sale (POS) systems come with the hardware and software you need to process card payments. There are also hardware-free POS systems that let you take payments from any mobile device.
Regardless of the type of POS you choose, you’ll be able to accept in-store payments without a merchant account. These systems have near-field communication (NFC), chip and pin, swipe, or contactless technology to read credit cards and process payments. Customers can authorize payments by entering their personal identification number (PIN) or providing their signature, and you can email payment receipts.
Mobile POS systems (mPOS) are a flexible and convention point of sale option if you need to accept payments on the go or if you want to equip staff with a portable POS to collect payments anywhere in your store.
Accepting mobile payments in-person without a merchant account
If you don’t have a permanent retail location and instead sell products at events or pop-up shops, it’s possible to accept mobile card payments without a merchant account. Download a mobile payment app to your smartphone or another mobile device to let customers scan and pay or you can manually enter payment details.
Accept card (and more) payments with MONEI
Use an all-in-one payments platform with built-in merchant acquiring services so you don’t have to deal with banks and long-term contracts. Open an account today to start accepting payments without a merchant account including major card networks like Visa and Mastercard and alternative and local payment methods.
You may also like to read:
- What is a Payfac? A Guide for E-commerce and Retail Businesses
- What is PrestaShop? [Quickstart Guide]
- Cross-Border Payments: Make Them Work for Your Business
- 23 Must-Have E-commerce Website Best Practices to Help You Sell More
Accepting credit card payments without a merchant account FAQs
1. Do I need a merchant account to accept card payments?
No. Opening a merchant account to accept card payments online or in person is unnecessary. Instead, you can open an account with a payment service provider which includes all the services required to process credit card payments.
2. What’s the most affordable way to take credit card payments?
The least expensive way to accept credit card payments for your e-commerce or retail store depends on your exact needs including how your run your business and your customers’ preferred payment methods. PSPs offer a range of pricing options and for most small to medium-sized businesses, it’s the easiest and most affordable option for accepting payments without a merchant account.
There’s usually a small transaction fee and a daily platform fee, but it’s still cheaper than working with multiple service providers. If you sell high volumes, you may want to consider payments orchestration, which means you’ll need to work with a merchant acquiring bank to accept payments in your store.
3. Can I accept card payments without a card reader or POS device?
Yes. Mobile payment apps and peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps let you accept card payments without a POS device. For example, with MONEI Pay, you can accept card payments from any mobile device either through the mobile app (Android or iOS) or by going to pay.monei.com from your browser. Once you generate a digital QR code, your customers can scan to pay from their smartphones.
Emailing payment links to customers is another great option for accepting card payments without a card reader. You can use Pay By Link to manually create a payment and send the link to the customer via email, SMS, or WhatsApp. You don’t even need a website.
4. Do I need a registered business to accept credit card payments?
It depends on the payment service provider you choose to work with. With MONEI, any individual can set up an account (whether you have a registered business or not). So if you’re just starting out and want to accept card payments from customers or even friends and family, you can use MONEI Pay or Pay By Link to request payments. Keep in mind, that even if you don’t have a legal business entity, you’ll still have to pay transaction fees.
Alexis Damen is the Head of Content at MONEI. She loves breaking down complex topics about payments, e-commerce, and retail to help merchants succeed (with MONEI as their payments partner, of course).