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Comparing The Best Merchant Services

Choosing the right internet merchant account for your online shop can be tricky, especially if you’ve never gone through this process before. Below is a quick rundown of the services available out there.

Merchant service providers can be categorized into two: those that don’t serve high-risk merchants and those that do. Eleven account providers in the UK don’t serve high-risk merchants. These include AIB Merchant Services, American Express, Barclaycard, The Co-operative Bank, Elavon, First Data, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, and Yorkshire Bank. Those that serve high-risk merchants, meanwhile, include CCBill, ccNetPay, Epoch, GSPAY, GT Bill, PayWorld, Verotel, and Zombaio. In fact, these providers typically only cater to high-risk merchants.

What are regular merchants?

A merchant account is a special bank account that can receive money from credit and debit card payments. It differs from your normal business bank account and doesn’t need to be with the same bank. You’ll hear of an Internet merchant account (IMA) sometimes, which is an account that can be used to receive online payments. Every merchant account has a unique identifier that banks use called a merchant ID (MID).

Let Approved Index compare the top merchant account providers.


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What are high-risk merchants?

Banks consider some businesses to be riskier than others. These include businesses that sell tickets for events provided by another company. Why? Because they may sell lots of tickets, for example, then shut down before the event organizers have been paid.

Acquiring banks also consider some business sectors such as those that deal with alcohol and tobacco, drugs and drug products (including prescriptions), nutraceuticals, travel, debt management and collection, gambling, e-wallets, pyramid selling, adult services, and timeshares and holiday clubs as high risk for various reasons. If you’re having trouble getting a merchant account with one of the so-called high street banks, you may try getting a high-risk merchant account instead.

A high-risk merchant account is one typically given to a business in the said problematic sectors. Note though that there can be downsides to a high-risk merchant account. Compared with a standard merchant account, a high-risk account imposes one or more terms that are less favourable than with a regular merchant account. These may include higher transaction fees, longer settlement periods, rolling reserves or annual fees.

Which provider gives the best merchant service?

Choosing the best merchant account provider is not easy. If you already have a business or company bank account, you may call your bank first but it’s best to shop around and compare fees because they enormously vary. If you haven’t been in business for long, merchant account providers can make it difficult for you. Try to negotiate setup fees and percentages (for credit cards) and fees per transaction (for debit cards).

Using an independent payment gateway also makes changing suppliers easier and usually charges cheaper. Call all suppliers if necessary before making that all-important choice. Here are things you should look for:

  • High approval rates
  • Doesn’t require start-up fees
  • Can set up an account on the same day
  • Gives you a choice to choose from different point-of-sale models for in-store locations, along with a shopping cart for online stores
  • Offers month-to-month agreements instead of two-to-three-year contracts like most companies
  • Clears customer payments the next day after point of sale
  • Provides 24/7 professional toll-free phone and email customer support services
  • Offers Internet-based features (a merchant account, a virtual terminal, and a payment gateway)
  • Has the lowest estimated monthly credit card swipe and key-in, required monthly gateway (if applicable), and statement fees
  • Offers a shopping cart for online storefronts
  • Provides high security by using a wide selection of equipment
  • Allows you to access your account any time to see balances, sales volumes, and charges

Find out more about cheap merchant accounts.

Summary of Merchant Services Provider Reviews

The following table lists the provider reviews that you will find on this website along with some basic information on each provider.

HSBC

  • Category: High Street Bank
  • Payment processor/gateway: Global Iris
  • Accept high risk merchants? No
  • Cost: Individually negotiated

Halifax

  • Category: High Street Bank
  • Payment processor/gateway: Cardnet
  • Accept high risk merchants? No
  • Cost: Individually negotiated

NatWest

  • Category: High Street Bank
  • Payment processor/gateway: WorldPay
  • Accept high risk merchants? No
  • Cost: Individually negotiated

Santander

  • Category: High Street Bank
  • Payment processor/gateway: Elavon
  • Accept high risk merchants? No
  • Cost: Individually negotiated

American Express

  • Category: Specialist – caters for high spenders
  • Payment processor/gateway: American Express
  • Accept high risk merchants? No
  • Cost: Examples provided in their review

Handepay

  • Category: Payment Processor & Merchant Accounts
  • Payment processor/gateway:Handepay
  • Accept high risk merchants? No
  • Cost: Individually negotiated

Cardcutters

  • Category: Specialist – represents Allied Irish Bank Merchant Services
  • Payment processor/gateway: Ingenico payment services
  • Accept high risk merchants? No
  • Cost: Costs are provided in their review

Elavon

  • Category: Primarily payment processor – merchant accounts are available
  • Payment processor/gateway: Elavon
  • Accept high risk merchants? No
  • Cost: Individually negotiated

Global Card Solutions

  • Category: Payment processor
  • Payment processor/gateway: Global
  • Accept high risk merchants? No
  • Cost: Individually negotiated

PayPal

  • Payment processor/gateway: PayPal
  • Accept high risk merchants? Yes
  • Cost: Pricing information is provided in the review

RealEx

  • Category: Payment gateway
  • Payment processor/gateway: Realex
  • Accept high risk merchants? Unlikely
  • Cost: Some pricing information is provided in the review

Sagepay

  • Category: Payment gateway and merchant accounts
  • Payment processor/gateway: Sagepay
  • Accept high risk merchants? No
  • Cost: Pricing information is provided in the review

Transax

  • Category: Payment services providers
  • Payment processor/gateway: Transax
  • Accept high risk merchants? No
  • Cost: Individually negotiated – claim to undercut other quotes by up to 40%

First Data

  • Category: Payment processor
  • Payment processor/gateway: First Data
  • Accept high risk merchants? Yes
  • Cost: Individually negotiated – some information provided in review

Paysafe

  • Category: Specialist
  • Payment processor/gateway: Paysafe
  • Accept high risk merchants? Yes
  • Cost: Individually negotiated

Ingenico

  • Category: Payment services providers
  • Payment processor/gateway: Ingenico
  • Accept high risk merchants? Yes
  • Cost: Individually negotiated

PayEase

  • Category: Specialist payment services providers based in China
  • Payment processor/gateway: PayEase
  • Accept high risk merchants? Yes
  • Cost: Individually negotiated

Instabill

  • Category: Offshore
  • Payment processor/gateway: Instabill
  • Accept high risk merchants? Yes
  • Cost: Individually negotiated – some information published

Cardcharge

  • Category: Offshore
  • Payment processor/gateway: Cardcharge
  • Accept high risk merchants? Yes
  • Cost: Individually negotiated

Veripayment

  • Category: Offshore
  • Payment processor/gateway: Veripayment
  • Accept high risk merchants? Yes
  • Cost: Individually negotiated

NPS Global

  • Category: Offshore
  • Payment processor/gateway: NPS Global
  • Accept high risk merchants? Yes
  • Cost: Individually negotiated

PayNow

  • Category: Offshore – company is based in Bahamas
  • Payment processor/gateway: PayNow
  • Accept high risk merchants? Yes
  • Cost: Individually negotiated – some information published
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