It is often assumed if you want to accept credit cards on your website that you must have a merchant account. This is not the case. You can accept credit cards with a Third Party credit card processor.
1) What is a Third Party Credit Card Processor?
A Third Party credit card processor is a company that will accept credit card payments on behalf of you or your company. The payments your customers make are processed through the Third Party's own merchant account, and you the retailer is paid (minus a commission fee) by the Third Party processor.
No need to pay for expensive processing software, monthly fees or minimum transaction fees. As you only pay a percentage fee on a sale, you cannot lose money.
2) Should I have a Merchant Account or Third Party processor?
For most businesses this decision will be made according to the size of the company. Most small businesses do not need their own merchant account.
Small businesses are better off with a Third Party processor. The advantage is that when you sell your products, the Third Party processor takes care of the payment by checking the card, processing it, and sending you a monthly check.
Larger businesses with a bigger turnover are likely to need a full merchant account. You will pay a bigger set-up fee for an online merchant account but pay less per transaction than with a Third Party processor. So recouping your initial outlay.
So there it is, unless you have a large business it is possible to accept credit cards online with a Third Party processor.
(c) John Lynch 2004
[ For details of Third Party credit card processors and online merchant accounts visit: http://www.merchant-account-service.com/credit_card_processing.html ]