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What Is a Merchant Account Provider?

A merchant account provider or merchant service provider delivers merchant services that enable businesses to legally accept credit and debit card payments. There are various merchant companies with different services for all kinds of merchant credit card processing; online payment processing, transactions over the telephone, transactions in the physical store, credit card processing for small businesses, as well as credit card processing for larger businesses.

It is a necessity for the majority of businesses to settle a merchant account, as credit cards are the preferred payment method in today's market. Traditionally, it was mainly banks providing credit card processing services - they issued both; credit cards and the technical support for payment processing. Over time, banks decided to outsource merchant services to Independent Sales Organisations (ISO) - companies, that are specialised in payment processing.

If you need a merchant account or simply more information about merchant services, feel free to complete the contact form to request a quote for free. Our customer service will be happy to help you find the best merchant service provider for your business.

What You Will Learn on This Page

What Is an Independent Sales Organisation?
How Do I Choose a Merchant Service Provider?
Leading Merchant Service Providers in the UK
Merchant Account Costs & Fees

 

Business _Handshake _Independent _Sales _Organisation (1)

What is an Independent Sales Organisation? 

In the card payment industry, an Independent Sales Organisation (ISO) is defined as an organisation which is not a member of the Visa and Mastercard network, however, it has a relationship with an actual member of the network. This relationship covers multiple matters such as:

  • Acquiring or Issuing functions
  • Approaching new customers
  • Technical support 
  • Soliciting cardholders

It is crucial to understand that an Independent Sales Organisation (ISO) is not a bank, and that it is the acquiring bank that is actually administering the money of the merchant. This bank is a member of the Visa and Mastercard network and has a contract with the Independent Sales Organisation.

How Do I Choose a Merchant Service Provider?

There are several options available in the industry when it comes to choosing a merchant account provider. Having many choices might be helpful to compare different offers and credit card processors, but at the same time, it can be truly overwhelming. In order to find the right merchant service providing company, it is important to focus on the criteria that are most relevant to your business.

The merchant account provider's role becomes increasingly important, as customers expect the convenience to pay with their credit card when purchasing goods from the merchant. Therefore, it is immensely important to choose a transparent merchant service provider that distributes it's best services for a reasonable price.

In the following table, you can find some examples of the UK's leading independent sales organisations that provide merchant services for a huge amount of clients.

To help you navigate through, click on the logo in order to get more information about the company.

Global _Payments _Logo Card _Cutters _Logo Fidelity _Logo Worldpay _Logo
Secure _Trading _Logo Helcim _Logo First _Data _Logo Universal _Transaction _Processing
Payment _Sense _Logo I Zettle _Logo Dharma _Logo Lloydsbankinggroup _logo

 

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Merchant Accounts Costs & Fees

Interchange-Plus Pricing
The Interchange-Plus Pricing structure, also called cost-plus pricing, consists of three sectors; the merchant account service’s mark-up, the interchange rate and the card-brand fee. As the card issuer, it is MasterCard and Visa that determine the interchange rate as well as the card-brand fee.

These two fees are inflexible rates, that can’t be changed by the merchant service provider. The merchant account service’s mark up is a percentage that is added by the merchant service provider in exchange for the services. In most cases, the merchant service provider adds a fee per-transaction in addition to the standard fees, these fees vary depending on the provider.

Experts within this industry present the interchange-plus pricing structure as the most beneficial and transparent option. However, according to them, this pricing model would only make sense for well-established businesses. For the first months, the merchant is advised to operate with a tiered-pricing structure. After a certain period, the merchant can apply for an interchange-plus pricing model.

The price for the mark-up is determined by factors, such as:

  • The industry the merchant is operating in 
  • The transaction volume 
  • The average ticket size

Tiered Pricing
The Tiered-Pricing structure, also called bundle or bucket pricing is the most common pricing model. It is also called bundle and bucket pricing as it tries to incorporate card-brand fees, interchange rates and mark-up fees into one cost and separates transactions into different tiers. These tiers are categorised in different sections with different tiers for credit and debit card transactions.

  • qualified
  • mid-qualified
  • non-qualified

The qualified debit transactions solely apply to usual debit cards that are used in person with a card reader. Mid-qualified transactions are referred to rewards credit cards, whereas non-qualified transactions are generally premium rewards credit cards, business credit cards or foreign credit cards. On average, merchant services provide three tiers, it is also possible to find merchant service providers offering up to six tiers. If most of your customers use traditional debit credit cards and card machines, this model may be a good fit.

Make sure to get information on the amount of tiers that are offered and the types of cards are used most by your customers, in order to get an overview of which pricing model will be most cost-effective for your business.

Flat Rate Pricing 
The Flat Rate Pricing is, as the name already implies, a simple pricing model that is based on charging a single, fixed percentage per transaction. This pricing model is definitely worth considering for mobile merchant service providers and small businesses, that process less than £2500 per month.

Business _Hankshake _Merchant _Account _Provider -min

Large payment processing companies serve an enormous volume of merchants, which is why complaints can rack up really fast. This doesn’t have to mean that the merchant service providing company is doing a bad job, but rather the fact that a small percentage of a merchant service company´s dissatisfied clients make up a great number. If a merchant service is needed, it is very important to have a closer look at each of the companies before making a commitment. In the following we summarised the main players within this industry.

Global Payments

This company is one of the largest players within the payment processing industry. It was founded in 1967 as a National Data Corporation. Today, Global Payments serves more than 2 million merchants in around 30 countries. Compared to their competitors, the percentage of complaints remains fairly low.

Despite the great design of their website, it is not possible to find useful information. On the other hand, they have an excellent customer service with the reputation of ‘helping you find any and all solutions you need’. The company handles everything internally, which makes it a great fit for businesses with complex needs. Due to their flexible pricing model, you can get tailored offers, such as low rates based on your volume.

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Card Cutters

Card Cutters was founded in June 2009 and is thereby a quite new fish within the payment industry. The company serves around 6.000 merchants with its merchant services in the UK. Their services include high risk merchant accounts and offers a fairly standard pricing and transparent contract terms for merchants in the UK.

Although they have a low number of clients compared to the other players, Card Cutters is performing excellent when it comes to customer satisfaction. They have a proud number of positive reviews and almost no complaints. The main pricing model that Card Cutters promotes is the Interchange-plus pricing.

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First Data

This company was established in 1969 and serves close to 7 million merchants worldwide, which gives them a very high spot in the food chain. First Data is handling everything internally, no middle-man is needed. Businesses with complex needs that want simple credit card processing solutions should definitely take a look at their wide array of offerings.

They have a great reputation as, amongst others, unique merchant account providers, mobile processing providers, POS software providers as well as card machine providers. Additionally, they offer a great deal of resources and recently signed a contract with Google Wallet to offer business owners the ability to legally accept and process mobile payment.They are great at offering extra services, the fees however are quite high.

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Worldpay

As the name implies, Worldpay is a worldwide payment processor with clients all over the globe. The company was founded back in 1989, being one of the first players within the industry of merchant service as well as card machine providers. There is no accurate number of their client base, but it is for sure one of the largest processors and can be compared with First Data.

Despite of the enormous size of the company, the number of complaints remains fairly low. However, the majority of dissatisfied customers complain about the customer service and more importantly, the high early termination fee. In terms of products and services, Worldpay has a standard range of offerings. One of the highlights are the value-added services such as gift cards and loyalty programs.

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Fidelity

Fidelity Payment Services is an Independent Sales Organisation (ISO) that provides merchants with multiple processors, such as First Data and Chase Payments, with its merchant credit card merchant services in the UK, U.S and Canada. Founded in New York, the company joined the payment services industry in 1996.

Fidelity serves businesses of any size and type with a wide arrow of products and services. Taking a look at customer reviews and complaints, the company is performing moderately well, which might be the result of their focus on building a loyal client base by providing them with personalised solutions.

The variety of payment options that this company serves includes amongst others check services, internet processing, gift cards, loyalty programs, rent payment services and mobile processing. Additionally, when it comes to equipment, they count as reliable credit card machine providers and point-of-sale solution providers.

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Helcim

Helcim was founded in 2009 and has its headquarter in Alberta, Canada. This merchant service provider is worth considering for small to medium sized merchants. Helcim has a great reputation for charging fair pricing, including the interchange-plus rates and operating transparent while educating its clients on each step in order to make sure that they make informed decisions.

The reviews online are almost entirely positive, the only critics goes to their mobile app. Helcim offers its clients a month-to-month contract with no early termination fees.

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Universal Transaction Processing

Universal Transaction Processing was founded in 2013 and has its headquarter in the UK. The company is a merchant account provider for UK merchants of all sizes. Barclays is their credit card processor, whereas the majority of merchant companies use First Data and Global Payments.

Taking a look at multiple review platforms on the web, they have a clean record. Universal Transaction Processing seems to maintain a good relationship to its clients, another reason could be the fact that they were only founded in 2013. There is no accurate information about their contract and pricing on the web, given the low complaints however, UTP probably has a standard pricing structure.

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Payment Sense

Paymentsense is a quite large payment credit card processor that provides over 30,000 businesses in the UK with its merchant services. The company is located in London and is the UK bureau for FIrst Data. The company offers a standard contract of 18-60 months. The pricing model depends on the type and size of the merchant. Unfortunately, there are some negative reviews on the web stating a lack of transparency.

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iZettle

iZettle is a mobile payment processing app and card reader that can be used via Apple and Android devices. The headquarter of the company is in Stockholm, Sweden. They only serve merchants in the UK, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Spain, France, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Netherlands, Brazil and Mexico. According to Jacob De Geer, the founder and CEO of iZettle, the plans are to expand into more countries.

As you can see in the following chart, iZettle has no monthly fees, or setup fees. Transaction fees vary by transaction method, volume of business and the country the merchant is operating in.

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Secure Trading

Secure Trading was founded by Kobus Paulsen in 1997. The company is a large UK merchant account provider based in London. Its merchant services include standard-risk ecommerce business types in the States and the UK. The contract is a one year term that renews automatically with no early termination fees.

The merchant can cancel the contract with 180 days notice before the current term ends, where the merchant account holding company is responsible for monthly transaction fees. All in all, Secure Trading serves as a dependable online merchant service provider and has no lack of transparency issues due to customer reviews.

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Dharma

Dharma Merchant Services was founded in 2007 by Jeff Marcous and is located in San Francisco, California. The company donates 50% of its profits to non-profit organisations and has thereby an eco-friendly business reputation. One of their main features is that they provide mobile processing and POS options for tablets.

Dharma promotes Interchange-plus pricing and short-term service agreements. The majority of its clients are medium to large-sized businesses. Merchant businesses that process less than around £13,000 per month, are advised to contact another merchant service provider.

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Lloyds Bank Cardnet

Lloyds Bank Cardnet was founded in 1997 by Antonio Horta-Osorio. It is located in Basildon, UK and serves as Lloyds Bank’s merchant services division. Lloyds Bank is the largest retail bank in the UK. The company offer merchant account services for businesses of all sizes and types. Their client base has a number of around 55,000 merchants.

For a provider of this size in the credit card processing industry, LB Cardnet has maintained a fairly low number of complaints. However, none of the complaints indicate a lack of transparency, but more a lack of customer support. All in all, Lloyds Bank Cardnet can be titled as a reliable merchant service provider.

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