Setting up your merchant account is simpler than you might think, but be careful to avoid the number-one mistake: choosing a company that doesn’t understand the needs of your industry.

This is usually a local bank, which may deem your business, whether online or mobile based, as “high-risk”. If they feel your business is settled in the high-risk arena, they may deny you the credit necessary to get set up, or make you bend over backwards in order to obtain it.

All is not lost though. To avoid this, make sure things run smoothly by choosing a payment services company with experience in your field. Whether you own an online casino, dating, telemarketing, general e-commerce or mail-order site, your payment services provider should help you understand and overcome the hurdles of your industry.

So what’s involved in getting set up? You’ll have to provide some information about you and your company, but probably not as much as you think.

Information about your customer

Think about whom your customers are, and the payment options you wish to offer your client base. Before starting the application process, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where are they located: in North America, in Asia, worldwide?
  • What cards and currencies do you want to be able to offer them?
  • Will they want to pay in their local currency for convenience?
  • Do you want to accept “push” payments? (FYI: these are instant money transfers you’re your customers Internet-based bank accounts, making them bounce-free, and almost no risk to you!)

Information about your business model

Before you fill out an application form, you should know what field you’re planning to conduct most of your sales in and have your business registration details handy. Your estimated monthly sales volume is useful, as well as information about how you plan to carry out most transactions (mail order, phone, Internet, etc). If you know what shopping cart your site will be using, great, but if not, your payment service company will be able to guide you to a solution that will work hand-in-hand with their services. Make sure they work with a wide variety of popular shopping carts so that you’ll have the flexibility to choose one that works best.

Information about your bank

Your company’s banking information is important, but be wary of any company asking for this information right off the bat. If they ask what currency you’d like to use for transfers to your own account, that’s acceptable. Later, you may need to provide more personal information, such as drivers’ license or passport, along with copies of bank statements.

Remember, you’re looking for a company with a keen eye for fraud. That’s for your own protection!

Just as they will monitor customer transactions for fraud once you are doing business with them, they want to make sure that you’re being completely honest and upfront when signing up with them.

Check out the payment provider

Before you apply, look around the payment provider’s website, and ask the following questions:

  • Is it clear and easy to navigate?
  • Can you find the information about where they’re located and how long they’ve been in business?
  • Do they offer live online support so you can ask any questions before you take the plunge?
  • Is there a charge just for applying?
  • How are they going to use your personal information?
  • Don’t hit the “Apply” button until you’ve read the fine print. Your gut feelings are important here, and if it seems company is less than reputable, think about applying somewhere else instead. Your payment services provider should safeguard any information given to them, and personal details should only be shared with trusted third parties, such as credit bureaus, and only when necessary to complete transactions or for law-enforcement purposes.

    Remember, it’s not your job to walk your payment services company through your entire business model. Choosing a global company, with a strong international reputation, means they’ll already be familiar with your industry and needs.

    Avoid making that Number One mistake of picking someone who doesn’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish… instead, go with a company you know will put you and your needs first, and makes setting up your merchant account as simple as possible.