What is online credit card processing

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Online credit card processing can be defined as the processing of any kind of credit card payment. An Online Credit Card Payment Processing company, usually referred to as a Payment Service Provider, will offer merchants online services for accepting payment online including credit and debit cards, direct debit, bank transfer and real-time bank transfers.

The history of credit card processing:

The earliest methods of credit card processing involved submitting credit card slips to a merchant processing bank by mail or by accessing an Automated Response Unit (ARU) by telephone.

These days the majority of credit card transactions are sent electronically to merchant processing banks for authorisation, capture and deposit. In all circumstances either the entire magnetic strip is read by a swipe through a credit card terminal/reader or the credit card information is manually entered into a credit card terminal, a computer or website.

Accepting credit card online payments:

The easiest way for businesses (merchants) to begin accepting online payments through their website is to open a merchant account with a Payment Service Provider (PSP)

A merchant account is a contract between the merchant and the PSP, without such a contract one cannot directly accept payments by any of the major credit card brands.

The reason that merchants need an account with a PSP is that any company wishing to accept online credit card payments need to process the credit card transactions through a payment gateway. The payment gateway service is provided by the PSP, some of whom will have their own payment gateway but the majority of PSPs use third party payment gateways.

The gateway usually has 2 components: a) the virtual terminal that can allow for a merchant to securely login and key in credit card numbers or b) have the website’s shopping-cart connect to the gateway via an API (Application Programming Interface) to allow for real time processing from the merchant’s website.

The fees charged by a PSP are usually dictated by the volume of transactions that are processed by the merchant e.g. the higher the volume the lower the rates. As well as a fee that is charged against each transaction most PSPs will impose a holdback charge. This charge is a set fee that is held by the PSP for a certain period of time, normally 180 days as security against any chargebacks.

PSPs will usually provide merchants with access to the payment gateways back office which allows merchants to view details about the transactions that have been processed including volumes, amounts etc.