We get this question quite often from customers who are starting their online business.
"I need to get credit cards, what do I need?"
It can seem confusing, but it is fairly straight forward.
You need two things to process credit cards and three if you want to process credit cards in real-time (ie approve/decline the card after the sale without you doing it by hand).
1) You need a business checking account - just a normal business checking account which you may already have.
2) You need a merchant account - A merchant account allows you to accept Visa, Mastercard, Amex etc... You can get this at your local bank or you can get it at another bank or even with an online service (such as Authorize.net).
If you are selling online or selling in a store you have to have a merchant account if you want to accept credit cards. (Besides paypal, which is a different story and another set of options).
Merchant accounts have their own set of fee's. Usually a per transaction fee and a percentage of the sale, most have a monthly fee as well.
3) If you want to process in real-time, you will need to get a gateway account, this basically sits on top of your merchant account and allows you to process credit cards through your website without you having to actually do the processing. As soon as someone completes the order, the credit card is checked through the gateway and the gateway sends back the approval or decline.
A gateway account has additional fee's. Usually a per transaction fee and a percentage of the sale and could even have a monthly fee.
There are a few companies out there that you may want to look at.
The biggest and most popular is Authorize.Net
is the place to go. You can get your merchant and gateway account through our partner CDG Commerce.
Another good one is PayPal's
Finally, Your Pay/LinkPoint
You can also accept credit cards through PayPal, but that is for another blog post and explaining their different services.
I hope this helps!