When choosing a merchant account for your business, it’s crucial that you pick the one which most accurately reflects the needs of your day-to-day transactions. Not only will you receive better service and more effective equipment this way, you’ll typically see lower fees than you would with a mismatch.

First, let’s look at the two major categories: swiped and keyed accounts. Swiped accounts handle transactions with a customer present to swipe their credit card. Keyed accounts handle transactions taking place over the phone, fax, or the internet. From there, they break down further into specialties:


Retail merchants: face to face transactions in a retail environment, with a swipe and signature.

Wireless or mobile: face to face transactions where it’s unfeasible to use standalone units, such as pizza delivery, livery services, or very small businesses.

Restaurant: face to face transactions similar to retail systems, but with a tip function. Might also be used in other fields with frequent tipping, such as beauty salons.

Lodging: face to face transactions where additional charges may accrue due to the length of a stay, damages, room service, etc.


Ecommerce: online transactions using a shopping cart and an internet payment gateway solution.

Mail and telephone order: receive customer information over the phone, by mail, or by internet, then manually process the transaction through a machine or virtual terminal.

Face to face (mobile): on-the-go merchants such as trade show vendors who utilize touch tone services or other low-cost alternatives to true wireless solutions.

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