What payment types can I accept with my merchant account?

Typically, Visa and Mastercard come with all merchant accounts except in rare cases of high risk offshore accounts where the acquiring bank is sponsored by only one of the major brands. In addition, merchants may choose to apply for Amex and/or Discover and add those to their accounts. International merchants may want to accept China UnionPay and JCB. Let’s take a look at each option.

  • Visa Inc., sometimes referred to as Visa or VISA, was launched by Bank of America all the way back in 1958. It’s based in Foster City, California. Outside of China, Visa is the world’s largest card payment company, with approximately $23 billion in revenue. Visa offers debit, credit and prepaid cards.
  • Mastercard Incorporated, known as MasterCard until 2016, has roots going back to the mid-1960s and first used the name MasterCard in 1979. It is headquartered in Purchase, New York. With revenues of nearly $17 billion, it’s right behind Visa in popularity. Mastercard offers debit, credit and prepaid cards.
  • The American Express Company, known as Amex, is headquartered in New York, New York. It started all the way back in 1850 as an express mail company and began offering credit cards in the late 1950s. Amex fees are somewhat higher than Visa and Mastercard’s, but it does offer terrific merchant support and requires no long-term service agreement. Especially if your business caters to the high end of the market, Amex could be an excellent payment option.
  • Discover was introduced by Sears in 1985 and is the third largest credit card issuer in the U.S. after Visa and Mastercard. If your business does most or all of its business within the U.S., Discover is an excellent addition to your lineup of payment options. For overseas purchases, Amex and Discover are not as widely used as Visa and Mastercard. However, Discover is popular with younger consumers. If they comprise some or all of your target market, Discover may help you attract new customers and give existing customers an appealing new payment option.
  • UnionPay, also referred to as China UnionPay, is headquartered in Shanghai, China. It is the world’s largest credit card payment organization based on the total value of transactions. It can be used in many countries around the world. It’s definitely a strong choice for businesses serving international markets.
  • JCB Co., LTD., is a credit card company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. Another good option for international businesses, JCB is accepted in more than 20 countries around the world. It had a footprint in the U.S. through its JCB USA division until it ceased operations here in 2018.

The decision about which and how many cards to accept is influenced by the type of customers you have, where in the world you do business and, if you are a high risk merchant, what payment options are available to you at a reasonable cost. In general, offering multiple payment options is better than one or two, since predicting which cards your customers will prefer is difficult. Also, if you limit payment options to one type of card, you may make placing an order more difficult for a customer if he/she is maxed out on that particular card.

If you’re thinking about adding cards to your merchant account or need help developing a payment solution for your startup, contact us now. We will help you sort through all the variables to consider.

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