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Merchant account is a contract between a business and a bank or a financial institution. This contract ensures that the bank accepts payments for the products or services on behalf of the business. These Credit Card acquiring banks ensures that a merchant or company can accept payment from international customers for the products or services they deliver. Thus merchant accounts form a vital part of any E-commerce business.

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There are two types of merchant accounts. First is the normal account, where the Credit Card can directly access the card and ensure that it is a legitimate customer, thereby the risk involved is minimal. The second type of Credit Card involves the accounts where it is not possible to visually testify the customer. These types of accounts include adult entertainment merchants, online tobacco merchants, replica merchants, online gambling merchants, pre-paid calling merchants, VOIP merchants, multilevel marketing merchants, or any transaction that takes place with the customer physically not present. Thereby, the possibility of fraud activity is much greater with this type of business which results in classifying these types of accounts as “high risk” ones. Naturally, these high risk merchant accounts present the risk of the dreaded charge backs for the banks in question. It has been proved by various researches that these high risk processing transactions are more susceptible to fraudulent transactions.

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The primary costs to a merchant of merchant accounts are discount rate and transactions fees. The merchant account provider has a lot of latitude in the pricing structure.

Three tier pricing is one of the most common pricing schemes. Using 3 tiers pricing, the merchant account provider groups the transactions into 3 groups (tiers) and assigns a rate to each tier. The three tiers are qualified, mid-qualified and non-qualified rates.

1. A qualified rate is the lowest tier. It is what a merchant is charged when processing a consumer credit card in a way that has been defined as standard by the merchant account provider. The qualified rates is what is usually quoted by merchant account salespeople. A mid-qualified rate is what the merchant is charged if processing a transaction outside of standard parameters. A mid-qualified rate may apply to rewards or corporate cards, which can comprise up to 40% of the cards used for purchases. The merchant, of course, has no control over what card a consumer uses.

3. A non-qualified rate is the highest percentage rate a merchant will be charged whenever they accept a credit card. A common reason for non-qualified transaction is not providing all pertinent information on a transaction. Non-qualified transaction fees may also be assessed if a merchant doesn't settle batches within a specified amount of time.

Non-qualified rates can cost merchant 150-300 basis points more for the transaction. Another excellent profit stream for merchant account providers. And one that is frequently hidden from the merchant

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