What is a Merchant Service Provider?
If you’ve recently started a new business, or you’re seriously thinking about starting one, you’ve probably come across Merchant Service Providers, or MSPs, and quite possibly wondered what they are, why you’d need one and which one is best for your business.
Let’s start with the basics and hopefully we can help you get a better understanding of what to look for when shopping for a Merchant Service Provider.
What is a Merchant? Put simply, a merchant is someone who sells goods or services for a profit.
Back in the good ol’ days, selling goods or services was also simple. A customer would approach a merchant wishing to buy something and you’d have what we now call the Point of Sale, or POS. POS is the moment when the merchant calculates how much the customer owes for the goods or services they wish to buy and the customer hands over the money. When dealing with cash it’s that simple, but if you want to accept credit or debit cards, things get a little more complicated behind the scenes and that’s where MSPs come in – they make everything look simple and seamless to you, the merchant, and the customer.
A merchant service provider is one of the middlemen between you, the merchant, and your customer’s money. An MSP’s main role is dealing with the communications between your business and the issuing bank i.e., the customer’s bank, but they can also offer plenty of other services to streamline your experience as a business owner. Here at Fido, one of the services we offer is facilitating you opening a merchant account.
When your customer taps their card on the POS terminal or enters their details on the payment page of your website, your MSP sends the customer’s details to the acquiring bank (who provides your merchant account) via the card network (Visa, Mastercard, Amex etc) to the issuing bank. The issuing bank then checks if the customer has enough funds to pay for the goods or services and sends that information back down the chain and you receive an accepted or declined notification. If the payment request is accepted by the issuing bank, then the money ends up in your pocket. Winning!
It’s slightly more complicated than that but as a business owner, you don’t need to know much more. What you do need to know is what other services different MSPs provide and which ones will work best for your business, especially if you’re considered a high-risk business.