August 17th, 2005 by Jamie Estep
What Does All This Mean? – Merchant Account Fees
Every merchant account application consists of 4 main sections; the business and past history, anticipated processing volume and anticipated transaction information, merchant account fees, and the signature section. The Merchant Account Fee section is undoubtedly the most complicated section and is the most important to you, the merchant.
The merchant account fee section is a web of numbers and abbreviations that can confuse even the most technically savvy contract reader. The exception to the complex application rule, is a Nova application. While most companies list every possible fee incurred by a merchant, Nova lists only a few essential fees on their actual application. The Merchant Account Fees are offered to you by the bank or Merchant Service Provider you are signing up with. These organizations have a set buy price for fees, and what you get is a slight markup from what they pay.
The fee section consists of 2 parts; the processing and transaction fee section, and everything else. The everything else section is by far the larger and must be understood just as much as the other section. These sections are not divided by order, but grouped by their purposes.
The Processing and Transaction Fee Section:
This section is going to outline your basic processing fees. The Processing fee is the listed percentage of each transaction that you are charged for processing it. A standard merchant account works off a three tier system. A three tier system has a base discount processing rate, a mid-qualified rate, and a non-qualified rate. The base rate is what is most likely going to be quoted to you, but the mid and non qualified rates are just as important. Mid and Non qualifying transactions are transactions that fail to meet certain processing criteria depending on your merchant account type. Downgrading reasons are further discussed in this post: Why Am I Downgrading? – Part 1/3. The extra fees listed in the Mid and Non qualified areas will be added to the base fee if a transaction fails to qualify. Downgrade charges can make up 25% or more of your total transactions so your monthly bill can be greatly increased if you have high downgrade charges.
Good Downgrade Charges Are: +1.00% MID, and +1.50% NON.
If you have a base processing rate of 1.75% and you downgrade to Non qualified, the transaction just cost you 3.25%. This is a very good scenario. Many processors charge upward of 2 or 3% extra for downgrades, plus additional transaction fees.
Processing fees are always charged on approved transactions, and may be charged on returned transactions. This is at the discretion of the processor. About 50% of merchants are charged both directions on their transactions.
When accepting debit cards as credit cards, you can often be setup with a reduced rate debit program. This will lower the processing fees for all debit cards that you take, but they will still operate on a 3 tier system like credit cards.
Transaction Fee Section:
The transaction fee is a flat, per transaction fee that is charged on each transaction along with the processing fee. This can range from zero dollars and up, but is usually about $.22 for swiped accounts and $.25 for keyed accounts. It is commonly called a transaction fee or authorization fee. It is charged on all approved or declined transactions as well as batches and returns. It is basically a fee to access the processing network, therefore is charged every time the network is accessed.
Pin Debit Transaction Fee:
If you have a pinpad and your customers use it to process their debit card, you can be setup with a reduced rate Pin debit program. This will waive all processing fees for Pin debit transactions and you will have a flat transaction fee for pin entered debit cards.
All Other Fees:
A voice authorization is when a merchant calls in to a Help Desk to manually authorize a transaction.
About: $2.00 – $3.00
Voice AVS is manually verifying the address of a card holder against the card by calling the card in to the processors help desk.
Electronic AVS is a program in a credit card terminal that will prompt and verify the card holder’s address against the information linked to the card. This is done completely automatically through the terminal.
About: $.5 – $.10
This is an extra transaction fee for processing a discover card.
This is an extra transaction fee for processing an American express card.
Batch / Batch Header Fee:
This a fee charged each time a merchant batches out their terminal or software.
About: $.0 – $.30
This fee is an administrative fee charged any time a merchant receives a chargeback.
About: $15.00 – $30.00
Return Fee / Return ACH Fee:
A return fee is charged if your bank account comes up with insufficient funds when the processor tries to collect payment from you.
About: $15.00 – $30.00
Early Termination Fee:
An early termination fee is a fee that is charged if a merchant closes their account or breaks their contract before the agreed upon time in the merchant account contract.
About: $0.00 – $500.00
A retrieval fee is a fee for requesting a copy of the transaction receipt for a transaction that you processed. Make sure this one is blank. Why should you be charged when a customer or the processor needs a copy of a transaction from you?
About: $0.00 – $15.00
Sales Transaction Fee:
A sales transaction fee is an additional transaction fee added to each transaction that a merchant processes. This is a fee that is only used for the provider to make an extra buck off a merchant. If you find you are being charged this, you should probably find another provider.
About: $.00 – $.30
Monthly Minimum Fee:
This is the minimum amount that you must pay in processing fees each month. If you are unable to reach this amount, then you are charged the difference of this amount at the end of the month. The monthly minimum is calculated only from discount processing fees. Additional Mid and Non qualified fees are not included in reaching the monthly minimum.
About: $15.00 – $30.00
This is a monthly fee for the delivery of a paper statement to your business. By law, a paper statement must be sent to you each month, so this fee is rarely waivable.
About: $5.00 – $10.00
If you are processing with a wireless credit card machine, this is basically your monthly cellular bill.
About: $20.00 – $30.00
E-Merchant View / Online Account Access Fee:
If you are setup with online access to your merchant account, this is the monthly fee you are charged to have the ability to access your account online.
About: $5.00 – $10.00
Internet Access Fee:
If you process over the internet or through a website, this is an additional fee for all internet transactions. This is another fee some processors use to make an extra penny from their customers.
About: $.05 – $.10
Some merchants are setup with monthly supplies. This fee is for those supplies.
This is a blank spot for a provider. Make sure it is blank when you sign your merchant account application. There is no reason you should ever pay this fee.
Some processors charge an annual fee. The fee listed here is what you have to pay once each year to process with that particular company. This fee is only seen with a few processing companies.
Other Volume % Fee:
Yet another blank spot for a provider to add some more penny stealing fees. Make sure this one is blank too.
The worst blank spot on any application. Just one more anything fee that some providers use to make a little more.
Setup / Startup Fee:
This is a fee just for getting setup with a provider. Most good providers have no setup fee.
Even more ridiculous than a setup fee, some companies charge you just to apply with them. Unless you are a non-American or high risk business, if a company requires this, find someone else.