Information on Merchant Accounts,
Ecommerce and Credit Card Processing

March 2nd, 2006 by Jamie Estep

Creating additional revenue as a Merchant Account Agent

Filed in: Credit Card Equipment, Ecommerce, Guides, Merchant Accounts |

Merchant Account Agents:
A merchant account agent program is a referral partnership between a merchant service providing company and another company or individual. The merchant service provider pays the referring company a fee for each business that is referred for a merchant account. The payment can be a residual split or can be an account buyout program. Merchant account agents with existing, well founded, business relationships can create substantial revenue with minimal effort being an agent. Accountants, Consultants, Financial Services, Web Services and many other business types can greatly benefit from a merchant account agent program, as many of their customers are looking for merchant services already.

Two options for agents referring businesses
When an agent enters into a contract with a merchant service provider, they agree upon the payout method. A residual split option is by far the most common agreement. A residual split means that the provider and the referrer split revenue collected from the processing of transactions by the referred business. The split can be anything, as negotiated between the referrer and the provider, but a 50/50 split is the most common. It is common for an upfront cash bonus in addition to the split, for many providers. Residual payments normally last as long as the referred business is processing, so they can provide a great lifetime value for businesses looking to form long term relationships.

Upfront buyout programs are also available but much less common than residual splitting programs. An upfront buyout is a lump sum that the referrer receives for referring a business. Since their is no residual payments like the residual split program, upfront programs are better for businesses looking to get paid upfront and not ever have to worry about that business again.

The company you refer to is a reflection of yourself
When you refer a business for a merchant account, you want to ensure that they will be taken care of and treated in a way that reflects positively on your own business. Very often, merchant account agents refer their existing contacts to their partnered merchant service provider. To avoid potential repercussions from referring to a company that provides a poor experience, you need to make absolutely sure that you are referring to an honest company. Check BBB reports, and look for consumer complaints about the company that you are looking to form a partnership with. Also, make sure the company you are referring to has been in business for several years. New businesses come and go, so you should make sure that the company has a solid foundation, and positive reviews from customers.

Another often overlooked aspect of referring to a merchant service provider, is what type of businesses the provider accepts. Many providers are restricted in the types of businesses they can accept. A good provider is registered to several processing banks and can normally provide services to all but a few select rare business types.

Customer service is a huge factor in determining who to refer to. Your customers need great service and support, and you need support when you require it. Only partner with a company that gives you a direct contact that can help you and answer any questions that you have. You are a person and not a number, and your partnered merchant service provider should feel the same way.

Lastly, equipment pricing should be a major concern for you and your customers. Equipment can be very reasonably priced, but due to huge markups, often costs businesses and agents 3 or 4 times what it is actually worth. Try to find a company that will provide you with wholesale, or near wholesale pricing on equipment. Be vary cautious of free credit card terminal agent programs. From what I have investigated, they often come with many strings attached.

Not all agent programs are equal
With every industry there are good companies and there are less good companies. Becoming an agent for a merchant service provider requires a trust and commitment on your part, and you need to be sure that the company you are working with is the best match for you. Many providers with agent programs have huge payout or residual claims, but when payday comes around, their promises fall far short.

With any offer, if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Also, make sure to read the fine print. I have seen free terminal programs for agents, but after reading the contract, I found that the terminal is free to the customer, but the cost is deducted from the agent’s residuals. I have also seen upfront buyout programs that guarantee $1000 or more per merchant account, but if the business what not active for two years, the agent had to pay back the full amount of the referral fee. The point is, make sure you know what you are getting into, and who you are getting into it with, before you ever sign the contract.

Merchant Account Agent Program Question Checklist
I made up a short series of questions that you should absolutely know and be comfortable with before entering in a partnership with a merchant service provider.

Questions for them:

  • How long has the merchant service provider been in business?
  • What processing banks / processors is the company registered to?
  • What types of businesses does the company provide to and do they accept startup internet or MOTO (Mail Order Telephone Order) businesses?
  • What residual split and buyout option are available?
  • How often are residuals paid, and are they lifetime?
  • What are the prices and customers prices on processing equipment?
  • Does the company deploy the equipment themselves?
  • What payment gateway options are available for internet merchants?
  • What support do I have and what support do my customers have?
  • How competitive and what are the rates that are being offered?
  • What are all of the extra fees with each merchant account (SETUP, APPLICATION, MONTHLY, YEARLY, TERMINATION, ANY OTHER MISCELLANEOUS FEE)

Questions for you:

  • Do you have an actual person you can contact, phone, email, etc.?
  • Is the processing equipment at or near wholesale?
  • Does the company support all types of businesses, including startups?
  • Do you understand all of the fees that they have for each business type?
  • Do you understand your contract and your referral’s contracts?
  • Most Importantly: Would you be comfortable using this company for your own business?

If you are interested in learning more about being a merchant account agent or would like info on the program that my company offers, please check out The Merchant Store’s Merchant Account Agent and Referral Program.

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