How to Get a Merchant Account


In order to accept credit and debit card payments for your business, you need a merchant account. Not only does it enable you to get paid, but it gives your business credibility. Your customers will see your business name on their statements while your payments go from your customer’s bank account straight to yours.

The process of obtaining a merchant account requires some work, but it is worth the trouble. If you’re a new business, it can feel like a struggle if you don’t know what to expect.

To help you, we have outlined the 3 most important steps your business can take to help make the merchant account process easy.

1. Prepare Your Business Documents

The first thing a merchant account provider will ask for is your business documents. Have them on hand when you apply so that they’re available immediately. These documents are used as proof, to ensure you have a legitimate business, and that your funds get to the right place once a payment is put through. They also verify you really are who you say you are.

Most merchant account providers will ask for the following documents:

A Business License or Certificate

There are many types of business entities that can get a merchant account such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, LLC, or LLP. Having your business license confirms that you are operating a legitimate business.

A Void Check

You’ll need to have a business bank account to get a merchant account. It is another step to confirm your business is operating legally while making sure money from sales are deposited into your business account after taking a payment. Have a pre-printed void check that matches your legal business name ready for when the merchant account provider requests it.

A Bank Letter

If you’re a new company and are still waiting for your checks to be printed, you can submit a stamped and signed bank letter in its place. A stamped and signed bank letter will confirm you have a business bank account and show account information your processor needs to send your funds.

2 Forms of Identification

Again, these are just legal measures to prove you are a real person, responsible for the business. A Drivers License, SIN Card/SSN and credit card are all forms of acceptable identification.

2. Know If You’re A “Risky” Businesses

There are certain businesses that are seen as a high risk business in the payment processing world. Being one of these “risky” businesses may prevent you from getting a merchant account – at the very least it can lengthen the time it takes to obtain one. Don’t worry though, there are merchant account providers who specialize in high risk merchants and can help you get approved. The main goal is to be aware of your risk standing so you are realistic with your timeline.

High risk accounts typically fall under the following categories:

  • Online Casino and Gambling
  • Weapons and Firearms
  • Online Pharmacy
  • Adult Entertainment

3. Apply At The “Right Time”

The right time to apply for a merchant account differs for every business. If you’re already established and are taking payments using alternative payment methods such as cash and check, you can apply anytime.

For small businesses that have yet to start selling, you can actually apply too soon. Merchant accounts can be approved within 3 to 7 business days so there’s no rush. The reason waiting for the right time is important is because banks like to check up on the validity of a business during the application review. If you say you’re operating an eCommerce site but you don’t have a website, that will raise a flag. Same thing goes for a brick and mortar business whose signage isn’t up on their location.

I Have All The Documents Prepared, What’s Next?

Once you have everything ready and the timing is right for your business, contact the merchant account provider and let them know that you would like to apply for a merchant account.

At that point they will walk through all the information with you and fill out an application that will be sent in for approval which takes anywhere from 3 to 7 business days.

Once the merchant account is approved, your provider will contact you to walk you through the process to get your account up an running.

Looking to get a Merchant Account? Talk to one of our Payment Advisors.