Alternatives to a Merchant Account

Physical checks, ACH debits and online check processing services are good alternatives to a Merchant Account. Typically these services have lower requirements than a full-blown Merchant Account, but the service fees can be higher. Check clearing takes an average of four to seven days. If you plan to accept checks, ensure a check clears before providing a service or sending products. Best practices for check acceptance include comparison of signatures between the check and a copy of the customer’s driver’s license. Consider a signed service agreement or product order as well.

Customers can pay for a purchase or service by charging it to their home phone bill. This method is regulated and cumbersome but can be a good option for a customer who does not like to give out his credit card or bank account information. Payment for phone bill charges may require a long processing and funds receipt timeframe. Therefore, this method is best for services with a fairly low business cost and low recurring charges. This payment method only works for a landline phone account and is not accepted by cell phone companies so that leaves out a lot of customers who don’t even own a landline these days.

Third-party providers or payers, such as PayPal, are another alternative to a Merchant Account. You can use your own social security number to set up a PayPal account and the application is fast and simple. It will give you less flexibility because consumers have to log on to pay you. There are also fees for each payment processed.

Money orders are not very common in the business place these days but there are still some who use them, especially when ordering online. This can be a slow process if you have an online business and a customer uses a money order. The customer has to mail the money order, which could take several days to reach you. Be wary of any money order or cashier’s check that is for more than the amount due. For money orders, check the security features to ensure authenticity. For a cashier's check, call or visit the issuing bank to ensure validity. For further assurance, wait 10 business days to make sure a money order or cashier’s check is not deemed fraudulent before shipping merchandise. With these precautions, money orders and cashier’s checks are good alternatives to a Merchant Account, albeit slower. .