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Card Present vs. Card Not Present Merchant Accounts


These days there are numerous ways that merchants are processing credit cards.  Between websites, retail stores, and mobile solutions, merchants are taking payments everywhere.

Merchant account providers have been lagging behind a little bit, and some are still making it difficult on merchants to get up-and-running with both card present and card not present transactions.

Let’s take a closer look at this.

Card Not Present

One of the most widely used features of payment gateways is the ability to process credit card transactions on a website.  In such cases, the card is not physically present at the point of sale (retail location), and as such, there is a higher risk factor involved for the merchant account provider.

For this reason, merchant account providers typically setup the account with a specific set of rules to flag transactions based on given criteria.  This criterion is different for card not present accounts that it is for card present accounts, which is why some providers choose to separate them completely.

Card Present

Any transaction that is physically swiped through a credit card terminal of some kind is considered a card present transaction.  These transactions carry a much lower risk factor than card not present transactions, and as such, you can typically receive lower processing rates and fewer road blocks with these types of accounts.

You can still process card not present transactions with a card present account.  For example, if a customer calls you on the phone and gives you their card details verbally, you can key this information into your terminal and process the card.  These types of transactions will be charged a higher fee, though, and if you start processing more transactions like this than you do physically swiped transactions your merchant account provider will probably step in and try to get you switched to a different type of account.

What if I Need Both?

These days, you probably have a website where you’re selling your products and services.  (If not, I would highly recommend that you let us help you with that.) You may also have a retail location, though, or you might go to trade shows, hold home sales, or any number of other places where you might need to accept credit cards in person.

In this type of scenario, many merchant account providers will require you to carry two separate merchant accounts: one for the card present transactions, and another for the card not present transactions.

Of course, this caries the additional cost of an additional merchant account and gateway package, and on top of that you have to manage and reconcile two separate merchant accounts.  This is not ideal and can drive your accountant crazy.

We at USBSwiper have worked closely with our merchant account partners to provide a single solution that works for both card present and card not present transactions.  If the card is swiped through your USBSwiper credit card terminal or on your mobile device you will get the card present rate.  If the card is keyed in to a terminal or on your website, you’ll get the card not present rate.  All transactions will be included in the same batch, though, and your account will only have to reconcile a single account against your bank statements.


The introduction of eCommerce, both web and mobile, is changing the way merchants are accepting payments, and it can be tough to find a single merchant account that will handle all of your needs.  Don’t double up on your merchant accounts and pay double the fees.  Instead, check out our options. We’ll probably save you money on your rates, too!

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