Ellen Cibula
Written by Ellen Cibula Payments, Finance, and AI Expert: Learn More

Have you been wondering how to accept credit card payments without a merchant account?

I know the feeling. It’s difficult to keep up with all of the changing regulations and payment processing solutions, so don’t worry. After my experience working at a payment processor, I wrote this simple guide that can help make it easier for you.

You’ll learn everything from what you need to start accepting credit cards online, which third-party transaction services are available for those who do not have a merchant account, and more! Plus, plenty of practical advice is sprinkled throughout based on my own experiences in the industry.

Keep reading to learn how to accept credit card payments without a merchant account.


If you don’t have a merchant account, you can use a Payment Services Provider like Square, Stripe, and PayPal to accept credit card payments.

This site is supported by its readers. If you purchase through a link on my site, I may earn a commission. For more information see my Disclosure Policy

Understanding Merchant Accounts

Businesses usually need a merchant account to accept credit card payments. This specialized account serves as the middleman in processing electronic transactions, such as debit and credit cards. However, it’s important to understand the two main ways to get a merchant account – through a merchant service provider or a traditional bank.

Merchant Services Provider Accounts

A Merchant Services Provider is a payment processing provider that offers merchant accounts. These accounts allow merchants to accept debit and credit cards in many ways, such as online, over the phone, in-store, or through mobile payments. With an MSP account, you can choose from different payment processing solutions depending on your needs.

Bank Merchant Accounts

Unlike MSP accounts, Bank Merchant Accounts are provided by traditional banks and financial institutions. These accounts offer a more customized experience for businesses with more specific needs or higher transaction volumes. Opening a bank merchant account involves a more in-depth application process than with a merchant service provider. A bank merchant account is easily connected with your business bank account.

But what if you don’t have a merchant account? Can you still accept payments? Absolutely.

How to Accept Credit Card Payments Without a Merchant Account

featured image for how to accept credit card payments without a merchant account

Payment Service Providers (PSPs)

Payment Service Providers (PSPs) are an alternative to traditional merchant accounts. They enable you to accept credit card payments without a separate merchant account. PSPs typically offer easy setup, fast approval, and straightforward pricing.

Another name for PSPs is payment facilitators (PayFacs), in case you see that phrase.

With a PSP, you do not get your own merchant account; you operate under the provider’s account.

Some popular PSPs include PayPal, Square, and Stripe.


PayPal is a well-known PSP that lets you accept card payments without a dedicated merchant account. It offers a range of services, including online payments, in-person payments with a PayPal card reader, and invoicing. You’ll need to sign up for a PayPal Business account to get started. The platform charges a fee per transaction, and additional features may cost extra. Integrating PayPal with your existing point of sale (POS) system is usually a straightforward process.


Square is another popular PSP for businesses looking to accept credit card payments without a merchant account. Square provides a free card reader that connects to your mobile device, allowing you to accept payments in person. It also offers an online payment processing solution, enabling you to accept payments through your website. Square has a flat fee per transaction, with no monthly fees or long-term contracts. Like PayPal, integration with your POS system is often seamless.


Stripe is a versatile PSP aimed at businesses that primarily operate online. It enables you to accept credit card payments without a merchant account through its robust payment processing infrastructure. Stripe’s fees are based on a per-transaction model, with no setup or monthly fees. The platform also offers various tools and APIs that help you easily integrate Stripe into your existing POS or e-commerce system.

With one of these PSPs, you can efficiently process credit card payments without a traditional merchant account. This can help reduce overall costs and make it easier for your business to get started with accepting credit and debit card payments.

Compatibility with E-Commerce Platforms

When you’re looking to accept card payments without a merchant account, finding a payment service provider compatible with popular e-commerce platforms is essential. This will make the process of setting up and managing your online store much simpler.

Many providers, like PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Shopify, offer integration with most e-commerce platforms. These solutions make it easy to accept online payments and manage your online store with ease.

Some of the popular e-commerce platforms that you might consider using with your chosen payment service provider are:

  • Shopify: Known for its user-friendly interface and all-in-one solution, Shopify simplifies the process of setting up and managing an e-commerce business. The platform allows for easy integration with popular PSPs, enabling you to accept credit card payments without needing a merchant account.
  • WooCommerce: As a popular e-commerce plugin for WordPress websites, WooCommerce offers a wide range of customization options and extensions for your online store. It also supports major payment service providers that don’t require a merchant account.
  • BigCommerce: A robust platform designed for scalability and customization, BigCommerce provides various options to accept online payments without a merchant account, thanks to its compatibility with top payment providers.

To ensure that your chosen PSP is compatible with your e-commerce platform, always check the platform’s documentation or reach out to their customer support for guidance.

Additionally, keep in mind that while most e-commerce platforms are compatible with multiple PSPs, fees and transaction rates may vary depending on the provider and plan you choose. Make sure to consider these factors when making your decision.

Accessories and Hardware Requirements

Card Readers and Terminals

You will need a card reader or terminal compatible with your chosen PSP to accept credit card payments without a merchant account. Depending on your needs, you may require a POS system or a mobile POS solution. Numerous devices support contactless payments, enhancing the customer experience by providing quick and convenient checkout options. You can explore affordable card readers and terminals from PSPs like Square, which offers a free card swiper upon creating an account.

  • While selecting a card reader or a terminal, consider the hardware costs involved to ensure it is cost-effective for your business.
  • Don’t forget to check the compatibility with your preferred PSP and payment methods.

Mobile Processing Devices

When it comes to mobility, a mobile POS device helps you accept credit card payments without a stationary system. Mobile processing devices typically require a smartphone or tablet alongside a compatible card reader. Some popular options for mobile card readers include Square’s mobile card swiper, which can be attached to your mobile device and used with their app to process payments.

A mobile processing device comes with its own set of benefits:

  • Enhanced flexibility and mobility for businesses that are not location-based, such as food trucks or pop-up shops
  • Reduced hardware costs compared to traditional POS systems
  • Comprehensive management of sales, inventory, and customer data using integrated apps

Make sure to choose the accessories and hardware that align with your business needs while keeping in mind the costs, compatibility, and ease of use. Supporting contactless payments can provide an edge in today’s increasingly cashless society.

When using mobile processing devices, educate and train your staff to to shield your business from mobile payment fraud.

Additional Payment Options and Services

As a business owner looking to accept credit and debit card payments without a merchant account, exploring additional payment options and services can help you find the best fit for your needs. In this section, we’ll discuss popular digital payment methods like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay, as well as alternative services such as Billing, Invoicing, and Virtual Terminals.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is a convenient mobile wallet option for iOS devices, offering a fast and secure way for customers to make purchases both online and in-store. Your business will need a compatible credit card processor and point-of-sale (POS) system to accept Apple Pay. Apple Pay uses tokenization and encryption to protect users’ financial information, ensuring a safe transaction experience for you and your customers.

Google Pay

Google Pay is a widely-used digital wallet for Android devices, which allows users to make purchases through contactless payments at your store or online. To accept Google Pay, ensure your credit card processor and POS system are compatible with the service. Google Pay uses multi-layered security measures to protect against fraud, providing a reliable and efficient payment solution for your business.

Samsung Pay

Samsung Pay is a mobile wallet specifically designed for Samsung devices. Like Apple Pay and Google Pay, Samsung Pay allows users to make contactless in-store or online payments. Integrating Samsung Pay into your business requires a compatible credit card processor and POS system. With advanced security features, Samsung Pay offers a secure payment option for your customers.

Billing and Invoicing

Implementing billing and invoicing solutions can be a practical option if you’re seeking alternative payment methods for services, subscriptions, or larger transactions. Various online platforms offer templates and tools for creating, sending, and managing invoices. Some services even support invoice customization and automation, streamlining the payment process for your customers and your business.

Virtual Terminals

Virtual terminals are browser-based systems allowing you to manually enter and process credit card transactions without a physical reader. They can be accessed from any device with internet access, providing flexibility for remote payments or over-the-phone transactions. Virtual terminals are often offered by credit card processor companies. They may require additional fees, but they are an efficient way to accept card payments without a merchant account.

By considering these additional payment options and services, you can ensure a seamless and secure payment experience for your customers and enhance the efficiency of your business operations.

Ensuring Security and Compliance

When accepting credit card payments without a merchant account, ensuring security and compliance with industry standards is crucial. One important aspect to consider is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This security standard aims to protect your customers’ sensitive card information and reduce the risk of fraud. Compliance with PCI DSS is mandated by contracts that merchants sign with card brands like Visa and MasterCard.

You can ensure security and compliance by partnering with a reliable PSP. These providers often have built-in security measures that facilitate PCI DSS compliance, making it easier for you to accept credit cards safely and securely. For example, using an EMV chip reader for in-person transactions can further enhance security, as EMV chips are designed to prevent card fraud and protect sensitive cardholder data.

Financial institutions such as issuing banks and credit card networks play an essential role in this process, as they work together to ensure a secure and compliant environment for all parties involved. When choosing a payment service provider, make sure they have a strong track record of working well with these institutions to maintain high security standards.

Key Takeaway

The key to confidently accepting card payments without a merchant account lies in selecting a reputable payment service provider with demonstrated expertise in security and compliance. Doing so can provide a safe and reliable experience for your customers.

Selecting the Right Solution for Your Business Needs

As a small business owner, choosing the right solution for accepting credit card payments without a merchant account is crucial. Your chosen solution should not only be cost-efficient but also user-friendly and secure to protect your customer’s financial information.

  1. Using a payment service provider (PSP) like PayPal, Square, or Stripe. These services allow you to accept credit card payments without needing a traditional merchant account. They handle the payment processing for you and usually charge a flat fee per transaction. Make sure to compare the fees and features of different PSPs to find the best fit for your business.
  2. Consider the ease of integration with your existing systems. Most PSPs provide ready-made solutions that can be easily added to your website or mobile app. However, you may want to explore other options, such as APIs, if you need more customization options or have specific requirements not covered by the out-of-the-box solutions.
  3. Security should also be a top priority when selecting a payment processing solution. Ensure that the PSP you choose complies with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the industry standard for protecting cardholder data. Keeping your customers’ financial information safe can build trust and loyalty.
  4. Evaluate the customer support offered by the payment processing provider. Timely and knowledgeable assistance is crucial if you encounter issues with your account or transactions. A responsive support team can help you maintain smooth operations and customer satisfaction.

By carefully considering these factors, you can find the right solution to accept credit card payments without a merchant account, ensuring your small business stays competitive while keeping transactions simple and secure.

Questions? We Have Answers.

Get answers to a list of the most Frequently Asked Questions.

To accept credit card payments without a traditional point-of-sale (POS) system, you may consider using mobile card readers or third-party payment service providers. Mobile card readers, like the one offered by Square, can be connected to your smartphone or tablet and used to process card transactions. This option is ideal for businesses that don’t have a fixed location or want to avoid the costs associated with a full-fledged POS system.

Another option for small businesses is to use third-party payment processors, such as PayPal or Stripe. These platforms enable you to accept card payments online and in person without needing a merchant account or a POS system.

Individuals can also use mobile card readers or third-party payment service providers to accept credit card payments. Both of these options offer a simple and accessible way to process payments.

Mobile card readers allow you to process transactions by connecting the device to your smartphone or tablet. This is ideal for individuals who run businesses, such as freelancers, contractors, or tradespeople.

Third-party payment processors, such as PayPal and Stripe, also offer user-friendly solutions for individuals who need to process credit card payments. These platforms often allow creating invoices, generating payment links, or even setting up an online store to sell products and services.

Several platforms are available that can process credit card transactions without needing a merchant account. Some popular platforms include Square, PayPal, and Stripe.

These platforms act as intermediaries between the cardholder and the bank, allowing you to process payments without having a direct relationship with a payment processor or a bank. These options often have simple pricing structures, making them suitable for small businesses and individuals who want to accept credit card payments without a traditional merchant account.


In conclusion, accepting credit card payments without a merchant account is possible. It can also be an ideal solution for small businesses and entrepreneurs wanting to keep costs down. Several payment service providers allow you to easily process credit card payments, such as PayPal, Stripe, and Square.

These platforms offer secure payment processing, flexible payment options, and user-friendly interfaces, making managing your transactions easy and keeping your customers happy.

With the right tools and strategies, you can start accepting credit card payments today and grow your business in no time.

So, don’t let the lack of a merchant account hold you back from accepting credit card payments – embrace the power of online payment processing and take your business to the next level!

Similar Posts