Payment Solutions for your Business

Credit Card Processing



What types of credit cards can I accept?

Total Merchant Services is a full service merchant service provider capable of procuring the ability to process all credit card types for most businesses, however separate approval may apply. These cards include Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover® Network, Diners Club/Carte Blanche, JCB, Debit Cards, ATMs, Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), Gift Loyalty Cards as well as Check Verification services. Getting set up to accept card payments is simple and easy and generally takes less than 24 hours.


How do I get an account?

Applying for an Total Merchant Services merchant account is easy:

  1. Complete a merchant application: Since a merchant account is a financial service that involves the exchange of funds, you will need to complete a simple application. The application information includes:
    • Name, address, and telephone
    • Checking account (for funds to be deposited/withdrawn)
    • Federal Tax ID (for Corporations, LLC's, and Partnerships), and your Social Security number (for Sole proprietorships)
    • Type of business
    • Credit card processing history, if applicable
  2. Underwriting: Your application will be reviewed for credit and type of business. Most accounts are generally accepted. However, certain accounts may not be accepted based on past processing history or type of business.
  3. Setup: Once you are approved, your merchant service provider will assist you with setting up your processing equipment or processing software (if you're using a PC) and run a test transaction. You're then ready to process!

How long does the approval process take?

Total Merchant Services is a pioneer in the industry in terms of new account approval times. After you have completed and returned your Merchant Application, in most cases your account can be approved and on line for processing in 24 to 48 business hours. In some cases, our Customer Activation team can have a response to your application the same day it is received.


Do I have to change my bank account to receive my deposits?

No. You can keep your existing checking account. Total Merchant Services has the ability to deposit funds to all banking institutions that accept ACH Debits/Credits.


Can I change the name of my business (DBA) after getting an account?

Yes. Simply Complete our DBA Change Request Form to change their business name from the old name to the new name. If both a DBA and a corporate name are currently on the account, the request should specify which one, if not both, of the names to be changed.

  • The form will include the merchant number of each account that requires the change and should include the following documents:
  • Copy of at least 1 legal document reflecting the new business name(s) i.e. Business License, Fictitious Name Statement, or Articles of Incorporation.
  • Voided check reflecting the new business name(s) and also, the business address (if using "temporary" checks, this information should be printed or typewritten onto the check).
  • The letter must be signed by at least one of the Principals who signed the original Merchant Application.
Please note: If there are any changes in the type of services provided, products sold, or processing method (i.e. keyed vs. swipe), that are associated with the business name change, the merchant must note the change(s) in the letter as well. If there is a substantial difference from the original Merchant Application, the merchant may need to complete a new application to satisfy Visa, MasterCard and Discover Network regulations and bank requirements.

Can I change the checking account that services my bankcard deposits and fees?

Yes. To change a checking account please either mail or fax the following documents to the attention of Quality Assurance:

  1. The DBA Change Request Form requesting the change that includes the merchant number of each account that requires the change. Note: If the new bank account is a savings account rather than a checking account, confirm with the bank that they'll allow the account to receive ACH debits, in addition to MasterCard/Visa bankcard deposits.
  2. A voided check from the new account, with the business name and address printed on the face of the check. If the new check is a "temporary" check, the business name, address and phone number must be either typewritten or handwritten onto the check.
  3. The letter must be signed by at least 1 of the Principals who signed the original application.
  4. Before submitting the check, contact your financial institution to confirm that the transit routing number on the check is the correct number to be used for ACH deposits.

How will I receive the money for the credit cards I process?

It generally takes 2-3 business days after a batch is closed to receive the deposit into your checking account. NOTE: Business days are Mondays through Fridays, excluding holidays.


What is a transaction?

There are several categories of discount rates based on how the transaction is processed:

Card-Present, or "Swiped," Transactions

A swiped-transaction occurs when the merchant "swipes" the credit card through a terminal or card reader and then hands the card back to the customer. Swiped-transactions have the lowest discount rates because the cardholder and the card are both present at the point of sale.

Card-Not-Present Transactions

Card-not-present transactions occur when the merchant does not physically "swipe" the customer's card. There are two forms of card-not-present transactions:

  • Keyed-transactions where the merchant "manually" keys-in the card number
  • Internet transactions, which are processed automatically through your online Web store.
These types of transactions have higher discount rate charges because the consumer is generally not present and does not sign a sales receipt.

What is a transaction fee?

This amount is charged each time a transaction is submitted for authorization and any time a daily batch is closed. It is in addition to the discount rate.


When is the transaction fee charged to my account?

Transaction fees are charged in the first week of each month and will recap the transactions for the previous month.


What is a discount rate?

A discount rate is a percentage of each transaction charged to the merchant. Every bank charges a discount rate to merchants that accept credit cards. The discount rate charge is the lowest for transactions that carry the least amount of risk and higher for transactions that carry more risk of fraud and chargeback.


How do I get the lowest discount rate?

Discount rates generally fall under three categories: qualified, mid-qualified, and non-qualified.

Qualified Rate: This rate generally applies to card-present transactions, and is the lowest of the three types. A merchant who swipes a consumer credit card that is electronically authorized, and "batches out" within 24 hours of processing will generally qualify for this rate. If these circumstances are not present, the transaction may downgrade to a mid-qualified or non-qualified rate. If a merchant processes a business, corporate, foreign, or rewards card, it will typically downgrade to a non-qualified rate.

Mid-Qualified Rate: This rate is higher than the qualified rate. It generally applies to phone, fax, mail order, and Internet transactions. To qualify for this rate for keyed transactions, the merchant generally must enter an order number, use Address Verification Service (AVS), and "batch out" within 24 hours of processing. If not, the transaction may downgrade to a non-qualified rate.

Non-Qualified Rate: This is the highest out of the three rates. This rate generally applies to business, corporate, foreign, rewards card, and transactions that do not meet the Visa/MasterCard/Discover Network requirements for qualified and mid-qualified transactions.


When is the discount rate charged to my account?

Qualified rates are debited the same day the batch is deposited to your account. Mid-qualified and non-qualified discount rates will be charged to your account at the end of the month. For additional assistance with rate calculations, please contact an IMS Customer Representative.


When are the monthly fees debited from my checking account?

Monthly fees are debited between the first and fifth of the month and will include fees that occurred in the month prior. For example, January's statement fees will be debited between February 1st - 5th.


What is a pre-authorization?

A pre-authorization, or pre-auth, is a type of authorization that reserves (holds) a dollar amount on the customer's credit card for the merchant to process later, usually within 7-14 days. If the transaction is not processed (known as post-authorization) by the end of the hold period, the amount is added back to the available credit on the cardholder's credit card. The customer is not billed. A pre-auth transaction cannot be voided.

Pre-authorizations are common in the hotel industry, where the amount of the expected stay is "reserved" on the cardholder's credit card.


What is a post-authorization?

A post-authorization, or post-auth, is a type of authorization that confirms the merchant is ready to capture payment of the existing pre-authorized transaction. When the post-auth is processed, the amount is actually debited from the cardholder's account. A post-auth cannot be Voided.


What is a batch?

A batch contains all the transactions that occurred since the last batch was run. Typically, businesses "close out" their batches at the end of each business day.


Why do I need a manual imprinter? When should I use a manual imprinter?

A manual imprinter should be used when one of the following events occur:

  1. The point-of-sale terminal failed to read the magnetic stripe on the credit card.
  2. The point-of-sale machine is not operational.
  3. The proper authorization was not obtained or a voice authorization was obtained.
  4. The credit card number is manually entered and/or keyed into the point-of-sale terminal.
  5. An electronic printer was not used to print a receipt as a record of the transaction.

What is a chargeback?

A chargeback is a dispute by the cardholder of a transaction which is returned to the acquiring bank. Resolution by the merchant is imperative to minimize loss. In some cases, a chargeback may be preceded by a retrieval request.

Chargebacks generally occur for two reasons:

  1. Problems with goods or services sold to the consumer
  2. Procedural reasons that the merchant can control. By understanding the procedures of chargebacks, you can minimize your losses.
Find a credit card processor that is up-to-date on all the chargeback procedures and processes. You want a processor who can advocate on your behalf. Remember your credit card processor is your partner. A processor who isn't looking out for your best interests can be very costly to your bottom line down the road.

A retrieval request is made the acquiring bank. You will need to provide a copy of the signed sales draft along with the credit card number, expiration date, cardholder name, location transaction occurred, dollar amount of transaction, and any other pertinent information that may be requested. It is important to respond promptly. Generally, you should retain all your sales drafts for 1 1/2 years.


What is a debit card?

As opposed to credit cards, which extend a line of credit to a user, debit cards are linked to a user's checking/savings/money market account.

Debit cards are processed in two different ways. A "PIN-based" debit requires the customer to endorse the payment by submitting their Personal Identification Number (PIN) at the point of sale, whereas a "Signature-based" does not require entering a PIN.

PIN-based Debit

Because the customer enters their PIN code, the likelihood of fraud is greatly reduced. Therefore, merchants are generally charged a lower fee than credit card fees.

Signature-based Debit

Signature-based debit cards have a Visa or MasterCard logo and are processed like a credit card, meaning no PIN is entered. The merchant generally incurs the same discount rates and fees as credit cards. Merchants can accept signature-based payments via the Internet, telephone, or via a retail terminal.


What does "CODE 10" mean?

CODE 10 is a term used by the credit card associations to refer to suspicious situations. Call your voice authorization center for a CODE 10 authorization if, for ANY reason, you become suspicious of a transaction or cardholder.

A specially trained operator will ask you questions, and either authorize the transaction or instruct you to keep the card. It's for this reason that you should hold the card throughout the authorization process.


What is the Address Verification Service (AVS)?

AVS is built into the authorization process to help prevent fraudulent transactions. The numerical portion of a consumer's address and the transaction data is matched against the address on file with the consumer's credit card. A response code is sent back with the approval or decline indicating whether the numeric information matched that of the cardholder's. This match (or mismatch) is provided to the merchant in order to make an informed decision regarding the status of the transaction.

The use of AVS for businesses such as mail/telephone and Internet can result in lower discount rates, as well as a potential reduction in fraud. Its use is highly recommended.


Can I process sales for friends and associates? For other businesses I may have?

No. You were approved for a merchant account based of the declarations you made on the merchant application regarding your type of business. Any change in this information must be reported to IMS.

Accepting credit card transactions on behalf of another business is considered factoring and is in violation of Visa, MasterCard and Discover Network regulations and is against the law in some states.


How can I tell what transactions are in my terminal?

Simply print a report. If you have an electronic printer you can print several reports.

  • A Detail report itemizes every transaction ran through the credit card machine.
  • A Totals report shows the total for each particular card type and the number of transactions run by card type. (e.g., MasterCard: 10 items at $1000)
  • Restaurant merchants also have the ability to perform a Server report that details each server's total sales and tips. (Server numbers must be used to complete sales in the terminal.)

My terminal says "Waiting for Line" or "No line." What should I do?

The first thing you should do is verify whether or not you have a phone line attached to the back of the credit card machine. Second, verify that the phone line is not in use by another device or person. Third, verify the terminal has a good connection to the wall jack; it is always a good idea to eliminate "splitters" from the phone line.


Should I close the batch in my terminal every night?

Yes. For instructions on "batching out," reference your terminal's Quick Reference Guide.


My terminal is displaying "Call Center." What does that mean?

It means that you will need to call the voice authorization center to complete the sale. The voice authorization center will assist you in obtaining an authorization code for the transaction you are trying to run. Please make sure to have your merchant number ready when you call.

Once you have obtained the authorization code you will now need to perform a "Ticket Only" transaction and obtain an imprint of the credit card. The numbers to call are:

  • Visa MasterCard Authorization Center  800.228.1122
  • American Express  800.528.2121
  • Discover Network  800.347.2000

I have an authorization code that I obtained over the phone. How do I get paid for it?

Once you get an authorization code for a transaction, you can complete the sale. To do this, a "Ticket Only" transaction must be completed. To perform this transaction on your terminal, reference your terminal's Quick Reference Guide.


My terminal does not seem to have power. What do I do?

First, make sure the terminal's power supply is securely connected to a power outlet and the back of the terminal. Second, try another outlet that you know works. Third, if the power pack is cold to the touch, it might require replacement. You can always contact a Support Representative 24/7/365 at  888.848.6825 x9400


I ran a sale, and the printer did not print a receipt what do I do?

First, make sure all the cables running to the electronic printer are securely in place. Second, try to perform a reprint on your credit card machine. To do this, reference your terminal's Quick Reference Guide. You can also call a Support Representative 24/7/365 at  888.848.6825x9400


I get the response "NO PIN PAD" when I try to do an ATM sale.

First check the PIN pad. Unplug the PIN pad cable from the back of the terminal and plug it back in. Then push the cable in back of the PIN pad. If the same response is received, contact a Support Representative 24/7/365 at  888.848.6825 x9400 to check the debit programming.


What should be done when the error message "NOACKNOWLEDGMENT FROM PIN" is received?

First check the PIN pad. Unplug the PIN pad cable from the back of the terminal and plug it back in. Then push the cable in back of the PIN pad.


What should be done when "NO M KEY" displays on the PIN pad?

This response will flash on the PIN pad after the debit card has been swiped through the terminal. The PIN pad will go back to dashes across the PIN pad. This means the PIN pad has lost it's encryption and may be replaced.


Declines are received on ALL debit card sales.

Contact a Support Representative 24/7/365 at  888.848.6825 x9400. Additional troubleshooting must be completed. This could indicate a compatibility problem between the PIN pad and the credit card terminal, or it may indicate that the PIN pad will require encryption.


When a debit card is processed, the response is "Waiting for Answer."

Normal processing of Visa and MasterCard transactions indicate that the debit card system could be busy. Wait a few moments and try the transaction again.


When a debit card is processed, the response is "Invalid Card."

This response means there is a problem with the routing of the debit networks. Contact a Support Representative 24/7/365 at  888.848.6825 x9400


When a debit card is processed, the response is "Call Center."

This response indicates that the debit gateway is down. Wait a few minutes and try the transaction again.


What should be done if the magnetic stripe on the debit card doesn't work?

The customer will need to present another form of payment. Debit card processing does not allow for the card number to be keyed into the terminal.


A debit card transaction is authorized and processed. But when the batch is closed, the debit sale shows "discrepancy."

Since debit transactions automatically settle through EDS daily (between 2pm to 3pm PST), this error should not occur. A discrepancy usually means that the terminal didn't recognize the settlement through the host. To ensure the sale is processed, contact a Support Representative at  888.848.6825 x9400 the next business day. It is not advisable to process the debit transaction again.

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