The Best Merchant Accounts For Travel Agencies, Booking Firms, Tour Operators & Other Travel Businesses
These payment processors work well with businesses in the travel and tourism industries, often offering international processing, eCommerce payments, and options for high-risk businesses.
Businesses operating in the travel industry — be they travel booking agencies, insurance agencies, travel clubs, or even independent agents — have faced industry-wide uncertainty in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet entrepreneurs and existing businesses in the industry, despite this uncertainty, now have the opportunity to take advantage of a new, wide-open space for innovation.
If you own and operate a travel or tourism agency, you may be thinking about moving on to something new by offering exciting and different kinds of products to stand out from your competition. Along the way, though, you’ll need a travel merchant account in order to accept credit card and electronic payments as you start offering and selling your new products and services.
Other Featured Options:
- National ACH: Best for eCheck and ACH processing.
Read more below to learn why we chose these options.
Table of Contents
- Why Do You Need A Travel Merchant Account?
- 6 Best Merchant Accounts for Travel Agencies, Tour Operators & The Tourism Industry
- Looking For One Of These Travel Merchant Accounts?
- Why Are Travel & Tourism Considered High-Risk Industries?
- What To Look For In A Travel Merchant Account
- How To Make Getting Merchant Services For Travel Agencies & Tourism Easier
- The Travel Industry Is Changing. What’s Next For Travel Merchant Accounts?
- Which Travel Merchant Account Is Best For Me?
- In Summary: 6 Best Merchant Accounts for Travel Agencies, Tour Operators & The Tourism Industry
Why Do You Need A Travel Merchant Account?
A travel merchant account is a specialized high-risk merchant account that lets businesses in the travel industry accept online card payments and electronic payments. Merchant acquiring banks view the travel industry as high-risk, and travel merchant accounts can reliably reduce that risk for businesses in the industry.
There’s never been a more exciting time for businesses in the travel industry to do what they do best. But because acquiring banks categorize travel as a high-risk industry, travel agencies need a quality travel merchant account to continue offering their services without issue or interruption to the ways they process customer payments.
We’ve compiled a list of the best merchant accounts for businesses that focus on travel and tourism; before we cover those accounts, though, let’s briefly talk about what kinds of businesses fall within the travel industry.
What Business Fall Under Travel & Tourism?
National and international travel companies all need payment processing solutions to efficiently and continuously accept payments from their travelers from any place on the globe and at any time. But which business segments fall under the vague term “travel industry”? There are quite a few. Below is a list of the most notable industries and niches that require a high-risk travel merchant account:
- Cruise Liners
- Hospitality businesses
- Hotels, resorts, and lodging businesses
- Membership programs
- Ticket sales agencies
- Travel tour operators
- Travel agencies and clubs
- eCommerce-based travel sites
The above travel merchants all benefit immensely from travel merchant accounts and depend on them for efficient and uninterrupted business operations and payment processing. There is thankfully a large network of travel merchant-acquiring banks ready and waiting to process card and electronic payments for these travel industry segments. Let’s take a look at the six best merchant accounts for travel agencies, tour operators, and the tourism industry at large.
6 Best Merchant Accounts for Travel Agencies, Tour Operators & The Tourism Industry
Ready to choose a travel merchant account? These are the best merchant accounts for travel agencies, tour operators, and businesses operating across the travel and tourism industry. We’ve chosen the below merchant accounts for their reasonable rates, quick payment approval speeds, ability to process electronic payments across most segments of the industry, and much more.
- Durango Merchant Services
- SMB Global
- Soar Payments
- National ACH
PaymentCloud is a merchant services provider specializing in airline credit card payments. The most important things to know about PaymentCloud are that:
- They specialize in providing payment processing solutions for eCommerce, mail order/telephone order (MOTO), and other high-risk businesses.
- They offer hands-on advocacy and guidance for merchants both during and after their travel merchant account onboarding process.
Most of PaymentCloud’s merchants are high-risk ones based in the US, but the company also serves lower-risk and brick-and-mortar merchants as well, for whom the biggest pros and cons of using Paymentcloud include:
- Excellent customer support
- No fees for merchant account setup
- Free credit card terminals for payment processing
- No publicly disclosed pricing
- Poor website navigability
PaymentCloud offers dependable service at a reasonable price, full stop. It also boasts high praise from its customers and a strong recommendation from Dharma Merchant Services and Stripe, making it a great choice for any high-risk, travel-based business. Tour guides and booking agencies that find themselves in a high-risk classification for any reason immediately benefit from PaymentCloud’s expertise.
The biggest draw for PaymentCloud is undoubtedly the hands-on advocacy and guidance it provides merchants both during and after their account onboarding. PaymentCloud works to present high-risk businesses in the best possible light to underwriters while maintaining a sense of transparency for said underwriters. And since PaymentCloud works closely with so many banks and back-end processors, merchants have a high chance of account approval with PaymentCloud.
2. Durango Merchant Services
Durango Merchant Services
Durango Merchant Services is a merchant account provider with a stellar reputation for serving high-risk merchants and international merchants. The most important things to know about Durango Merchant Services are that:
- They partner with a variety of banks and processors to get merchants approved for an account, which is especially useful for high-risk travel and tourism businesses.
- Durango finds accounts for merchants with poor credit or who have found themselves on the Terminated Merchant File (TMF) or MATCH List due to a long history of chargebacks.
- They’re a registered ISO in Europe and offer international merchant accounts with currency conversion services, support for multicurrency accounts, and fraud prevention services that are perfect for merchants who need an international travel merchant account.
For high-risk merchants, Durango makes it simple to accept payments via terminals, mobile card processing, and payment gateways, and for whom the biggest pros and cons of using Durango Merchant Services include:
- Specialization in placing high-risk merchants
- Offshore merchant accounts for eligible international merchants
- Few fees for early account terminations
- No publicly disclosed pricing on the company website
- Credit card processing fees and rates may be steep for low-risk businesses
Durango Merchant Services stands out from the competition with fair pricing in a segment of the market that’s notorious for charging inflated prices. Durango offers excellent solutions to such complex merchant situations and, if they can’t work with a merchant for whatever reason, the company will be straightforward and honest about it.
Durango also provides customer service and support that far exceeds the industry standard, as well as a sales team that’s comprised of honest, knowledgeable staff. Additionally, Durango sets up international merchant accounts from the multiple countries out of which it operates to proactively and effectively deal with fraud and chargebacks.
3. SMB Global
SMB global is a merchant account provider that primarily serves eCommerce businesses that are considered high-risk. The most important things to know about SMB Global are that:
- They’re set up to work exclusively with high-risk merchants and businesses that need an offshore merchant account.
- They primarily serve eCommerce businesses in high-risk business segments.
Not even high-risk experts will deal with every possible kind of business, but SMB Global covers the majority of high-risk merchants, for whom the biggest pros and cons of using SMB Global include:
- High-risk merchant accounts available to businesses across many industry segments
- Offers offshore merchant accounts
- Very transparent contractual terms
- No publicly disclosed pricing
- Higher rates and fees than a comparable merchant focused on low-risk industry segments
SMB Global is a reliable merchant service provider that has maintained a mostly immaculate customer complaint record in its relatively short time of existence, and it’s one of the few providers willing to take on merchant types in nearly any high-risk business segment. SMB Global does a remarkable job of working with plenty of high-risk industries to get merchants matched up with a bank or processor that can handle their needs and will quickly approve them for an account.
Additionally, SMB Global offers no misleading rate quotes or unrealistic promotions on the SMB Global website. They may not provide public details about pricing, but this is likely because SMB Global focuses on high-risk businesses that need merchant accounts with custom pricing, for which it can readily offer solutions.
4. Soar Payments
Soar Payments is a relatively new merchant account provider that specializes in finding card processing homes for hard-to-place businesses that most merchant account providers won’t typically work with. The most important things to know about Soar Payments are that:
- They provide POS, mobile payment, terminal, and eCommerce solutions for high-risk merchants looking for an account provider.
- The company serves standard-risk business types in addition to high-risk ones.
- Soar partners with Chargeback.com to provide merchants with tools to handle disputed payments.
If you need a feature-rich, high-risk merchant account provider, Soar Payments may be just the right fit. For hard-to-place businesses that most merchant account providers won’t typically work with, the biggest pros and cons of using Soar Payments include:
- Automated custom price quoting and merchant account application process
- Zero application fees
- Fast underwriting process
- Only available for US-based businesses
- Pricing not disclosed on the company website
If you’re a high-risk merchant, it may sometimes seem like there are few trustworthy options available to you. Many high-risk credit card processors know that merchants don’t have many options and prey on a sense of desperation. From what we can tell based on our research and Soar’s reputation at the BBB, though, Soar Payments subverts this trend with reasonable rates, fees, and a reputation for treating merchants well.
Although its $495 early termination fee (for some accounts) may be steep, Soar’s high-risk contract terms as a whole are very reasonable. Soar provides tiered pricing, which is fairly standard among high-risk accounts but has also increased its account approval rate and subsequent account stability by working with Chargeback.com and the NMI gateway to add additional protective features.
PayNetSecure is a merchant account provider focusing on domestic and offshore merchant accounts for businesses in high-risk industries. The most important things to know about PayNetSecure are that:
- They specialize in high-risk merchant accounts and offer exclusive access to banks not typically available through other payment processors.
- They combine their international and domestic merchant accounts under a single account onboarding system.
PayNetSecure offers competitive rates and groups its international and domestic merchant accounts under its single system. It specializes in merchant accounts for high-risk businesses, for which the biggest pros and cons of using PayNetSecure include:
- SaaS billing system that streamlines domestic and international payment processing
- Offshore payment processing includes multichannel processing and an extensive banking network
- ACH processing and Echeck merchant accounts give customers an easy alternative to paying merchants through a bank account rather than with a card
- Con: No publicly disclosed pricing
PayNetSecure processes most major debit and credit cards for high-risk and high-volume businesses that deal with large-ticket sales, including those in the travel and tourism industry.
According to the company’s website, PayNet secure also offers mobile payment solutions, eCommerce solutions, virtual terminals, payment gateways, MOTO, processing for 160 currencies, fraud protection, PCI compliance, recurring payments, ACH processing, and chargeback management, all of which are invaluable for businesses operating in the modern travel industry.
6. National ACH
National ACH is a merchant account provider focused on processing ACH payments for high-risk and traditional merchant accounts. The most important things to know about National ACH are that:
- They specialize in processing ACH payments and eChecks
- They provide payment gateways, virtual terminals, same-day deposits, automated recurring billing — perfect for eCommerce type merchants
National ACH offers payment processing with a specialization in checks and ACH payments for high-risk merchants, for whom the biggest pros and cons of using National ACH include:
- Custom pricing contingent on merchant business segments and processing history
- Excellent support for eCheck and same-day ACH payment processing
- Online payment processing options with easy integration to websites
- No publically disclosed pricing
National ACH, according to our research, is a reliable and high-quality merchant services provider specializing in ACH processing for business segments that have traditionally had trouble getting account approvals. The company, while it doesn’t disclose its pricing, does explicitly mention that it services high-risk merchants and provides general guidelines for pricing available to different merchant types.
National ACH offers robust eCommerce solutions such as virtual terminals with fast approvals, secure payment processing, and chargeback protection tools that are perfect for travel and tourism agencies that focus on eCommerce services. Merchants should consider National ACH if they’re interested in accepting payments online with easy integration to their websites and stabilizing their cash flow with features such as automated recurring payments and same-day ACH payment processing.
Looking For One Of These Travel Merchant Accounts?
Not all travel merchant account providers offer excellent support across the board. The following three vendors, while still viable options for certain businesses in need of travel merchant accounts, suffer from poor customer support, extra fees, expensive leases, and other less-than-stellar drawbacks.
eMerchantBroker is a merchant account provider located in Thousand Oaks, California and, while it’s a vendor that’s known for a good range of services and a high merchant acceptance rate, it’s bogged down by its share of cons. The company is generally more transparent and honest in dealing with merchants than most high-risk providers we’ve found. At the same time, though, eMerchantBroker is usually not the least expensive option out there if you’re in the high-risk category and need to get a travel merchant account. The company, unfortunately, uses some misleading sales gimmicks, only offers long-term contracts with steep early termination fees, and exclusively offers tiered pricing — a mixture that doesn’t bode well for businesses that may struggle with inconsistent cash flows and rates of transactions.
BankCard USA Merchant Services is a mid-sized processor headquartered in Westlake Village, California that suffers from poor customer support, extra fees, and expensive leases. Although the company may be a good option for certain businesses considered high-risk, its reputation is weighed down by early termination fees, expensive leases for payment processing hardware, poorly reviewed customer support, and a completely untransparent tiered pricing structure.
Why Are Travel & Tourism Considered High-Risk Industries?
The travel and tourism industries are relatively high-risk, from a payment processing perspective. Business owners operating in the travel industry need to contend with the inherent risks that come with processing online sales transactions, such as travel merchant accounts’ susceptibility to fraud and chargebacks.
The biggest factors that make the travel industry high-risk include:
High Level Of Chargebacks & Fraud
Chargebacks and fraud prevent some banks and payment processors from taking the risk of working with businesses in the travel industry. Criminals usually pounce on the transactions of big-ticket, travel-related purchases made with credit cards. This is a huge issue considering that fraud is of the biggest concerns for travel companies. Customers need to feel confident when they make their purchases because of the sensitive data they share.
Chargebacks, meanwhile, often happen when clients pay for a service upfront and then cancel their travel planning and bookings weeks or even months after the fact. A high chargeback risk is arguably the biggest reason that banks and payment processors will refuse to approve requests for a travel merchant account.
Uncertain Cash flow
Cash flow is crucial to the survival of any business, and none more so than a business operating in the travel and tourism industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to travel agency issues such as an erratic rate of business travel and the subsequent inability for businesses to maintain consistent revenue from purchases for products such as airline tickets. Combined with chargebacks and cancellations of bookings, maintaining a flow of revenue can quickly become a difficult balancing act.
High-Ticket Sales As Red Flags
Some banks and payment processors view the high-ticket sales that travel businesses contend with as red flags. High-ticket purchases don’t mix well with a high rate of customer chargebacks: banks view this scenario as a recipe for disaster, especially when large transactions begin to exceed a travel business’s monthly average sale amount. What’s more is that prolonged delivery times increase chargeback risks associated with high-ticket transactions which, in the minds of some underwriters, invites risk.
What To Look For In A Travel Merchant Account
Processing payments through a travel merchant account shouldn’t be stressful. Merchants can still process payments through a travel merchant account and accept an unlimited number of card transactions while mitigating financial risks to their business. Look for these factors when choosing a new travel merchant account for your business:
- High chargeback protection keeps your travel merchant account from becoming frozen. Travel merchant accounts should include chargeback protection that mitigates fraudulent charges and the fallout from those charges. Chargeback protection measures that protect against fraud, for example, may ask for a customer’s card certification value (CVV) before a transaction is accepted. These protection measures can also draw your attention to transactions that raise red flags so that you can act quickly.
- Innovative payment solutions such as payment gateways and credit card APIs are of huge help to businesses that do the majority of their selling online, such as travel and tourism-based businesses. An application programming interface (API) provides a set of functions that programmers can use to access and utilize a system to create in-house payment solutions and modify the functionality of their payment API within their own, custom infrastructure. In other words, businesses can use advanced technologies and innovations like APIs and payment gateways in payment processing to avoid building a payment processing infrastructure from the ground up — without having to accept the limited configurations that a third-party payment processor offers out of the box.
- International travel merchant accounts are a must-have for travel and tourism-based businesses that need to accept payments from US-based travelers as well as international travelers. International support offered through a travel merchant account provider lets businesses board national and international accounts onto a single payment gateway to streamline their payment processing.
How To Make Getting Merchant Services For Travel Agencies & Tourism Easier
Applying for a travel merchant account is a typically straightforward process. Travel and booking agencies can simplify the process further by having the following information handy:
- A solid financial track record can prove that your business’s finances are in consistently good shape. Even if your financial history is squeaky clean, you should establish a good financial track record with a high-risk payment processor and prove that you’re capable of processing payments and maintaining business growth via predictable, reliable card and electronic transactions.
- Proof of a trade association membership can be useful to travel and booking agencies appealing to payment processors. The American Society of Travel Agents, the Association of Retail Travel Agents, the United States Tour Operators Association, and the U.S. Travel Association are just a few examples of associations that provide proof of membership for travel and tourism-based businesses.
- Explanations of previous chargebacks can improve your transparency. Transparency goes a long way for high-risk merchants such as those in the travel and tourism industry. Increase your chances of getting approved for a travel merchant account by furnishing the complete history of chargebacks you’ve dealt with, together with your history of successfully processing online customer transactions.
- Indicate your merchant category code when applying for a travel merchant account. MCC codes are a critical component of every business when it comes to accepting credit cards and online transactions and indicate the type of business you operate, the products and services you provide, and their associated risk relating to potential chargebacks.
The Travel Industry Is Changing. What’s Next For Travel Merchant Accounts?
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly plunged the travel industry into uncertainty. Tour guides, booking agencies, and businesses that offer tour packages may find themselves having trouble relying on steady rates of customer travel and, subsequently, consistent streams of revenue. However, this uncertainty also provides travel and tourism-based businesses with the opportunity to guarantee payment protection for customers using multiple online and electronic payment methods.
Travel merchants should use travel merchant accounts with low rates, fast approvals, banking-level security, and multiple payment options to make it as easy as possible for travelers to get where they’re going, without worrying whether their purchase is worth it. Travel merchants in the US as well as across the globe can use quality payment processing solutions to boost their revenues, reduce internal costs, and maximize profits while instilling a greater sense of confidence in travelers using their products and services. With a good travel merchant account provider that offers tools to efficiently accept multiple payments from travelers anytime, anywhere, travel and tourism-based businesses can set themselves up for long-term success.
Which Travel Merchant Account Is Best For Me?
A travel merchant account can provide your business the flexibility and financial security it needs to let you stay focused on creating a simple and seamless buying experience for your travelers. Your goal when choosing a travel merchant account should be to keep costs low while providing innovative online payment processing solutions that meet your unique needs.
Do you need an extensive network of both US and international banks to provide domestic and global payments solutions? Need to tackle a high volume of sales with high capacity processing? Perhaps you’re interested in alternative payment methods such as eChecks and ACH payments to bolster your sales numbers, or maybe you just want good, old-fashioned customer support that’s dedicated to your continued success. Whatever your needs, it’s important that you choose a travel merchant account that best aligns with your strategies for healthy and continued growth.
Looking for even more ways to improve your travelers’ experiences with your products and services? Learn how to maximize customer travel while keeping your travelers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic!
In Summary: 6 Best Merchant Accounts for Travel Agencies, Tour Operators & The Tourism Industry
- PaymentCloud: Best for eCommerce and MOTO businesses.
- Durango Merchant Services: Best for merchants with poor credit or MATCH list status.
- SMB Global: Best for high-risk eCommerce businesses.
- Soar Payments: Best for businesses that need a feature-rich, high-risk merchant account provider.
- PaynetSecure: Best for international and offshore merchants in high-risk industries.
- National ACH: Best for eCheck and ACH processing.