The Best Credit Card Processing Companies for Travel Agencies

The travel industry is unique in the world of credit card processing. Travel agencies must process large dollar amount transactions, usually accepting cards online or over the phone.

When a customer changes their mind, the agency must refund large sums of money.

All of these factors combined make travel businesses a high risk industry in payment processing and thus have additional considerations when an account is being established.

Each payment processor treats high risk businesses slightly differently so travel agencies should take the time to compare processors to decide which would benefit their business the most.

Our top picks for Travel Agency Credit Card Processing:

Easy Pay Direct
Custom solutions for high risk businesses, easy online application with quick approvals
Domestic accounts have zero early termination fees.
Variable contract terms.
High risk tolerance.
Single point of contact for multiple merchant accounts.
Public pricing is available.

summary

5/5

Best for

E-commerce companies, SaaS companies, "high-risk businesses", & established small/medium businesses ($500,000+ in annual sales)

Specializes in

Easy Pay Direct has unique gateway software and banking solutions to optimize payments for eCommerce, SaaS, information products, supplements, and CBD amongst other verticals.

Pricing Summary

Setup Fee:  $99

Monthly Fee: $24.95

Swipe Rate: 1.59% + $0.17

Keyed-in Rate:  2.39% + $0.29

Early Termination Fee: $0 (domestic accounts)

Contract Terms:

1 Year 3 Years
eMerchantBroker
Specializes in high risk and offers chargeback dispute and prevention solutions.
Works with any size high risk business.
No setup fee.
Variable rates depending on the merchant's volume.
Merchants are notified whenever a fraud or chargeback occurs.
Checks are allowed to be accepted from customers.

summary

4/5

Best for

eMerchantBroker is best for any size business that is considered high-risk. It's considered one of the top payment processors for high-risk businesses that would otherwise have difficulty finding a standard merchant account provider. 

Specializes in

eMerchantBroker specializes in credit repair, collections agencies, adult websites, travel and timeshare, firearms and guns, bankruptcy and bad credit, online and in-person smoke shops. They also work with electronic cigarettes and other companies that fit into the high-risk merchant account category.

Pricing Summary

Setup Fee: $0

Monthly Fee: Undisclosed

Swipe Rate: 3.00% + $0.15

Keyed-in Rate: 4.00% + $0.25

Early Termination Fee: Up to $595

Contract Terms:

1 Year 3 Years
Dharma Merchant Services
Offers a high volume discount for businesses processing over $100,000 in sales per month.
No early termination fee.
Month to month contract.
No annual fee.
Interchange plus pricing offered.
Discounted pricing for qualified non profit companies.

summary

4.5/5

Best for

Dharma's website caters its services to small-sized businesses with up to twenty employees, in verticals such as restaurants, non-profits, and e-commerce platforms.

Specializes in

Dharma Merchant Services provides mobile phone processing and tablet-based POS options for merchants courtesy of Clover. Moreover, Dharma offers the Clover Mini station, which includes Clover's PRO software set. The company also resells the Clover POS solution, including a full cash drawer, built-in fingerprint scanner, and printer.

Pricing Summary

Setup Fee: N/A

Monthly Fee: $20

Swipe Rate: N/A

Keyed-in Rate: N/A

Early Termination Fee: None

Contract Terms:

Month-to-month

What is Travel Payment Processing?

Mostly every travel agent must accept credit cards if they want to stay in business.

Agencies or sole proprietors must work with payment processing companies in order to be able to accept these forms of payment.

Having a payment processing account allows travel businesses to accept:

  • All Major Credit Cards
  • eChecks
  • ACH Payments
  • Digital wallet payments like Google Pay or Apple Pay

A payment processor would provide both the hardware and the software to be able to accept these forms of payment. They also provide a payment gateway to the card processing networks.

Why is the Travel Industry Considered High Risk?

The travel industry is widely accepted as a high risk industry. As previously mentioned, several factors go into determining if a business is high risk or not.

Although each business will have unique sales patterns, the nature of travel purchases makes them inherently risky.

Payment processors look at several factors to set rates and terms when establishing new business accounts.

Large Average Ticket Values

The cost of booking a vacation package or hotel stay tends to be much higher than other purchases on a customer’s credit card.

These large purchases are riskier for a payment processor to take on since a customer may change their mind and request a refund.

If the business itself does not have the funds to issue a refund, ultimately the payment processor will be responsible for covering that amount. Obviously, this has the potential to become costly so the processor must exercise extra caution.

Likewise, since each transaction is more substantial for the travel business, on average, any chargeback issued adversely impacts a business’ bottom line greater than smaller transactions in other industries.

Chargebacks and the Pandemic

Beginning in 2020, the travel industry saw a new factor that hurt their businesses: the pandemic. Thousands of customers canceled travel plans, resulting in lost revenue.

As the economy and state of the country continues to evolve, chargebacks continue to be an issue.

Card Not Present and Fraud

The overwhelming majority of travel-related credit card transactions are completed without the physical credit card being present.

Often, customers work with travel agencies not geographically near them and payments may be collected over the phone or Internet.

Unfortunately, this leads to another risk factor which is fraud. Cybercrime is on the rise and card not present fraud is much more common than stealing the physical card.

Compounding this, if a cardholder is the victim of fraud and then files for a chargeback, the credit card company will often side with the consumer, and the business will need to issue the refund.

As a result, travel companies should take extra steps to make sure proper security layers are in place.

What Can I Expect when Opening a Travel Credit Card Processing Account?

Since the travel industry is subjected to more frequent chargebacks, fraud and has a higher average dollar amount per transaction, credit card processors usually have additional things that they like to see from these businesses.

Application Process

Every processor has a unique application process but you can expect a thorough examination of your business's financial patterns prior to being approved for a payment processing account.

You may be asked to share bank records that can give some insight into your business's financial health and recent sales history.

A payment processor may want to see if you have the capital reserve to cover chargebacks as mentioned earlier.

Rates and Fees

Each individual transaction will be subject to a higher payment processing fee. This means that each transaction will have a higher percentage of the purchase charged by the payment processor.

These rates vary by the processor so it is important to compare. Certain rates, like interchange rates, are set by the card networks and are non-negotiable.

Associated fees will also be higher for high risk businesses. This includes chargeback fees.

In addition to having to refund the cost of the transaction, your business will need to pay a flat fee that can range from $20 to $100.

If chargebacks exceed a certain fraction of sales or dollar amount, you could be subject to additional costs.

Even a small difference in percentage and fees can really add up over time so be sure to do your homework before establishing a payment processing account with a company.

Requirements of the Accounts

This is another area that can vary widely between processors. Review your account contract and discuss with your payment processor to see the requirements of your agreement.

Some companies may require different types of capital reserve:

  • Upfront reserve: The payment processor collects a portion of funds upfront that the processor holds onto in case of insufficient funds.
  • Rolling reserve: The payment processor collects a percentage of each transaction from a period that is held and then returned to the business if unused at a later established time.
  • Capped reserve: The payment processor collects a portion of each transaction until a set amount is reached, at which point the collections cease and the reserve is held for future use as needed.

Another parameter to be on the lookout for is a volume cap. This is when the payment processor sets a limit on the dollar amount of transactions that can be completed each month.

This helps control the amount of risk the processor has to take on at any given time.

Contract Lengths

Due to the nature of the industry, many card processors may require a longer-term commitment to work with them. Be sure to know what your obligations are and if there are any termination fees.

Traditionally, credit card processors are able to offer month-to-month contracts or accounts with no contract at all but this is rare when it comes to travel payment processing.

Things to Consider When Opening a Travel Payment Processing Account

Volume Discounts

Some payment processors may offer a discount if a business reaches a certain dollar amount in a period. This would be especially beneficial to travel companies since they deal with such large transactions.

Even a small discount on the fees can save thousands of dollars in the long term.

Security

As mentioned, since the travel industry is fraught with the potential for fraud, choosing a payment processor that is using best practices and abiding by recommended security standards is paramount.

The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council regularly establishes new standards that payment card processors should be following.

Ask your payment processor if they are ‘PCI Compliant’ and what practices they employ to keep your customer’s information safeguarded.

There are multiple measures that can be taken but some may include:

  • Point to point encryption
  • Maintaining secure networks
  • Using antivirus software

Experience in the Industry

Being in a high risk industry, you will want to choose a payment processor that has experience working with travel businesses and other high risk businesses.

These payment processors will be able to navigate any challenges that arise so that you are not left trying to resolve situations on your own.

Load Balancing

This is a unique approach to high risk accounts in that it establishes several merchant accounts for a business. This breaks up the ‘risk’ into more manageable portions for the processor and decreases the liability.

When using load balancing, you will have several accounts that will still have their own fees associated with each so it is important to determine if this solution is cost-effective for your business.

Additional Tips

As a business owner, you have a wide variety of payment processing companies to choose from. Although most travel business owners consider the points mentioned above, sometimes certain features may be overlooked when choosing a processing company.

Virtual Terminals and Customer Portals

A virtual terminal may be preferred to an actual piece of hardware as a travel business. You will not be physically swiping credit cards very frequently so a virtual terminal may meet your needs.

A virtual terminal can be a desktop, laptop, or another device that is connected to the Internet.

Some processors may offer software that would allow your customers to complete or modify purchases on their own by using a customer portal.

This would cut down on phone calls and employee demand. It would also allow purchases to be made around the clock instead of limiting them to normal business hours.

Utilizing this type of software can also be beneficial to manage your customer data. By creating customer accounts online, you will quickly gather contact information and purchase history.

This information can be used in the future to generate marketing campaigns.

Customer Service

Travel businesses need a payment processor that will be accessible since there may be instances when you run into disputes with customers and you will need to discuss situations with your processor.

Look for a payment processor that has live support available during the times when you may need it. Some offer support 24/7 while others only offer it during regular business hours.

How is that customer service able to be reached? Usually having more than one method to reach the company is preferable whether it be via contact form, email, phone, or chat.

Reputation

A payment processor may seem like a great fit for your business but you may later discover a surprise flaw in their operations.

Try to check out the company’s reviews to see what others are saying about them. If it is a travel business from your industry, even better.

Asking for recommendations in professional circles may also be revealing into what real world users have experienced.

The Better Business Bureau is a good resource to check up on a company’s reputation.

The listings on BBB can show how long a company has been established and if there are any complaints open against them.

Transparency

Your payment processor should be able to provide much of everything discussed in this article in writing for your review.

This is mutually agreeable as there will be a document to reference in case there is any sort of dispute.

Since there are so many factors to consider when comparing payment processors, having one that is transparent and discloses all details upfront is essential to being able to make an informed decision.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you will be establishing a long-term relationship with your payment processor so you will want to take the time to carefully research your options before settling on who to work with.

Travel businesses face unique challenges that other industries do not, so it is important to choose a processor who conducts business securely, transparently, and is familiar with processing payments for travel companies.

Since travel businesses are considered high risk, it is important to read the fine print of the requirements of the account and familiarize yourself with the rates and fees, being aware that they may shift as sales volumes evolve.

Understand what you are agreeing to in terms of the length of your contract, so you are prepared in the event that you wish to change payment processors in the future.

Finally, finding a payment processor that offers features and rates that are attractive is important, be sure to verify that the processor is well established and has a good reputation behind them.

Our top picks for travel payment processors are:

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