The changing role of merchant acquiring in payments

merchant acquiring in paymentsAs a business owner, you are likely familiar with the realm of online payments and credit and debit card transactions. When expanding your business globally, payment becomes an essential component of the purchasing process. Convenient payment methods not only improve the customer experience but also facilitate growth in international markets. For your customers, a transaction is as simple as tapping their card, completing the process within seconds. However, behind each payment lies an intricate communication network between financial institutions, facilitated by the acquirer. In the event of a transaction failure, it is the acquirer that provides you with the necessary information and assistance to resolve any issues.  

An acquiring landscape snapshot 

The past two years or so have signalled a period of transformation across the acquiring sector. 2021 saw the introduction of a contactless card limit increase from £45 to £100, in the UK. This in turn saw a significant increase in contactless transactions, rising from 7% to 27% of total payments. As a result, cashless habits have changed forever with many of those who were previously uncomfortable using contactless payments leaving their wallet at home. 

In addition, the Payments Systems Regulator (PSR) mandated a set of regulatory changes as of January this year, essentially with a view to allowing merchants to change their acquirer more easily. Amongst the changes that the PSR introduced were measures to eradicate the major, existing acquiring pain points. These included: 

  • New rules around making prices more transparent for merchants. 
  • The deployment of trigger messages on display screens to prompt merchants to shop around 
  • The eradication of long-term contracts that saw merchants tied into lengthy deals that were difficult to terminate  

As the year 2023 unfolds, an interesting trend is emerging among merchants who are actively exploring the option of switching acquirers. This surge in merchant mobility can be attributed to their increasing awareness of the factors to consider and their ability to negotiate favourable acquirer rate deals. With a better understanding of the market landscape and their own business needs, merchants are seeking out acquirers who can provide them with enhanced value and more competitive pricing. 

While these changes primarily serve the interests of merchants, they have a ripple effect that extends to the end consumer. When merchants are able to secure better value for their money through favourable acquirer rate deals, this directly impacts their ability to offer more competitive pricing, improved services, or even enhanced product offerings. Ultimately, it leads to a better outcome for the customer. 

By empowering merchants with the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions about their payment processing partners, the industry is fostering a more competitive and customer-centric environment. This shift encourages acquirers to continuously improve their services, optimise pricing structures, and provide innovative solutions that align with the evolving needs of merchants and their customers. 

À la carte and acquiring internationally 

Traditionally, the acquiring market has been somewhat fragmented, with local payment options differing dramatically between countries – merchants have the option of choosing between:   

  • Local acquirers – typically banks offering strong domestic footprint and capabilities within their own market and competitive prices 
  • International acquirers – offering better coverage of international payments, across more countries but at a significantly higher price 

Whilst partnering with local acquirers means access to local schemes providing cheaper rates it also entails increased back-office costs and complexity in negotiating acquirer contracts, among other challenges. Complexity further arises with merchants having to balance and manage multiple contracts with multiple acquirers, which can be distracting and costly. À la carte acquiring allows merchants a route out of this complexity, through a bespoke solution. This offers the best combination of acquirers, depending on their needs, through one omnichannel gateway. As a result, merchants are connected to a host of local acquirers, enabling them to access both local schemes and pricing whilst allowing merchants to extend their reach with an international acquirer. 

The gateway’s smart routing system therefore allows for transactions to be sent to the most relevant acquirer, based on the parameters agreed with the merchant. So, transactions from both local and central acquiring are reconciled into the gateway’s reporting features. 

With à la carte acquiring, merchants can customise their acquiring solution to align with their specific business needs, reducing the risk of excessive acquiring costs. This approach also enables domestic merchants to accept a wider variety of payments, ultimately enhancing their potential for growth. 

By adopting this model, merchants can achieve substantial long-term operational savings, as it encourages a focused allocation of resources to the most critical areas of their business. 

In recent years, à la carte acquisition has gained significant popularity, reflecting the increasing demand among merchants for a smarter, more efficient transaction processing method that saves both time and costs. 

Your acquirer makes payments possible 

Your acquirer is the driving force behind the processing of payments for your merchant business. It secures the payments you are due by driving transactions through the transaction flow, in mere seconds – so it’s important to ensure you select the right partner who can offer comprehensive solutions, across all the markets in which you operate. 


This article has been republished with permission from Worldline. 

Worldline offers extensive geographical coverage across the UK and Europe, processing international cards as well as numerous alternative payments with the option to settle in 21 different currencies and acceptance in 160 countries. This comprehensive solution empowers merchants to expand their global reach, serve customers worldwide, and unlock new growth opportunities.     

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