How to Make Merchant Onboarding Easier

All merchants want to do is start accepting electronic payments as soon as possible.

The challenge is that payment processors, payment service providers (PSPs) and independent sales organizations (ISOs) must make sure merchants undergo a thorough onboarding process and online fraud risk assessment. For merchants in “high-risk” industries—and those identified as high risk because of excessive chargebacks—that evaluation is even more extensive.

That’s why it’s important to make the merchant onboarding process easier for all parties involved.

At Worldnet Payments, we’re processor agnostic and offer ISVs EMV-certified payment solutions for their merchants. Any given ISV can have hundreds of merchants in their portfolio so this process always gets tricky. While those merchants could choose to navigate the onboarding process themselves, luckily our team manages it for them.

In this blog, we’ll walk through merchant onboarding and share best practices that can make it as easy and efficient as possible with the least amount of work.

Merchant Onboarding in Seven Steps

Merchant onboarding involves a seven-step process, requiring plenty of communication between the merchant and the acquirer or PSP.

Let’s take a look at each.

1. Pre-Screening

Pre-screening is essentially the sales process. The merchant provides enough information for the payment processor to validate that the company is legitimate and not a scammer or fraudster.

At Worldnet Payments, we kick off this step immediately after receiving notification from one of our partners. Once the merchant executes the agreement, we find an acquirer. From there, underwriting begins.

2. Merchant Know Your Customer (KYC)

Merchant KYC involves a deeper dive into the merchant’s background to verify identity, address, bank account details, business setups and more. Merchants must provide a long list of information and documents, which they may not readily have available.

There’s a push to automate this step, which sounds appealing at first. But the reality is that every merchant is different. Many prefer to talk to a person, especially one who sees the process through from start to finish.

Another benefit to a live onboarding specialist? Consistency and follow-up. Our team is in contact with merchants every day, following up on necessary documents, answering questions and even reassuring them that we’ll get them through the process as quickly as possible. They need to locate and submit their own documents, but we act as their guide during the process.

3. Merchant History Check

This is where the merchant’s track record, business history and owner history are examined and evaluated.

Merchants must verify personal credit history, corporate tax returns and other financial documents—as well as transaction history—which will be used as a starting point to evaluate transaction data if the merchant is approved.

The next two steps are performed if the merchant is identified as “high risk.”

4. Business and Operational Model Analysis

A business and operational model analysis looks at long-term financial viability. This can include an evaluation of the company’s organizational and management structure, as well as standard operating procedures and policies.

5. Web Content Analysis

It may be necessary to look at a merchant’s website and its other published content to ensure there are no red flags, misleading messaging or truth-in-advertising violations that might jeopardize the company’s long-term viability.

6. Information Security Compliance

Merchants that make it this far are considered “provisionally accepted” and must demonstrate they comply with security and encryption requirements.

All merchants must be PCI-compliant, according to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Within that standard, merchant payment solutions should offer end-to-end encryption (E2EE), tokenization and/or Derived Unique Key Per Transaction (DUKPT).

7. Credit Risk Underwriting

The last step is an assessment of the merchant’s credit risk. In the United States, risk management guidance is regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).

Once the underwriting steps are complete, the acquirer determines if the merchant is approved or denied.

If the merchant is approved, a value-added reseller (VAR) sheet is created and used to do the actual onboarding.

What If a Merchant Is Denied?

If a merchant is denied, it’s usually because they have low transaction volumes or are higher risk.

This leaves them with a few choices:

  • Merchants onboarding themselves can try again with another acquirer and start over.
  • They can abandon the pursuit altogether (rarely have we seen this).
  • If they’re onboarding with Worldnet Payments, merchants simply need to sit tight while our team pursues another acquirer.

We have long-standing relationships with acquiring banks, which helps improve a merchant’s chance for approval. If all else fails, we’ll send them through our underwriting process, where almost all merchants are eventually approved. Our average turnaround? As little as 48 to 72 hours.

After the process is completed, merchants can begin processing payments.

Make the Merchant Onboarding Process More Efficient

So, what helps make the onboarding process go smoothly?

We have a few suggestions:

  • First, respond to emails as quickly and comprehensively as possible. Again, frequent communication is key.
  • Have all your KYC or know where to find your customer information. The documents most merchants struggle to find are deeds, bank statements and voided checks—not because they don’t exist; rather, because they aren’t anywhere that’s easily accessible.
  • Finally, expect to have to produce up to 12 months of financial statements for personal and business accounts.

“Worldnet has enabled us to integrate best-in-class payment features. Their customer service — from development to daily operations — has been outstanding! Most importantly, our customers have been so happy with the Worldnet onboarding process and competitive rates.”

Renee Smith, Parking BOXX CTO



At Worldnet Payments, we understand how important it is to quickly be approved for payment processing. Our merchant onboarding team handles that hassle for merchants so they can focus on their business.

Contact us today to find out how easy we make onboarding.

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