Internet Merchant Accounts: Leveling the online playing field for travel agencies

"Every man who possibly can should force himself to a holiday of a full month in a year, whether he feels like taking it or not. ~William James

Unlike Europeans who have monthS-long vacation leaves, Americans only have 2 -3 weeks per year to take a vacation, so every day of your vacation counts. Thing is, that's exactly the mindset of every human being on the face of the USA as temperatures rise to welcome summer.

This penchant for travelling - whether locally or internationally, has prompted the phenomenal growth of online travel agencies. One by one, we all saw the transition of a physical online travel agency to a virtual one. Booking for a hotel, a rental car, an airline ticket has never been easier. In fact, the travel industry is one of the most popular revenue channels of ecommerce.

Like mushrooms when lightning strikes.
The proliferation of online travel agencies also coincides with the growth of free merchant account providers. The nature of this business(travel agencies) is classified under card-not-present-transactions, and posts a higher risk for financial institutions. Obtaining a merchant account for this kind of business is not that easy so merchants resort to more lenient providers such as 3rd party processors or free Internet merchant accounts.

Playing smart is the rule of the game.
Free merchant account providers have been opening door after door, industry after industry, allowing small/home-based/niche businesses play the ecommerce game with the big daddies of the travel business.

Small merchants who opt for free merchant accounts can offer their services at relatively lower rates than others. Established merchants can feel the pinch now as they lose customers each day to other merchants who provide quality services at lower prices.

Don't mistake it for predatory pricing though - it's just a case of home-based businesses trying to position themselves in the market - and finding the right components to carry their businesses to primetime. A 15 year old teen can have a thriving ecommerce site just like that.

Not only do these travel agencies enjoy the benefits afforded by free merchant accounts - it's a dominoe effect. All players in the ecommerce arena are trying to provide better, quality-driven services at competitive rates - from payment gateways providing freebies to merchants, to credit card companies giving out free annual memberships, to web hosting services that charge jaw-droppingly low fees. Check out your favorite search engine and you'd see these service providers charge almost next to nothing.

Last 2 minutes. Who's got the ball?
Not them, not the merchants. Because in the long run, who benefits? Whose hand is on the ball?


Competition has indeed elimated the weak players in the online travel agency arena - casualties of war include merchants who not only DOES NOT provide quality products and services but also the ones who don't introduce feelings of trustworthiness on their site - remember it's not only about who charges how much, it's about increasing customer confidence as well. We've already seen this - airlines getting rid of the middle man(the agencies) - which I believe is unethical but they're still at it - but still facing stiff competition from niche/home-based travel agencies.
However, it has also introduced a new breed of customers - pickier, more concerned about convenience as well as uniqueness of the experience these online travel agencies can offer. Indeed, Internet Merchant Accounts has freed the small players from the bench to play online with the travel agency star players.

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