Travel Agency Merchant Account

Travel Agency Merchant Account
By max April 12, 2024

From an economic standpoint, the travel industry is doing great. While there’s a lot of scope for startup travel agencies and those with an established tourism business, the industry comes with its share of risks. One of these is being labeled as high-risk by payment processors, therefore making it difficult to get a travel agency merchant account. Many industries are considered risky, not because of their operations but the nature of the industry. The travel and tourism industry is one of them.

The high risk of chargeback and financial losses makes this business vulnerable to fraud, which makes it difficult for them to find a reliable payment processor who can handle their credit card payments. If you have a travel business and are looking for a payment processor or switching your existing merchant account, you are in the right place. In this post, we’ll show you what merchant service providers offer to travel agents, why this industry is considered high-risk, what you can do to remove the high-risk label, and a list of the popular payment processors that work with travel agencies. So, keep reading.

Do Travel Agents Need a Travel Agency Merchant Account?

Do Travel Agents Need a Travel Agency Merchant Account?

With the travel industry conducting its routine business operations online and accepting transactions through credit cards, a merchant account has become a necessity, more now than ever.

To accept electronic and card payments, you need to work with a processor who specializes in this area and understands the travel industry inside and out. They should be able to handle all your credit card transactions effortlessly. The job of a processor isn’t confined to verifying credit cards and accepting payments from customers. They need to comply with the industrial norms, regulatory requirements, and the latest trends in the industry to ensure a smooth transaction experience for the merchant and their customers.

These processors or acquiring banks communicate with the merchant’s issuing bank, credit card networks, and other financial institutions to process card and digital payments securely. So, if you are wondering whether or not a travel merchant account is worth it, here are the reasons you should consider applying for a merchant account.

Flexible Payment Options: A payment processor offers a broad range of payment methods, allowing customers to choose their preferred option and pay through a convenient mode of payment. They can pay you in-store, online, or through mobile payments—whatever works for them. Most importantly, a processor accepts all major credit and debit cards, processes these payments in batches, and transfers them to your merchant account.

Global Expansion: As a travel agency, you will want to expand your business globally and work with customers from all over the world to grow your brand. It’s obvious you will need a processor who supports multiple currencies, understands the legal requirements and travel standards in international countries, and provides your international customers with multiple payment options. With the right payment processor, you don’t have to worry about currency conversions or international credit card processing. They will do it all for you.

Robust Security: Travel merchant account providers integrate and offer robust security tools to ensure a secure transaction experience for merchants and customers. As mentioned previously, they are familiar with the PCI DSS requirements and common regulations related to the travel business in different countries. Each credit card payment goes through a rigorous screening process before it’s approved. They implement encryption technology to encrypt customers’ credit card information, ensuring that no unauthorized party is able to read or interpret sensitive data.

Improved Cash Flow Management: Some processors offer next-day or same-day funding, meaning they process all your credit card transactions within 24 hours of the payment. This amount is transferred to your merchant account immediately, thus improving your cash flow. That said, same-day funding often comes with an additional fee (a small percentage of the transaction amount).

Customized Payment Solutions: Some travel businesses work on a subscription-based model and implement recurring billing plans for customers who have enabled automatic payments on specific dates. You can find a travel merchant account that supports recurring billing and other customized payment solutions, such as buy-now-pay-later schemes, for a smooth transaction experience.

Customer Satisfaction: Working with a payment processor will help you achieve customer satisfaction, as people trust businesses that partner with secure processing solution providers. Offering a wide range of payment solutions designed specifically to cater to customers’ unique needs will ensure they leave your door fully satisfied, which, in turn, increases customer loyalty.

Detailed Reports: Payment processors do a lot more than processing your credit card payments. They generate detailed reports that give you insights into your payment processing journey, types of payment methods your customers prefer the most, chargeback ratio, refund requests, and so on. Based on this, you can enhance your customer service and improve security protocols to provide your users with a safe processing journey.

Challenges Faced by High-Risk Travel Merchants

Challenges Faced by High-Risk Travel Merchants

The travel industry isn’t associated with serious legal issues, age restrictions, and other controversies. So, what makes it a high-risk field? For starters, people tend to book flights, accommodation, and entire trips weeks and months ahead to secure affordable rates. Besides, booking early guarantees the availability of seats and rooms.

However, there’s always a chance they might cancel the trip later and demand a refund. If you are a travel agency, refunds for hotels, flights, trains, and other pre-booked things can be challenging and costly. Your customer might demand a full refund, which might result in a financial loss for your business, as airlines and hotels do not offer 100% refund for cancellation, especially if the customer decides to cancel the trip close to the reservation date. Here are some other challenges that make the travel industry risky from the processor’s standpoint.

High Chargeback Ratio

When a customer cancels a plan and demands a refund, they want the 100% paid amount to be returned. That’s not practically possible. While some customers might understand the charges associated with last-minute cancellations, not everyone does.

These customers are likely to file a chargeback, i.e., request the banks to reverse the transaction, as they have not used the service they paid for. The increased risk of chargeback makes the travel industry a high-risk field. This creates a significant risk for the processor, as well. A spike in your chargeback ratio can result in a substantial loss for the merchant, and your processor might have to bear the liability. So, chargeback is the biggest red flag associated with a travel business. It’s also the most common reason why a processor might turn down your merchant application.

High-Ticket Sales

Another factor that makes a business appear high-risk to a payment processor is high-ticket sales. If you deal in goods and services that involve a large-sized transaction, you will fall into the high-risk category, as these businesses are highly vulnerable to fraud, security breaches, high chargeback, and financial risks. The travel industry is no different. Individuals and businesses hire travel agencies to book their entire trip, including airline tickets, hotels, restaurants, and even cabs from/to the airport. The high-ticket sales increase the risk of chargeback and financial loss if the customer decides to cancel at the last minute.

Fraudulent Transactions

With such a large amount involved in each transaction, there’s an increased risk of fraudulent activities in this business. A fraudster could steal the credit card or other payment details from the customer and use it to pay for the reservations. If you don’t have advanced security tools and a rigorous screening process in place, you might miss such security breaches and end up with a chargeback. Besides, it leads to reputational risks. Customers are less likely to trust a travel agency with a high chargeback ratio or frequent customer complaints.

Business Closure

Bankruptcy or a financial liability can result in a travel agency closing its business. If a travel agency shuts down or is declared bankrupt, the payment processor will be held responsible for repaying the customers who had completed their reservations and paid in advance. To mitigate the risk, processors require travel agencies to maintain a rolling or upfront reserve, i.e., a percentage of their income in a separate account. This amount can be used to refund the customers in the case of sudden business closure.

Lastly, a travel agency bears significant financial risk, as it does not sell its own goods and services. It relies on airlines, hotels, and other third-party service providers to earn money through a commission-based model. All these factors make travel businesses risky. That said, you can still find a reliable payment processor willing to work with you.

Best Payment Processors for Travel Agencies

Best Payment Processors for Travel Agencies

Ideally, you will look for a processor who quotes a reasonable processing fee, has a transparent pricing policy, and offers a flexible contract. We’ve researched the top processors who serve travel businesses and offer all the mentioned perks, plus many additional features. Let’s take a look.


Key Features

  • Competitive pricing for all types of businesses in the travel industry starts at 2.95% per transaction.
  • Quick and easy approval process. They guarantee approval of your merchant account within 24-72 hours of application.
  • They have a proprietary gateway called Solidgate, designed specifically for high-risk merchants, including the travel industry. The gateway processes high-volume and high-ticket transactions securely and effortlessly.
  • Corepay works globally and accepts multiple currencies, allowing travel businesses to expand to the international markets.
  • Corepay follows PCI Level-1 security protocols when it comes to eCommerce transactions. The company conducts regular auditing to keep its gateway and other payment systems up-to-date with the latest compliance and security protocols.
  • No account setup, application, or early termination fee
  • Supports mobile payments
  • Support service is available round-the-clock

Available for travel merchants based in the US and other parts of the world, Corepay is one of the best and most secure payment processors for your travel business. The processor knows the travel industry inside and out, including the compliance regulations in this sector. In addition to the security guarantee, Corepay offers competitive pricing and has waived the account setup and termination fee to ensure a seamless and cost-effective user experience for all travel merchants.

Soar Payments

Key Features

  • Get a PAX A920 Smart Terminal
  • It supports most third-party payment gateways for secure and seamless eCommerce transactions. Examples include USAePay, NMI, and
  • Advanced anti-fraud and chargeback detection programs offer maximum security to all high-risk merchants.
  • Processing rates are not disclosed on the website, but like other payment processors, SoarPay charges variable processing rates based on your risk status and processing history.
  • No account setup or application fee, although a termination fee is applicable to those canceling the contract before the term is up.
  • They have a US-based customer support department with friendly and professional representatives.
  • Instant Quote system will help you find the processing rates for your business.

If you have faced rejection from most merchant account service providers, Soar Payments could be your ideal option. The company specializes in working with high-risk merchants, especially those who can’t get a reliable payment processor because of their high-risk label or no processing history. Soar Payments provides you with a POS terminal, a card reader, a payment gateway, and mobile payment options, allowing travel merchants to process all kinds of in-store and online payments efficiently. Not only that, but Soar Payments works with to provide the best protection against chargeback, especially friendly fraud.

SMB Global

Key Features

  • Offer international merchant accounts
  • EMV-enabled payment terminals
  • Supports and NMI gateway for eCommerce transactions
  • Supports more than 175 shopping carts, which can be directly integrated into the payment gateway, offering a seamless user experience.
  • A robust chargeback prevention program
  • It’s one of the few payment processors that accepts high-risk merchants in nearly every category, industry type, and processing history. If you are in the travel business, you can expect quick approval from SMB Global, even with irregular transaction volume, high-ticket transactions, and excessive chargebacks.

Designed for high-risk merchants, mainly those expanding their business to the global markets, SMB Global is an ideal payment processor for the travel industry and other high-risk merchants. Since they especially serve high-risk merchants, you can expect the company to offer a pricing policy and contract terms that align with your requirements. They do not impose a rolling reserve, which is quite rare for a payment processor serving a high-risk business.

Host Merchant Services

Key Features

  • They offer a quick and easy approval process for all merchants, including travel businesses. Host Merchant Services has a 98% approval rate for high-risk businesses.
  • Get a free EMV-compliant credit card terminal.
  • Their support service is available 24/7 and 365 days a year. So, no matter what it is, you can count on them for quick support.
  • They offer fast funding with credit card payments transferred to your merchant account within 24-48 hours of processing.
  • They offer an advanced chargeback detection and prevention program.
  • Support all payment options, including ACH transfers, e-checks, debit and credit cards, mobile payments, digital wallets, etc.
  • Host Merchant has implemented a reserve requirement.

Host Merchant is another payment processor that works with travel businesses of all kinds, including those who book airline tickets and cruises and those who plan the entire trip for customers. Host Merchant complies with the PCI DSS standards to guarantee maximum security from fraudsters. They offer a virtual payment gateway that allows you to accept payments over the phone. Moreover, they have a transparent pricing policy with processing rates and interchange fees for high-risk merchants disclosed in clear terms.


Whether you are an independent travel agent or run a travel insurance business, a business operating in the travel and tourism industry needs a merchant account to accept credit/debit cards and other forms of payment. The above-listed payment processors can help you process all forms of online payments securely and seamlessly.


Does every travel agency need a merchant account?

Yes, not just travel agencies but all travel and tourism-related businesses, such as travel insurance companies, are supposed to have a merchant account to accept credit/debit card payments.

What fees do I have to pay for a travel merchant account?

Every payment processor charges a processing fee based on your transaction size, volume, and the processing plan you choose. Depending on the acquiring bank you choose, you will also be charged a monthly account fee, a termination fee, a payment gateway fee, a PCI compliance fee, setup and application fees, and more.

What do I need to get a merchant account for my travel business?

This depends on the eligibility criteria set forth by your payment processor. Typically, you need the bank statement, your credit history, and business documentation (license, certificate, articles of incorporation, proof of address).

How soon can I start accepting credit card payments?

It depends on how fast your merchant service provider accepts your merchant application. Since a travel agency falls into the high-risk category, it’s normal for the processor to take a few business days to review your business documentation and processing history before setting up your merchant account. Once you get approval from the processor, you can start accepting card payments immediately.