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What is payment processing?

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Efficient payment processing lies at the heart of any successful business. It handles transactions and cash flow from your customers’ accounts to your bank. Whether using in-person or online payment processing, a robust system is key to keeping money moving and customers satisfied. 

But what is payment processing, and how does it work? Put simply, it’s a sequence of steps that begins when a customer pays for something. The process brings together many players — banks, payers, suppliers, card networks and payment processors — all collaborating to transfer funds securely. 

For any business, the impact of efficient payment processing is immense. In an age where convenience is everything, providing seamless payment options can convert a buyer into a regular customer. The opposite is also true. According to a recent study, half of customers will abandon an online purchase if their payment takes more than ten seconds. 

So, how can your organisation get payments right? First, it’s about understanding payment processing and offering various payment options. This strategy not only drives sales but also builds trust in your brand. After all, payment processing is more than a mere financial transaction. It’s a critical component of your business’s success story. 

In this blog, we’ll dig into payment processing to see how it impacts your business. 

What is the meaning of payment processing?

Payment processing is the steps that occur when your customers make a purchase. It’s a crucial part of any sales process, ensuring that payments are handled securely and efficiently. 

A payment processing system is the technology and processes used to handle these transactions. It includes everything — from when customers input their payment details to when the funds are deposited into your account. This system can vary depending on whether the transaction is made in person, online or through other payment methods.

What is a payment processing account?

A payment processing account is set up by a business to receive payments from customers. It’s like a payment handler in between the customers and business’ banks. It ensures that the money from sales gets to the business safely and securely. This account is essential for any business accepting credit cards or electronic payments. 

What is a payment processing fee?

Payment processing fees are charges that businesses pay to use payment processing services. These fees can vary based on various things, including:  

The fees are a necessary part of accepting electronic payments. Think of it as a small cost for convenience and security — for both the company and customers. 

Understanding what payment processing is and how a payment processing system works is crucial for any business. Having the right payment processing doesn’t just help you make more sales. It also ensures that the process behind each sale is smooth, secure and beneficial for both your business and customers. 

How does payment processing work?

Payment processing is a vital cog in the commerce machine. But the technology behind it might seem daunting, with many parties having an input. It starts with a customer’s intent to purchase and ends with money landing in the merchant’s account.  

The payment process is a multi-stage affair involving several key players, such as: 


Individuals who want to purchase an item using money from their customer’s account.


Sellers who allow customers to buy goods by transferring money into their acquiring bank account.

Issuing bank and merchant bank

Financial institutions that send and receive payments from the buyer and merchant’s bank accounts

In an ideal world, the payment process combines technology, finance and security seamlessly. The following sections highlight stages of the payment process, paying particular attention to credit card and electronic payment methods. 

What are the stages of payment processing?

Payment methods vary, from traditional credit cards to direct bank transfers (account-to-account). Each method has its own nuances in processing. But generally, most processes follow similar steps.  

Digital payment begins

This step starts when a customer decides to make a purchase. At checkout, they provide their payment method, such as a credit or debit card, electronic wallet or other payment options. If the vendor accepts that payment method, then the transaction begins.

Payment authorisation

The customer’s payment details are encrypted and sent to the payment processor through a payment gateway. The processor then verifies the transaction details. This stage can include fraud checks and forwards the information to the issuing bank via the payment processor.

Bank verification and approval

The issuer bank checks the customer’s account for sufficient funds or credit. It will also assess the transaction for legitimacy and fraudulent activity. Other payment method providers may have different checks. It then approves or declines the transaction and sends this response back through the card network to the payment processor.

Merchant notification

The payment processor receives the bank’s decision and communicates it to the merchant. If approved, the merchant can complete the sale. If declined, the seller may request another form of payment from the customer.


After processing, the merchant sends the approved transactions to their acquiring bank for settlement. The acquiring bank requests and receives the funds from the issuing bank. They then deposit the funds into the merchant’s account.

How does credit card payment processing work?

Credit card processing can be more complex. When a customer swipes or inputs their card details, the information is encrypted and sent to the payment processor. The processor checks with the issuing bank via the card network. Upon approval, funds are earmarked for transfer, and the customer gets a confirmation. The actual credit card transaction transfer of funds happens later, during settlement.

How does electronic payment processing work?

Electronic payments, such as e-wallets or bank transfers, follow a similar path but with some differences. The electronic payment process often requires fewer steps for authorisation and can be faster. For instance, account-to-account transfers directly communicate between banks for quicker processing. 

No matter the method used, the payment process involves a network of actors and stages. But these players each contribute, ensuring that every transaction is secure, efficient and successful.  

customer making online mobile payment with credit card payment

Why is payment processing important?

Payment processing describes the underlying services and technology that lets companies accept the payment methods their customers want to use. Consumers have moved away from typical cash or card exchanges, and are now looking to pay with various methods. 

As such, having a flexible payment processor is particularly crucial in the online and e-Commerce worlds, where physical cash exchange isn’t an option. Instead, online payment processing bridges the gap. It facilitates seamless online transactions, whether through a website payment processing system or mobile apps. 

The efficiency and reliability of an online payment process can make or break a business. As we’ve already seen, customers will leave if the payment process brings friction to their checkout experience. A streamlined, secure payment processing system not only ensures smooth transactions but also enhances customer trust and satisfaction.  

There are many other benefits. Customers are more likely to return to a platform where the payment process is hassle-free and secure. Likewise, efficient online payments processing means quicker access to funds, better cash flow management and reduced admin for businesses. This efficiency positively impacts operations, freeing business owners from worrying about transaction processing issues.

How to master payment processing

Selecting the right payment processor — one that aligns with your business needs — is a crucial decision. You’re not just taking money – you need to do it efficiently, securely and in a way that enhances your customer experience. 

When evaluating payment processing companies, you should consider several factors.  


First, consider the pricing structure. Is it transparent and predictable? Does it align with your transaction volumes? It’s essential to choose a provider whose fee structure meets your needs. 


Next, assess the features offered. Does the processor support various payment methods, including alternatives like e-wallets or cryptocurrencies? This flexibility is vital with today’s range of payment methods. 


Security cannot be overstated. Ensure the processor meets data security standards, protecting your business and customers from fraud and card data breaches. 

Ease of use

User-friendliness is another key factor. Setting up and processing online payments should be straightforward not just for you but also for your customers. A complex system could turn customers away or cause costly delays during processing. 

Customer support

Customer support is the backbone of any service. Choose a payment processor that offers you robust support. This can be a lifeline if you encounter issues or need guidance. 


For businesses, it’s also essential to actively monitor transaction activities. This helps identify trends, address issues promptly and make informed decisions about your payment strategies. 

Overall, mastering payment processing involves a rounded approach. You need to balance cost, functionality, security and ease of use. After all, a good payment processor not only simplifies the way you handle transactions — but also contributes to the growth and stability of your business. 


Payment processing — a crucial aspect of modern commerce — ensures smooth transactions between customers and businesses. It involves several steps, starting from the customer’s payment initiation to the final deposit into the business’s account.

The process of payment processing includes many players. From customers, merchants, banks, payment methods, POS systems, payment processors and gateways, all help facilitate frictionless transactions. When working smoothly, this provides a quick and seamless checkout experience for both sides. 

But payment processing is not just a transactional tool. It is a strategic asset that influences customer satisfaction and business growth. Finding the right payment processing service for your business means security, convenience and cost-effectiveness.

If you’d like more information or have unanswered questions about the payment process, Trust Payments is here to assist. With expertise in offering tailored payment solutions, we bring clarity to the complexities of payment processing. Contact us for more information or personalised advice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

At its most basic, payment processing is the sequence of steps to transfer funds from a customer to a business. It starts when a customer makes a payment and ends with the funds deposited into the business's account. This process, crucial for both physical and online transactions, includes multiple parties like banks, payment processors and card networks. Each combines to ensure a secure and efficient transfer of funds. 

Payment processing is how companies handle financial transactions. When a customer pays for goods or services, the payment processing system ensures the secure and efficient transfer of money. This system, vital for both in-person and online sales, involves various parties. These include the customer, merchant, payment gateway, processor and banks. 

The components of payment processing include:

  • The customer 
  • Merchants 
  • Payment methods (like credit cards or e-wallets) 
  • Point-of-sale system 
  • Payment gateway 
  • Payment processor.  

Each plays a critical role in securing and facilitating transactions, from the initial payment to the final deposit into the merchant’s account. 

Payment processing is essential for businesses to accept various forms of payments efficiently and securely. This is particularly true when selling online, or to varying customer groups with different preferences. It enables businesses to expand their payment options, catering to customer wishes.  

Efficient payment processing improves customer satisfaction and enhances cash flow management. This then contributes to the overall growth and success of a business by ensuring smooth financial transactions. 

Security statement

Security is our top priority at Trust Payments and we strive to ensure that all data is kept secure at all times We keep all customer data safe with AES256 encryption, SSL Certificates, and a minimum of TLS1.2, between your website and our datacentres.

Our systems are scanned quarterly using the Qualys PCI Platform, an independent Qualified Security Assessor (QSA) and approved vendors – Omnicybersecurity (UK) & Forgenix (US) – to ensure compliance with the security requirements of the card schemes.

We follow a number of rigorous security procedures on a daily basis including, but not limited to, continuous monitoring of our perimeter, dark web monitoring, and internal checks to ensure that CIA triad is maintained at all times.

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