I am pretty sure too remember that if you are doing it the official way, so not being shutdown because you do it illegal, you are at least required to have a financial backup of $1,000,000 USD for your start by the bank and VISA / MC / AmEx, beside meeting the very very strict other regulations. Hence 2CO for example is *not* a 3rd party processor but a reseller for itīs "merchants".
Actually, they probably did have some capital to back them up when they first started.
It was also easier to start such an operation back during the "dot com mania" of prior years when the Internet was just taking off.
Since then, Visa and MasterCard have adjusted for changing times and the rules & regs have been substantially tightened.
Even things like CISP/PCI did not exist back then - and today they are willing to shut down a processor that handles $15 billion per year in volume for 115,000+ merchants as a result of that processor not being compliant.
My goal here is not to discourage you but I feel that it is important to make you aware of the huge hoops necessary to build a 3rd party processing service and the fact that you need to really have substantial expertise in all aspects of bankcard processing for you to successfully achieve that goal.
Not to mention capital backing, the ability to develop the infrastructure required - management team, support staff, network, security, risk management, fraud monitoring, etc.
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2CO actually did have some pretty significant financial resources, as they were in the software business for quite a few years before they got into payment processing.
I think the biggest obstacle is the fact that the card associations are not too fond of the 3rd party processing concept right now, so they are throwing up barriers to entry and keeping a close eye on the exisiting players in the industry.
I could have sworn that's what the founder told me when I was introduced to him a few years back. You guys developed some type of fraud detection or point-of-sale software that was used by telecom companies which was a natural segway into processing...but it was awhile ago, so maybe I am not remembering correctly (it wouldn't be the first time!). Sorry for any misinformation!