Could someone please explain the difference between these? Do you need both or just one or the other as cdgcommerce say they act as a payment gateway and deposit the money into your merchant account. Can you use them with a normal bank account as i don't think i'd be making the $10,000 odd $$$ per month needed for a merchant account.
Roughly speaking; a payment gateway is simply where the buyer goes to the payment gateway's website to pay you (i.e. PayPal standard payments take you to PayPal.com to pay), whilst with a Merchant Account you can usually accept Credit Card payments via your website (and then you pass the CC details onto the mechant and they process them).
You just need one, though a merchant account is good to have if you can afford it because it shows you are more established and builds trust with your customers.
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As bqinternet stated a merchant account is needed to use a payment gateway. Think of a retail terminal in your local store. That terminal is really a gateway. A gateway really is just an interface between the customer and the merchants processor. Also from what I have seen with many customers is that once you reach about that 1k a month in sales it becomes more costly to use paypal than a merchant account and gateway. Please also note that there are many merchant account providers out there and they all have gateways they offer. Some gateway will cost you per month and per transaction, some do not. The biggest thing to check before you sign anything is "Does the gateway they offer work with my software".
If it works, do not mess with it.
If it almost works, fix it.
If it does not work, replace it. CDG Commerce
Paypal payment gateway that takes you directly to paypal.com where the buyer goes to the payment gateway's website to pay you, and with a Merchant Account you can usually accept Credit Card payments via your website, then you pass the Credit Card (CC) details onto the merchant and then they process them.