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Travel Merchant Accounts And Payment Processing

Payment Processing for Travel Agencies & Hospitality

Travel spending is rapidly rebounding as the industry recovers from the impact of COVID-19. There is currently record travel expenditures in the United States, a resurgence of interest in international tourism, and a global business environment that is seeing a resurgence in the need for cross-continental travel. As the world reaches for old norms and adapts to new norms in our ever changing world, there has arguably never been a more exciting time to be involved in the travel business.

Who is Durango Merchant Services?

Durango Merchant Services is a specialized payment processing company founded in 1997, focusing on high-risk industries often overlooked by traditional banks and payment processors. We cater to a diverse range of sectors including travel agencies, airplane charters, boat charters, hotels, online booking engines, destination marketing organizations and other travel businesses. Understanding the unique challenges faced by the travel industry, we provide tailored services to ensure reliable payment solutions for travel businesses. Our mission is to offer support and customized payment processing options that address the specific needs of these sectors, helping them thrive despite the complexities of their industries.

What Sets Durango Merchant Services Apart from the Rest?

What are Travel Merchant Accounts and How do I Get One?

Travel merchant accounts are special bank accounts made for businesses in the travel sector, like travel agencies, tour operators, airline ticketing services, and hotels. These accounts let these businesses handle payments, especially from ACH transfers, and credit and debit cards. This is important for travel companies because they often deal with expensive transactions and operate on an international scale where cash transactions aren’t practical.

Why Travel Merchant Accounts Are Specialized:

  1. High Volume Transactions: Travel companies tend to have a lot of big-ticket transactions due to the costs of travel packages, flights, and places to stay.
  2. Higher Risk of Chargebacks: There’s a greater risk of chargebacks in the travel industry. This is mainly because of the high costs involved and the long time between when a service is booked and when it’s actually used.
  3. Currency and Geographical Considerations: Travel businesses often need to manage payments in different currencies and handle transactions that cross national borders. This requires more advanced financial tools and security measures to keep everything running smoothly.

Durango Merchant Services has been helping travel industry businesses open merchant accounts for 2 decades. We have operations in the US, Canada, the EU and beyond and our gateway is PCI compliant, host multi-currency functionality and a suite of security and chargeback protection technologies. Contact us today to start accepting payments for your travel company.

Setting up and managing a travel merchant account can get complicated, so it’s a good idea to chat with a specialist who knows the ins and outs of payment solutions for the travel industry, like Durango Merchant Services. We can offer some helpful insights and guidance to help you through the application process and get your payment processing, including your payment gateway, running smoothly.

Read on to learn more about the travel sectors we provide merchant services for and some of the challenges and opportunities to overcome them, so your travel business can start processing credit cards again and focus on your customers and not the banks.

Travel Industries We Serve and Their MCC Codes

Travel Merchant Account Types

Travel Industry MCC Codes

Why is it so hard to secure payment processing for travel industry?

If you haven’t heard the story yet, it’s likely that you are experiencing what so many others have gone through before.  It goes something like this:

You have a few bank statements and a spotless track record as a young merchant: few chargebacks, great business plan and a decent to excellent credit score. And still, it’s difficult to find a company to process credit card payments. You’ve discovered – through research or experience – that despite it all, you operate in a high risk environment. But remember, all is not lost. With some negotiation and risk management strategies all of this can be overcome. It’s for this reason Durango Merchant Services exists, to advocate for you through this process and help get a travel merchant account and secure payment processing. 

Challenges and Opportunities in Securing a Merchant Account for Travel Industry Companies

Travel agencies and other travel sectors are seen as high-risk by banks and payment processors for a a lot of different reasons, which all add to the perceived and real risks of the industry. Getting a handle on these reasons can really help travel business owners tackle the challenges and grab the opportunities. Here’s a rundown of the main hurdles you might face when trying to get a merchant account for your travel agency, and some tips on how to smooth things out so you can focus on growing your business in this exciting and growing industry.

Challenge 1: Travel Companies Tend to Have High Chargeback Rates

Travel agencies often face high chargeback rates because customers book way in advance, giving them plenty of time to rethink their plans. Whether it’s a change in personal circumstances or they’re just not happy with the service, these situations can lead to cancellations and disputes, which often result in chargebacks. Some of the most common reasons for chargebacks are: cancellation and changes, quality of Service complaints, untimely refunds, and disputes over terms and conditions.

Strategy Chess

Tackling high chargeback rates in the travel industry can actually be a great opportunity to fine-tune how your business operates, improve customer satisfaction, and maintain a travel merchant account. First off, make sure you're crystal clear about your cancellation, change, and refund policies right from the get-go. If customers know exactly what to expect, they're less likely to feel the need to dispute a charge. Consider loosening up those policies a bit too—offering more flexible options like penalty-free cancellations within a certain window or swapping out refunds for travel credits can really reduce chargebacks.

On top of that, beefing up your customer service can make a big difference. When customers can easily reach out and get help, they're more likely to solve any issues directly with you instead of asking their bank to step in. Also, keep a tight ship with your service quality and use the latest tech to protect against fraud. This not only cuts down on chargebacks due to service complaints or sketchy transactions but also builds trust. And don't forget about speeding up your refund process. If refunds are quick and hassle-free, customers won't feel pushed towards initiating a chargeback. This approach not only helps keep your revenue safe but also turns potentially negative experiences into positive ones, encouraging loyalty among your customers.

Challenge 2: High Average Transaction Values in the Travel Industry

When you book flights, hotels, or vacation packages through travel services, you’re often talking about potentially thousands of dollars changing hands in each transaction. This bumps up the risk for payment processors because there’s more on the line with each sale, making potential losses from chargebacks or fraud bigger deals and harder to recover.

Strategy Chess

Turning the challenge of high average transaction values (ATVs) in the travel industry into an opportunity is all about making the most of those big-ticket sales. Since customers are already spending more, they expect top-notch service. You can stand out by tailoring experiences, like creating custom travel packages or offering stellar support from start to finish. This kind of attention can really boost customer satisfaction and loyalty, making them less likely to file chargebacks and more likely to come back for more. Plus, these larger transactions give you a chance to collect detailed customer data. Use this info to fine-tune your services and tailor your marketing, which can drive repeat business and bring in new customers through referrals. By focusing on delivering great value and building trust, you’re not just dodging risks; you’re also setting up for more profitable, long-term relationships.

Challenge 3. Travel Businesses Tend to Have Long Fulfillment Horizons

When you book a trip, there’s usually a big gap between making the reservation and actually going on the trip. This delay can be tricky for payment processors because a lot can happen during that time—like changes in a company’s financial situation or a drop in customer happiness. This uncertainty ramps up the risk for those handling the payments.

Strategy Chess

The challenge of long fulfillment horizons in the travel industry—where there's usually a big gap between when someone books a trip and when they actually go—can actually be a great opportunity. This stretch of time is perfect for keeping in touch with your customers, ramping up their excitement, and giving them a taste of what’s to come. You can send them travel tips, updates, or personalized recommendations to enhance their anticipation. Plus, it’s a prime time to suggest add-ons like room upgrades or special tours, which can boost your sales. By keeping the conversation going and catering to their needs along the way, you turn that waiting period into a chance to strengthen relationships, making sure customers are not only satisfied with their upcoming trip but also more likely to come back or refer friends.

Challenge 4. Heightened Fraud Risk in The Travel Industry

The travel industry is prone to various types of fraud, including identity theft and the use of stolen credit cards. The global nature of the industry, combined with high transaction values and the involvement of multiple parties (airlines, hotels, etc.), makes it an attractive target for fraudsters.

Strategy Chess

Tackling payment fraud risks in the travel industry is a great way to boost your business's reputation and build trust with your customers. By putting strong anti-fraud measures in place—like top-notch security protocols, real-time monitoring, and secure payment systems—you can make your customers feel safe about where they put their money. This not only cuts down on fraud but also shows your customers that you're a reliable and safe choice for their travel needs. Plus, keeping up with the latest in fraud prevention tech can make transactions smoother, cut down on the costs linked to fraud, and bump up overall customer happiness. By highlighting your commitment to security, you can draw in more customers who prioritize safe transactions, which can lead to more repeat business and stronger loyalty.

Challenge 5. Location Specific Regulatory and Compliance Issues Travel Companies Must Address

Navigating the regulatory and compliance landscape in the travel industry presents a formidable challenge, particularly given the myriad of laws that vary by country and region. For example, international travel agencies need to comply with strict regulations like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s rules on airfare advertising. Taking a continuous learning approach and engaging with your trade associations can go a long way to keeping you informed of changes in the legal landscape of the travel industry. 

Strategy Chess

Addressing these compliance issues effectively can, however, offer significant Opportunities. Proper compliance not only boosts a travel company's reputation by building consumer trust but also opens up new market opportunities. Being well-versed in and compliant with local laws can prevent costly penalties and operational setbacks, providing a competitive edge in the industry. For smaller travel agencies, cost-effective approaches like outsourcing compliance tasks or utilizing specialized software can help manage these responsibilities efficiently. Such strategic management of regulatory challenges not only ensures smoother operations but also leverages compliance as a key business strength. For more information on how to stay informed visit our resources section below.

Durango Merchant Services is here to help you overcome the hurdles, and secure a travel merchant account.

An important fact to accept out of the gate is that if you are a new company with a weak or non-existent record, you will be required to accept a highly managed relationship.  If you have a solid record of risk, fraud and chargeback management, you will still be required to provide at least 6 months of prior financials to prove it.  The sunny side of this is that if you can make it 3 years demonstrating that you know how to successfully manage risk and keep chargebacks and customer disputes at bay, trust will have been earned and you will have more leverage to negotiate a better deal, with better rates and less restrictions.

So, now that you know why merchant accounts in the travel industry are considered high risk, what can you do about it?

First, know what not to do.

A common temptation that businesses in the travel industry succumb to is to find a big tent processing company (you knock, they give you “something”), and understate the part about operating in the travel industry.  Don’t do this.  If these processors receive any signal that you are high risk, there is a chance that the merchant account will be terminated, which will cause problems in two ways.  In the short term, customers can’t make easy, online payments and you lose revenue.  In the mid-to-long term it puts an official “check” in the account termination column, which, like credit scores, will be disclosed on future merchant applications and make it more difficult to qualify for a merchant account.

Now let’s talk about what you should do.

The good news is that you are already half way there…well, technically you are here, doing it now.

Doing what? Finding consultants who specialize in the helping high risk merchants find a good home. Seeking out travel merchant account providers that pride themselves on integrity and search for lasting solutions, not the easiest or cheapest thing.  Through decades of combined experience and a proven track record for service and reliability, we can confidently say that we are one of the best.

Here are a few common strategies that can be employed to help secure a travel merchant account for your company.  Keep in mind that you won’t be required to do all of them.  We will work with you to find the best one or combination of a few.

  • Develop and put into action a strong and vetted fraud prevention plan. This may entail an analysis of your current fraud prevention processes and introduction to new tools that will help you detect and fight fraud.  It will require that you are proactive in identifying and correcting potential weaknesses in your processing cycle.
  • Purchase a financial failure insurance plan to bolster financial security.
  • Build risk management into pricing by taking a small deposit upfront to secure the spot for your customer and charge the balance due 30 days before the trip starts.

In most cases, individually or together, the above actions will be enough to secure a travel merchant account.  Sometimes, underwriters will see something that raises a red flag and reject an application.  If this happens, we may try to negotiate with the fulfilling bank to accept a cash reserve or deferred settlement of payments.  These aren’t optimal terms, but when circumstances dictate it, they can secure processing.

Table of Contents

Typical Prices & Fees For Travel Merchant Accounts:

Typical Terms in a Credit Card Processing contract:

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Dive Deeper Into Payment Processing for Travel Agencies and Other Travel Industry Companies

Credit card
How Do I Open a Travel Merchant Account?

Durango Merchant Services has put together a clear and comprehensive guide designed to help potential clients know what to expect when applying to process credit card transactions in the travel industry. Our sales team and account managers are experts in payment processing and are always ready to assist, offering guidance and clarification throughout the process to help you secure a travel merchant account successfully.

How Do I Integrate Durango Pay Gateway into My Travel Business?

Durango Pay Gateway is perfectly suited to meet the specific needs of the travel industry. It’s incredibly versatile—whatever you need, chances are it can handle it. This gateway integrates seamlessly with over 150 shopping carts, from WooCommerce to Shopify, making it a breeze to use regardless of your platform. It’s also omni-channel ready right out of the box, which is ideal for travel businesses operating across multiple sales channels. Plus, it comes equipped with robust fraud detection and prevention tools as well as chargeback management features, helping you keep transactions secure and minimizing financial risks.

How do I increase my credit card processing limits?

Want to boost your credit card processing limits for your travel business? Here’s the strategy: demonstrate a solid track record of consistent and reliable transactions, and ensure your business finances are robust and healthy. Minimizing chargebacks and maintaining a strong bank balance can significantly improve how transaction handlers view your business. We encourage you to have an open discussion with your account manager about your expansion plans—it might just be the key to securing more favorable terms.

Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.

Some Resources to Help Your Travel Business Thrive

We know that finding the right inspiration and expertise isn’t always easy, especially when tackling the unique challenges of the travel industry. While Durango Merchant Services excels at setting up the strategies and technology you need to process electronic payments and secure merchant accounts, we’re not travel industry lawyers or consultants.

If you’re looking for some guidance and inspiration as you strive to adopt best practices in travel and tourism, consider exploring the organizations below that are dedicated to supporting businesses like yours. These groups are designed specifically to help travel companies thrive by providing tools and insights that encourage continuous learning and a commitment to offering safe, reliable, and high-quality travel experiences.

We hope they can inspire you to never stop improving and to always keep your focus on delivering excellent travel services.

Credit card

Founded in 1952, the Association of National Tourist Offices and Representatives (ANTOR) is a well-established group that brings together national and regional tourist offices from around the globe. ANTOR’s main mission is to help these offices collaborate and share info on how best to market their destinations. They host a lot of educational events, workshops, and networking opportunities where members can catch up on the latest tourism trends, learn about sustainability in travel, and show off what their countries have to offer. Plus, they represent their members at major international travel expos, advocating for their interests and making sure they stay competitive in the ever-evolving travel industry.


The National Tour Association (NTA), founded in 1951 as the National Tour Brokers Association, is a prominent trade organization for travel professionals in North America, focusing on the packaged travel industry. NTA offers its members a variety of services including educational programs, industry updates, advocacy, and networking opportunities, notably through its annual Travel Exchange convention. This event provides a vital platform for networking, business development, and learning about current industry trends. Additionally, NTA actively represents the interests of its members in governmental legislative processes and provides valuable market insights to help tailor travel offerings to evolving consumer demands, thereby enhancing the quality of travel experiences available to the public.


The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), established in 1931, is a leading organization in the travel industry, originally founded as the American Steamship and Tourist Agents’ Association. ASTA advocates for travel advisors and agencies, offering them legal support, educational opportunities, and a platform for networking. It works to influence policies affecting the travel industry and ensures professional standards through a strict code of ethics. ASTA also provides members with access to exclusive research, marketing tools, and professional development opportunities, including training and industry events. The organization plays a critical role in lobbying for travel professionals’ interests on key issues such as consumer rights and transparent pricing, making it an essential advocate and resource in the travel sector.

How has the Travel Industry Recovered From Covid?

If you run a travel agency, a tour operator, or hotel operator then you are rightly excited by the opportunities swirling around you everyday.

The international travel industry has shown a strong recovery trajectory since the impacts of COVID-19, with various sectors approaching or surpassing pre-pandemic levels. According to the UNWTO, international tourist arrivals reached 80% of their pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of 2023, demonstrating significant growth compared to the previous year. The overall tourism receipts also recovered impressively, hitting the $1.4 trillion mark in 2023, a substantial increase from the previous year, indicating robust spending and activity within the sector.

The economic contribution of tourism, measured as tourism direct gross domestic product (TDGDP), was around $3.3 trillion in 2023, accounting for 3% of the global GDP. This reflects a rebound to pre-pandemic levels, bolstered by robust domestic and international travel.

Regionally, recovery rates have varied, with the Middle East leading the recovery, surpassing 2019 levels by 22%, while Europe achieved 94% and Africa 96% of their pre-pandemic visitor numbers. The Americas recovered to 90%, and Asia-Pacific lagged at 65%, with mixed results within the region. Several sub-regions and destinations, including Southern Mediterranean Europe, the Caribbean, Central America, and North Africa, reported growth that exceeded their 2019 arrival figures.

International Options for Travel Industry and Travel Agency Merchant Accounts:

Durango Merchant Services works with several gateway processors and suppliers with sponsor banking relationships that provide both US based national and international credit card processing solutions for travel agencies and other travel industry sectors. We can provide credit repair merchant accounts in the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, US & UK Territories as well as Puerto Rico.

Additional Benefits Of Our Payment Processing Service For Travel Businesses:

If you get approved for a merchant account for credit repair company with Durango Merchant Services, then you will also be eligible for other benefits that we offer, we can set you up with electronic commerce and recurring billing via our online portal. Businesses can receive the following additional benefits:

Durango Merchant Services Is Here To Help Secure Your Travel Business or Travel Agency Merchant Account:

Our dedicated team has negotiated on behalf of more than 35,000 clients.  We understand the back and forth and give and take of negotiating processing accounts for high risk merchants, including hundreds of travel merchant accounts.

We know that there aren’t always easy answers. But remember, there is almost always a way forward and if you can make it through the first 3 years with a good track record, life will become much easier and your business will be better for it. Read our guide to how to apply for a credit repair merchant account below.

How to Apply for Travel Merchant Services?

Applying for travel industry merchant services, given the high-risk status of the travel industry, requires careful preparation and attention to detail. Here’s a step-by-step guide to increase your chances of approval and start processing payments for your travel businesses:

Estimated Time Needed: 3 days
Total Cost: 0 USD

Required Documents:

-> Business License: A copy of your business license showing that you are authorized to operate a travel business in your jurisdiction.
-> Articles of Incorporation: If your business is incorporated, you'll need to provide your articles of incorporation or other business registration documents that confirm the business structure and ownership.
-> Tax Identification Number (TIN): Your business’s tax ID number, such as an Employer Identification Number (EIN) in the United States, is necessary for tax and identity verification purposes.
-> Personal Identification: Copies of personal identification documents, such as a passport or driver’s license, of all major owners of the business (typically those owning 25% or more).
-> Financial Statements: Recent financial statements (balance sheet, income statement) and bank statements (usually the last three to six months) to assess the financial health and stability of your business.
-> Processing History: If applicable, historical payment processing statements (typically for the past three to six months). This is particularly important if you’re switching providers or have had previous merchant accounts, as it demonstrates your transaction volumes and chargeback rates.
-> Business Plan: Some processors might require a detailed business plan, especially for new businesses, outlining your business model, marketing strategies, revenue projections, and risk management approaches.

Ensure Regulatory Compliance

-> Full compliance with industry regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Laws in the United States.
-> Website Compliance to national ecommerce standards.

Detailed Roadmap for Opening a Travel Agency Merchant Account:

Step 1: Evaluate Your Travel Business Needs
Before you start applying for a travel merchant account, assess your specific business needs. Consider the volume of transactions, average transaction value, and the types of transactions (e.g., domestic vs. international). This assessment will help you determine what features you need in a merchant account, such as multi-currency support, fraud protection tools, and integration capabilities with your booking systems.
Step 2: Research Potential Providers
Look for payment processors, like Durango Merchant Services, that specialize in or are familiar with the travel industry and high-risk merchant accounts. Compare their fees, contract terms, services offered, and customer reviews. Focus on providers that offer tailored services for travel agencies, including strong chargeback management and fraud prevention systems.
Step 3: Prepare Necessary Documentation
Gather all required documents that will likely be needed by the payment processor. This typically includes business and personal identification documents, financial statements, processing history if applicable, and proof of compliance with relevant regulations (e.g., PCI DSS compliance). Having these documents ready will streamline the application process. Durango Pay Gateway is already PCI DSS compliant.
Step 4: Apply for the Merchant Account
Submit your documents to Durango Merchant Services to begin the approval and negotiation process with banks. We are always here to help guide you through all steps in this guide to improve your chances of approval to process payments.
Step 5: Negotiate Terms and Fees
Once your application is reviewed, you may have the opportunity to negotiate the terms and fees. Discuss all fees, including transaction fees, monthly fees, setup fees, and any penalties for chargebacks. Understanding and negotiating these terms is crucial to ensure they align with your business's financial planning.
Step 6: Set Up Payment Gateway
Review Process: After your merchant account is approved, you’ll need to set up a payment gateway if it’s not already integrated with your merchant account. This involves configuring the payment gateway to work seamlessly with your website and booking system, ensuring secure and efficient processing of transactions.
Step 7: Implement Fraud and Chargeback Prevention Tools
Implement and configure fraud detection and prevention tools provided by your merchant service provider. These tools are vital for minimizing the risks associated with high-value transactions typical of the travel industry. Educate your staff on best practices for minimizing chargebacks and managing disputes effectively.
Step 8: Launch and Monitor
Once everything is set up, launch your merchant account functionalities. Monitor the transactions and the performance of your payment processing actively. Keep an eye on metrics like approval rates, chargeback rates, and any fraud alerts. Regular monitoring will help you adjust your fraud prevention strategies as needed and ensure smooth operation.
Step 9: Review and Optimize Your Payment Processing Setup
Periodically review the performance of your merchant account. Look for areas to optimize, whether in reducing costs, improving customer payment experience, or enhancing security measures. Continuous improvement will help keep your travel agency competitive and compliant with industry standards.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

A travel merchant account is a type of business bank account that allows travel agencies and other travel-related businesses to process credit card transactions. It's considered high-risk primarily due to the nature of the travel industry, which includes factors like high transaction values, advance bookings, the potential for high chargeback rates, and fluctuations in the global economic and political climates. These factors increase the perceived risk for banks and payment processors, making it more challenging for travel businesses to secure merchant services.

Reducing chargebacks in a travel merchant account can be achieved by implementing several strategies:

  • Clear communication: Ensure all terms and conditions, particularly cancellation and refund policies, are clear and acknowledged by customers at the time of booking.
  • Quality customer service: Provide prompt and efficient service to address customer inquiries and complaints before they escalate to chargebacks.
  • Fraud prevention measures: Use advanced fraud detection tools and secure payment processing technologies to minimize fraudulent transactions.
  • Follow-up communications: Send confirmation emails and reminders about bookings, and provide customers with easy access to support if their plans change.
  • Specialization in high-risk industries: Providers that specialize in or are familiar with the travel industry can offer tailored services and understand the unique challenges.
  • Comprehensive fraud and chargeback protection: Essential for mitigating risks associated with high-cost transactions and international dealings.
  • Multi-currency and international transaction capabilities: Since travel businesses often deal with customers from around the world, being able to process payments in multiple currencies and handle cross-border transactions is crucial.
  • Reliable customer support: Given the complexities and potential issues that can arise in the travel industry, having accessible and knowledgeable customer support is invaluable.
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