The Importance of Doing Business As (DBA) Names in Merchant Services

Doing-Business-As (DBA) names seem like a small detail in merchant services, but actually, the DBA name used by a merchant is very important and should not be selected haphazardly.

The DBA name is what is used for authorization and clearing and is considered the most important factor in cardholders recognizing transactions on their accounts. The name should also be consistent with the Merchant Category Code (MCC.)

Typically, the DBA name and customer service number are used as the billing descriptor. This is the way transactions appear on a cardholder’s statement. Billing descriptors are set by the payment processor and are usually 20-25 characters in length.

Types of billing descriptors:

Soft Descriptor:
This appears on the cardholder’s statement immediately at the time the transaction is initiated (based on the authorization.) If you subscribe to notifications from your card company, this, for example, would be the descriptor that appears in the notification when your card is first run at a restaurant or at a gas station for initial authorization.

Hard Descriptor:
This is the permanent descriptor that appears once the transaction is settled (the merchant batches out and the transaction is cleared with the card association.) In our restaurant example, this would be the way the complete transaction with tip appears on your statement.

Static Descriptor:
The same descriptor is used for all transaction types.

Dynamic Descriptor:
This can be used by merchants to customize the descriptor given the type of transaction. This is commonly used for merchants that sell various types of products and services, and want to offer a more specific description based on what was sold.

Why is it important that we get these right?
If a cardholder doesn’t recognize a transaction, they are more likely to charge it back, resulting in unnecessary costs and headaches for the merchant.

It’s common for ISOs and agents to run a test transaction when setting up a new merchant services account. This is a great time for payments professionals to check whether the descriptors assigned by the acquirer/processor are appropriate for the business.

Overcoming Merchant Attrition

If you’re spending more time on new sales rather than supporting existing merchants, you might just be on a hamster wheel to nowhere.

With typical attrition rates hovering around 20%, that number can be almost impossible to overcome, even by the very best merchant services sales force.

What can you do about it?

The easiest and best place to start is choosing a processing partner that addresses these support areas well:

  • Access to right-fit products & solutions for the types of merchants you serve. What are the pain points your merchants experience, and who has the solutions that best address them?
  • Access to a self-service reporting platform that is easy to use and accurate.
  • Transparency delivered, not just talked about. If there’s an issue that affects merchants, do they own it or do they use the complexity of payments to hide behind it? When you want to dig deeper into the data for your merchants, do you have that information available?
  • Customer service requests like refunds and cancellations are handled fairly and quickly.


Reviewing merchant attrition should be an ongoing activity. What are their reasons for leaving? Do you see any trends? How can you address them?

The old adage is true ~ if you’re not growing, you’re dying. But don’t focus so much on bringing new business through the front door that you fail to see the back door swinging wide open.

Formal Education Options for Payments Professionals

How can we educate ourselves when the payments landscape is so complex?  This is the most common question we get from fellow payments professionals.  

We’ve compiled information from three organizations that offer formal education options below. 

“Glenbrook is an independent payments strategy consulting and research firm. We bring to our clients a unique
combination of our specialized skills in payments, many years of hands-on experience in the field, and our
network of professional relationships.”

Glenbrook provides both consulting and educational services to the payments industry. Glenbrook is an
impressive group, led by payments C-suite and payments executive that work on ecosystem wide, high impact
consulting projects which makes them well situated to offer comprehensive, unbiased educational
programming. Glenbrook has a passion for educating payments professionals and offers a variety of ways to

– Glenbrook is the leading author in payments: If you’re looking for the equivalent of a payments
encyclopedia that spells out how various payment systems work, how they’ve evolved, how users
interact with them, and how innovations are changing them, Glenbrook has created it for
you. Payment Systems in the U.S. and a companion book titled, Global Payments, are available on
Amazon or in bulk through Glenbrook.
– Glenbrook also offers a variety of interactive workshops, virtually and in-person. The Glenbrook
Payments Boot Camp® is their classic and most well-known workshop, designed for both payments
newbies and industry veterans. During the Boot Camp, attendees gain a deeper understanding of the
payments industry, foundational concepts applicable to global payment systems, system economics,
important industry trends and developments, as well as ways to identify and manage key risks in
payments. Other Payments Insights Workshops are designed to be deep-dives into hot industry topics
like Digital Currencies and Embedded Commerce. Both the Payments Boot Camp® and the Payments
Insights Workshops can be booked by the general public, or private sessions can be arranged with a
customized agenda. Over 30,000 payments professionals have participated in Glenbrook workshops
since their inception. 
Insight Webinars are one-hour on-demand learning modules that allow for asynchronous learning and
cover a broad array of payments concepts from industry basics to trending industry topics.
Glenbrook also has some free ways for us to stay current on the latest payments news and trends:
• ‘Payments News’: A curated daily news feed
• ‘Payments On Fire’: A podcast with 185 episodes and counting!
• ‘Payments Views’: A payments blog
• You’ll want to bookmark Glenbrook’s Key Payments Terminology resource that defines common
acronyms and terms used in payments systems.

What makes these free resources even unique, noteworthy, and valuable? Despite ongoing requests,
Glenbrook refuses to generate any revenue from the above bulleted content. They do not accept any paid
placements or receive payments for interviews. This ensures that their content remains educational and ties
into their mission to make the industry better.

Glenbrook is active on both LinkedIn and Twitter. Follow their page, engage, and keep the conversation going!
They tend to share fun ‘A Day in the Life of a Payments Professional Stories where they showcase observations
and trends from their daily life, including recent posts on #retailCBDC and payments trends in #Ethiopia.


If you’re a payments professional specializing in risk, underwriting, or compliance, you need to know about

“Merchant Acquirers’ Committee (MAC) is an association of payments professionals and organizations
dedicated to protecting the integrity of the payment ecosystem through ongoing education, communication,
and collaboration among its members.”

MAC’s community is made up of risk, underwriting, compliance, and law enforcement professionals. MAC
predominantly focuses on the acquiring side of payments.

If you’re interested in becoming involved with MAC, the best first step is to become a member. There are
different categories depending on the type of organization.
MAC membership gives you access to the very core of what it stands for—community. You’ll notice that as a
theme across the MAC offerings and when you think about risk and compliance, information-sharing is key to
success for these groups.

The main event for MAC is the annual Level Up conference held each spring in Las Vegas. There is a
registration fee to attend, which is discounted for members. You can expect presentations on timely topics
from the card brands, sessions focused on current events and hot topics, a keynote, networking, and
collaborative roundtable discussion. Expect education that is applied and practical, using real scenarios and without very much fluff.

Each Fall, MAC holds 3 regional events that have a different focus each year. These are one-day seminars
packed with educational sessions, a collaborative roundtable, followed by a networking event.
MAC also offers monthly webinars free to members and non-members. ETA CPP credits are available.
Information- and knowledge-sharing are key to success for professionals in this field, and MAC Alerts are an
important way to facilitate that sharing in the MAC community. There are forums broken up into different
categories where members can share trends, ask for help for their unique situation, or network for job

And perhaps most exciting for those seeking educational opportunities from MAC is their upcoming Spring
2023 release of M@Cademy. This program will allow professionals to learn on their own schedule through
online modules featuring entry-level risk, compliance, and underwriting topics. The goal is to provide a
consistent baseline for new professionals. It will be a pay-per-course format, and a community led by a
moderator is available for interaction. It will also feature the “MAC Pack,” an encyclopedia of terms commonly

“The purpose of Electronic Transactions Association (ETA) is to influence, monitor and shape the payments
industry by providing leadership through education, advocacy, and the exchange of information.“
ETA’s membership includes independent sales organizations (ISOs), payment networks, financial institutions,
processors, technologies, ISVs and hardware suppliers. ETA has a focus on education as well as policy
ETA offers a variety of formats for learning:
ETAU Online Courses
Appropriate for new and experienced payments professionals on specific topics, available 24x7x365. These are
web-based courses that allow users to learn at their own pace.
ETA also offers live and on-demand webinars that focus on current topics and trends in payments.
Transaction Trends
This is the official publication of the ETA. Articles are available online and there’s also a podcast.
Certified Payment Professional Program
The ETA has its own certification program as a standard for professional performance in the payments
industry. Individuals must have a certain amount of industry experience as well as pass the CPP exam.
TRANSACT is the ETA’s annual event where attendees can expect to network with fellow professionals across
the entire payments ecosystem as well as learn about current trends and innovations that are shaping the

How to Boost the Bottom Line of Your ISO

As you do year-end reviews and projections for the upcoming year, remember this and you’ll be 99% ahead of the rest:

Savings go to the bottom line just as easily as sales do.

Most ISOs are so hyper-focused on their sales engine that they neglect the operations back office.  Spend a little time optimizing the back office and reap significant rewards in the new year.

Start with looking at how you can automate these functions:
✔️ Applications
✔️ Boarding
✔️ Deployment
✔️ Updates and tracking of updates like banking, demographics
✔️ Commission payouts for agents

Now your employees are free to do the things that make your business shine. Let automation handle everything that can be automated.

Then make sure you have these in place:
✔️ Margin reviews
✔️ Attrition reviews (how and why are you losing accounts and how do you stop the bleeding?)
✔️ Cost reviews. Find dead costs like fees on closed or inactive accounts. What operational costs can you optimize?
✔️ Customer acquisition reviews. What channels are working best and can be replicated? Which are duds and need to be cut?
✔️ Operational efficiency reviews. How effectively are you completing the tasks in my above list?

Now you’re not losing money on merchant services activities that add zero value.

If you’re an ISO and struggling with where to start, this is the secret sauce of Secure Bancard.  We built our Pioneer platform for the kind of operational efficiency that’s listed above.

What’s the impact?
👉1/4 of the overhead of our competitors
👉10x the service

We’d love to dive in and show you how we’re able to share this efficiency with our sales partners. 🙌