Guide for Campaigns with Merchant Accounts
Certain states and localities have campaign finance regulations that require ActBlue to operate through merchant accounts in order to legally operate in these jurisdictions. On our Pricing Page, you can find a list of states and localities that have such requirements.
**ActBlue operates through merchant accounts ONLY in jurisdictions that legally require them**
A merchant account is an electronic payment processor that will enable your committee to accept credit and debit card transactions online. Our platform is designed to work exclusively with merchant accounts provided by Vantiv, our payment processing partner. Funds you raise through ActBlue will be processed through your Vantiv merchant account and deposited directly into your bank account.
If you haven’t already, feel free to submit ActBlue setup form to get started and you will be contacted by a member of the ActBlue team with instructions on how to proceed with your account setup!
With a Vantiv merchant account, there are no setup fees and no monthly maintenance fees–only transaction fees. The amount can vary depending on the average donation size, the different credit card types used by your donors, and your committee’s total monthly volume, but, in general, the total of all ActBlue and Vantiv fees should average out to roughly 3.95% of your gross volume.
A full schedule of these fees will be included with Vantiv’s Merchant Payment Processing Agreement.
Vantiv fees are billed monthly, and the Vantiv fee total for each calendar month will settle on the 8th day of the following calendar month. For example, if you begin processing donations on March 20th, the total amount of Vantiv fees on donations processed from March 20th-31st will be billed in your April 8th settlement.
If the 8th falls on a weekend or holiday, the fees will be billed on the next business day after the 8th.
If you have donations that settle on the same day that the fees are billed, Vantiv will combine the settlements into a single transfer. For example, if you have $100 in donations that settle on July 8th, and the Vantiv fees for June total -$25, you will receive a single transfer of $75 in your bank account.
Vantiv fees will not appear in your reporting center on the ActBlue website. For information about the reports that detail these fees, please refer to the Reconciliation section below.
*NOTE: Monthly billing of Vantiv fees applies to merchant accounts established November 2016 or later–Vantiv fees for merchant accounts established prior to that time are billed daily. If your merchant account was established prior to November 2016 and you would like to activate monthly billing (which we absolutely recommend!), please submit this form.
The ActBlue service fee is billed to the campaign’s bank account the first weekday of each month, for the aggregate amount of the ActBlue service fee for all donations processed during the previous month.
Requirements and Setup
Merchant account requirements
To begin the merchant account setup process, you’ll need both of the following:
Bank Account for your campaign or committee, where all of the donations you raise using ActBlue will be transferred
EIN (Federal Tax ID)–Federal law requires that all financial institutions establish and implement a Consumer Identification Program in order to verify the legitimacy of any entity that is attempting to set up any financial account. If you do not have an EIN, obtaining one is free and you can apply at the IRS website–it only takes a few minutes!
**All merchant account setups must be conducted by ActBlue. Please do not contact Vantiv directly or attempt to set up a merchant account outside of the ActBlue setup process–we cannot guarantee any compatibility with merchant accounts set up through other avenues.**
setting up your merchant account
Setting up a merchant account will require an authorized representative from your committee to sign a set of agreements with ActBlue and Vantiv. You can get this process started by filling out our Merchant Account Setup Form, where all of the necessary information and documentation can be submitted!
After all of the documents are submitted to us, you will receive an email from HelloSign, a secure and legally binding signing service, with instructions on how to electronically sign your agreements. When the agreements are signed, ActBlue will automatically receive a copy.
Once all of the setup materials are submitted and signed, it can take 3-5 business days for your merchant account to be fully set up by Vantiv, so it is to your advantage to gather and submit all of your setup documentation as quickly as possible. There’s no downside to getting your account set up in advance, even if you’re not sure when you’ll need to start fundraising!
Not ready to announce your campaign publicly yet? We're able to discreetly and privately set up your account so that as soon as you’re ready to make your big announcement you can begin fundraising immediately!
With a Vantiv merchant account, you will be able to accept donations through ActBlue made using the following debit and credit card types (including donations made with Apple Pay):
*American Express is only enabled by default on merchant accounts established February 2017 or later as a result of a recent agreement with Vantiv. Prior to February 2017, this could only be enabled by setting up a merchant services account directly with American Express and linking that account with Vantiv. If your merchant account was set up prior to February 2017 and you have American Express enabled via this method (or not enabled at all), and you would like to get set up with American Express under the new program (which we absolutely recommend!), please submit this form.
Transfers to your Bank Account
Here you’ll find a table detailing when you can expect to see donations processed through ActBlue hit your committee’s bank account:
Each settlement will display as a credit from Vantiv eCommerce on your bank statement.
*For merchant accounts established in September 2017 or later, Vantiv activity for each day of the week begins at 12AM and ends at 11:59PM. For merchant accounts established in August 2017 or earlier, the nightly cutoff is 10PM (e.g. Tuesday activity consists of donations processed from 10PM on Monday to 9:59PM on Tuesday)–if your merchant account is set for a 10PM nightly cutoff and you would like to shift to midnight, please send us an email at email@example.com and we’ll be happy to help!
***If your bank account changes for any reason, please submit this form as soon as possible so we can initiate the bank change process with Vantiv!***
ActBlue Reporting Center
On the “Reporting” tab of your ActBlue dashboard, expand the “Monthly summary” drop-down, where you will see a list of each month that your ActBlue account has been active, along with number of contributions, number of refunds, and gross amount of donations. For more information, click on the “Details” link that corresponds to the month in question.
On the “Monthly Details” screen (shown below), you’ll see all of your monthly ActBlue details at a glance. Keep in mind that the “Fees” amount reflects only the ActBlue Service Fee, (which, in this case, was billed to the committee’s bank account at the beginning of April 2017). The fees assessed by Vantiv are reflected on a separate report, not on your ActBlue dashboard.
Vantiv Reconciliation Activity Report (available in both PDF and EXCEL FOrmat)
See below for a sample Activity Summary by Activity Date panel:
The following table describes the relevant fields in this panel:
Vantiv Fee Report (available in pdf and .csv spreadsheet format)
The Fee Report will show a more itemized breakdown of the individual fees that have been assessed via your merchant account. Most committees will not need a Fee Report in order to reconcile their bank account, because in any given month, the aggregate fee amounts shown on the Fee Report will match exactly the amounts on the corresponding Reconciliation Activity Report. However, some committees may need to submit Fee Reports as part of their campaign finance disclosure.
There are two main sections to each Fee Report:
Vantiv Fees by Category — This section will show an itemized breakdown of the fees that are assessed by Vantiv, including Authorization Fees, Processing Fees, and ACH Transfer fees.
Passthrough Fees by Category — This section will show an itemized breakdown of the fees that are assessed by each of the different credit card providers that were used to donate to your account
Requesting Vantiv Reports
To request any Vantiv reports for your committee, please submit this form and we’ll email the requested reports to you! Please keep in mind that the activity data for any given day will not be available until that day's activity has settled, which means that if you’re in need of reports that go right up to the present, it may take a couple of business days for us to email them.
Know you’ll need a future report for a specific timeframe? If so, please feel free to reach out in advance so we can make sure to send along your reports as soon as they’re available!
Merchant Account Provider Information
Third Party Presenter:
366 Summer Street
Somerville, MA 02144
Merchant Services Processor:
8500 Governors Hill Drive
Symmes Township, OH 45249-1384
Fifth Third Bank
38 Fountain Square Plaza
Cincinnati, OH 45263
Some state and local regulatory agencies may require you to disclose your unique Merchant Account ID–if you need this, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you with that information!