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 a type of bank account that enables your committee to process credit and debit card transactions. Our platform is designed to work exclusively with merchant accounts that are 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.
During the first calendar month that you're raising money, Vantiv will bill your campaign or committee daily, by deducting fees from settlements before the funds are transferred to your bank account.
*Beginning the following calendar month, the total Vantiv fees for each month’s activity will be billed monthly on the 8th of each month . If the 8th falls on a weekend or holiday, the fees will be billed on the next business day after the 8th.
For example, if a committee begins processing donations on March 20th, Vantiv fees for each day from March 20th-31st will be deducted from each individual settlement. Beginning April 1st, the gross donations from each day will settle to the committee’s bank account, and then all Vantiv fees for April’s activity will settle on May 8th
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. Unlike Vantiv’s fees, the ActBlue fee will always be billed monthly, even if your committee begins fundraising mid-month.
For example, the total of the ActBlue service fees for all donations processed during the month of January will be billed on the first weekday of February, even if the committee’s first donations were processed mid-month.
Requirements and Setup
To begin the merchant account setup process, you’ll need 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 of the merchant account setup documentation must be submitted to a member of the ActBlue team for processing. Do not attempt to send any documents directly to Vantiv**
Bank Account Document
To verify your committee’s bank account information, we will need one of the following documents (a scan or clear photo of the document sent via email attachment will be sufficient) :
Voided check with the committee’s name printed on it–Vantiv will not accept a starter check)
Letter from the bank (on bank letterhead) that includes your full account and routing numbers, as well as a bank representative’s signature and contact information
If your committee’s EIN was established less than six months ago, we will need one of the following verification documents (a scan or clear photo of the document sent via email attachment will be sufficient)
IRS letter SS-4
IRS letter 147C
- Screenshot of the your EIN confirmation page (if obtained online)
Merchant Account Agreements
Setting up a merchant account will also require a committee representative to sign a set of agreements with ActBlue and Vantiv. To generate this agreement, submit the Merchant Account Setup Form.
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 discretely 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:
*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
Contributions processed on business days before 10PM eastern time will be bundled together in a single ACH transfer (i.e. a direct deposit) two business days after the contribution date (“Activity Date”). Contributions processed on non-business days (weekends and banking holidays) will land in your bank account three business days later. Contributions processed after Vantiv’s nightly cutoff (10PM) will be considered part of the following day’s activity.
If you have multiple days’ worth of donations settling on the same day, Vantiv will bundle all of those settlements into a single deposit. For example, if you receive contributions on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday all of those contributions will be included in a single ACH transfer to your bank account the following Wednesday.
Each settlement will display as a credit from Vantiv eCommerce on your bank statement.*
*Settlements from Vantiv prior to March 2017 displayed as credits from Litle & Co.
**If your bank account changes for any reason, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org 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
See below for a sample Activity Summary by Activity Date panel:
The following table describes the relevant fields in this panel:
Vantiv Fee Report
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 email@example.com and we’ll get back to you with that information!