Does anyone have any experience when it comes to jumping directly into your own credit card processor and merchant account with an online startup? I know some merchant accounts require you are already generating revenue so some websites start with paypal, but other than that is there any reason not to setup an account right away?
If you are in the US just use PayPal Pro. It's essentially a Gateway/Merchant account and is almost instant. $30/mo plus transaction fees. Any gateway is usually going to charge a monthly statement fee. PayPal Pro makes the entire process simple.
Or use Brain Tree it is getting pretty popular and I see a lot of buzz around it.
A merchant account is tricky to get set up and can be a bit costly as well. It is what you will need long term, so if you are sure your idea will work, then I would go for it. No need to go through setting up payment processing twice (quick fix now, then properly later).
On the other hand, if your not so confident in your product and are testing the water, then an easy setup like paypal may be your best option.
Myself personally, I knew I was sticking with my product until it worked, so I went with a merchant account right away and in hindsight it was the right decision.
Keep it simple, start with a provider that will work -like paypal- and if you produce enough volume to level up then do so.