Tips for Choosing Your Merchant Services Provider

Every business has to go through the process of choosing a merchant services provider. Whether you need a terminal for physically swiping credit cards or a payment gateway for processing eCommerce transactions, merchant services are a crucial component of your financial operations.

However, not all merchant services providers are created equal, and going with the right one can make a huge difference in how your business operates and how much you stand to gain in revenue. For most businesses today, credit and debit card purchases comprise a huge portion of their daily transactions, so a reliable merchant services provider can make the difference between good and bad customer experiences.

The term, “merchant services,” refers to a broad category and can include all sorts of features and B2B services that companies utilize. There are tons of merchant services providers out on the market, and there is an equal amount of information you have to sort through to choose the provider that is right for you. To help you better choose a merchant services provider, here are a couple tips that will help you narrow down your search.

Consider Your Needs

Before evaluating a merchant services provider, you need to consider your own business’ needs. Different providers will have their own technologies that they offer, and their fee structures can differ on what customers are looking for, as well.

So, let’s say you own a brick and mortar store, and you only need a physical credit card terminal to take care of transactions. Or, perhaps you need both a physical and a virtual terminal, for handling other transactions like telephone orders. Maybe you run an eCommerce store and you only need a payment gateway. Or, if you run a brick and mortar and an eCommerce site, you’ll need a merchant services provider who can handle both avenues efficiently.

However a business is structured, each one should seek a merchant services provider who specializes in the technologies that are most appropriate to their daily operations, and whose fee structures are fair for those technologies. Further, ask yourself what kind of revenue you plan on taking in. For example, there are providers that specialize in small businesses that take in modest profits, but then their fees shoot up as revenue grows.

Some contracts come in packages that feature devices or services that are unnecessary to your business. So, look for a provider that can work with your own particular requirements. Additionally, don’t forget to account for the projected growth of your business and future needs.

Evaluating Fees

When you go to look at the fee structures themselves, there are a couple of things to keep in mind to ensure you get a good deal. Pricing may change with different volumes of revenue, credit card and debit card types, and different types of technology and service. Pay close attention to the different rates that a provider offers.

If you find someone with low rates, then that’s great! However, be sure to read all of the fine print, and don’t be afraid to ask in-depth questions before proceeding. Sometimes, competitive rates are a way to lure in business, with rates mysteriously increasing later on. Don’t be afraid to pay a little bit more if the contract is more consistent and fair.

Keep an eye on setup and monthly fees, too. You may find that your merchant services provider charges a higher initial fee, but offsets this with lower monthly rate based compared to competitors who may do the just the opposite.  

Keep an Eye Out for Transparency

Merchant services contracts can be very complicated. Rates may differ depending on the types of credit and debit cards you process, technologies utilized, and revenue generated. Policies may change over the course of a contract, and rates may change after your introductory period is over. For instance, a shady merchant services provider will attempt to hide behind this complexity, leaving you guessing while they make money off of your confusion.

A good merchant services provider should be able to walk you through every detail of the contract, so you know what fees to expect when you need to make comparisons between services. You will also want someone who can clearly explain all of the details of your statement, and who will address any questions you have later on.

Look for Robust Customer Support

It doesn’t matter what merchant services provider you choose, sometimes systems go down. Payment processing gateways and credit card terminals make use of sophisticated technologies, which occasionally need troubleshooting when something goes wrong. You don’t want to be stuck wrestling with an automated service menu and endless holding times when your customer is standing there waiting to pay.

This is where your merchant services provider’s customer support comes in. You should have 24/7 customer support at your fingertips, and it should be handled by human customer service reps who can confidently answer your questions. Hassle-free customer service is the key to implementing your credit card processing systems smoothly, which will greatly affect the quality of your own customer service.

Be Vigilant

The daily transactions you have will affect your business in many ways. The speed and reliability of your merchant services will have a profound effect on the customer experience, and the rates can play a huge part on future costs. Selecting the merchant services provider that is right for you can have major ramifications for your future, and it is a good idea to take your time in choosing. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to narrow the parameters of your search and cut through the sales pitches to determine what is truly right for you.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and take some time to research the providers you are looking at. There should be plenty of reviews and experiences online for you to sift through. With due diligence, you should have no problem choosing the merchant services provider that is right for your business.

Author Bio: Arthur Jones is an experienced freelance writer with a background in retail and eCommerce. Arthur proudly identifies as an all-around nerd and loves geeking out on the technical details of anything from tax preparation to eCommerce business planning.