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What to Consider Before Choosing a Payment Processor


Payment Processing Overview

Electronic Payment Processing is not a 'one-size-fits-all' industry. Although, there are companies that bundle their pricing and offer the same rate to all merchants. The danger there is that a mom and pop retailer will be picking up the additional cost of the transactions for the internet retailer. Similar to auto insurance, if you are a good driver you wouldn't expect to pay the same high premiums as someone with a poor driving record. With over 500 different levels of Interchange, it doesn't make sense that the average retailer would pay the same rates as an internet merchant who takes more risk in a card not-present environment. Somebody has to cover the additional cost and by offering all merchants the same rate, it's obvious who is picking up the slack.

Here are 8 tips every business owner should consider when choosing a credit card processor.

Service & Support

Superior Support

Your customers expect fast service and that means you need to have the confidence that your processing center will be there to help when you need them. Be sure you can reach a live support person who can answer your questions or troubleshoot your terminal and that you won't get tossed around in a cycle of voicemail responses while frustrated customers lose patience and you lose the sale.

Interchange Rates

Interchange Rates

It is important to understand what interchange is and how it works so you can monitor your monthly credit card processing statement. Knowing what you can expect your base interchange rate to be will also help you when it comes time to negotiate your rates. Do you swipe cards through a credit card terminal or take a manual imprint of the card? Do you accept orders over the telephone or take a lot of corporate credit cards, for example? How you take payments and the type of cards you accept are contributing factors which determine your interchange rates. In addition to material which helps educate merchants on the complexities of interchange, it is required that the card payment brands publish the current interchange rates on their website.

Comparing Fees

Comparing Fees

In addition to Interchange rates there are other fees incurred by processors to maintain a merchant account and often those fees are passed on to the merchant. Those fees can include transaction fees, daily batch fees, or AVS (Address Verification Service) fees, although not all processors charge the same fees. For example, most processors charge a monthly statement fee but not all will charge a monthly IRS Reporting fee. And, some processors provide additional products or services for an additional fee. For example, some are able to get merchants their money in as little as 12-24 hours for an additional fee.

Payment Systems

Payment Systems

With choices from Verifone's VX series countertop and wireless terminals to the All-in-One HioPOS POS Systems, First Data's Mobile Pay, Regal's Virtual Terminal, and GoPago's Tablet system, be sure to use the most up to date systems available so you get the best credit card processing rates with the most security features. In fact, by October 2015 credit card liability will shift to merchants who are presented with an EMV (Europay, Mastercard, Visa) chip card and the merchant's terminal cannot support EMV transactions. More information on EMV requirements can be found at:

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Know your contract terms. There is a cost to boarding and maintaining a merchant account, a cost to staff a support center and cost to manage and maintain transaction processing systems along with the security demands required by banks and the card brands. So it makes sense that credit card processors prefer a merchant who is committed to staying with them anywhere from 1-5 years. You may feel more comfortable with the protection of a multi-year agreement or you might be looking to retire in a year. Your processing contract should meet your business objectives but be aware that nearly all processing contracts carry a term.

Value-Added Services

Value-Added Services

Merchant Services is so much more than credit card processing. Today's payment systems are more than "rate in a box". Make sure that your provider offers all of the value-added services you need to grow your business, such as Gift & Loyalty Cards, Electronic Check Conversion, and more. Merchants today can even tap in to their future credit card receivables and receive a cash advance on their electronic transactions. The payments are automatically be deducted from their daily deposits in small increments until the Advance is paid in full, usually in an 8-12 month term.

Daily Deposits

Daily Deposits

Know when to expect your money. If getting your money faster is important to you, look for a credit card processor who offers 'Early Funding' or next day deposits. If you qualify, you may have to settle your batches earlier but credit card processors who offer this service have varying cutoff times. Note: Not a good solution for any business that does a tip adjustment at the end of the business day.

PCI Compliance

PCI Compliance

The card brands require that all credit card processors have a valid PCI certificate on file for each of their merchants. PCI fees and services vary by processor. For example, if you process transactions through an internet connection then you may be more vulnerable to security breaches and, therefore, require quarterly scans. Some processors also provide $50,000 in breach assurance. Most processors will charge a monthly non-compliance fee if you do not provide them with a PCI certificate.