Narrowing your search for internet merchant account providers
Is selling online important for small businesses? The answer is a resounding yes. Take a look at these recent statistics: 51 percent of Americans prefer to shop online, 96 percent have made an online purchase at some point, and 80 percent have made one in the past month alone. Ecommerce is growing over 20 percent annually, yet less than half of American small businesses do not have a website.
The good news is that selling online is easier than ever. All a business needs to sell online is a website that offers their products, and the ability to accept credit cards from that site. It’s the latter we’re going to talk about today.
Accepting payments online is most commonly done using a payment gateway (which connects the merchant to their acquiring bank’s processing platform). Gateways are often built into an internet merchant account provider’s offering. The account provider facilitates the payment process, from the entry of customer’s payment information throughout the entire transaction, including bank approval and ultimately, deposit of funds into your merchant account.
The first step to choosing an online payment provider is to figure out what features you are looking for. Then you’ll want to find the credit card processor that offers those features. And finally, you will set up your account and begin selling online.
What features to look for in online credit card processing
There are several features to consider to help make your online sales efforts most successful, while also giving you the ability to control costs. These include:
- An ability to accept all types of payments:
- Major credit card brands such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express
- Credit, debit and prepaid payments
- eCheck and ACH payments
- Mobile payments: Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay
- Alternative payments such as PayPal
- Business, corporate, and purchasing cards, including Level II and Level III data
- The latest fraud and data security, including point-to-point encryption and tokenization
- Marketing tools such as gift cards and loyalty programs
- A seamless integration with your in-store experience
- An option to use your gateway as a virtual terminal
- A path to upgrade in the future as new technologies and online payment methods become available
How to choose an internet payment provider
Choosing the right provider is key to successfully implementing and growing online sales. A high quality payment processor not only helps a business establish a merchant account and related services, but also serve as a consultant, helping a business understand the transaction process and decide exactly which features are the best investments for them now and as they grow. While there are many providers to choose from, the following questions will go a long way toward helping you find the best one:
- Do they offer all the payment features and security protections you are looking for?
- Will they provide quick and easy set up your online gateway?
- Do they offer ongoing training?
- Do they provide the latest technology to assure fast transaction processing and payment funding?
- Are their transaction fees competitive and clearly explained?
- Are they able to provide quality and responsive customer support by phone and online?
- Do they offer advanced reporting tools and customer data analytics?
- Do they offer the option to integrate with other business operating systems such as inventory tracking and accounting software?
- Are they focused on reducing chargebacks and the related costs?
- Do they have the experience and ability to keep up with all the latest innovations and security challenges?
- Do they offer any other services, such as merchant financing?
- Will they provide contact information for existing customers so you can ask about their experiences?
How to set up an online merchant account
Once you’ve decided on the features you want and have selected an online merchant account provider, you will be up and running to receive credit cards and process online payments fairly quickly. Your new provider should make the set up quick and easy. But first, you will need to complete an application for the provider. Following is the typical information requested on a merchant account application:
- Business legal name (and DBA, if applicable)
- Business contact info and website address
- Your name, address and contact info
- Business establishment date
- Copy of a voided check
- Copy of a business license
- Amount expected to process each month
- Average transaction size
That is generally all the information that is needed. However on some occasions, a business will have to provide additional details such as:
- Business financial information
- If you’re a small business, personal financial information and an agreement to undergo a credit check and sign a personal guarantee may also be requested
As online sales have grown exponentially, the payment processing industry has responded by making it easier and easier for small and medium sized businesses to sell their products on their website. The key to successfully selling online is to understand the process and the features your customers expect– and you want to offer. Then, dedicate time to closely evaluating internet merchant account providers to make sure you choose a partner that will help you make the best decisions and investments, and help you get set up quickly. Once you’ve done that, you can start selling online in no time at all.