How to evaluate and compare credit card processing companies

Get the scoop on what you need to compare credit card processing companies. From PCI compliance to mobile payments, we'll help with this business decision.

There are so many aspects to worry about when it comes to running any business successfully, no matter its size — and choosing the right payment processor shouldn't be one of them. Credit card processors should be on point all of the time, leaving you and your colleagues to think about the other, more mission-critical aspects of the business. For that reason, we've compiled a short guide that will help you quickly and painlessly choose the right credit card processing company for your business.

The ABC's of comparing credit card processing companies

When comparing credit card processing companies, you'll want to start with a list of "must-haves" your particular business needs out of a credit card processor.

To help get you started, here are some of the things you will most likely want to take into account:

  • Types of processing offered (mobile processing, online processing, in-store card processing, etc.)
  • Types of credit cards and other payment methods accepted
  • Security and fraud protection, PCI compliance
  • Level of customer service

You might also want to take transaction rates, equipment fees, and extra processing and setup fees into account. Not all credit card processing companies charge extra fees for using their equipment (such as a POS or a standalone card reader), but almost all payment processing companies will charge some fee percentage per transaction, as it's an industry standard practice. If you're running a small business, be sure to look into the per transaction fee — which is typically a standard percentage rate for each card swipe or each online checkout — and look into if there are any other fees related to processing each transaction. While these fees should be taken into account, they should not take precedence over the other criteria listed above.  For example, there may be value-added services that you want, and which make sense for your business, that come with additional fees.  

Types of processing offered

The types of payment processing services offered should be one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a payment processor. If you need to accept in-store payments as well as online payments, your processor should be able to handle that, and have a POS or standalone device at the ready for you to use if needed. In addition to all of that, your payment processor should be able to process mobile payments, as more and more customers are conveniently buying their goods with their smartphones.

Types of credit cards accepted

It's important that you double-check that the credit card processor accepts all major credit cards (Discover, Visa, MasterCard, and American Express) — this is a no-brainer. But in addition to the major credit cards, if your customer has to pay with a lesser-known credit card or corporate purchasing card, your payment processor should be able to handle that, too; this includes fleet cards, such as Voyager, Wright Express, Fleet One, and more. The processor should also accept ACH and checks. It should be easy for the processor to process the payments as well, no matter what payment method your customers may choose to use.

Security and fraud protection

When it comes to security and fraud protection, only the best should be expected, because data breaches cost more than money — they can cost you your customers' loyalty, too. All transactional data should be protected with the most stringent payment security technology available, and your customers' payment data should be removed from all unwanted parties. The processing company should protect against cardholder data breaches, fraudulent charges, and financial loss. When choosing a processor, make sure that they are fully PCI compliant. This is a required and fundamental security credential that all credit card processors must possess.

Customer-oriented service

When it comes to credit card processing companies, customer service is often overlooked; many times, payments are processed with ease and there is no doubt that the payment processing technology is working as long as you're receiving funds from your customers. But what happens if you hit some sort of snag or have a question? And what about setting up in-store payments and readers — how smoothly will that go? Before choosing a credit card payment processor, these questions should be looked into, and a credible payment processing company should be able to provide you with all of the information you need.

Meeting the above criteria — and more

There are some areas where your small, growing business might want to dive deeper when it comes to merchant services and credit card processing either in-store or online.  When it comes to security, for example, consider whether you should be using the latest in cyber security technology to ensure that your customer's sensitive data will never be compromised, whether your customer is shopping in person, online, or by using a mobile phone. There is a type of credit card data security called tokenization, and many processors offer this type of technology to provide you and your business with the best security care possible. Tokenization replaces sensitive credit card data with numbers that are meaningless to anyone but you and the processor. This technology often allows you to store sensitive credit card data in your processor's database, which means your risk will be even further reduced. This technology also ensures that the data can't be mixed with other payment transactions. Furthermore, with so-called vault features you can allow your customers to keep their card data on file without fear of a security breach. It'll be easy and secure for your customers to purchase from your website again and again.

On the service front, make sure you understand what your credit card processing company offers for intelligence tools such as reporting and analytics. What kind of transactional data will you have access to? What's the user interface like?  Does it allow you to sync with other tools and platforms that you use?  Ultimately, you'll want to know how your own customer transaction data can create benefit in how you serve your customers and understand your own business better.

If you're interested in knowing more about the things you should expect, you can start right here at Vantiv's in-store payments information page, or check out the online and mobile payment information page here.


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