Top 10 features to expect with merchant account companies
A merchant account allows a business to accept electronic payments, which are typically in the form of credit and debit cards. Merchant accounts are established as part of an agreement between a business and a payment processor or merchant acquirer.
Businesses searching for a merchant account have a lot of options since there are many providers to consider. To simplify things, here are the top 10 features the best merchant accounts and providers offer:
1. Accepts multiple payment methods
The best types of merchant accounts allow merchants to accept a variety of payment methods including cards, e-checks and direct debit, as well as cash. The more payment options a business accepts, the greater customer convenience it provides. The best choices will also be able to evolve to accept new payment types as they become more popular, such as EMV chip cards, online payments, and mobile payments.
2. Charges fees that work in line with the company budget
Like other services a business needs to run, a merchant account comes with fees. The best merchant accounts will offer terms and conditions that are clearly defined and easy to understand. Some things to ask about when choosing a merchant account are costs for account setup and cancellation, customer service, and security resources. Some merchant accounts include 24/7 customer service and security offerings, and fees for these services are built into the overall cost of the account. These types of services can be beneficial to merchants and well worth the extra cost over merchant accounts that do not include these services or offer them a la carte.
3. Provides services that drive customer loyalty
A good merchant account offers services that help you attract and retain the best customers. Over a lifetime, loyal customers will spend 10 times more than non-loyal customers(1), so cultivating customer loyalty is definitely worth the effort. Gift cards are an effective way to drive loyalty, and remain one of the most popular items among consumers. They extend your brand and make it easy to attract new customers. Be sure to ask if the merchant accounts you are considering offer gift and loyalty solutions.
4. Securely stores customer payment data
Every merchant account should make security one of its highest priorities. It should be set up in accordance with the Payment Cart Industry Data Security Standards, to protect sensitive consumer information from hackers and thieves. The best merchant accounts include encryption and tokenization solutions for safeguarding customers' payment data both in transit and at rest (in the case of recurring transactions).
5. Works with startups
It's sometimes difficult for new businesses to get approved for a merchant account. First-time merchants sometimes do not have the required credit history, so some providers are wary of taking on the business. However, there are merchant account providers that are well suited to first-time merchants, offering the guidance and resources to make payments fast, secure and easy. If you are in this situation, one way to find a provider is to ask business colleagues for referrals.
6. Provides additional software and options
With all the options in processing payments these days, make sure you aren't missing out on any of them. Some options, like recurring billing, can greatly improve the customer experience by increasing convenience. Recurring billing makes it easy to collect ongoing payments, streamlining operations and improving customer service.
7. Customizes solutions for individual business needs
Merchant account providers should know a merchant's industry inside and out, in order to meet their needs and adapt to future developments. The best providers strive to offer the most suitable solution, treating each merchant like the unique entity they are. They also have the capacity to set up customized solutions designed to enhance the customer experience.
8. Provides useful, accessible customer support
Many business owners, especially those running small or new establishments, aren't familiar with all the ins and outs of accepting credit card payments. If something goes wrong with their payment gateway, they may have no idea where to begin troubleshooting. They're likely to turn to customer support in such cases, especially if they need a quick solution and don't have the time to study the vast world of payments. Therefore, a well-executed customer support service is key to a good merchant account offering.
9. Offers fraud protection
Nobody wants to deal with unauthorized credit card charges, but should they occur, a good merchant account provider works with a business to proactively deal with situations as they come up. They'll monitor transactions looking for suspicious activity and offer effective ways to prevent and mitigate fraud. Some providers have dedicated hotlines employees can call if they suspect the payment they've received is fraudulent in some way.
10. Sets its sight on mobile
There's no denying that mobile devices are big in every industry. Consumers all over the globe use them more than ever. Mobile wallets such as ApplePay, Samsung Pay and Google Wallet let customers shop without even using their cards. The best merchant account providers have their eyes set on the future and understand that mobile wallets will be a huge part of the payment landscape in the coming years. They've already begun preparing for the change by accepting mobile payments and are waiting to hop on the next development.
Business owners don't necessarily need a merchant account with the most services and features. They just need one offering the services and features best suited to their business needs. Be sure to evaluate your business' priorities and keep these 10 features in mind when choosing the right merchant services for your business.