3 questions to ask about your merchant account
Locking into a merchant account with the right provider is a big step in the success and growth of your business. Having a payments processing system that you can count on to be up and running and ready to accept a wide variety of payments, at any time, is something you need to count on.
You want to select a merchant services provider that has a proven track record of processing secure payments, connecting you to the latest payments technologies, and who offers a competitive rate and serves up great customer support. Doing your homework upfront about a merchant account provider will save you lots of hassle—not to mention money—in the long run. Here are three things you should ask about your merchant account.
#1: What is the reputation of your merchant account provider?
Selecting a merchant account provider that has a positive, long-standing reputation in the payments processing industry is important. Here are some ways that you can learn more about the reputation of any merchant account providers you’re considering for your credit card processing services:
- Talk to others in your industry about the payments processors they’ve used in the past and those they're currently using. Ask them what they liked most about them, or why they switched to another provider. Ask them which merchant account features have been most helpful to them.
- Consult industry publications or associations for what they have to say about various merchant service providers. You likely already belong to a professional organization within your industry, so take advantage of this network and find out if the organization has published any reviews of merchant services as they specifically apply to your industry.
- Read online reviews that businesses have written about merchant account providers. These days, people are often quite free about expressing their opinions about any number of experiences—both positive and negative. But, be sure to take such reviews with a grain of salt. Take what people have to say seriously, but remember to read a wide variety of reviews that helps to paint a fuller picture of that processor before jumping to conclusions based on one or two online reviews.
You also want to be sure you select a processor that has experience in serving customers in your industry. Processing payments for the quick service restaurant industry, for example, is quite different than handling payments for a dentist office. No matter your industry, selecting a processor that is experienced with others in your field will help your business thrive and grow.
#2: How is your merchant account helping to secure your business?
The merchant account provider you select should have a reputation for taking card data security seriously. In this day and age, large-scale data breaches seem to crop up in news headlines all the time. It can be alarming that even huge retailers and corporations—who all have teams of dedicated security staff—can fall victim to a data breach. If you’re a small to mid-sized retailer, keeping up with data security may seem overwhelming. That’s why choosing a merchant account provider that understands how to help you secure your payments systems is so important. Your payments processor should help you with many aspects of security, including PCI compliance, securing your networks and servers and physical security related to payments.
As one key aspect of data security, you should feel confident that the merchant account provider you select will be able to provide you excellent customer service whenever you're open for business. Peak operating time for many retailers and restaurants is at night and over the weekend, during which time some processors have at least a limited support team on call. If having access to after-hours support is important to keeping your payments processing running smoothly and securely, make sure you choose a processor that offers live 24/7 support.
#3: How is your merchant account going to help your business thrive and grow?
Choosing a merchant account provider that offers the latest payments technologies is important because you need to be able to offer a wide variety of payments methods to attract as many customers as possible. Of course you’ll need to accept credit and debit cards, but don't forget about accepting newer EMV chip cards as well as mobile wallets. More and more consumers are accustomed to using their smartphone or smart device, such as an Apple Watch, to pay for everyday purchases. Partnering with a merchant account provider that is committed to staying on the cutting edge of payments technologies will help you to keep your current customers happy and attract new, often affluent, customers to your business.
Like almost everything in business, accepting credit card payments does come with a cost. But, the fees associated with payments processing don’t have to be as painful as you might think if you know you’re getting your money’s worth for your processing dollar. Done right, payments processing should truly help your business make money, not just cost you money. Partner with a reputable payments processor that offers a competitive rate for the services they provide. Before you lock into a processing agreement, be sure you understand what types of fees you’ll be assessed—and how you’ll be charged. Here are some things to understand related to billing:
- Will your fees be directly debited from your bank account on a daily basis? On a weekly basis? On a monthly basis?
- Will your fees be charged to you on a monthly invoice? Or by some other method?
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the cheapest processor will truly save your business money in the long run. A merchant account provider may lure you in with an attractive offer like “No setup fees” but then end up charging you astronomical monthly fees. Plus, if a processor has low rates but doesn’t offer 24/7 support or service in the event of a payment system outage, your business runs the risk of losing money if that were to occur.