credit card merchant services

So you’re shopping around for a merchant services provider, whether in person or online, and you’re trying to decide how to choose. They all seem pretty similar at first glance–they provide you with the ability to process credit cards, but some are a lot more expensive than others, and some claim that they’re better than the other merchant services providers out there. How are you to choose? Take a look at the following important questions to ask a potential merchant services provider; whether you’re actually talking to a human being or just scrutinizing websites, you’ll be that much better equipped to make a wise decision.

What Does the Better Business Bureau Think of You?

The BBB doesn’t lie. Any merchant services provider is going to have testimonials from satisfied customers. Of course, you won’t be able to tell if they’re real people or actors, true or false. In comparison, the Better Business Bureau will have dirt on anyone and everyone. As you know, they won’t hold anything back (that’s what they’re there for). Don’t let low prices or big promises lure you into a bad deal. If there are numerous complaints, that should be your first red flag.

Can You Tell Me About the Fees I’ll See on My Monthly Statements?

If they don’t want to tell you, you don’t want to sign a contract with them. They are some basic fees that every merchant services provider has to charge simply to do business, and then there are all the other fees. If they can’t explain a fee to your satisfaction, it might just be because it’s pure profit for them. Some merchant services reps will quote you an amazingly low rate. Only after being with them for six months will you discover that it was a limited time offer, or that you’re actually being charged many additional fees that weren’t initially quoted. This is an agreement you’re going to want to go into with both eyes open.

Will My Monthly Processing Volume Have a Cap?

As a small business or startup, it may be hard to imagine a time when you’re going to be processing thousands of credit card transactions every month. But in a best-case scenario, that’s exactly what will happen. Remember that you don’t want to be charged extra fees when it does. Carefully look through each and every detail of your contract in regards to this issue, and you won’t be penalized for your success.

What Kind of Data Can You Give Me?

There’s filet mignon, and then there’s ground beef casserole. They definitely don’t taste–or look–the same, but they’re unfortunately derived from the same animal. Hoping to get more out of your merchant services provider? Want more than just the ability to process credit cards at a reasonable price? You’ll want to take a look at what kind of reports and analysis they’ll give you. Some services provide detailed reports on a monthly or quarterly basis so that you can better understand where, when, and how you’re making the most. This kind of analysis may not cost a whole lot more. However, it certainly is the mark of a merchant services company that’s working to help you grow your business.



William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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