How to Choose a Merchant Service Provider

Whether you are opening a new business or making changes to your existing enterprise, you may be on the market for a merchant services provider. Because the choice you arrive at may have lasting financial consequences, it is important to do your homework before making that all-important decision.


Your first job is to take stock of your company so that you can determine your payment requirements. Think of your products or services and the customers who will be purchasing them. Will they be coming into a physical location or buying partly or wholly via the internet? Will they be using mobile phones either now or in the future? Once you have answers to these questions, you can have a solid idea of what criteria to require from your internet merchant account provider.


It goes without saying that merchant service providers are in business to make money. However, the fees they charge can vary widely. Before selecting one over the rest, be sure you have a thorough understanding of what you will pay for each transaction as well as monthly service charges and any additional potential costs such as late or early termination fees. If the provider is expecting you to sign a contract, you may find that you have a certain degree of leverage and negotiation power during the investigation phase. However, once you have signed on the dotted line, you are bound by your commitment, so let the buyer beware.


All website merchant account providers will enable you to process various types of credit cards, but many offer you additional benefits such as online reporting, live customer support, customer loyalty solutions and terminal replacement or upgrade. If you can have these business-building tools included right in your contract, you can save a good deal of money.


Don’t just go by the merchant account provider’s word that they are the best in the industry. Ask trusted friends and colleagues for their input. You can also go online to look through third-party review sites as well as the company’s own website. Just be sure to take all opinions with a grain of salt, particularly those that come from parties that may be profiting from providing positive feedback.


Decide on at least three different providers who seem to furnish the best options that fit your business’s needs. Then call each of them. It helps to have a list of questions on hand that you can ask of all three. Even though you think you will remember who gave what answer, don’t rely on your powers of recall. Write answers and impressions down for each so that you can compare and contrast them later.

In the end, the merchant account provider you choose should be the one that will best serve you and your customers. Their fees should be transparent, and you should be confident that you can afford them now and throughout the life of the contract. You should also feel good about the representative you will be working with as well as the help the company has put in place in case you encounter a problem. When you have an excellent working relationship with your merchant account provider, your business can operate more smoothly and even grow as your needs change, so take the time to make the decision that’s right for your needs both today and tomorrow.