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5 Things to Look For in a Credit Card Merchant Services Provider

Today's consumers expect a lot from the businesses they frequent. Increased connectivity and options are creating more informed customers, and driving increased competition among merchants. While it may seem given, accepting the customer's preferred payment choice can make or break a sale. Credit card merchant services are one of the cornerstones of running a business, and selecting the right provider for your business is crucial for success. How do you choose among all the options available? Let's explore five things business owners should look for when choosing a credit card merchant services provider. 

1. Support  

Accessing the help you need when you need it should be one of the top considerations when evaluating credit card merchant services providers. Fast, seamless payments is one of the primary factors driving customer satisfaction, so having a provider who has your back in all situations can make all the difference.  

When vetting a credit card merchant services provider, get a clear understanding of who will support you with payment related issues, when that support is available, and how much that support will cost. Ask questions: are costs all-inclusive, a-la-carte, or tiered for different service levels? Is support conducted by phone, email or live chat?  A great credit card merchant services provider will offer direct, 24/7, U.S.- based customer phone and email support. It will also serve as the clearinghouse for any number of payment-related questions and support issues, such as how to handle difficult funding and bulk processing requests.

2. Reliability

Processing uptime is critical to keeping your business running smoothly. The more card payments you process, the more revenue you stand to lose if the card authorization network goes down. Look for a credit card merchant services provider with a long track record in reliability, and one that has proven systems for addressing outages when they happen. Although a processor can’t prevent certain outages, such as one occurring within the card brands themselves, they can help mitigate the impact an outage has on merchants. Find out how potential providers handle unexpected authorization network outages, and how your business operations will be impacted. 

3. Security

Securing sensitive data is critical for any business that accepts payment cards. The fallout of a card data breach can be devastating to any business, regardless of their size. Although compliance regulations can be complex to wade through, credit card merchant services providers can lend a hand and better secure your business.

Find out how potential providers will help guide you through the payment compliance process. Do they provide security monitoring and reporting to help protect your business from a breach? Do they employ proven, secure payment technologies such as end-to-end (E2E) encryption and tokenization? Do they offer monetary breach assistance to cover certain costs in the event your customers’ data is compromised? Is the provider certified compliant? Do they offer education and training on payment security issues? Additionally, find out how the provider can help you "future proof" your payment solution to adapt to future secure card processing technologies. 

4. Experience

In addition to investigating service and reliability, get third party references to get a big picture of the provider's experience. Ask your colleagues what credit card merchant services provider they work with, check with the Better Business Bureau, and turn to your point of sale system dealer for a recommendation. Look for a provider with a proven track record of experience in your industry, as well as one that works with businesses that are similar in size to yours. Gather as much information as you can to make the most informed decision.

5. Simple contracts

Whichever credit card merchant services provider you choose, you will have to enter into a written agreement with them. Before you sign on the dotted line, be sure to take a close look at the specifics of the contract. Important things to note include the length of the contract, cancellation or early termination fees, and additional fees for support (see above). Look for transparency in fees so you know what you have to pay for, and what is optional. 

If your business is new, a shorter, or no-term contract may be the better option. This allows you to try out your provider to see if they are right for you. Some credit card merchant providers will offer a trial period for their system. Be sure to ask about the cancellation policy, so you understand how that could impact your business financially. 

There are many factors to consider when choosing a credit card merchant services provider. While it may seem easy to choose a provider that offers the lowest rates, it is crucial to take a deeper look into all the other factors that go in to providing safe, secure and reliable payment processing. The time you spend researching the right provider for your business will pay off. 

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