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Beyond Low Rates: Top Value Adds of the Best Merchant Service Providers

It's common for entrepreneurs to focus solely on cost when choosing a merchant service provider. While it's important to stay within budget when selecting a vendor, there are other features that should weigh just as heavily in the decision. Business owners should make sure to complete in-depth research into a number of merchant service providers before making their final pick. Let's look at four top value add-ons you should consider when choosing a merchant service provider:

1. Comprehensive support
You never know when you will need help with a point of sale system due to unforeseen glitches with the terminal or credit card processing. It's crucial to have access to support when you need it. When choosing a vendor, be sure to ask about the level of support offered, and whether it's 24/7 or only available during business hours. Also ask what method of service is provided: in person, over the phone or via email or instant messaging.

If merchant service providers do not offer support, you may need to outsource this help, which can affect your budget. If this is the case, you should ask the provider about compatibility with an outsourced IT team.

2. Payment acceptance
There are a variety of tools on the market today that help customers pay for a merchant's goods or services. A company's POS system needs to be able to accept all types of payment methods without issue. When selecting a merchant service provider, be sure to look for vendors that welcome not only all major credit card providers, but also near field communication (NFC) and chip-enabled cards.

Being able to accept a wide variety of payment methods can help increase customer satisfaction, as clients can present almost any form of payment. Additionally, now that the Oct. 1, 2015 chargeback liability shift has gone into effect, merchants who do not process chip cards with EMV-enabled card readers or POS systems may be liable for certain fraud-related chargebacks. EMV acceptance can help merchants limit potential chargeback liability and build customer trust and loyalty. 

3. Flexible contract
Certain merchant service providers will require a fixed-length agreement with business owners. As you research vendors, look for ones that offer versatile, subscription-based contracts. You should also consider merchant service providers that don't require an early termination fee. This way, if the vendor ends up not being the right fit, you aren't stuck in an long-term contract. Some merchant service providers will allow business owners to test out their offerings with a money-back guarantee. This is a smart way for enterprises to discover if a POS system will truly work for their company before making the investment.

4. PCI Compliance
Compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is vital for all merchants that accept credit cards. The PCI DSS includes requirements for security management, policies, procedures, network architecture, software design and other critical protective measures. Security isn't just a mandate, however. It's also good for business. Look for a merchant service provider that is compliant with PCI guidelines. Vendors can either self-assess their compliance, or be approved by Visa and MasterCard registry lists.(1) Either way, when choosing a merchant service provider, you should check one of the registry lists, or require self-assessment documentation from the vendor.

Ultimately, it is your responsibility - not the merchant service provider's - to ensure your business meets PCI standards. However, selecting a vendor that offers products and services to achieve and maintain PCI compliance is an important criteria when selecting a merchant service provider.

There are countless vendors on the market today, all offering their own amalgamation of important features. Although cost of the terminal and fees are important considerations, other top value-adds such as PCI compliance, customer support, acceptable payment methods, and contract flexibility, are equally as critical.

1. https://www.pcicomplianceguide.org/how-to-select-a-pci-compliant-service-provider-advice-for-small-business-owners/

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