Let’s face it, no one enjoys shopping for a new credit card processor or merchant services provider. All the rates, the fees, the equipment, the “we’re better than the other guys” can get frustrating rather quickly
It’s overwhelming, it’s confusing, it takes time that you may not have, and it’s another expense that is part of running a company. On top of all of this, you may be getting 15-20 calls per week about accepting credit cards at your business by 15-20 different agents or sales offices telling you why you should choose their products or services.
1. How do/will my customers pay me at our location?
Thinking about what you sell and how you sell it; there are a few different ways for a customer to pay you, and to understand what works best for your business is key. In today’s consumer savvy marketplace, you’ll need a point of sale solution that accepts multiple payment types, including; credit and debit cards with EMV smart chips in them, mobile payments (Apple Pay, Android Pay, Google Wallet), cash of course and even checks.
2. How will I be connected to accept payments?
Credit card processing systems can run off of your smartphone, a landline (though you’ll probably want to have a designated line just for this), off ethernet or by WIFI. Some run or recharge off of electricity; some will use a charging station or battery. You need to know what will be consistently available to you so that the equipment will be compatible with it and your service will always be ready when you need it. For example; if you have a food truck, it might be a little tough to add another plug to the generator, so battery powered may be best.
3. What type of payment equipment or software is best for me?
POS Solutions come in countertop and mobile versions (EMV terminals), and in different shapes and sizes. Some small, and micro merchants even prefer to run transactions off of their phone or laptop with a combination of a mobile card reader and software (or smartphone application like Square, PayAnywhere, or other mobile solutions). There are also smart POS systems that handle secure and compliant credit card processing as well as inventory management, employee scheduling, accounting and customer loyalty. In the end, it comes down to how your business operates, how much space you have and how efficient you would like to be.
4. Are free machines are a bad thing?
This question is one of our favorites. Ask yourself this; are free credit card terminals really free? Think about it for a minute; if you were giving away (expensive) goods/services to your customers, you’d need to make the money up somewhere right? Well, so do credit card processing companies. And it’ll show up hidden in your monthly fees, your rates or as a creatively named charge somewhere on your statement.
5. Should I buy used equipment to save money?
Saving money now may cost you later. A lot of payment equipment these days is locked to a specific processor. When you buy someone else’s equipment, there is no guarantee that your new processor will be able to access it or that it’s even working correctly. You won’t know that until you try to use it yourself, by which time you’ve spent the money and might have to buy it all over again. New equipment guarantees you a warranty and some processors even offer free receipt paper for the life of your account.
6. Who should I work with, my bank or a direct processor?
Direct processors (who are calling you all the time) are most likely less expensive than your bank. Aside from pricing, having comfort in great customer service should always be important. Make sure that there is a direct line of communication with a customer support staff who can help you promptly, should there ever be an issue. Doing this will mean you’re not dealing with an independent agent who might be here today and gone tomorrow. Always check out the company’s reputation by all means – but keep things in perspective. While complaints seem like a big red flag, it’s the percentage of satisfied customers that matters. You can’t please all of the people all of the time and neither can they.
7. How do I feel about my sales consultant?
While it’s great to like them, it’s more important that you trust them. If they are willing to say that they don’t know something but will get you the answer, or if they do what they say they were going to when they said they’d do it – you’re off to a good start. And telling you unpleasant truths is probably the best sign of all. If they put your needs first, ahead of their paycheck, you have a winner.
8. What if I need help, will I be able to speak with a real human?
Customer service matters. You need to be able to reach your processor outside of standard business hours. And you want to be treated well – they should be responsive to your needs, knowledgeable about the industry and their own company’s services, and about your area of business. They should also be innovative or creative enough to resolve any concerns with a minimum of fuss. Your business should be as important and personal to them as it is to you. After all, they’re your partner in money-making.
9. What kind of timeframe are you on to make a decision?
Knowing when you want to make a change or start your service helps in a few ways. By being upfront about this, a good sales consultant will work with you and not push you. You need to take into account when your busiest season is (and the state of your bank account, since there are often start-up costs). You don’t want to change processors midway through a busy period (unless there’s some emergency). Plan wisely; changing service directly before a peak time starts can show you immediate savings; changing in your slow period gives you time to make a good decision. Start to finish the whole process needn’t take more than 1-2 weeks. Along with picking the timing that works for your needs, it’s a good idea to understand The Merchant Application Process so you can get things done without a headache.
10. How does accepting credit cards affect my budget?
Accepting credit and debit cards is part of your cost of doing business. That doesn’t mean that you should pay through the nose, but there is an element of “you get what you pay for.” As a small business owner, your budget is tight. But some systems that seem more expensive up front save you money (and time) because of the features and functionality that come with them. And most good processors will work with you to come up with the best possible solution, within your dollar range. Some even have merchant funding programs to help you out.
There are many more questions to ask yourself that are specific to your operation, but some thought and planning beforehand will save you from being railroaded into the wrong decision. If you are looking for more information about merchant services, you can call us at (888) 902-6227 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are some additional resources on the topic: