Running a small business means wearing a lot of different hats. Whether you’re just starting out or well on your way, if you want to accept credit card payments, you’ll want to understand the ins and outs of credit card processing companies.
Selecting the right is about carefully weighing the pros and cons of all options available to you. Thinking long-term is important, especially when short-term options may seem easier or less expensive on the surface.
Today, there are more options than ever. That can make choosing a processing company difficult. Yet, the complexity and range of options make the decision all the more important.
Thankfully, choosing the right credit card processing company doesn't have to be difficult. Start with a few simple questions:
- Can they work with my business?
- How much does it cost?
- Can I rely on customer service?
- What about security and fraud prevention?
Can they work with my business?
First things first: does the credit card processor offer what your business needs?
So think about your business, both how it is and how you dream that it may be. Do you run an eCommerce website or brick-and-mortar store? Do you sell on the go, at street fairs, or offer some mix of everything?
How much transaction volume do you expect to process? What’s your industry? You’ll want to learn if your business is considered high risk, as that may impact not just your rates but also your choice of processor.
Look for a credit card processing company that has a successful track record of providing merchant services to businesses like yours. Look for a processor that’s demonstrated the ability to grow, no matter what direction (and speed) your business may turn.
How are you going to accept credit cards? You’ll want to think through the ways your customers will want to pay: in-store, over the phone, online and mobile? What about selling on-the-go? You’ll want to think about what that means for equipment: do you need a simple credit card terminal, a full-blown point of sale (POS) system, equipment for mobile acceptance, or a website gateway? What about international transactions?
These questions will quickly narrow the field of credit card processing companies best suited to serve your business.
How much does it cost?
Processing credit cards and other electronic payments is a vital, complex and wide-ranging service. Sometimes it’s difficult to cut through that complexity—especially when it comes to pricing.
There will be fees associated with transaction processing that are fixed, like where rates are set by the card brand networks. There may also per-transaction fees, monthly maintenance fees and other charges for equipment and regulatory compliance. Beyond that, fee structures vary based on whether you’re processing transactions in-person (card present) or online (card not present).
Take the time to understand the total cost of payment processing, knowing that the least expensive service in the short-term isn’t always the best choice. There are trade-offs and risks when selecting low-cost services that should factor into any decision.
Credit card processing is essential— like a utility. Yet unlike a utility, credit card processing companies vary widely in the quality of value-added services they offer. Look to the long-term, beyond credit card acceptance. How will they protect your business and help it grow to realize its full potential?
Can I rely on customer support?
Beyond the key relationship between you and your customers, payment processing is a complex system with many moving parts: multiple third-parties, communications infrastructure and software technologies all converge to perform an elaborate exchange.
The vast majority of the time that complexity takes place far out of sight and out of mind. Billions of transactions are processed perfectly in seconds. Still, there are times when even the best systems suffer unexpected interruptions. 99.999% uptime reliability is great… except for the 0.001% is in the middle of your rush. It’s times like that where you need to know you can rely on the support of your credit card processor.
Understanding the kind of customer service you'll receive is essential peace of mind. Make sure your credit card processing company offers access to technical support 24/7/365. Look for a company with extensive self-help resources that are easy to understand. Most of all look for a credit card processor that has a help team that stands behind you when you need them most.
What about security and fraud prevention?
If you’re concerned about security and fraud prevention, that’s understandable. Headlines detailing data breaches and the financial impacts of fraud can be concerning. When it comes to security, protecting sensitive data and fraud prevention, your business is important and will rely heavily on your credit card processor.
Many payment processors offer fraud comprehensive security and fraud solutions –however you sell. In-store you’ll need the latest in secure payment acceptance technologies, like EMV chip cards and NFC contactless technology for mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Online, detection and prevention takes on additional importance given the rise of card-not-present eCommerce fraud. Today, eCommerce security is often deployed in overlapping layers by multiple service providers. Your credit card processor can serve as a one-stop shop to coordinate those activities, like making card data more secure through technologies like encryption and tokenization.
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