By coupling your retail or online store with a credit card processing merchant account, you will be able to accept credit cards. Although you are free to continue relying exclusively on cash or checks, adding more payment options will allow you to capture many more types of sales.
However, not all credit card processing providers are the same. At Zero Pay Solutions, we encourage business owners to do their due-diligence when deciding on a credit card processing merchant account provider.
Below are 12 essential questions we recommend you ask before selecting a credit card processing merchant account for your business:
1. Do You Offer 24/7 Customer Support?
This sounds simple enough. Most providers do offer some level of customer support. But what you really want is a credit card processing provider that will give you 24/7 phone support, since issues can crop up at any time.
2. Do You Offer Live Support?
Some credit card processing providers offer round-the-clock email support. But when a problem arises, you want to speak to a real person — either via phone or live chat.
3. How Long Have You Been in Business?
You want a credit card processing provider with a proven track record — a team that has slowly built up a solid reputation after years of service in the field. Stay away from newcomers, no matter how attractive their offerings may sound.
4. Will I Be Able to Process Online and Offline Transactions?
As you expand your business, you don't want to have to switch credit card processing providers because they don't offer the full range of credit card processing services. Stick with a provider who can eventually take your business online (or your online business offline).
5. Are Your Credit Card Processing Payment Terminals PCI-Compliant?
Believe it or not, PCI compliance is not federally mandated. In other words, credit card processing providers are not legally obligated to follow security standards set forth by the credit card industry. Make sure your credit card processing provider is setting you up with PCI-compliant terminals to make sure that you are securely processing credit cards and protecting cardholder data information.
6. What Fraud Protection Services Do You Offer when I Accept Credit Cards?
With the new credit card processing merchant liability rules going into effect (in 2015), you want to reduce your exposure to credit card fraud as much as possible. Ask your credit card processing provider how it protects your customer’s sensitive credit card data.
7. How Fast do I Receive my Funds after the Credit Card Processing Transaction?
Predictable cash flow is essential to the success of your business. You want to know (in advance) how long it takes for funds to clear and be deposited into your bank account. There is no right or wrong answer — you just need to avoid any unwanted surprises. Most credit card processing providers can now pre-approve retail and restaurant merchants with 24 hour ‘next-day-funding’.
8. What Is the Contract Length?
Many merchant account providers use contracts with predetermined lengths. If you’re just starting out, shorter contract lengths are better. Ask your credit card processing provider if they provide alternative month-to-month agreements as an option.
9. Is There a Cancellation or Early Termination Fee?
Some merchant account providers penalize clients for cancelling contracts prematurely. Although such fees are standard in the industry, you shouldn't have to pay these fees. Ask your credit card processing provider if they have these fees in place and your options on avoiding them.
10. What Other Fees Are There?
But be sure that you understand your merchant agreement and schedule of fees and any other charges that may apply. Again, the goal is to avoid unwanted surprises.
11. Is My Existing Credit Card Processing Terminal compatible?
Most credit card processing providers have payment terminals that are compatible with the bank processing platform they are affiliated with. Before signing the dotted line, and if you want to use your existing credit card terminal, make sure that the credit card processing provider is compatible with your existing terminal. If so, they can re-program your terminal when you sign up with a merchant account with them. Many credit card processing providers also provide free credit card terminal placements for merchants who want a newer payment terminal.
12. Do You Have References?
This is a no-brainer. Ask to speak with other satisfied clients — preferably those whose business needs are similar to your own. Most credit card processing providers should be happy to provide you with references.
One Final Bonus Question for Your Credit Card Processing Provider:
Why should we sign up with you for our credit card processing needs?
It's a buyer’s market, and there is no shortage of credit card processing merchant account options out there. Let each candidate work hard to win your business. If you don't feel that it's a right fit, move on down the list.