Website Design and Software Development

How to Select the Right Merchant Services Provider

Accepting credit and debit cards provides a number of benefits for businesses, including boosting sales, profitability and credibility. Customers expect to be able to make payments with credit cards, and will routinely shift away from merchants or service providers unable to offer their desired payment options.

The importance and value of accepting credit cards to a small business makes choosing the right payment processor a critical success factor. With competition intense in the payment processing sector, many inexperienced providers are trying to tempt merchants with bargain-basement offers that hide expensive fees in the small print, a reduced range or quality of service, or, in the worst examples, both.

Instead of chasing low prices, consider the benefits of aligning your business with an established industry leader that understands the payment processing needs of online and physical merchants as well as service providers of all sizes.

For example, you'll want to work with an experienced provider who can offer your business the flexibility of accepting payments via dedicated point-of-sale terminals, wireless terminals, payment gateways, or mobile handsets. As your business needs change, you'll be glad your provider has the experience and flexibility to adapt as well.

Similarly, as you research your options, look beyond what appears to be a low price and carefully examine hidden fees that can influence your costs considerably. Consider your sales volume as well as your most common types of traffic. If most of your sales involve card-not-present transactions, for instance, investigate how that affects your pricing and service levels.

In addition, check with other merchants - either in your industry or city, or through online forums - to get a sense of how various processors are perceived in the marketplace. Someone who's locked into an undesirable relationship with an ineffective processor is usually quite willing to help other merchants avoid the same mistake, and checking out word-of-mouth recommendations can help you avoid a lot of headaches down the road.

Finally, make sure your payment processor is constantly exploring the latest security practices and is fully compliant with requirements such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Ask questions about the security of the networks and channels that will be used to exchange data, and about the procedures used to help protect your company's (and your customers') confidential data from fraud or hackers.

Securing your customers' personal and payment information is a critical factor that your company can't afford to get wrong. The direct costs, embarrassment and lost sales associated with having to disclose a data breach can be devastating to a merchant, which makes checking out the security procedures used by your payment processor critical.

The importance of accepting credit and debit cards cannot be overestimated to your business, nor can the importance of researching your payment processor carefully to make sure you select a processor with the experience, fee structure and security procedures to meet your needs effectively.

Russell Gottlich is an Agent with First Data Independent Sales (FDIS) and specializes in providing payment solutions to small and medium size businesses. For more information please visit or call 800-931-9835.

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