You know – the decision you make when selecting a Merchant Account provider may be much more important than you think. Why? Because you will rely on their service many times a day,
as you take in credit card payments for your business.
The fees your merchant account provider charges, as a percentage of sales, will add up to tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, over the course of a few years!
Bad or mediocre customer service can cost you many hours of nail-biting anxiety as you struggle to straighten out problems that may not even be your fault.
Hidden fees can cut into your profits while early termination penalties force you to remain stranded without the freedom to get out and retake control of your future.
If, for any reason, your credit card processing falters, your business will feel the pain. That is why it's very important that your merchant account provider pass some qualifications including these:
Qualifier # 1. Integrity of the Provider.
Unfortunately the merchant account industry is full of deceptive claims and ruthless businesses that manifest on the lack of knowledge that merchants have about our industry. Therefore, be on the lookout for these potentially "problematic" indicators:
(a) When you call during business hours, do you get an answer
machine instead of a live representative or a professional answering service?
(b) When you ask about your processing costs, do you get straight-forward answers or just confusing blabber?
(c) Do they post teaser rates all across their website with "free" terminal giveaways and ridiculously low rates?
(d) Does their website have a valid domain name or are they just representing another merchant account provider?
(e) Are they a member of the Better Business Bureau (BBBOnline)?
(f) Do you see any security seals like Authorize.net, VeriSign or Komodo displayed on their website? This lets you know that their website is secured.
Qualifier # 2: Price Structure of Provider.
Rates and fees you will be charged are critical! Ask the merchant account providers to provide a list of all of the COSTS associated with processing credit cards including things like:
Monthly minimums, annual fees, supplies, early cancellation fees, minimum contract term, access fees, PCI compliance fees and rewards card surcharges. These are often the hidden costs that catch you after a contract is signed and dated.
Here are some questions to ask a potential merchant account provider.
> Are your rates fixed or innovative?
Make sure rates are fixed. Do not accept any introductory rates. Some merchant account providers will try to attract you with super low rates up front … and then as the months go by raise your rates and fees to shocking high levels.
> Will you put ALL your rates and fees in writing?
If a provider will not agree to put 100% of all rates and fees in writing, eliminate them from consideration.
> What are your hidden fees?
Ask the representative about hidden fees! Go over your written agreement's fine print, searching for the slightest hint of a hidden fee. Hidden fees could include monthly minimums, annual fees, supplies, early cancellation fees, minimum contract term, access fees, PCI compliance fees and rewards card surcharges. Hidden fees are not deceptive tactics. But all costs should be explained to you before entering into a contract. If fees are not clearly explained then they are "hidden" until they later emerge on your billing statement. Get all of the merchant acocunt provider's fees upfront.
> Do you charge a cancellation fee if I decide to move to
This question will help you determine if the provider is interested in helping your business grow … or maximizing their own profit. A good merchant account provider that delivers exceptional service does not need to charge an early cancellation fee in order to keep merchants from leaving.
Qualifier # 3. Customer Service of the Provider.
Exceptional customer service should be expected. It is one of the most important value-added services offered by a merchant account provider. Here are some main points to verify:
> 24/7 availability
> Real person answers the phone; not a answering machine
> On-hold times under 1 minute at all times
> Friendly, courteous, responsive and knowledgeable representatives
> A toll-free 1-800 phone number
> Other forms of contact via website, live chat, or fax
Before you sign up with any company, call up their customer service number. Ask some questions (to gauge knowledge) and get a sense for their attitude. Do the groundwork now versus when you have a problem and really need to speak with customer service.
If you use these qualifiers BEFORE selecting your merchant service provider, you may be avoiding a nightmare in the future and instead be able to focus on growing your business.