How do I Choose the Best Merchant Processing Services?

N. Madison

Merchant processing services allow merchants to process credit cards in a variety of ways. Choosing the best service typically requires a careful evaluation of the merchant's needs. Most business owners choose processing services based on such things as provider reputation, features, fees, and contract terms. Since each business is unique, the best option will differ from merchant to merchant.

Varying credit cards may carry different processing fees.
Varying credit cards may carry different processing fees.

When a business owner begins to evaluate merchant processing services, careful consideration of the options is in order. If a person owns a brick-and-mortar store, he’ll typically need a merchant account and equipment that allows him to swipe credit and debit cards while the customer is present. If he wants to process credit cards by phone, he’ll also need the ability to key a consumer’s credit card information into his credit card machine. Those who process credit card transactions over the Internet, however, need merchant processing services that allow consumers to key their own credit card information into an Internet form.

Credit card being swiped through a terminal.
Credit card being swiped through a terminal.

Once a business owner has considered the type of processing system he needs, he can go on to compare providers that offer the type of account he wants. For example, if he needs to process payments online, he’ll look for an Internet merchant account provider. There are many providers from which a merchant may choose, and not all of them are reputable. Choosing the best involves investigating provider track records and making a list of several with good reputations.

Features are another important consideration when choosing merchant processing services. A business owner may compare his list of reputable providers in terms of the availability of free customer service and technical support. He may also evaluate whether a provider processes all major credit carts, offers secure payment processing technology, or allows merchants to process checks by phone.

A business owner may also consider fees when comparing merchant processing services. Fees vary from provider to provider and may include charges for everything from credit card authorizations to account maintenance. A merchant may do well to choose a provider that offers the most features for the lowest cost, as long as the provider has a good reputation. It’s crucial to read the provider’s contract carefully, however, in case there are charges hidden in the fine print.

Like fees, contract terms vary from provider to provider. Some contracts require a merchant to stay with a provider for more than a year. In fact, some providers have three-year contracts. If the merchant cancels before the contract is set to end, he may be subject to early cancellation penalties. The best merchant processing services may have shorter contract lengths and lower cancellation fees.

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Discussion Comments


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