Most shoppers use either a debit or credit card when making purchases. It has been estimated that at least 70% of all adults in the United States carry at least one credit card. When asked about their shopping preferences, about 43% of American consumers said they used their debit card, 35% said they use a credit card and 9% say they only use cash. This is according to a TSYS survey of one thousand consumers who had both kinds of cards. The survey was done in 2014. Businesses today have to take credit cards to be competitive and that requires finding the right merchant service provider and using the right merchant services software.
- Determine what your needs are. Before you set out to get any merchant services software or talk to a business merchant services company, you need to do some research. Look into all of the services that are offered and think about which ones you really need. Do you only handle individual transactions or do you have customers from whom recurring payments will be received. Once you have a list of the services you want, and maybe there are a few you would like but do not absolutely need, talk to the different companies about bundling. This can provide you with a real cost savings that may make it possible to get more services for less.
- Find out who exactly will be handling the transactions. Some merchant service providers do it all themselves and others outsource some of the work. It is rare to find a bank that does it all themselves. Sometimes businesses run into issues that can be difficult to resolve when the services have been outsourced. Ask if the payment services providers have their own POS system or if you can go with another company. Some have proprietary merchant services software for POS systems and others let you pick your own.
- Get details about the costs. Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe and sometimes it is not. When you talk to a merchant processing company about the price of their service, make sure you ask about any fees that will be separate from that. There can be annual fees, set up fees, fees for programming and other miscellaneous fees that you may not even think to ask about. Ask, too, if there is a contract and what the terms are if you need to cancel your service. Ask about usage and if there is a minimum or a maximum. You should do an assessment of how many credit card transactions you are going to handle each month. That way you can really have an idea of what you should ask for in a contract. If you accept international cards or business cards, you should ask about those things as well. If you need to handle business credit card processing, you need to make sure the company can handle that and that it will not cost too much. See if you can get a trial with the company so you can see how you like the services they offer.
- Look into their customer service policy. Is their customer service 24 hours? What kind of merchant services software do they have? If you have a team in house that will handle the installation of the merchant services software, ask about how you can connect them with the company. If your IT services are handled by an outside company, make sure you can connect them with the merchant service provider.
- Get references. It is always a good idea to get references from any of the merchant service providers you talk to. When you talk to the references, ask them what they think of working with the merchant services provider, what the customer service is like and if they have any other suggestions. Ask them if they have ever needed tech support or customer service after hours, on the weekend or over the holidays. If you have a store, these are times you will want to take credit cards.
Working with the right merchant services provider can do a lot for your business. Working with the wrong one can make things really challenging.