Small Business Merchant Account: Filtering Out the Noise
In a consumer culture that sees fewer and fewer people carrying cash, preferring instead the security of debit and credit cards, the ability of a small business to accept transactions using these forms of payment is indispensable. However, the vast array of options offered by payment card processing companies to business owners looking for a small business merchant account can make it difficult to find the right solution for your business. Making the best choice requires a business owner to know how to sift through the marketing hype and focus on the issue that stands out as most critical to your company: the amount of your earnings taken out in processing fees. The lower the fees on your small business merchant account, the more of your profits you can reinvest in growing your business.
To convince you to choose their solution over their competitors’, payment card processing companies compete to offer you the small business merchant account with the flashiest features, and the simplest setup process. For some larger companies, paying more for time-saving features may prove to be a worthwhile trade-off, since they are likely to make up the extra cost in savings on work hours. Because businesses operating on a smaller scale tend to have lower labor costs and need to keep a closer eye on expenses, choosing the turnkey small business merchant account with the fastest and easiest setup process is not necessarily the best way to go. Ideally, you’ll only be setting up your merchant account once, but you’ll be processing transactions through it numerous times every day, and the fees associated with those transactions can stack up surprisingly fast. In addition to the basic small business merchant account fee — usually a percentage of the total processed earnings plus a set per-transaction charge — many processing companies tack on additional fees and charges that eat away at your business’s profits.
As a savvy business owner, don’t be distracted by the processing companies’ promises of dazzling extra features and easy turnkey setup; look at what they’re actually offering you in simple numbers. Do they offer special rates for small businesses, which don’t have the same economies of scale working for them as larger companies do? Will any of the shiny features the processing company is offering actually have a positive impact on your business’s bottom line?
The miscellaneous features and options promoted and pushed by so many credit card processing companies can be excessive and distracting, making it harder to zero in on the solutions that your specific business needs. Small businesses today have increasingly diverse ways of reaching their customers, and the brick-and-mortar storefront is only one of many successful business models. Whether your business needs standard point-of-sale card processing, e-commerce solutions, or mobile or wireless payment card processing, you need to be able to trust that your small business merchant account will experience the same low fee rates any time you accept a credit or debit transaction.
Convenience may be the first consideration on your customers’ minds when they consider making a purchase using a credit card, but security is a close second. Given the recent, well-publicized data breaches suffered by large companies, the consumer public is keenly aware of the fact that they are putting their financial life in your business’s hands when they initiate a card transaction. Any merchant that accepts debit and credit card payments is legally required to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) of information security. Most small businesses lack the manpower or resources to handle those security concerns on their own, and thus rely on their small business merchant account provider to maintain compliant security measures to protect their customers’ financial data. Essentially, this means that you’re trusting your payment card processing company with your business’s reputation as a safe place to shop. Every payment processor will assure you that they’ve “got you covered,” but it pays to take the time to ask for details about their security features. When it comes to the protection of your customers’ financial information, it’s hard to be too careful.
Likewise, it’s a good idea to ask a few questions about the customer support that comes along with your small business merchant account. As much as some companies may wish to preserve the polite fiction that nothing will ever go wrong with the services they provide, anyone with even a passing acquaintance with information technology knows that no system is completely safe from tech issues. Particularly if your business involves a great deal of travel and has you bouncing between time zones, or you maintain an e-commerce portal that your customers might visit at 3 o’clock in the morning, having access to around-the-clock customer support can spell the difference between a brief service hiccup and a lengthy, profit-devouring interruption in your ability to accept transactions. 24/7 customer support grants considerable peace of mind, but as with PCI DSS compliance, it never hurts to ask more questions about the nature and qualifications of your payment card processing company’s support team.
Ultimately, the secret to success in choosing a small business merchant account provider comes down to doing your homework, and sifting through the marketing pitches being thrown at you to focus on the specific needs that your business has, and which payment card processing company is best equipped to meet those needs. You don’t need to pick the first company that offers you an impressive suite of options or a low-seeming fee; you’re planning to entrust your business’s profits and reputation to this company, so don’t be afraid to ask some additional questions and keep looking until you get answers that satisfy you.