Choosing a credit card processor for your business is an extremely important decision. After all, they are handling YOUR money. Your business is relying on a credit card processor to transfer money from your customers, to you, in a manner that is convenient, safe, and affordable. You are counting on your credit card processor to deposit that money in your bank account consistently, accurately, and worry-free; while safeguarding your customer’s personal information; and for an amount that allows you to maintain healthy profit margins.
What can you investigate in the due diligence process to ensure a credit card processor can deliver on those high expectations?
Here are 5 things to look for when choosing a credit card processor.
1. Customer Service
When you need help, how will you be treated? Do you call an outsourced call center and wait on hold? Do you send an email and wait for them to respond? Many processors have taken a shortcut by contracting out their customer support. When you call for help, you will likely be routed to a call center, spend an extensive amount of time on hold, and eventually be transferred to someone who cannot make a decision without waiting for a supervisor. You really don’t want a processor like that. Consider that when you call them for help, you might be in a desperate moment. How long do you want to wait, and how do you want to be treated in that desperate moment? You want to dial a specific number and be routed immediately to someone who can help. You want to have a personal representative assigned to your account that recognizes you when you call and is empowered to solve your issue on the spot. Here is a great test: Call the customer support phone # for a credit card processor that you are considering. See how long it takes to get to a live person who can help you.
2. Retention & Reputation
What do other businesses say about this potential credit card processor? Has the processor’s ownership changed frequently? Does the processor measure their retention? A credit card processor with a sterling reputation will not be shy about providing reference letters, and current customers for you to contact. Another red flag is ownership history. If their company has been purchased or acquired numerous times in recent years, they likely do not have a stable work environment, and that will frequently have a negative effect on their interactions with customers. A reputable credit card processor should have an A+ BBB rating, and a retention rate of 80% or higher. You should be suspicious of any credit card processor that cannot provide high quality information about their reputation.
3. PCI Compliance Process
How does this potential credit card processor handle PCI compliance? Many credit card processors view PCI compliance as a revenue stream. They are happy to charge you a monthly fee for “non-compliance,” and are not really concerned with your business being compliant. Other processors will send an email or a letter with very complicated directions, and if you can’t figure it out, they take the attitude of “not my problem.” A credit card processor that is a true business partner will feature an in-house PCI compliance team that proactively contacts every merchant to complete their annual PCI compliance review well before the due date. They will also be very concerned with you being PCI compliant because it protects your customers' information and reduces risk and liability for your business. How a processor handles PCI Compliance can also be a great indicator of how the processor will handle other situations that arise, like contacting businesses to prepare them for the EMV liability shift. You want a processor that will be proactive, not reactive, about protecting your business.
4. Products & Services Designed to Grow Your Business
A credit card processor should be a business partner; someone that can offer the most efficient way to process cards in your current situation and help you GROW your business moving forward. A great processor will ask how you currently process credit cards and set up the most convenient, safe, and affordable way to achieve that. They will also help you implement products and services that help you increase sales and grow your business, like expanding into online sales. Finally, they will offer services that help you lower risk, save money, and operate more efficiently: fraud protection services, customer reporting, sales reporting, inventory management, gift and loyalty card programs, and customer billing options including rolodex, online bill pay, and recurring billing.
Bottom line: Can they save you money? Will their saving analysis and statements be transparent and easy to understand? There are many ways to price credit card processing: tiers, flat rates, interchange pass thru, etc. The best plan for your business depends on how many credit cards you process, what types of cards you process, your average ticket amount, and many other factors. A quality processor will investigate thoroughly how you run your business and then present the plan that will be most cost-effective for you. Anything less is a smoke-and-mirrors approach and should raise skepticism from you. Further, the processor’s proposal and monthly statement should be easy to read. You should ask for a sample monthly statement to ensure it is easy to comprehend; be sure to ask questions about anything you don’t understand.