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  Category: Articles » Business » Small Business » Article

Choosing A Merchant Account Provider

By Joe Thompson

It is important that you conduct your due diligence before settling on one particular merchant account provider. The reasons are obvious. You certainly don't want to be stuck paying high monthly fees. Plus, I'm sure you wouldn't want to overpay on a processing solution. Don't let price be the only deciding factor though, we'll look at this in a minute.

Never hurry through when trying to find a merchant account. If you move too fast you will surely miss on a really great deal. I can't stress this enough. Don't wait a week before opening your doors to customers to find a merchant account provider. Not only would you miss out on a good deal, but in some cases it can take up to a week to approve your application once its been submitted.

Three main factors should be considered when choosing a merchant account provider (in no particular order):

Integrity of the provider
Customer Service
We'll look at each determining factor, in detail, so you can get the scoop on what to look for.

Integrity of the Merchant Account Provider Don't automatically assume a provider is legitimate just by what they have posted on their website or conveyed to you over the telephone. The merchant account industry has a number of ruthless and greedy sales representatives who are more interested in themselves then helping you.

Here are some red flags to watch out for and suggestions to test a providers integrity:

Repeatedly getting an answering machine every time you call.
Representative seems to give you the run around every time you ask them a question about rates or their agreement.
If they use one of those free web hosting services for their website and/or a free domain name (i.e. look the other way. If they can't afford a real domain name and website then they shouldn't be in business.
Don't post all their rates and fess on their website.
Scrutinize their merchant agreement, go over it with a fine tooth comb and question anything that appears "loose" or suspicious. You certainly don't want to get caught in a loophole.
Make sure their website clearly shows what bank(s) they represent. It is unlawful for a merchant account provider not to show what banks they represent on their website. Visa and MasterCard cracks down hard on those who don't.
Search Better Business Bureau, consumer reports, or online newsgroups for any unsatisfactory remarks made about the company. Top Notch Customer Service is Paramount.

Don't get carried away by great rates and forget about customer service. Customer service is king for long-term success and smooth transaction processing. You don't want to be plagued with busy signals and long hold times. Your time is precious and downtime will cost you money.

Before signing up with a company, try out their customer service number. Give it a ring and ask them a few questions. Take note of their attitude, do they seem interested in wanting to help you? Are their answers fully-detailed, yet easy to understand?

Some aspects that should be met for superior customer service:

Reliable availability (and yes, even on holidays too, if possible. Definitely if your business operates 365 days a year.)
Hold time 5 minutes or less
Friendly, courteous representatives who are knowledgeable
Toll-free number
One last note before we move on, don't get conned by providers who say the reason they charge high rates is because of the superior customer support they give, that other companies don't. Sure, a slight price increase (most likely, never), but don't go overboard. Customer service is important, but shouldn't cost you hundreds more than with another provider. This type of scam is just so they can fill-up their pockets more.
About the Author
Joe Thompson is founder of Thompson Merchant Services - a Chase Paymentech Strategic Partner and provider of credit card, debit card, check, and gift card processing services.

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