Five Questions to Ask Your Merchant Processing Provider Before Signing On
If you’re a loyal NPR listener, are married to your New York Times subscription or even a casual CNN viewer, you already know that small businesses are expected to be the underdog champions of the economic recovery.
Whether you’re providing services to your clients, or are yourself a small business owner, selecting the right merchant processing plan will weigh heavily on 2010 growth.
There are many merchant processing providers available to you, which is why it’s important to cut through the clutter quickly. In the interest of narrowing your options efficiently, we’ve identified five questions you need to ask prospective merchant processors before making your decision:
- How satisfied are your customers?
If you’re looking for a long-term solution, this one is important. Don’t be afraid to ask for references from current customers, and search the potential provider’s website for testimonials. Your best advocates in this search are your fellow customers. Additional bonuses include a comprehensive developer library for quick troubleshooting, an active platform for peer-to-peer communication and constant access to customer support (see #2 for more).
- Will you be there for me 24/7/365?
Many times, when things go wrong, they don’t happen between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. If you operate a 24-hour business (or your client does) and you experience a glitch at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning, it’s essential that your provider be available 24/7/365 to you to help you through the issue promptly.
- Are your rates competitive with other solutions?
This is a tricky one as you need to search for the right balance when it comes to rates and fees. If fees seem excessively low, and it looks too good to be true, trust your gut because it probably is. On the flip side, for businesses traditionally viewed as “high risk” (those like travel and tourism businesses that rely almost exclusively on advanced booking), you’ll want to ensure you receive a fair assessment all the way down the line, from gateway fees to transaction fees. Look for a provider that will provide rates that can easily compete with most popular gateways, and ask if they’ll provide a complimentary cost analysis if you provide your statement (or your client’s). And above all, be leery of any provider that locks you into a contract or charges a cancellation fee, both of which are non-existent with Newtek.
- Will your payment solution integrate easily with my website?
This one is especially important for designers and developers providing services to ecommerce clients. If I had to guess, you don’t have time to go looking around for documentation on integrating the payment solution into your custom shopping cart. Sign on with a provider that will readily provide access to web service support in .NET, PHP and more.
- How quickly will I (or my client) have access to transaction funds?
The goal of any ecommerce plan is to make the sale and see the funds hit your bank account, right? Before committing to working with any merchant processing provider, be sure to inquire about the speed of the process. With some providers it may take 4 to 5 days to see the funds hit, whereas many other programs (like NewtPay) deliver funds in as few as 48 hours. Cash flow is vital to any growth plan, so fund availability is an important factor to include in the decision-making process.
These five questions will help you find a solution that will inevitable become an integral piece of your growth plan in 2010. This list is in no way complete, but rather provides a baseline for early research. In your opinion, what other factors should be considered in identifying and implementing a merchant processing plan? Help us add to the list in the comments below…