Most of you have heard the song, “You Better Shop Around” that was a big hit in the 1960s for Smokey Robinson. When it comes to finding the best merchant account provider, that’s exactly what you had better do.
Not all merchant account providers are the same. They have different fees associated with the account and the terms of the contract can differ dramatically, as well. You must also be on the lookout for scams, fly-by-night firms or companies that charge fees for things you should not be paying for. That’s why the “shop around” advice is so important.
Don’t just let “your mouse do the walking” through the Internet. Do it the old-fashioned way, too, and let your fingers do the walking through the phone book, too. Be diligent in your quest for a provider, and by all means talk the all the businesspeople you know and get referrals. When a solid business client of a good merchant account provider refers a new customer, it is a “plus” for everyone.
Don’t think you have to go with the first merchant account provider you come across. Put time into doing a thorough investigation on a number of different companies. You will also want to know if you are required to use certain equipment (this is unnecessary) or if you can use the software that you may already own. The fact is, a reputable account provider will be able to “meet you where you’re at” and make it work for you in any number of ways.
Slow As You Go
Rushing to find a good provider will ultimately leave you with a sour taste in your mouth once you find that you’ve been ripped off, and whether it’s for a little or a lot is immaterial. So patience is a key element when selecting the right provider for you. Here are a few things to consider before you choose:
- Legitimacy of the merchant account provider (are they reputable?)
- Cost for all fees associated with the life of the contract are spelled out
- Customer representatives are helpful, courteous, and can answers all your questions
Keep your options open, and when you have your list down to three reputable firms – where you’ve established that they’re honest, dependable, in business for some time, etc. – then go to the next level in your investigation.
The legitimacy of any merchant account provider needs to be established solidly, but never assume that just because they build themselves up to be a great company, that they really are. It matters not what they have posted on their company website or what they have told you in a phone conversation. The proof is in the pudding. A company with a good reputation should have no problem proving it, and should not pop up in any Better Business Bureau alerts or on the “I got ripped off” websites that are all over the Internet.
Here are some real big no-no’s to watch out for, followed by suggestions as top how you might put your final candidates to the deciding test. First, the no-no’s:
- You are unable to speak with a live person when you call or are constantly getting an answering machine.
- The so-called customer representatives never seem to be able to answer your questions, and they have no clue as to the account rates in your contract.
- Avoid companies that use free web-hosting sites for free or if they use free, “disposable” e-mail accounts (Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail). Not being able to afford a real website or domain means that they are not conducting a real business at all.
- Their rates and fees are not clearly stated on their website. This is a huge red flag!
Whatever bank is representing the account provider should be shown on the company’s website, as well. It’s against the law for the merchant not to disclose this information to potential applicants, or to misrepresent the bank or credit card association in any way. Visa and Master Card take these laws very seriously, too, and will even press charges against those who break them.
The Better Business Bureau has reports about criminal actions against account providers, and can give you information on firms that have conducted unlawful business in states other than where you live. You can also find remarks from victims of fraudulent businesses on various consumer-watch websites. Again, though, your local business associations and your colleagues in your particular industry will probably be the best source of information about account providers that you can get anywhere.
You should consider calling the customer service number on the website of any company that you’re considering. This way you can get a feel for what their customer service is like before deciding on doing business with them. Ask questions and be diligent. If they have no answers, at least you will have your answer.
You want to make sure your provider’s hold times are no longer than five minutes long, and that you can call a toll-free number. The last thing you want is to end up paying to wait on hold for a representative. You should be able to get a feel for this during your “stealth call” as described above.
Some things you may wish to make sure of include availability that you can count on, 24/7 and, yes, even on holidays. This is mandatory for those businesses that operate 365 days a year.
It’s Not Just About Fees
Don’t let companies fool you into thinking that their high fees and rates are due to their unsurpassed customer support and that other companies will not offer you the same unbeatable deal. On the other hand, other companies might have lower rates but better service, with a more efficient operation that allows them to make a better profit while providing better service.
While it’s important for the provider to maintain good customer service with you, it shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg, either. Don’t let any merchant account providers scam you out of your hard-earned money and fill their pockets with what should be your profits. Be tough, be smart and take time to search for the right provider. It will be well worth the effort.