How to Choose a Merchant Services Provider

Wondering how to find the best merchant services provider for your company’s unique needs? Learn how to choose the right payment processing option here.

A great merchant services provider is secure, reliable, effective, and mostly silent. 

When you have an exceptional payment processor on your side, your workflow for processing relevant payment methods will work as intended. In this situation, you can count on your provider to do the necessary work behind the scenes to accept payments. There won’t be much, if any, extra work required of you or your team.

Unfortunately, not all merchant services providers live up to this standard. Errors related to transactions and the funds that come from them can cause serious problems for your business. 

Even if a provider offers reliable service, their fees may be excessive. Finding a merchant services provider that offers effective support at a reasonable price is crucial for your business.

Swipesum can help you do exactly that. Our independent payments consultants are experts in their field. They know how to find a payment processing system that meets your needs and negotiate the best possible rates. Schedule a free consultation to learn more.

Is Price or Quality More Important for a Merchant Services Provider?

Service quality is the top priority when finding a merchant services provider. Rates are negotiable, but features and functionality generally aren’t. Find the ideal solution first, then leverage a payments expert to help with price matching and negotiating fees. 

Finding the Best Merchant Services Provider for Your Business

Merchant services providers aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Yes, they all help you accept credit and debit cards (and, increasingly, various forms of electronic payments). However, they can vary significantly in terms of the tools, resources, services, and support they provide on the individual level.

A provider can offer exactly what one company needs, but come up short in terms of service and support for another. The size of your business, the industry you operate in, your customers’ preferred payment methods, and more can all make a difference.

That’s why it’s so important to understand what your business needs from a merchant services provider. Start thinking about these factors to document your company’s requirements. Then, you’ll be in a better position to compare offerings from payment processing companies.

The Point of Sale (POS)

 Starting with your POS system helps guide the rest of the decision-making process. Nearly every business with a brick-and-mortar location needs POS tools — terminals, software, and more.

Be sure to document your requirements. Do you need mobile card readers for transactions outside of a fixed location? How many terminals will you need if your storefront has more than one checkout line? Do you need to manage subscriptions and recurring purchases? What about ecommerce?

You have to provide fast and positive payment experiences for customers and make it easy for staff to accept and manage those payments. You can also benefit from analytics, reporting, and other options that are potentially available, depending on the provider.

That includes credit card processing. However, businesses need a broader range of payment services (digital wallets, Apple and Google Pay, etc.), to tap into modern customer preferences.

Your POS system and payment processor can be separate or combined. Closed systems, like Square, can seem convenient. However, they often come with additional fees. Additionally, a closed system will require you to switch POS hardware and software when moving to any new merchant services provider.

If you use an open system, then your POS connects to your merchant services provider through a payment gateway. That means your saved payment information is portable. Additionally, you can keep your current POS system and much more easily switch merchant services providers.

Customer Service

Every merchant services provider will use a somewhat different strategy for customer service. Do you need a direct line to support, or will self-service methods and online chats be enough? Do the support hours align with your company’s own hours of operation?

Check out reviews from current and past customers and review the provider’s own documentation. This can help you understand how the provider handles questions, concerns, and complaints.

A woman makes an ecommerce purchase on her phone.

Merchant Service Provider Costs and Fees

Fees and costs can also vary greatly from one provider to another. A percentage charged per transaction is foundational, and a variety of other fees are the norm for many providers.

Flat rate, interchange plus, tiered pricing, and zero-percent markup with a recurring membership fee are all common. Learn more about these common merchant services pricing structures.

We recommend avoiding tiered pricing. It’s especially opaque compared to other options, and very complex. Remember that a payments expert can help you negotiate prices and fees, making a preferred provider in terms of service more accessible for your business in terms of cost.

Understanding the Merchant Application

Once you find the merchant services provider with the best combination of tools, services, and support, you’ll need to fill out a merchant application.

When successful, this process ends with your business receiving a merchant account, explained in more detail here by Investopedia. You’ll also receive a Merchant Account ID number (MID). This is vital for efficiently and accurately moving money to and from your account.

The application itself requests relatively basic information. You will need to share details about your business in general and data about transaction volume. Supporting documents are needed as well.

When fully and accurately completed, the merchant application facilitates fast approval. You can have a new merchant account in as few as three days.

Get Payments Experts on Your Side for a Crucial Business Decision

Swipesum empowers a seamless transition from your old provider to your new one. We make sure you understand the new setup and what to expect. We also provide access to all of the internal tools needed to process payments and view reporting easily and consistently.

At Swipesum we do all the research for you. You make the final decision, while our experts set it all up and integrate it for you. You can fully hand off complex payments workflows to payment professionals.

Ready to learn more? Schedule a free consultation today!

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Michael Seaman

Michael Seaman

Michael is the co-founder and CEO of Swipesum. A veteran of the payments industry, Michael and his brother Stephen have led Swipesum since its inception in 2016. In his free time, Michael enjoyes time with his three children.

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