The first step in building a secure online store is to compare merchant account services being offered to you and to select a provider with the right combination of affordable rates, high customer satisfaction, and comprehensive features. Because these factors will vary widely from company to company, many small business owners opt for what appears to be the lowest rate, without looking for hidden fees, especially those that crop up when you terminate the account.
Remember Your Goals in Getting a Merchant Account
As you sit down to compare merchant account services, remind yourself why you are going this
route over other payment options:
- You want to be able to accept all forms of payment including major credit and debit cards, and electronic and traditional checks.
- You want to be able to accept payments from anywhere via online processing.
- You want adequate protection from fraud both for yourself and your customers.
These benefits, as well as the many others involved in working with a merchant account, will facilitate ease of purchase for your customers while increasing your potential sales volume and enhancing your accounts receivable processing.
Basic Features to Look for in a Merchant Account Service
The best merchant account services will process your application quickly without an associated fee. There will be a monthly fee, which should be low. The rate is normally calculated on a sliding scale according to number of transactions per month.
Ask for a clear schedule of ongoing fees and costs, under what circumstances those expenses can increase, and a clear indication of the exact amount of that increase. You will want to know if there are any start-up costs involved as well as the amount of time required to set up the account.
Customer Service is Paramount for Online Stores
When you are working with a merchant services provider to process payments from a website, the associated shopping cart software will have to be properly configured. The provider may have a proprietary cart, or will supply you with a list of preferred shopping carts. If you are not well-versed in these technologies, take the necessary steps to ensure that your webmaster has all the materials he or she needs to complete the process and is authorized to discuss your account on your behalf with the provider if necessary.
Generally such web services are also bundled with a “virtual terminal,” which means the merchant can accept credit cards from any computer connected to the Internet. The information can be entered manually or swiped from a credit card with a plug-in USB card reader.
Make Sure The Service is Industry Compliant
You will want to verify that the merchant service provider has “PCI compliance”, which means it adheres to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards. Statistics have shown that customers feel there is greater security in making a payment electronically with a credit card because it facilities the return of items as well as the settlement of disputes. Consequently, card-holding shoppers tend, on average, to buy 2.5 times the amount of goods and services as their counterparts who pay in cash.
The confidence these consumers place on electronic payments is further predicated on the belief that their information if protected via encryption and other security technologies. You not only want to make sure the merchant service provider you pick is taking the necessary precautions to guard your customers from identify fraud, but also to protect your money in the form of the payments due to you. A company should be able to explain, in clear language, how its system protects data and should also provide a complete written explanation for your review or that of your IT consultant.
Ask About Account Termination in Advance
It is best to know in advance what will happen if you are not satisfied with your merchant services provider. Find out about fees involved in terminating your account and migrating your payment processing needs to another vendor. Will there be any downtime? Is your existing data in an industry-standard format that will be easily transferable to a new system? Can you expect full customer support during the change?
Although sorting through the features and options offered by the various merchant service providers can be tedious, it is also necessary. You not only want a secure online store, but one that will flexibly expand with your business, that will facilitate payments in a range of currencies, and will accurately address issues of shipping and taxes. When these systems work seamlessly and well, your online payment process will be a significant access to your business.