3 Questions to Help Your company Find the Right Credit Card Processor


Businesses face a daunting task when negotiating the complicated world of credit card processing, with wildly varying pricing structures and contrasting levels of customer support from provider to provider. For Precision Payment Systems CEO Alison Burns, the solution is to ask the processors as many questions as possible. Then ask some more.

“I do a really deep dive,” says Burns, who founded the New Orleans-based company in 2013 after recognizing the need for business owners to have a trusted resource about the most competitive rate packages and reliable credit card processors available. Her company works with merchant account providers to identify the best processors and support for individual businesses.

“They have to pull stats for me,” Burns says of the processors. “I want to know average hold time, I want to know the top three questions that come to your tech support, I want to know what time of the day they’re most busy, what time of day they’re least busy.”

She doesn’t stop there, asking about the intricacies of pricing structure, fees and personnel the providers use to deal with merchants. And while this sort of interrogation is baked into the everyday customer service PPS provides its clients, these types of questions can also benefit any business seeking the best deal for credit card processing.

Here are a few key questions to ask as your company chooses a credit card processor.

What Exactly Is the Merchant Offering, for What Price?

“Merchant services provider” is an umbrella term that covers banks, third-party processors and other entities that provide businesses and individuals with the products and services needed to accept credit cards, debit cards and other forms of electronic payment. They are an unavoidable part of doing business in the modern world. They also vary greatly in size, quality and integrity.

When choosing a merchant services provider, it’s paramount to investigate the pricing structure, including any additional fees, associated with the account, Burns says. But that’s not the only consideration. The level of customer support is equally important.

“Dirt-cheap rates are never ever the best way to go,” Burns says. “You’re never going to have good customer service. You’re going to be on hold with 800 numbers forever.”

Burns tells merchants that if they’re not selling their own goods and services at absolute rock-bottom prices, they probably shouldn’t expect the same when negotiating a merchant services contract.

Who Is the Processor?

Take a close look at the company, its history and its structure before signing any contract. Specifically ask about its customer support structure, tech support, its geographic location, its security and its fraud compliance policies. These are especially important questions to ask if you’re dealing with a relatively new company.

Be sure to ask how much a provider charges merchants annually who do not maintain PCI DSS compliance, which is a set of security standards designed to ensure that all companies that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.

“If they’re not getting some PCI non-compliance fee, that would tell me, as somebody in the payments technology world, that they’re really not taking it that seriously and you should probably move on from that particular processor,” Burns says.

Who Are You Dealing With?

Burns says merchant services providers often fail to provide adequate training for their employees, which leads to overpromising and under-delivering by company representatives largely focused on sales. When dealing with a provider, ask the rep specific questions about their work, such as how long they’ve been in the industry and how many merchants are in their portfolio.

If they are hesitant to answer the questions, it could be a red flag. Likewise, if the rep has handled an extraordinarily high number of customers over a relatively short time in the industry, most likely he is not providing excellent customer service. It’s a better sign if he has a lower number of clients and a long history in the industry.

“That probably means that they’re not only selling but they’re servicing as well,” Burns says. “So you will hear that same voice and you can get in touch with that person and have a question about your statement, or something happens with your terminal or your POS system — and they will actually help you.”

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