The payments process can be complicated and confusing. Like other professions, it has its own lexicon and it feels like you need an experienced guide to understand where your money goes, let alone trying to find a good deal. And have you looked at your credit card statement lately? Depending on your provider, it can range from too vague or too complicated. Either way it’s difficult to follow what you’re really paying for when many of the charges are priced with fractions of pennies.
Some charges in the processing ecosystem are non-negotiable. Some charges can vary greatly between providers. The pricing structure offered to you can also save you thousands a year. It’s clear that signing a good payments processing agreement starts with choosing the right provider. Once you find the right provider, they’ll make sure you given the service, pricing, and equipment your firm needs to manage your money.
Here are 4 questions to ask your current or potential provider.
- How will you help me when something goes wrong?
Regardless of who you choose to process payments, you will run into an issue. Is your payment page buggy? Have your payments been delayed? What do you do with chargebacks? Any delay or hiccup in taking payments is costly. It happens, but what happens after is what tells you you’ve chosen a good payment partner.
Look into your payment provider’s customer service. Are they easy to reach? Are they knowledgeable about your hardware and software? Can they help you with one phone call or are you passed around? Will they make onsite visits?
This type of customer service rarely comes from a bank. But, if you find an independent payment provider or a company who specializes in payments—instead of offering it as an extended service—you will receive much better customer service when you need it most.
- Can I get a quote on that?
We’ve already mentioned the complexity of payments statements. Every card type has its own interchange rate, and it’s non-negotiable. There are fees for card-present and not-present transactions. You need to worry about PCI compliance training and fees. With all the variability, it’s easy for a processor to hide, disguise, and mark up fees while they’re discounting others to make you think you’re getting a good deal.
How do you combat the smoke and screen? Ask for a quote comparison.
The provider will ask for a payments statement to see what your rates are and how you’re being charged across each payment type. If you already have a merchant account and have accepted payments for a few months, you will have a statement on hand to compare your actual usage with two vendors.
If you’ve never processed payments before, ask the provider for a few options and different ways to structure your pricing.
Here are some specific questions to ask:
- Do you offer a flat rate? A flat rate price means that you will pay the same processing rate regardless of the card type. This is the go-to structure for Square and may be a good fit depending on your charge per transaction, the number of transactions, and the types of cards you take. That’s a lot of variability, but that’s why you ask for options to compare.
- Do you offer an interchange cost plus pricing structure? This one is also pretty straightforward. It’s the interchange rate (remember, that’s non-negotiable and is set by the card brand) plus the cost of processing that can vary between providers. Sounds like a great deal, right? It is, but it also creates a lot of line items. Don’t let the details keep you from finding savings in this more dynamic pricing structure.
- Are there other fees that I need to plan on covering? This is a great follow up question to make sure your quote is thorough and that you won’t be surprised by any extras when you get your statement each month.
Pay attention to the summaries and where you’ll receive discounts. Each quote should summarize the savings for you—if you aren’t saving any money, the provider doesn’t deserve any more of your time. And, if the provider is familiar with your trends and usage, it should be customized.
Again, banks aren’t known for their customization and their quotes aren’t very detailed and transparent. A payment specialist will be able tailor their quote to your business. Wherever you get your quotes from, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples and that each payment provider is quoting similar charges and fees.
- Have you worked with firms like mine?
Every professional niche is unique. The payments trends of retail stores is going to differ from a body shop or a law firm. You’ll do well finding a provider that understands the different and specialized needs of your law firm.
Ask about their other clients and the size of their firms. Take a look around their website to see who they service. Review their testimonials. Make sure you investigate and vet out your payments provider. This is how you get paid. Choose a vendor who understands where you need discounts so you keep as much of your money as possible.
- Are there any other services you offer?
Our final question has nothing to do with processing itself, but their complimented offerings. Business is easier to manage when you have fewer vendors to manage. Walmart and Target are convenient because they are a one-stop shop. So, what else can your vendor offer you?
Look at hardware and software. Do they integrate with your accounting system? What other equipment or tech services do you need? One common ask is for an intuitive and seamless online payment page. Having a convenient payment page can be what attracts new clients. Who wants to work with a firm that only accepts checks or cards over the phone? Technology has made the payment experience so easy and versatile. Regardless of the product being purchased, consumers expect that same level of ease everywhere.
There you have it: 4 questions that will help you sign a profitable payments processing agreement. These questions will also make you sound knowledgeable and push your next provider to find the best deal for you.