Any business accepting credit or debit card payments must have a merchant account set up. They need a service provider able to handle those transactions. Not all providers are the same and that influences getting approved. The approval process and what has to be done to set it all up varies based on your business model and the method in which you take payments. 

Being mindful of fees and discovering the best companies to work with takes some time to investigate. Due to the differences in requirements, find out which providers you have the best chance of approval with. It depends on your type of business and their requirements. There are several banking institutions and third parties you can consider for your needs. Take your time to evaluate them and see what they offer.

What is a Merchant Services Provider?

A merchant service provider is a partner you count on to help you complete transactions with your customers. They create a system for you to accept credit and debit card payments. The specific methods of this will depend on the type of business you operate. If it is a brick-and-mortar location, there is equipment on site for the cards to be processed for payment.

Many businesses operate both in-person and online. Others are only online, and that means a need for merchant services in that sector. Protection against fraud and data breaches is important. The company must have the best practices in place to ensure nothing falls through the cracks. Your business can’t be seen as an easy target by scammers.

Your customers don’t know the merchant provider, they deal with you directly. The goal is to set up a process that is smooth and simple for a purchase to be completed. This can include swiping a card, an insert for a chip-enabled card, or the customer entering their payment information from the card online.

Merchant services companies have to stay in compliance with regulations. This includes the types of services they offer and how they offer them. The requirements to be approved for an account can vary from one provider to the next. Some won’t service high-risk types of merchants. It is important to find a provider with a solid reputation that also matches what your business offers.

If your business is considered high risk, you will pay additional fees beyond a regular account. This is because the provider is taking a chance by approving your account. There are several reasons why you may be considered high risk. This includes:

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How to Set up an Account

Take an assessment of your business. What type of merchant service provider would give you the best value? If you are a high-risk business, which providers are more likely to approve you? The goal is to match up your needs with the provider you can count on to meet them. Only apply once you know that match is present.

Carefully read through the requirements for an account. It doesn’t make sense to apply when you don’t meet their criteria. Your application will be denied. If something isn’t clear to you or you have unusual circumstances, reach out to the provider before you apply. Gather information from them to help you decide if you should apply or not.

Take your time with the application and fill it out completely. Don’t skip information as your application may be declined or delayed. If you need help with any part of it, ask for assistance before you submit it. Provide any requested documentation along with the application. If you get a request for any additional information, make sure you provide it timely.

Once an application is approved and accepted for a merchant account, the necessary equipment is provided to complete the payment processing. Such equipment will vary based on the provider and what they use to create a seamless process. The size and design of your business may influence the tools and equipment the provider offers to ensure all needs are met.

The cost of that equipment is going to vary. With some providers, you will purchase the equipment. It belongs to you even if you decide to end the relationship with them at some point. With others, you pay to rent the equipment each month. The equipment is returned to them should the relationship end. When you rent the equipment, they may exchange it for updated equipment as it becomes available.

Is it Easy to set up an Account?

For the most part, it is easy to set up an account. The specifics depend on who you apply with and your type of business. Some applications are more complex than others and require additional information. Don’t be discouraged if you have to supply documents to get them to approve it. Do what you can to help move the process along in the right direction.

Always take your time to evaluate providers before you apply. This will help you avoid wasting time. You aren’t going to qualify with all merchants, but there should be several you are a good fit with. Some things to take into consideration before you apply to include:

  • Approval criteria
  • Equipment fees
  • Setup fees
  • Transaction fees

Gather information about the process to set up an account. Look for details from other business owners sharing the pros and cons of getting set up with this particular provider. Those details can help you feel good about the choice you made. In other scenarios, it can help you avoid problems and hassles.

Fees to look for

There are different fees a merchant service provider will charge for an account. Most will charge a flat rate for a transaction or a percentage of that transaction. If your business offers expensive products or services, it may be better to go with the flat rate option. Watch out for other fees that can add up fast too. They will vary for each provider but should be fully disclosed before you set up an account with them.

A monthly fee for the service is common for the service. This includes the cost of any customer service you need and monthly reports. When a provider is charging high fees or they seem to bill you for every little thing they may not be the best provider for you. On the other hand, don’t select a provider based on fees alone. They may not provide you the best level of security or overall services you need to take care of your customer payment transactions.

Compare fees including the cost of them and what you are paying for. Ask questions and confirm the details. A reputable provider won’t try to take advantage of you with additional fees or not clearly state what you are being charged for. Once you identify the services you need, it makes comparing the fees with potential providers easier to look at.

Third-party resources tend to have lower fees than larger bank corporations. This can make them enticing, but make sure they have what you need. They need to be authorized to offer such services and have the highest security in place. Most providers understand they need to stay on top of the game to remain competitive. They don’t want to lose out on businesses because their competitors offer something better.

Some of the common fees a provider may add on that you should be on the lookout for include:

  • Account maintenance fees
  • Account set up fee
  • Cancellation fee
  • Chargeback fees
  • Non-Sufficient Funds fees
  • PCI compliance fee
  • Processing fees
  • Statement fees

Which Companies are best?

There are many banks and 3rd parties offering merchant services. Always take your time to identify the needs of your business and compare fees. Evaluate the reputation of the provider and feedback from other business owners. Take your time to look closely at providers, strive to find one that is flexible. This ensures as your business needs to branch out or change, your merchant account can still do what it should.

Square is an extremely popular option for merchant accounts, especially in person. They have a wide variety of equipment options and easy-to-understand pricing. Reach out to learn more. 

Payline also has a reputation as a good provider for a variety of reasons. They offer low pricing and wonderful support.

All in all, avoid any long-term contracts that lock you in with any given merchant services company. It is best to reserve the right to cancel it and move to a new provider at any time. You should only do so if the company isn’t fulfilling what they said they would or your needs change to where they can no longer assist you. Find out in advance if there would be a cancellation fee if you choose to end that relationship.

Most providers also reserve the right to cancel your account with them at any time. They may do so if they believe your business isn’t engaging in legal practices or there are other concerns. Typically, they will try to gather information from you first and find a solution. Make sure you do your part to keep your account in good standing so it doesn’t get canceled. This can prevent you from being able to accept credit or debit card payments from customers. It will take time to get a new account set up.


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