Choosing the right credit card processor will save you time, diversify your ability to collect payments and ultimately increase your ability to generate revenue.

Selecting the wrong processor will leave you paying higher fees, confuse your customers and put you on hold for hours waiting for customer service.

The next time you’re looking at a potential online credit card processor, ask yourself these questions.

1. What are my fees?

The transaction fee is usually the first aspect a business will look at when evaluating online credit card processing options. But don’t be sold on a low rate without asking questions about additional fees. Many processors also institute processing minimums, which is where you pay a penalty if you don’t process a certain volume of transactions per month. Ask for a complete breakdown of all transaction and incidental fees so you have a complete picture of your monthly costs.

2. How high is its approval rating?

The approval rating indicates what percentage of applications the credit card processor approves. A higher approval rating usually means a higher percentage of approved applicants, a higher processing speed and a lower fee to apply. A lower approval rating usually means the opposite.

3. What features does it offer?

Most credit card processing companies offer a variety of terminal options, including swipers, virtual terminals, or online payment forms. However, many businesses will need more functionality than a simple gateway to process a payment.

  • Do you plan on storing customer information (or even payment information) for repeat purchases?
  • Would you like to set up recurring billing to bill credit cards on a regular schedule?
  • What type of reporting do you need to track your cash flow?
  • Does the provider offer a mobile app to process credit cards on-the-go?

These types of features are often NOT included with your merchant account and can lead to expensive or complicated integrations by separate software providers. Be sure your merchant account is compatible, or better yet, already integrated with the features you desire. Use this free evaluation guide to help you find the right the solution for your business.

4. How much does start-up (or cancellation) cost?

Online credit card processing services usually charge you a fee to get started, and many charge a fee to cancel. Be sure to verify these costs and whether you’ll be locked into a contract with a hefty cancellation fee.

5. What do customers say about their service?

Before you sign up with a processor, do a Google search and read what customers have said. You can also go directly to review websites and find objective write-ups from reviewers who have done a lot of in-depth research for you. A few notable  examples include CNet.com, PCMag.com and CardPaymentOptions.com.

6. How long does it take to get started?

Some companies can have you up and running in a day, and others take weeks. The nature of your business can sometimes factor into how long it takes to set up your merchant account, but the provider and their systems can shorten or lengthen this process, as well.

7. How long is funding time?

Be somewhat wary of services boasting “instant” or “guaranteed” set up, as it can mean a holding time for your funds. Be sure that for whatever online credit card processing service you’re looking into that you know the average funding time for Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express transactions (as these can often be different). Any longer than a few days can mean your funds are being placed in a holding account to offset the processor’s risk of an “application-free” or “instant” setup.

Choosing the best online credit card processing service ultimately comes down to how well it will fit with your business in the long-run. Will its service and features make your life easier or more difficult? Research all your options, send them through this checklist and you’ll be processing credit cards, headache-free, in no time.

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