In the fast-paced digital era we live in, accepting credit card payments is essential for any business that wants to stay competitive. However, with each credit card processing company promoting their best offers, it can be overwhelming to choose the best one for your business needs.
The wrong decision could end up costing you money, time, and customers. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of selecting the best credit card processing company for your business, ensuring that you’re equipped with the knowledge to make an informed decision. We’ll take a deep dive into various factors such as pricing models, security features, customer support, and integration options. By the end of this article, you’ll have the tools you need to choose the right credit card processing partner for your business and boost your sales while minimizing costs.
The first step is assessing your business’s credit card processing volume and requirements. How many transactions do you process each month? What types of credit cards do you accept? Do you need additional features like mobile payments, loyalty programs, or reporting?
Choose a processor that can adequately handle your volume during peak seasons and provide all the features you need to run your business. If you have high volume or process risky transaction types like installments, look for a processor that specializes in those areas.
For small to mid-sized businesses, the top processors like Square, Stripe, PayPal, and Chase Paymentech are good options with affordable fees and useful tools. Larger merchants may prefer processors owned by major card networks like Visa, Mastercard, or American Express.
Some other questions to consider:
Determining your needs upfront will ensure you choose a credit card payment partner that meets all your requirements, not just some of them. The right processor for your business will make accepting payments easier, more secure, and cost-effective in the long run.
The major things to compare are the swipe fees, monthly fees, statement fees, chargeback fees, and payment gateway fees. Look for a processor with lower fees, especially the interchange or swipe fees which are a percentage of each transaction. Lower fees mean more money in your profit margins.
Swipe fees also called interchange fees, are charged by the credit card networks like Visa and Mastercard each time a card is swiped. Fees range from 1.5-3% of the transaction amount depending on the card type. The lowest interchange fees are most important for high-volume businesses.
Monthly service fees cover basic features and processing up to a certain dollar amount of transactions. These typically range from $25 to $100 per month. See if you can lower or waive these fees, especially for the first 3-6 months. Some processors refund these fees if you meet a minimum dollar amount or volume of transactions.
Statement fees are charged for each written statement, usually a few dollars per statement. As more businesses go paperless, this may not apply to you but it’s still good to compare. Non-paper statements should be free.
Chargeback fees or return processing fees aim to cover the costs of disputed or fraudulent transactions. These fees are often a flat $5 to $30 per chargeback. Lower fees are better if you have a higher-than-average chargeback rate.
Payment gateway fees apply if you use your processor’s payment gateway or website to accept online payments. These range from 1-3% of each transaction and add on additional costs, so they should be waived or minimal if possible.
Not all fees will apply to every business, so focus on comparing the specific fees that matter most for your needs and budget. Even small differences in fees can add up to big savings over time. By evaluating multiple processors based on all-in fees, you’ll find the optimal partner for your business.
A good processor will use encryption, tokenization, and other techniques to ensure customer data security and prevent fraud. They will also have a solid track record of up-time and reliability without processing interruptions. Ask about PCI compliance, security features, and fraud liability.
PCI compliance means the processor meets the strict security standards set by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. These standards help prevent credit card fraud and data breaches. Any reputable processor will be PCI compliant, so this should not be a point of differentiation. However, they should be able to provide details on their PCI certification and compliance audits.
Some additional security features to inquire about include:
Never take at face value that a processor is secure. Do some research on your own or ask them for case studies, examples of security incidents they have handled well, third-party audits or certifications beyond PCI compliance, and any partnerships with leading security companies.
As important as security is reliability. Look for a processor with a proven track record of system uptime, few or no outages, and fast problem resolution. Downtime can be costly for any business. Check independent reviews or case studies that highlight real-world reliability challenges the processor has navigated effectively.
While no system is 100% foolproof, the most trusted payment processors take security and reliability just as seriously as you do for your business. Do your due diligence upfront to minimize future risks, costs, hassle, and damage to your reputation. Security and reliability should be non-negotiable priorities.
Some processors also offer useful services such as integrated shopping carts, online store builders, accounting integrations, mobile wallets, customer/loyalty programs, and more. See which services best fit your business and needs.
An integrated shopping cart and website builder allows you to sell products and services directly through your processor’s platform. This can be ideal if you need an e-commerce store, but it may lack customization. It’s worth considering if you plan to scale an online business.
Accounting integrations like QuickBooks, Xero, or NetSuite sync your transactions automatically so you can save time on data entry and reconciliation. This is important for larger businesses and maximizes accuracy and efficiency.
Mobile wallets allow customers to pay with apps like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, or a processor-branded wallet. More customers are using mobile payments, so accepting them supports your brand and improves the user experience.
Loyalty and rewards programs, also known as customer loyalty programs, help establish a connection with your customers and increase repeat business. You can create customer profiles, tiered loyalty levels, point systems, coupons, and exclusive member discounts easily through many payment processors.
Other useful services include virtual terminals for offline payments, payment schedules, recurring billing, appointment booking, shopping cart upselling tools, subscription management, invoices, and real-time reporting and analytics.
Compare the available services across different processors based on your business’s key priorities. See real-world examples and reviews from other merchants before selecting any service. You can always start with a basic set-up and add on more services if your needs evolve over time. The most reputable processors provide high-quality, user-friendly tools at affordable prices. They also allow you the flexibility to enable or disable integrated services as needed for optimal functionality.
When evaluating a credit card processor, additional services should complement their core payment processing, not make up for any shortcomings. Having too many options can be overwhelming, so weigh them judiciously based on requirements and budget. With the right mix of services to support your business goals, you’ll maximize the value of your payment processor partnership.
Search online for reviews from sources like G2 Crowd, Trustpilot or the processor’s Google reviews. See what real merchants say about ease of use, support, fees, reliability and more. Also check with large industry groups or your local chamber of commerce for their recommendations or warnings.
Online reviews provide unfiltered opinions from businesses currently using the processor or who have recently switched from them. Look for processors with mostly positive reviews that mention strengths relevant to your key criteria like low fees, excellent service, reliability, security and ease of use. Also note any common complaints to determine if they seem justified or if the processor is responding and improving.
On G2 Crowd, Trustpilot and Google Reviews, check the total volume of reviews as well as the distribution of ratings (mostly 3 or 4 out of 5 stars is good). Notice any concerning dips in ratings over the past 12-24 months that could indicate declining quality or other issues. Recent reviews are most helpful as company priorities and processes could have shifted over time.
Reviews from industry organizations provide an aggregated expert perspective. They evaluate based on factors such as features, innovations, leadership, market growth, security practices, and customer satisfaction. Look for processors ranked very highly by reputable payment gateways and ecommerce associations.
Your local chamber of commerce may also provide reviews or recommendations based on feedback from similar businesses in your geographic area or industry. These localized insights into what is actually working for peers in your network can be invaluable.
User review forums on websites like Reddit can also provide opinions on ease of use, support quality, pros/cons and alternatives to consider. Keep an open mind as some negative posters may have unrealistic expectations or personal grudges. Look for constructive criticism as opposed to haters.
Do additional research on your own to validate review claims. Check processor websites for case studies, resources, calculators, etc. See if you can find interviews with company leadership or news coverage highlighting recent innovations and partnerships. Trustworthy companies will be transparent about best practices, community focus and future goals.
With insight from both customers and experts in reviews and research, you’ll gain confidence in your final choice for the most reputable, dependable payment partner for your business. No processor is perfect, so determine which is optimal based on priorities like low fees, great service and solid reliability.
Once you evaluate a few top processors, compare the fees, services and other details to choose two or three finalists. Then contact them to negotiate the best offer, possibly lower fees or additional services for your business. Get everything in writing in your contract before signing up.
Call the processors you like the most to speak with their sales team. Have documentation with estimates of your monthly volume and interchange fees to support any requests for lowered rates or service credits. Be prepared to walk away if you cannot get a compelling offer—there are other good options.
Some things you can negotiate include:
Be willing to walk away if you cannot get the terms you want. Come back and try another round of negotiation or switch to a competitor if needed. You get only one chance to make a first impression—ensure you start with the credit card processor that can truly meet your business’s needs affordably.
Make sure all your employees involved with credit card processing receive adequate training on the new system and policies. Do a test run with a small sample of transactions before fully launching the new processor for all your payments. With the right preparation, you’ll ensure a smooth transition.
Schedule training sessions with each employee who will use the new credit card processor. Have them practice essential tasks like authorizing payments, issuing refunds, running reports, and managing settings. This helps them become comfortable navigating the interface and procedures to set them up for success when the processor goes live for all business transactions.
Run test transactions with your own cards before launching the processor for your business payments. Try each type of transaction you process like sales, refunds, partial authorizations, tips, etc. This identifies any issues with your implementation or training so you can make adjustments before the big rollout.
Work with your processor’s support team throughout testing and training. They should be available to quickly assist you with any questions, problems or limitations you encounter. With their guidance, you’ll feel fully prepared to transition all your real payments to the new processor.
Provide reference materials and job aids for your staff to use as resources. This includes written procedures, instructional documentation, FAQs, and information on how to contact support. New systems often take time to become second nature, so recurrent resources help jog memories and ensure consistency.
diligently comparing early transaction reports and statements to your previous processor or other systems you use. Look for any discrepancies in volumes, dollars, fees, refunds and more. Catching issues fast allows you to troubleshoot them promptly with your credit card processor support team.
Give employees some time to adjust to the new procedures and tools. It can take several weeks of regular use for a new credit card processor to become completely intuitive. Continue providing feedback and resources during this ramp-up period. Make additional training a priority if performance or questions indicate the need for it.
With patience and preparation, switching to a new credit card processor should be seamless for your business and staff. Ensure all details are addressed, personnel are up-to-speed and issues can be resolved rapidly. Keep the lines of communication open between your teams on both ends—your employees and the processor support group. Their partnership will set you up for ongoing success with credit card payments that work as efficiently as the rest of your business.