What to Know When Opening a Merchant Account

Most merchants like to think they are savvy when it comes to shopping for a merchant account. I mean how hard can it be, you just look at the rate, find the cheapest one and sign up, right? It is no wonder that many merchants feel taken advantage of by their processor and angry with their sales representative. Many sales agents are not educated on what to ask merchant service providers, and it may be up to you to provide them with the appropriate questions.

Here are some tips to ensure your account is set up correctly:

  1. Processors are being more diligent in setting up guidelines, like monthly minimums and high ticket limits, and sticking to them. Setting up a merchant account with incorrect parameters can cost your business a lot of money. A tile company was set up with a high ticket limit of $600, and made a sale for $3000. The money was held by the processor and awaited verification from the customer with their issuing bank. The customer was unavailable to make the verification for 2 weeks. The tile store did not receive their money for the entire 2 weeks. Make sure you explain to your sales agent your specific volume needs and avoid the unnecessary headache that can be associated with large purchases.
  2. When selecting a merchant services provider for an online business, it is important to ensure that you have adequate reporting. With an online business, you don’t get to see your customer face to face. You have to have a way of retrieving customer information in the event an issue arises.  Make sure to see a demo of the reporting the online system will be using for your merchant account.  This will save you time and money when going to see your accountant too. If an issue does come up, will there be a live person you can talk to?  Make sure you have access to 24/7 live support.
  3. Ask about Underwriting, Risk Monitoring, and Fraud management systems.  Is the company you are processing with PCI DSS Compliant? It is important that your and your customer’s data is secure. If you fall into a High Risk category, can the company you chose still get your money to you in a timely manner? Will they expect money to be put in reserve, and if so, for how long? Does the chosen company have a system for monitoring fraud? Many providers don’t have an early warning system to alert merchants in the event of stolen credit card purchases.

The more your sales agent and processor know about your business, the better your overall service, rates, and technology will be. Look beyond the rate and pick a partner that will help your business grow.

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