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Top 4 Considerations for Choosing a Payment Processor

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Jan 13th 2016
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As an accountant, if you or your clients plan to accept credit cards online, in person, or both, finding a reputable processor that can offer what you need at an affordable rate requires a bit of understanding about some of the options and pricing structures employed by payment processors.

Poor decision-making when it comes to pricing and fees, business fit, or processing capability could have long-term effects on quickly and easily processing transactions. Consequently, taking the time to find the right payment processor for the job could be beneficial to both you and your clients.

To that end, here are four important things to consider when choosing a payment processor for your accounting transactions.

1. Consider Your Payment Options

When choosing a payment processor, consider the payment options you use or plan to use. This is the first step in determining what you will need for the transactions. If you or your clients primarily handle credit card transactions at a stationary point of sale, such as at a desk in the office, almost every payment processor can accommodate.

If you use or plan to use varying payment options, such as mobile transactions or online credit card transactions, you will need a payment processor that specializes in online or mobile payment processing. These processing methods could be beneficial if you are a solo practicing accountant and you often meet with clients in places other than your office. This could allow you to easily process a payment almost anywhere.

If you are not sure what payment methods may work best, you may want to research what works for other accountants and CPAs. You should ask a plethora of questions before selecting a processor to make sure the company's services align with your needs. You do not want to be limited on your payment options for clients because your processor cannot provide the things you need.

2. Research Costs Associated with Different Processors

As an accountant, you understand the importance of knowing how your money is spent. Shopping for the cheapest rates is crucial, but it requires that you first understand how credit card processing services are priced. Essentially, they are priced as cost plus. The fixed cost, which is referred to as interchange, is the amount that the card brand charges per transaction.

Businesses often will advertise a low qualified rate for their services, making it appear as though they can provide the best deal. These same businesses may have hidden fees and could potentially charge you more than what was originally promised. You should be certain of how you will be charged before selecting a processor.

If a processor advertises a rate that seems incredibly low, you should do intensive research before making a rash decision. A low rate does not mean an overall low cost, so do not choose a payment processor based on this number alone. You should be aware of what transactions are considered qualified, mid-qualified, or nonqualified rates and what the company would charge to process those transactions.

Processors divide transactions into those three categories, and each processing company can determine how it will divide the transactions among the tiers. One company could choose to have nonreward credit cards and debit cards listed at a low qualified rate, leaving all other transactions to be more costly. Another company could classify those same transactions at a higher qualified rate, but charge less for mid-qualified and nonqualified transactions.

Additionally, you should be cautious of hidden fees that could be tacked on. Some companies may advertise a low rate, but then add on things like an initial setup fee. Others processors could have costly termination fees or cancellation fees. Sometimes accountants could face pricey monthly minimums, in addition to standard monthly fees. Research and ask questions to ensure you know what you'll really be paying.

3. Ensure the Processors are Secure and PCI Compliant

Cardholder security is critical for all of your clients, so the payment processor you choose should be secure and PCI compliant.  Processors that are PCI compliant adhere to a specific set of security standards designed to protect cardholder data. The standards were established more than a decade ago after major payment brands formed the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council. Now, the private body maintains the security standards.

The standards are designed to help businesses protect client and customer credit card data by building and maintaining a secure network. The network should be tested and monitored regularly to ensure the data is safe and cannot be compromised.

Also, businesses must maintain an information security policy and implement strong access-control measures. Although not all breaches can be avoided, working with a PCI-compliant processor can help to decrease the likeliness your client information will be compromised.

When choosing a payment processor, you also should check the company's background to verify it is a reputable business that can provide the level of protection you need. You want to be sure your information is protected, as well as the information you receive from clients.

Research to find companies that have a long track record of providing quality service in the industry. This can help to ensure healthy and trustworthy relationships with your clients.

4. Seek Out Support and Easy-to-Use Services

How a company provides support and the level of services offered should be considered when choosing a payment processor. Your money is important, and you should work with a company that is invested in providing the best services to help you protect it. You should choose a payment processor that can provide efficient customer support any time issues or concerns arise.

Working with a payment processor should be a partnership in which there is a thorough understanding of what your business needs and how the company is expected to help you. You should know how the company would handle point-of-sale issues or other problems that could affect your business. You also should be aware of customer service needs, including if the company has a single point of contact, bilingual customer support, or provides 24-hour assistance.

You should know what to expect before selecting the business. The relationship with a credit card processor directly affects the ability to work with clients. You want to make sure any issue that arises, whether it is brought up by you or a client, can be addressed and solved immediately. Keeping customer information safe and their transactions accurate is vital in solidifying a strong accountant-to-client connection.

Conclusion

These are just some of the things you need to research before entering a contract with a processing company. You should research companies thoroughly and compare them to others before making a decision. You want to be sure you know what you are getting from the company, especially because processing costs can become costly if you are not sure where your money is going.

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