Whether you contact merchant account providers directly or get bids through an online marketplace, you can scrutinize a few variable fees and terms of service to determine which service has what you need. Here’s a basic checklist to help you get started:
Estimate Equipment Costs
Does this provider include a terminal and/or payment gateway? If not, factor in that additional expense.
Estimate Setup Costs
Some providers offer no-cost or low-cost setup. While this may sound optimal, pay especially close attention to their fee structure and be sure they’re not just redistributing setup fees elsewhere. “You can expect to pay $200 to $500 in setup fees to get your merchant account established,” says home-based business expert Frank Ross.
Estimate Total Cost per Monthly Volume
Make a careful estimate of your total monthly volume, including the number of transactions and average sales. Then carefully go through all of the fees charged by the provider to estimate total expenses against total revenue. One fee structure definitely does not fit all. You’ll need to consider your own company’s projected transactions.
Check for a Monthly Transaction Limit
“Find out what the monthly limit is and be well aware of it,” says Ross. “Going overlimit often occurs in the months of November and December, and a good merchant provider will give you a temporary increase. Bad things can also happen when you go over your monthly limit, bad things like their bank freezing your funds. This is part of their risk-management process. Find out all you can in advance about the way the monthly limit is handled.”
Check Customer Service and Support
What kind of support does the provider offer? Is it centralized? Do you prefer phone, e-mail, or live chat, and is this offered? If you’re accepting online transactions or work nonstandard business hours, look for round-the-clock support.
Look for Online Account Access
Find out if you can access your account and transaction statement online and at what detail. Optimally, you’ll want to see individual transactions, as well as the discount rates applied to them.