Whether you operate a bakery, restaurant, retail shop, or professional services business, your customers expect a lot—especially when it comes to the types of payments you accept. Offering your customers more options in preferred payment types can mean the difference between making a sale and your customer looking elsewhere.

This is why your choice of merchant services provider is so crucial. Choosing a provider that can help you meet your customers’ expectations is an important aspect of your business’ success. If your current provider isn’t cutting it, and you’re considering changing credit card merchant services, these are the five most important things to look for.

1) Customer Support

This is number one on the list because it’s the most important consideration — access to assistance when you need it. Fast, easy payments drive customer satisfaction — having a merchant services provider available when you need them makes all the difference in the world.

When you’re evaluating merchant services, ask questions. What department supports payment related questions and issues? When is that department available? Is there a fee for accessing this support? Is support all-inclusive, or are there different service tiers?

A great merchant services solution offers many support options, such as:

  • Phone
  • Email
  • Live chat

All of the above options should be available 24/7. Their website should also offer fact sheets, FAQs, and training you can access on your own time covering topics such as troubleshooting, funding, hardware/software issues, and processing.

The payments landscape continues evolving, and so does your business. To stay competitive, review your processes periodically. If your processes need updating or your equipment requires upgrades, your merchant services provider should be able to tell you so. With the right support from an experienced provider, you’ll feel confident doing business.

2) Reliability and stability

Downtime is a business’ worst nightmare. Your provider should be able to guarantee uptime and, in the event an issue arises, take care of it immediately. The more your business grows, the more sales you could lose if your payment processor or authorization network experiences downtime. If you’re thinking of changing credit card merchant services providers, you should search for one that’s proven to address outages if they happen and that otherwise and a longstanding track record of reliability.

Not that a provider can prevent every outage. For instance, if a card brand’s network goes down, the merchant services provider may have no control over this—but they should be able to help their customers mitigate the impacts. Ask your potential new providers how they handle unexpected downtime and how it affects your business processes.

3) Security

Cybercriminal activity and sophistication is at an all-time high. Cyber-crimes cost the nation $600 billion in 2017 alone. When a customer entrusts you with sensitive information, such as when they swipe or dip their credit card in your terminals, they expect that you’ll keep that information safeguarded. A data breach can devastate your customers and your business. If you’re thinking of changing credit card merchant services providers, ask about their security guidelines. At NMA, we ensure you meet PCI Security Standards compliance, helping you ensure your business is secure.

When switching providers, ask about their payment security programs and how they will guide you during the compliance process. Does the provider offer security monitoring? Do they offer secure technologies, such as tokenization or encryption? And what type of coverage do they offer to your customers in the event of a security breach?

And helping your business recover after the fact is well and good—but the most important aspect of a credit card merchant services provider is that they’re constantly monitoring emerging threats. Is the provider proactive? Or reactive—when it’s too late?

4) Experience

When reviewing merchant service providers, services, reliability, and experience are all important aspects. But it’s the experience that means the most. Ask your potential new providers for references or testimonials. If they’ve put together case studies, those are good, too. If you have acquaintances who also have businesses of their own, ask for their input. You can also research on the Better Business Bureau website or ask your current POS provider for recommendations. We offer a whole line of customizable POS systems, too, if you’re considering upgrading.

The ultimate provider will have a track record of success in your specific industry, as well as in industries similar to yours and businesses similar in size to yours. Ask about payment processing options. As society moves more towards becoming cashless, more consumers are embracing contactless payments. And with more online shopping happening, ask potential providers if they have the capability to support online transactions. Finally, as your business grows, you need software and hardware that can grow with it. Any potential provider should be able to accommodate that future growth.

5) Easy-to-understand contracts

You should never wonder about the fine print. When you enter into an agreement with a credit card merchant services provider, the contract should be in plain English. Before you sign anything, read it closely for specifics. Some of the most important things you’re looking for are:

  • Length of contract
  • Cancellation and early termination fees
  • Fees for customer support

All fees should be transparent, with no surprises. Know what you are required to pay, and what services are optional.

If your shop is brand new, in some cases short or no-term contracts are the better option. This lets you try out providers to make sure they’re a fit. At the same time, most processors take the term into consideration when setting pricing – so a longer contract may help you bring your costs down – just make sure you’ve chosen your provider carefully before committing. And don’t forget to ask about cancellation policies so you can understand how canceling could financially impact your business.

Partner with National Merchants

Merchant accounts can offer a wide range of services. Each of these services can have varying fees. Many providers offer valuable services that can help you scale up or modify your services as your business needs change.

At NMA, We Work for You® is more than just a slogan. Helping your business is our business, and you deserve a merchant account supported by true payments experts. Reach out today to see about partnering with NMA.