How Do I Know Which Merchant Services Provider To Choose?
Using Credit Card Processing Consultants: Big Savings for Small Merchants
By Darrah Brustein
Even the financially savvy may have trouble navigating the complexities of merchant processing. Between the varying fees, equipment costs and the time it takes to acquire funds, every merchant processor is different. Though it can be confusing, this is actually good for your business if you play your cards right. It means that all of these factors can be negotiated. If you don’t have the time or inclination to bother negotiating with banks and processors, you’re in luck. There are firms that can negotiate on your behalf. When it comes to credit card processing, the rule of thumb is to think small. Small consultancies can save you money and give you better service than larger, big business providers! Here’s how:
They know the market and can navigate it on your behalf. Look for a firm that has access to multiple processors as opposed to being affiliated with one processor or bank. Consultants with access to a variety of processors will work for you to negotiate fees based on factors such as volume processed, whether the business is new or established, credit history, industry and transaction method (online/in person/by phone/mobile/etc). Having access to multiple processors allows these consultants to compare processors and force them to compete for your business.
They can keep you out of contracts and help you eliminate unnecessary expenses. Processors know they can turn a larger profit on small merchants by requiring contracts and tacking on setup fees, annual fees and equipment leases. These terms are also negotiable. A consultant’s knowledge of the industry and bargaining power will help you avoid these additional costs. You benefit by saving money and larger processors like to work with these smaller consultants who will take great care of your business.
They monitor industry fluctuations in fees and rates to insure that yours stay competitive. And if the size or scope of your business changes, consultants can help you renegotiate the terms of your agreement or find you a processor that better suits your needs.
Using a consultant will not cost you any more. The margins that consultants earn are typically very small and are no different than what their competitors who represent banks or the big name credit card processors will cost. Unless you’re processing millions of dollars per month or have more than 100 locations, you will save by going through a small consultant who is more concerned with winning and keeping your business, rather than gouging you on your pricing because it’s challenging to understand (and you trust their big name) and in turn, lock you into a long-term agreement so you aren’t motivated to leave if/when you realize you’re being overcharged.
Consultants supplement the customer service that processors and banks offer. Because merchant processing involves such a large volume of transactions, bigger banks and processors are unable to provide personalized service. In most cases, they rely on Independent Sales Offices (ISOs) and Member Service Providers (MSPs) to handle their accounts. The problem with these organizations is a high turnover rate; the number of representatives and depth of their industry knowledge is inconsistent. The result is longer hold times and more call transfers for merchant customers. Though consultants do not replace the ISOs and MSPs, they can circumnavigate roadblocks by connecting their customers with the right people.
If you’re a small business, think twice before you go with a big bank for your credit card processing needs. By leveraging the knowledge and bargaining power of a small consultancy, you’ll gain access to better service and savings that can make a big difference for your profit margin. Lastly, when you support small consultancies, you support small businesses like your own.
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