If you’re about to launch a new business, or already have one up and running, chances are good in this digital world that you will need to find a merchant services provider at some stage to enable you to accept credit card payments and other transactions.

However, with such a broad range of organizations across the globe providing payment-processing services, it can be tricky working out which company to go with, and understanding what will be best for your business over the long term.

If you’re keen to find the perfect merchant services solution this year for your start-up, or simply want to switch to a better option, read on for three things you need to analyze when you’re comparing providers.

1. Price

The cost of a service is, of course, typically the first thing most people look at. Just remember though that you want to compare apples with apples to ensure that what seems to be the best option really is of the most value when all costs are factored in. pciture 1

When examining providers you’ll find that processing costs on payments can come in various forms. Oftentimes merchant services companies will charge a set-up fee to create the account in their database, and to configure their system with your point-of-sale machine or website. If possible, see if you can negotiate to have this fee waived to save yourself some cash, or look for a provider who doesn’t charge it in the first place.

Payment processing firms also charge for the actual transactions that you put through their system. Some providers will charge you a flat fee per payment, no matter how many transactions you put through in a month or a year, while others use a variable fee structure. With these types of payment plans, you may find that the individual transaction fee decreases if you put through a certain number of sales per year.

When comparing providers, also make sure you analyze things such as whether or not you have to commit to a particular contract length, and if there is a cancellation fee involved if you decide that you want to stop the service before that contract is up. As well, examine other potential fees such as extra costs for customer support; fees for integration with your particular website or system; and withdrawal costs for transferring your daily, weekly, or monthly balances over to your bank account.

In addition, don’t forget to speak to payment processing providers about the time they take to give you access to your funds. This can vary quite considerably from firm to firm, and as a result affect your cashflow negatively if the timeframe is drawn out. Look for a company who will make your funds available within 24 hours, rather than making you wait for days or weeks at a time to deposit payment proceeds.

2. Security

In this day and age hackers all across the globe are constantly finding new ways of breaking into websites and accessing point-of-sale information and other customer data in order to steal credit card details and the like. As a result, another critically important part of choosing a payment processing provider is looking for a firm who is focused on digital security.

When comparing businesses in this field, there are a few things you can look for security-wise. Comprehensive systems will typically provide support for more detailed SSL certificates; provide data encryption; enable CVV2 verification; and keep the billing addresses of customers, which are provided during transactions, secure.

It also pays to look for a provider that goes one step further and utilizes complicated encryption algorithms (these are much harder for thieves to hack), and that imposes tighter restrictions on the way that data is both sent and then stored online.

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In the perfect world, you will never have to contact your payment processing provider because everything runs properly at all times. Sadly though, this is not often the case, which means that you will want to choose a firm who can provide you with proper customer support when you need it.

After all, there’s nothing worse than having an issue crop up and having to miss out on much-needed revenue for a time because you can’t easily and quickly get the issue fixed.

Before you sign on the dotted line with a merchant services company, make sure that the plan you are interested in provides comprehensive customer assistance 24 hours per day, every day of the year. You should be able to phone the firm and speak to a company representative at any time you like, as well as send an email or access online live support at all hours if the need arises.