As a business owner, you’re always looking for ways to better your bottom line. Finding the best credit card processing for small business is one way to trim expenses.

You don’t need to be a new business to shop around for a credit card processing company. You might be thinking about changing your current payment processing service. Or you might just be curious if there’s a better fit for your business. Maybe you need lower fees or different features that align with your business.

Whatever the reason, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll walk through what you should consider when shopping for a new credit card processing solution for your company.

How to compare small business credit card processing options

Let’s go over some high-level topics you should think about when reviewing payment processing companies. Consider price, features, customer service and trust.

Price

There are a few pricing models with varying fee structures. You want a processing company that has low rates, setup fees and a pricing model that aligns with your business.

Consider a lowest-rate guarantee so you know you’re getting the best credit card payment rates on the market.

Features

Basic payment processing functionalities are just the start. You may also need different hardware solutions or merchant services.

We’ll discuss these in detail below, but you want to make sure you have the right functionality for your business.

Customer service

When you have a question, you want someone there to help. This can sometimes be overlooked, but it sure will make your life easier if you encounter questions or difficulties along the way.

Responsive customer service is a must when processing credit card transactions.

Trust

You want to work with someone you can trust. The Better Business Bureau is one place you can find out how companies respond to customer concerns. Look at their overall rating and check how responsive they are to client complaints. This is a great indicator of what you can expect from the credit card processing company.

You can also check to see if the service has EMV and PCI compliance. These are essential privacy and fraud-prevention standards.

Let’s get into some of the specific areas to consider when looking for a new credit card processing solution. First, let’s talk about credit card processing fees and rates.

Consider the cost factors

Lower processing fees can have an immediate impact on your margins and boost your bottom line. Just be sure you choose a pricing model that matches the nature of your business and your monthly sales volume.

Understand the different rates and fees processing companies charge

Credit and debit card processors will determine your rates and markups based on several factors. These include monthly transactions, average sales per transaction and credit history.

Percentage rates and processing fees are expenses you can’t avoid. Some of these fees – like interchange fees and assessment fees – are non-negotiable. Other rates – like the payment processor markup – can be negotiated with the processing company.

Here are some monthly fees you should keep in mind when shopping for a payment processor:

  • Interchange fees: These are transaction fees paid to the card-issuing bank for processing payments. These non-negotiable rates are the same for every payment processor.
  • Assessment fees: Set by credit card companies, these rates are the same for all payment processors. Rates are applied to the number of monthly transactions and will vary depending on the type of credit card. These are also standard rates and non-negotiable.
  • Processor’s markup: This is a markup each credit card processor charges on your transactions. You can negotiate with your payment processor to receive a lower rate.

Proceed with caution if a payment processor says they offer the lowest interchange rates or assessment fees. All processors will pay the same rates so beware of misleading claims and hidden fees.

Choosing the right pricing model

There are three different pricing plans to know: tiered pricing, interchange-plus pricing and flat-rate pricing.

Tiered pricing

Tiered pricing models – also known as bundled pricing – are the most common model.

Tiered pricing models combine interchange fees, assessment fees and processor markup fees. Credit card processing companies then organize credit card transactions into the following three tiers:

  • Qualified: Standard credit cards that are swiped
  • Mid-qualified: Rewards credit cards that are swiped
  • Non-qualified: Premium rewards credit cards that are swiped or keyed in

Credit card transactions are also bundled by different major credit card companies, like Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover. These tiers aren’t very transparent and vary between each credit card processor. Each company decides which transactions go into each category.

This makes it difficult to compare one credit card processor with another.

Interchange-plus pricing

Interchange-plus pricing is a popular choice for small business owners. The model is simple – the credit card processor passes along all interchange and assessment fees to you at cost. Then they add a percentage-based markup.

This makes it easy to understand exactly what you’re charged. You can also compare one payment processor with another with ease.

Flat-rate pricing

Flat-rate pricing is the simplest pricing model. You’re charged a flat percentage rate for every transaction made, regardless of the amount or credit card type.

This is a nice option for businesses that are processing a low volume of transactions and a low amount of monthly revenue. If you have many transactions and a high volume of sales per month, you’d likely be better off with another pricing model.

Determine what features fit your business

Every payment processor offers a range of features. All businesses will need basic payment processing functionalities. Additional features can bring extra value. These might include hardware, mobile payment options, and integrations with other business tools. 

Some hardware makes it possible for you to accept multiple payment types and perform other business tasks. For example, there are POS systems that not only enable you to swipe credit cards but also scan EMV chips and work with contactless payment methods, like Apple Pay or Google Pay.

Plus, some POS systems include additional functionality, like the ability to manage a customer loyalty program or inventory management.

Mobile credit card processing could be another important function for your business. It’s especially useful if you want to swipe credit cards on the go from your smartphone or don’t have space for bulky equipment.

Some payment processors will integrate tools and features into a comprehensive point of sale solution. This way you have everything you need, all in one place – without additional fees.

Pick a company with top-notch customer support

The best credit card processors have excellent customer support. We recommend looking for 24/7, US-based telephone support for the best possible service.

In addition to phone support, look for companies that offer email or online chat features,  as well as helpful online articles. An online help center can be especially handy for DIY support and quick troubleshooting.

What does your business need?

Finding the best credit card processing services is a big task, but a little homework pays off big in the long run.

For more insight, you can check out our guide to finding the cheapest credit card processing companies. You may also want to read through our guide to merchant accounts.

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