Merchant Account Providers: What to Look For

In 2012, nearly $300 billion in sales was processed via online payments.  In an annual study by Javelin Strategy & Research, current trends in the online space indicate that total online sales will be pushing toward $500 billion by 2015.

Some of Silicon Valley’s hottest startups in the last few years have been companies that are seeking to make the online and mobile purchasing experience more convenient, a prominent example being Square, Inc.  The recent boom in mobile and online payments is demanding all entrepreneurs and business owners to move fast and meet market demand by accepting online payments.

The good news is that setting up a merchant account is not difficult.  The onboarding process with most providers is very straightforward and painless.  The challenge lies not in setting up an account, but in choosing a merchant account provider.  There are literally thousands of options available for small business owners.

At Merchantseek, we aggregate information about merchant account providers – both fact-based data and user reviews – to give site owners and developers the best chance of forming the right partnership with the right provider.

In this article, I’ll raise a few key points for you to consider when shopping for a new merchant account provider, and then consider the pros and cons of five leading merchant account providers.

Key Points

Customer Reviews

In today’s online universe, it is nearly impossible for companies to push bad products and services and not suffer the fate of negative online reviews.  A good starting point when assessing a merchant account is online reviews.  Don’t trust the reviews on a company’s own website.  Search for true third party forums and read through comments from current and former clients.  If the overwhelming majority of reviews are bad, then drop the consideration and move to the next company on your list. Customer reviews won’t necessarily pinpoint the best option for you, but they will help to weed out the worst options.

Fees

From a business owner’s perspective, merchant account providers are a necessary evil.  The merchant provider wants to charge fees as high as possible, and the business owner, of course, wants fees as low as possible.  Make sure you fully understand all hidden fees by calling customer service to ensure there are no fees on top of what is clear on the introductory material. Don’t be afraid to request specific, detailed information. If they want your business, they should provide it.

Customer Service

Taking client payments – someone else’s money – is a big deal.  At times, there will be problems with your payment gateway and client transactions.  No matter how good the provider is, there will be trouble at times.  It’s precisely at these times that you want to be receiving high quality customer service.  Test this by calling the customer service line during your vetting process.  See how knowledgeable and patient the reps are.  Further, make sure the customer service line is open during your peak business hours.  If the provider shuts down customer service at 5pm local time, and your company is in a later time zone, that could be cause major problems in the future.

By analyzing Customer Reviews, Fees, and Customer Service, you will be narrowing down the field of potential merchant account providers. Then you can focus on what each provider actually provides.

Let’s look at what five leading merchant account providers offer.

Merchant Warehouse

Pro

No setup fees and no annual fees.  Per-transaction rate is $0.21 plus 1.69% for authorized cards and $0.21 plus 2.19% for manually keyed-in card transactions, due to the increased risk on keyed-in entries.  MerchantWare is able to accept credit card payments via mobile devices.

Con

Customer service has a great reputation, but it is only available until 10pm EST Monday thru Friday.  There is no assistance 24 hour per day or on weekends.  Pricing falls into the middle of the pack: not quite competitive with the best, but also not close to the worst.

Merchant One

Pro

Merchant One has one of the best reputations in the industry.  Its outstanding customer service consistently wins awards.  Merchant One has achieved this reputation by not sticking clients with hidden fees or escalating rates.  This provider also has advanced technology in place that enables transactions to occur in an extremely fast and secure manner.  Strong cyber security to protect against fraud.

Con

Merchant One wants long-term clients.  Therefore, they require heavy contracts and cancellation fees can be hefty.  If seriously considering this provider, make sure you plan on staying with the company for an extended period of time.

goEmerchant Merchant Accounts

Pro

goEmerchant has a very high approval rating—99%.  The setup process is also very quick and easy.  Most accounts are set up within one day.  Its gateway and statement fees are both quite low and there is no startup cost.  The low monthly minimum of just $15 for online businesses and $25 for retail stores makes this a strong option for new small businesses.

Con

Typically, if a provider targets new businesses by providing very low monthly minimums, then the per transaction fees will be higher in order to offset that risk for the merchant account provider.  In goEmerchant’s case, this is exactly what’s happening.  At $0.25 per transaction, goEmerchant is on the high side for most providers.

Flagship Merchant Services

Pro

Flagship boasts an incredible reputation in the industry.  A completely electronic application process allows for very fast approval and setup time.  Over 98% of applications are accepted and setup is often done in one day.  Application process is also free.  Per transaction fees are also very low in comparison to the competition.

Con

The major drawback for Flagship is that it does not accept non-U.S. based businesses at this time.  However, that could change in the future, so check out the Flagship website for up-to-date details.

Chase Paymentech

Pro

Chase has brand recognition around the world as one of the most powerful banking institutions in history .  This will let you sleep a little better at night knowing that your merchant account provider is not going anywhere.  Another major pro for Chase is that individual reps are assigned to each client.  This personalized service can be a great asset when dealing with issues in the future.

Con

Due to the incredible reputation and brand loyalty Chase demands, they do charge a few cents higher on per transaction fees than most of the competition.  The higher fees are marginal, however, and the incredible reputation and stability of Chase often offsets the slightly higher fees in the eyes of many business owners.

Conclusion

I’m not saying these five providers are the best, or the worst. They do represent a pretty good spread across providers that have established a good reputation. You can see the details can be quite different from one provider to the next.

Note also that what might be a Con for some of you may be a Pro for others, and vice versa. You still have to do your research as to what is right for you but, hopefully, this articles has given you just that bit more perspective when it comes to selecting your own merchant account provider.

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