Whether your business is a sole proprietorship with no staff, or a multi-location behemoth, you must be able to accept credit and debit card payments from your customers to maximize your profits. For that to happen, you need to understand the critical role that a merchant services provider plays.
What are merchant services providers (MSPs)?
If you want to accept payments with credit and debit cards, or accept card-not-present payments electronically, you’ll first need to acquire the right hardware and software. It is the entities known as merchant services providers who typically provide these solutions. To accommodate non-cash payments, they act as the intermediary between you and your customers (and the various banks involved). They also help to safeguard sensitive cardholder data throughout the entire payments process.
Types of merchant services providers.
There are several varieties of MSPs. They include the following.
• Merchant account providers. These entities furnish businesses with an account where the proceeds from credit card payments are sent after processing.
• Payment gateway providers. Essential if you have an ecommerce business, these companies facilitate online payments by seamlessly and securely connecting your website to the various card brand networks. Some of these vendors offer merchant accounts. As an alternative, you can use the merchant account you already have.
Which of these company types you choose depends upon the type of business you own, your sales volumes, and your growth potential.
What your merchant services provider can bring to your business.
Your MSP should offer several services that can enhance the nature and quality of what you offer your customers.
• Credit card terminals. Whether they’re connected by cables like a traditional countertop terminal, or they’re wireless solutions, these payment devices enable customers to make credit and debit card transactions in person. You can lease or buy these payment devices from most providers.
• Point of sale (POS) systems. Like terminals, these “smart” hardware-software combinations allow you to accept customers’ plastic. However, they typically offer a far more robust set of tools beyond just payment acceptance, like simplified customer, employee, inventory, and dispute management.
• Virtual Terminals. Most providers offer these software applications, which are often used to accept card-not-present mail and phone orders. Virtual terminals allow you to process transactions by inputting customers’ payment information manually in a web browser.
• Online shopping cart. This is the software the customer uses to input their payment information when purchasing goods or services on your website. Many providers have their own templates, allowing you to customize your cart to streamline your checkout and enhance your brand.
• Echecks. Most merchant services providers will also let you make or accept electronic payments connected to a checking account. Often used for payroll purposes, these services save you the aggravation and time of constantly running to the bank.
Choosing the right merchant services provider involves understanding what you need and finding a vendor with the pricing structure that works best for your business model. When you take the time to make a wise choice, both you and your customers will benefit in the long run.