When small business owners migrate from paper to online invoices, they open new opportunities for growth within their businesses. When you collect payments online, you reduce your dependency on paper. You create a digital transaction log instead of needing to update your books manually. Customers are less likely to lapse on paying you, as they can track their payment histories from one place. This all adds up to your Business running smoother.
Your payment processing service will be a valuable piece of technology in your suite of finance tools. The right platform will help you meet your customers where they are, based on their needs. You can offer payment solutions such as the ability to pay via credit card, PayPal, debit card, or wire transfer.
Make an informed decision by asking the right questions early on in your research process. Here’s how to choose the right credit card processing partners and tools:
1. How Reliable Is the Service?
Ask your payment processing partner for data related to downtime. How many outages occur per year? What were the causes of these outages? How long did it take for the company to get their service up and running?
Especially if your business processes transactions at a high frequency, reliability will be one of your most important decision metrics. If you run a store, you can’t afford downtime during a high-volume shopping season.
Reliable payment processors have backup controls in place to help reduce or even eliminate downtime, so you’re never left without the ability to accept payments.
Strategies for minimizing downtime include:
- Backup servers in multiple and diverse geographical locations. If one server fails, your credit card transaction can be routed to other servers with no interruption in service. A reliable processor using redundant servers should be able to demonstrate a good track record of uptime. That type of historical data can be an indicator of how much downtime you might expect over a particular period of time.
- Dial backup solutions. When a dial backup solution is in place you can continue to process transactions by using the phone line to access the network if your local internet service provider experiences an outage. The most efficient backup devices switch over to dial automatically, without manual effort needed and return to internet protocol as soon as it becomes available again.
- Stand-in authorization service. Sometimes, even if the server is up and you have local internet access, you may still be unable to run transactions due to an outage elsewhere in the authorization network. A reliable processor can “stand in” for authorizations when the card brand’s or bank’s authorization networks are down. In this case, the processor assumes liability for any declined transactions that received stand-in authorization during the outage, so the merchant doesn’t have to worry about financial loss on declined transactions.
Reliable payment processors offer seamless experiences, even during downtime. You can be confident that your customers will be able to pay, at any moment, without hiccups or questions.
2. Will It Help My Business Evolve?
When Sumit Bansal launched an online Excel course in 2014, he had trouble choosing a payment gateway for managing online payments, especially because he was doing business in India. Running a business with a global customer base created unique challenges finding technology that would work for all of his customers.
Here were the considerations that he navigated:
- Regional coverage. It should work in regions where my audience resides. In my case, it was worldwide, and I had to choose one which will work for all. Since Paypal was not allowing me to collect payment from someone in India (while I also reside in India), I could not use it.
- International support. It should support multiple currencies and mode of payments. I chose FastSpring, which supports a lot of different currencies and different modes – including bank transfer and wire transfer. While this may not seems huge, I realized a lot of my students – especially in Malaysia – were using this mode of payment.
- Tax infrastructure. It should handle value-added-taxes (VAT): Since I don’t want to spend a lot of time worrying about taxes, I chose a payment gateway that would collect VAT from my students in UK & Europe and pay it from its end. This meant I didn’t need to worry about VAT.
- Payment frequency. Being in India, I am used to waiting for the payment for at least 30 days. It helps if the online payment by the gateway is deposited to my merchant account more than once in a month.
- Aesthetics. I wanted to make sure the checkout page looks professional. I checked a couple of payment solutions but the checkout page looked dated.
- Transaction charges. While Paypal is known to charge less, some payment processors may end up charging a lot more. This is a trade-off that you need to analyze – whether the higher charges are worth it.
- Ability to create coupons. I often conduct flash sales where I need to create limited time and limited number coupons.
No matter the type of business that you run, you need to make sure that your payment processor fits into your infrastructure and offers the merchant services that are crucial to your business. Does it integrate with your retail point of sale system? Does it enable you to make mobile payments?
A reliable payment processing service, like QuickBooks Payments, will give you a global view of your credit card payments and other transactions, no matter what device you’re using.
Accept payments your way and get paid 2x faster with QuickBooks Payments.
3. What Customer Support Will I Get?
Outages aren’t the only issue that can arise with a payment processing service. You may need to refund duplicate transactions, track down missing payments, troubleshoot hardware connectivity, and fix technology failures. Problems happen. How will your payment processor respond?
Good customer and technical support can make the difference between minor and major problems. Research the following:
- Availability of tech support. A payment processor with good customer service offers support around the clock, every day of the week. You should never have to wait for business hours to get the support you need.
- Typical hold times. Good customer support should be readily available to you without excessive waits or getting lost in an automated menu system.
- Caliber of support. Good customer service includes live support with expertise in all things related to payment processing and integrations.
When you digitize your accounting infrastructure, you introduce new moving parts to your business. If an integration breaks, your customers won’t care, and your business’s reputation may suffer as a result. Choose a payment processor with strong problem-solving and troubleshooting skills.
4. Is It Secure?
With digital transaction volumes at their peak, the payoff for thieves looking to steal payment data is high. You should be able to trust your payment processor to have your back and help you avoid the pitfalls of security threats facing your business year-round.
You’ll know your processor is on top of security when they offer:
- Card data encryption and tokenization. Encryption protects data in flight, from the terminal where it’s swiped or key entered, until it reaches the bank for settlement. Tokenization protects data at rest when it’s being temporarily stored for uses like recurring billing, tip adjustment or bar tabs. Both technologies should be built into your payment processing service so there is no sensitive data that is accessible to thieves.
- EMV chip card processing. EMV is the new standard for payment processing. An EMV-enabled point of sale (POS) or terminal reads sensitive data that is stored in a data chip on the front of the card instead of the magnetic stripe on the back of it. EMV helps reduce fraud and makes it extremely difficult to create counterfeit cards with stolen data.
- Fraud awareness resources. Knowing what to look for is half the battle when it comes to stopping fraud. When chip cards and EMV terminals are not in use, a good payment processor should provide you with tips and best practices for employees to follow to reduce fraud at the point of sale.
- Vulnerability response processes. Ambiguity is the new norm in security, today. Hackers are smarter than the most sophisticated breach prevention protocols. A reputable payment process will have pre-documented response plans.
Reliable payment processors will work to secure all touchpoints with your customers and other technologies in your suite of financial tools. They will be on top of regulatory standards, in all of the industries in which they have a presence.
5. What Promotional Capabilities Are Available?
Good payment service providers offer more than simply facilitating transactions. Payment processors can help you maximize your profits over the busy shopping season. Quality service providers give you merchant services options with multiple types of payments you need to attract new customers, retain existing ones and help increase your overall profitability.
Some must-have business building products and services include:
- Affordable gift cards. Gift cards continue to be a booming business and remain in high demand from customers. Holidays are a particularly lucrative time to offer gift cards. Your payment processor should offer attractive gift cards that work with your existing POS system. A solid gift card program includes free gift card transactions and customer balance inquiries, and will also offer customers the ability to order and redeem cards online.
- Loyalty programs. Encouraging repeat customers is essential for every business. Whether you accomplish that by sending customized promotions to customers’ mobile devices or email addresses, or by offering a proprietary store card with built-in discounts and cash back rewards, your payment processor should be able to help.
- Marketing support. Effective gift and loyalty programs generally have strong marketing elements backing them that ultimately drive their success. Payment processors can be a wealth of information on how to successfully promote your programs and get the word out about your products and services. From professional gift card merchandising materials to mobile alerts for customers in the geographical vicinity of your business, your processor should be able to support your goals to increase your customer base.
Choose the wrong payment processing service, and you may find your business entangled in a financial mess that takes years to undo. What happens if your payments processor isn’t compliant in a country in which your company is doing business, and your user data gets hacked? How do you avoid risks from a service that your business doesn’t control?
Ask easier due-diligence questions upfront to avoid tougher questions down the road.