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If you accept only cash and paper checks in your business, you can probably handle most transactions on your own. As new sales come in, you simply collect the money and deposit it at your bank.

Simple.

But if you plan on accepting credit cards, debit cards, mobile payments or ACH,  you’ll need to bring on a payment processor to help establish secure connections between your bank and your customers. This is a necessary step for capturing, processing and settling non-cash and non-check transactions.

However, there are hundreds of different payment processors from which to choose, each with its range of options, specialties and benefits. As you begin searching for a provider that can meet your needs, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the plethora of choices.

With the tips listed below, you can whittle down a large group of potential candidates into a more manageable list of payment processors.

Payment Processor Tip 1: Security

Whenever you capture, store, transmit or process credit card information of any kind, that data is potentially vulnerable to hacking. Thus, you need a processor that follows the latest Payment Card Industry (PCI) data security guidelines.

Although PCI compliance officially applies to credit and debit cards only, the security recommendations are applicable to all types of payment data. Failure to implement these industry guidelines will increase your fraud exposure substantially.

This means more abuse, penalties and potential litigation. So, be sure you choose a PCI-compliant payment processor that can help protect your business and your customers’ financial data.

Payment Processor Tip 2: Infrastructure

Payment processing requirements vary from business to business, and industry to industry.

For example:

  • E-commerce merchants typically need payment gateways to process online transactions.
  • Brick-and-mortar retailers need POS terminals, preferably those that can read security chips embedded in EMV credit cards.
  • If you sell big-ticket items, adding ACH to your list of payment options can help reduce certain processing expenses.

Obviously, you should choose a payment processing service that can meet your current needs, but keep in mind that your business will likely grow over time. Therefore, the payment infrastructure you use today could be different from what you’ll need tomorrow.

Thus, you should choose a provider whose payment configuration can evolve with your business.

Payment Processor Tip 3: Integration

Every time a new sale is recorded, you must balance your books and update your CRM software — often manually. However, this ongoing maintenance requires a huge investment of time. And if your employees are making these updates, there’s also an investment of money (in the form of wages).

Some processors offer payment integration, which allows you to automate much of the above. Incoming transactions are instantly added to the accounting, CRM, membership and CMS tools you already use — without direct intervention from you or your team.

Also note that payment integration isn’t limited to tools such as QuickBooks or Salesforce. It also can be used for fully fledged ERP platforms such as SAP or JD Edwards.

One More Tip When Choosing a Payment Processor

When shopping for payment processors, many businesses focus on cost. This sort of makes sense if your goal is to keep more of every dollar earned.

However, focusing on cost alone can actually be more expensive if you get the above areas wrong. Here’s why:

  • Merchants lose billions of dollars every year to payment fraud. Smaller businesses are especially at risk since they often have fewer safeguards in place.
  • Not having a payment platform that can grow with your needs is also expensive. The costs of changing providers are quite high — as you migrate customers, legacy payments and recurring billing to the new platform.
  • Manual data entry is another substantial cost (albeit somewhat hidden). Don’t forget to account for all the time and money spent regularly updating your records throughout the year.

Cost is still important. Shopping for competitive rates is always a good idea. But you should compare candidates who can offer secure, flexible and seamless payment processing for your business — both today and for many years to come.

To learn how we stack up (including when it comes to costs), schedule a free consultation with our merchant services team today.