Being able to accept payments is an essential part of running a business. If you can’t take your customer’s money, then there’s no chance of you staying afloat, obviously.
But with so much business being done electronically these days, it’s not as simple as physically taking cash from your customers or having them swipe a card. You have to be able to take a variety of customer payment methods while keeping your customers’ payment data safe.
This is where merchant service providers come in. A good merchant service provider offers you a cost-effective method of accepting your customer’s money and having access to your funds in a reasonable time frame. There are a lot of options on the market, though, so read on to learn more about merchant service providers.
The Most Recommended Merchant Service Providers
There are tons of payment processors and merchant service providers out there, and on the surface, they all appear to offer similar services. Consequently, choosing one is not an easy task. We’ll make your job a little easier by listing some of the top companies here:
What are Merchant Service Providers?
Merchant service providers are companies that offer a variety of systems and solutions to help businesses facilitate receiving payments from customers. They allow you to accept credit, debit, and electronic payments. They also deal with the safe handling and storage of customer payment data. Many merchant service providers also help you with payment tracking, invoice collection, data and analytics, and similar areas.
Types of Merchant Service Providers
There are two main types of merchant service providers. The difference between the two comes down to getting fewer features to save some cash or investing more for more account stability.
Merchant Account Providers
Merchant account providers are the most traditional type of merchant service provider. They offer businesses merchant accounts that allow those businesses to accept credit and debit cards as payment.
Most merchant account providers also provide you with the tools you need to accept payments, such as:
- POS systems
- Credit card terminals
- Payment gateways
Payment Service Providers
Payment service providers — known by other names like PSPs, third-party payment processors, and aggregators — give businesses the capability to accept electronic payments without a merchant account both in-person and online.
PSPs aggregate funds from all their customers into one account, then dish out funds based on which customer earned what.
This allows for a much faster setup and better rates. On the downside, your money is mixed with other business’. As a result, you face less account stability. Your account faces more scrutiny, and it may be frozen without warning.
Benefits of Merchant Services
Make More Sales, Earn More Revenue
It’s simple: the more payment methods you can accept, the more sales you’ll make because more customers will be able to buy from you.
However, you’ll also make more revenue independent of sales (or in other words, you’ll boost your average order value). Many studies have shown that people spend more when they pay with credit cards versus using cash.
The reasoning is obvious — it’s harder to watch dollar bills leave your hands than swipe a debit card (and spend money you don’t have), which is also harder than swiping a credit card and spending money you “don’t” have.
Improve Customer Satisfaction
Customers get frustrated when they can’t use their particular card to pay. Maybe they don’t have the required card at all. Or perhaps they do, but they’d rather use a different card to earn some cashback or miles.
In any case, you’ll see more customer satisfaction when you’ve set up your business to take as many payments as possible.
Better Financial Management
Electronic payment services allow you to track how money flows into and out of your business much better. This makes accounting and financial management more straightforward — especially when you can integrate with your business’ accounting software.
Things to Consider When Shopping For Merchant Services
How Will You Accept Payments?
Are you an e-commerce store that only sells online? Or are you a brick-and-mortar operation with an e-commerce arm as well? You may need more equipment to swipe or key in cards if you’re selling in-person.
What kinds of payments will you take? Only debit cards, or will you add credit cards and even contactless payment? If you do accept credit cards, which kinds? Some merchant service providers may not have all the credit card networks you need.
Hardware and Software
- Credit card terminals: A classic credit card terminal. Lets you take payment via swiping, chip-inserting, or tapping a credit card.
- Virtual terminals: Allows you to accept credit cards without the card being physically present (by keying in the card number).
- Contactless payments: Uses RFID to pay with an electronic device without contact. Things like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Google Pay.
- Mobile payments: Paying from a mobile device. For example, using Venmo or the PayPal app on your smartphone.
- E-commerce features: Allows you to accept payment online. Includes features such as shopping carts and online store customization.
- PoS systems: The physical location where customers complete a sale in-person at your store.
- Payment gateways: A piece of software that lets you process payments securely online.
AI is influencing a lot of industries nowadays. In the merchant services space, AI is being used to fight fraud. For example, it can learn about transaction details and use its knowledge to detect possible fraudulent transactions in the future.
It’s also being used to automatically retry failed transactions — such as if a card gets declined — which saves both parties time and leaves the consumer a little less embarrassed.
The thought of having an electronic voice assistant you could use to search the web, check the weather, or shop with was the subject of sci-fi just over a decade ago. Then along came Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Google. Now, over 40 million people in the US alone own one of the latter two devices, and that doesn’t count the people voice searching on their phone.
Naturally, this opens the door to a world of commerce opportunities. Experts estimate that voice commerce will be responsible for around $40 billion in revenue by 2022.
Before P2P apps, you had to carry cash on you (or visit an ATM) or offer to pay someone else back if they covered the bill for you — even if you had the funds in your bank account.
Nowadays, however, apps like Venmo and PayPal let you send and receive money from your phone or computer with ease. People use these most often to send each other money, but they are now used increasingly by businesses and other organizations as a way to pay. In particular, many charitable organizations offer donors a way to donate money via a P2P app.
Almost every business could benefit from using a merchant services provider in this day and age. They let you serve more customers, earn more revenue, and monitor your money more easily.
However, there are a ton of companies offering these solutions today, and they all seem relatively similar. Make sure to study each company’s pricing structure and see if they have any features that stand out before buying. Of course, we recommend you check out the providers we mentioned earlier.