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Choosing your merchant account provider.

There are a lot of questions when choosing a merchant account provider. What card terminal should I choose? What are your processing rates? How do I keep my customers' information secure? What is PayPal? Can I take payments over the phone? Do I qualify?

At Cardservice International, our mission is to become a true partner with our clients. We want to provide products, services and information that will help your business be better. With that in mind, we have compiled some advice for evaluating merchant account providers.

We encourage you to ask questions and examine the little details. When you do, we are sure you will find that we always meet or exceed your expectations.

How to choose a merchant account provider

  1. Know what you need from a merchant account provider before you call to set up your account.
    1. Do you want to accept all credit cards (American Express, JCB, etc.)? Or just Visa and MasterCard?
    2. What is your monthly budget for processing fees?
    3. What is your commitment term?
    4. How would you like to apply? Online, by mail or by fax?
    5. How much is your average sales transaction?
    6. What monthly sales volume do you plan on?

  2. Assess the merchant's track record and service
    1. How does their customer service work? What hours are they available by phone, online chat and email?
    2. Are there hidden fees? They may be listed in the contract but not in marketing materials.
    3. Do they require a contracted commitment? 1, 2 or 3 years?

  3. Call the toll-free number
    1. Ask about any price or fee concerns. Be thorough!
    2. Ask what methods they use to reduce fraud and charge backs
    3. Some important customers may be uncomfortable with online payments. What options do they provide your customers in these situations?
    4. What security measures do they offer?

  4. Be careful
    1. Most merchant accounts require a credit check. Be picky about which companies you allow to access your credit information.
    2. Read any contract thoroughly. Before signing, be sure you are comfortable with all the terms. Many important items are buried in the fine print. Go slowly, highlight any areas of concern, and then ask!

Additional Questions and Concerns

What is the difference between PayPal and a standard merchant account?

PayPal is referred to as a 3rd party payment processor. This means that with PayPal you process payments through their merchant account. They charge a fee slightly higher than what they are paying.

One of the advantages to PayPal is that there are no credit checks, no monthly minimums, no monthly service fees, no contract and their shopping cart is free. Other 3rd party payment processors, like ProPay, The Square and, use similar models, but some of them do have set-up or monthly fees in addition to higher per transaction fees.

Disadvantages often include flimsy security features, higher rates, fewer options for you and your customers and longer hold times before money is made available to you.

What advantages does a traditional Merchant Account provide over PayPal?

Be careful when relying on PayPal. Although their service terms seem liberating, in the event of a fraudulent transaction or a charge back, their Terms of Service agreement gives them unrestricted rights to freeze and remove all funds form your PayPal and checking accounts. You are processing transactions through an account that doesn't belong to you. This means that your rights are very limited in the event of a dispute. Be prepared to ask questions about service terms upfront.

With a traditional Merchant Account from Cardservice International, you have total control over your bank account and how transactions are conducted.

Answer your questions about Cardservice International:

  • Speak to a representative. (This link is available on every page of this site in the bottom right corner.)
  • See our rates
  • Read about our company's track record
  • Learn about our fraud prevention