One of the most important aspects of conducting business is the ability to accept credit card payments, whether they are made online or in person. For this purpose, most businesses, big and small, will opt for a merchant account for their credit card processing needs.

However, if you’re new to merchant accounts, understanding how they work can be mystifying at first. In this article, we’re going to give you a few tips on how to find the best merchant account for your needs.

Be wary of banks

While this may sound counter intuitive, going to a bank is not necessarily the best option for new businesses, especially those involved in high risk pay businesses. High risk pay businesses are usually involved in sectors that are viewed as riskier for credit card payments.

This may include, but are not limited to, online gambling, pharmaceuticals, adult entertainment, etc. Banks will usually offer outrageous rates for such accounts or refuse them altogether, so you may have to go for a high risk pay service provider if you’re involved in one of these sectors.

Not only that, but most banks do not offer merchant accounts themselves and will go through a third party to process the payments for them. It would be better to go directly to a reputable merchant account provider and cut out the middleman.

Also, many banks simply don’t have access to the latest in credit card processing technology and might not be able to accept as wide a range of payments as regular merchant account providers.

Find a reputable merchant account provider

One of the easiest ways to know if a merchant account provider is reputable is to check the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) directory of businesses and check if the provider doesn’t have complaints. Also, it would be wise to call their customer service and see how they treat you.

Are they available 24/7? Are the customer service reps truly helpful or do they seem to offer canned answers? How fast do they respond? Do they even have a toll free number to attend to customer’s complaints? These are all important answers that need to be answered before you make your pick.

Understand the rates

One of the most misunderstood aspects of credit card processing is fees. There may be tons of different fees associated with your merchant account depending on the services needed. Also, many less reputable companies will offer outlandish fees to lure new clients, but will have tons of hidden fees down the road.

For instance, some will have monthly transactions limits on their merchant accounts. If you process payments online, there is no telling when there will be a sudden surge of sales at any point in time.

Some merchant account providers will add penalties after a certain amount of transactions while others will block your ability to accept credit card payments all together. This could be disastrous for someone whose whole business depends on online payments.

Whatever you do, make sure that you thoroughly research the merchant account provider you’re thinking of going for before you make the jump. Ask as many questions as you can and do not make the mistake of going for the cheapest service or the one with the least restrictions, this could eventually hurt you down the line.