Finding the Best Merchant Service Program in Prince George

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1 Finding the Best Merchant Service Program in Prince George Getting paid for your products or services is critical to your success in business. You want to make as much profit as possible so you DO NOT want to choose the WRONG Merchant Service Provider. Larry Arrance, Author, Business & Marketing Coach and Entrepreneur Cornerstone Consultants What you will discover in this guide? Do you even need Merchant Services? The # 1 most common mistake business owners make when choosing a provider The most frequently asked questions The questions you MUST ask to avoid OVERPAYING! The Truth about Merchant Services 1

2 You are in business to make money. Most business owners will need to have a Merchant Service Program in place to ensure their customers can pay them conveniently for their products and services. Not all Merchant Service Programs are created equal. As a serious business owner it is paramount that you choose the one that works best for you. Table of Contents What are Merchant Services? What are Interchange Rates and Why You Should Know? What are the Most Asked Questions about Merchant Services? The Questions You Must Ask to avoid Overpaying What do all those terms mean to you? Why You Should Work with a Professional? Resources... 2

3 Cornerstone Consultants Who I am: Hello, my name is Larry Arrance, senior marketing & business coach, author and professional development specialist. My Credentials: For the last 18 years I have helped business owners and professionals improve their businesses. This has been done through workshops, one-to-one and telephone coaching and consulting. Some of the areas my clients have profited by my experience: Dominating their field or marketplace. This was accomplished either by taking a leadership or expert position or results based marketing strategies. Often times it will be the small things that have the greatest impact on a business. That is why I have put together this valuable guide to finding a great Merchant Services Program. Do we offer Merchant Services? Absolutely not! I help clients with setting and achieving marketing and business growth goals My job is to help business owners build their businesses. I leave the specialized activities such as Merchant Services to the professionals. I will offer you the name of an excellent Merchant Service Specialist in Prince George. I have recommended her services to all my clients. My recommendation is at the end of this guide. Why did I write this guide? As many as 80 85% of businesses close their doors before they see their 8 th year in business. Now there can be lots of reasons for the owners going out of business. This free guide will help you not go out of business because you chose the WRONG Merchant Services Program. If your business is to survive it is extremely important that you maximize your profits and reduce or eliminate your costs. A smart place to start is with your Merchant Services program. The purpose of this guide is to help you avoid the confusing and often deceptive world of Merchant Services. Making wise decisions come from having the best information available. Use this guide to get what you need to make a great financial decision. Sincerely Larry Arrance Senior Marketing Coach Cornerstone Consultants 3

4 What is Merchant Services and what is a Merchant Service Specialist? Merchant Services in regards to this guide usually refers to the service that enables a business to accept a transaction payment by use of the customer's credit or debit card.. A Merchant Service Specialist is a professional who specializes in working with business owners to acquire Merchant Services. They will have extensive knowledge of the industry and needs of merchants of all sizes and business categories. What is the first step I should take when I am approached by a Merchant Service Provider s Sales Representative? I am always surprised when I hear someone went ahead and committed themselves to something as important as their Merchant Services program without taking this simple step; Google them. It is quite amazing to see the number and intensity of the complaints leveled against some of the Merchant Service Providers. Some of the complaints range from being lied to by unscrupulous sales reps to not having access to their funds for months on end. I recommend you take a few minutes to check the complaints out. It could save you some very expensive lessons. Question: What is the most common mistake business owners make when considering Merchant Services? Answer: What is your discount rate? Yes the discount rate is important but it is only a piece of the program. Some Merchant Service providers take advantage of the fact that many business owners can get fixated on getting the lowest rates. They use this obsession to lure them in with what the industry refers to as Flash Rates. These rates are typically well below the competitions. You know the old saying, If it seems too good to be true... It applies here too. 4

5 What are Interchange Rates and Why Should You Know? Interchange rates are the wholesale pricing or buy-rates Visa and Mastercard charge to all Credit Card Processors in Canada. Why is this important for you to know? You will be approached by Merchant Service providers that will offer you discount rates below the going Interchange rate. This should raise warning bells for you. For example sake we ll say that the going Interchange rate was 1.80%. That means all the companies paying 1.80%. Now along comes a Merchant Service provider who offers you the amazing discount rate of 1.65%. From a basic business standpoint something is wrong with this picture. How can a business sell you a product for less than they paid for it? Their business is no different than yours. They need to make a profit in order to stay in business. If they are not making it on the discount rate it is only logical that they have found a way to get the money from you somewhere else. To find the current Interchange rate simply google Visa Canada interchange rate. You will find a listing for a pdf file giving you the latest rates. Use this as your guideline for a reasonable rate that a Merchant Service provider should charge. Buyer Beware holds true when it comes to Merchant Services. If you fall for a Flash Rate and end up paying far more than you expected it will be a case of Too Bad So Sad. It will not matter how upset you get because you will have signed a contract that locks you into your wonderful deal for 3, 5 and sometimes 7 years. And yes there will be a contract no matter what the sales rep told you. This should be a major concern for you and your business. All the Merchant Service providers will have a cancelation of services policy that includes a fee. Some providers will try to hide the fact that they have a contract by referring to it as an agreement or commitment. Regardless of what they label it you are bound by it. Some providers will automatically renew your contract if you do not inform them of your desire to cancel within a small window of time. It is something hidden in the fine print. 5

6 What are the Most Asked Questions about Merchant Services? Q. Do I need to have Merchant Services? A. You will need Merchant Services if you want to accept credit card payments directly from your clients or customers. However that does not mean that it is a wise decision for you take on the costs of Merchant Services. Not every business needs to accept credit card payments. Depending on the size of your business and the number of transactions typically processed, it may not make financial sense to have a merchant account. If your margins are very tight you probably don t want to trim them even smaller to pay for the ability to accept different forms of payments. Unfortunately many merchant service providers will neglect to discuss this with you and simply go for the sale. Q. Why is there more than one discount rate? A. The rates being charged to merchants are based on a variety of factors. There is the amount of risk involved in the transaction. The transactions with the lowest rates will always be the ones where the customer is present and the card is swiped. This is referred to as Face to-face. The credit card companies view these types of transactions to be fairly low in risk for fraud because a merchant can ask for additional identification. Transactions where orders are taken by phone or mail are generally considered higher risk since the customer is not present and the card is not in hand thus the potential for fraud is much greater. Another reason for higher discount rates for some transactions will be the type of card used. Cards that offer some form of reward to the user are an added cost to the Credit Card issuer. They pass the costs back to the merchant. Q. Why is there a monthly minimum? A. It costs money to administer your Merchant Services. It important for a merchant or someone considering being business owner to look upon this as a serious decision and treat it as such. The monthly minimums only come into play if you don t do the minimum amount of business. Often this is only $20 - $25 per month. If you do not believe you will generate enough sales to cover that amount I am going to suggest that you do not need Merchant Services. Q. What is a Chargeback? A. A chargeback occurs when a customer disputes a charge on their statement by contacting the credit card company. There can be a number of reasons for this. A customer may not recognize the charge on their statement, or if they believe the amount was wrong, or they are trying to get the product for free, they may call their credit card company and ask them to investigate. This begins the chargeback process. Keep in mind the tendency of Merchant Service Provider is to err on the side of the consumer. If it is determined that the customer is right, there will be a fee for the chargeback itself. The customer will be refunded their money directly through the credit card company and your checking account will be debited. If your account shows excessive chargebacks, you may be deemed too high of a risk for Merchant Services. Avoid chargebacks at all times. 6

7 Q. How long does it take to get the Merchant Services set up? A. It depends on the merchant s credit history. What many business owners do not realize is that Merchant Services is a credit product. Every processor will pull and review your personal credit, and review your business model. You can also expect them to check the TMF list (Terminated Merchant File). The reason for this is that there is a risk involved on every merchant account. Every transaction that the bank allows a merchant to process is essentially a 6 month loan to the merchant. Since a customer has 6 months to issue a chargeback on any credit card transaction, every transaction the bank allows a merchant to process is a loan to the merchant for 6 months. The potential risk here is that a merchant will process, let s say $40,000/month, for 3 months, and then go out of business, unable to fulfill their services/products promised. As customers have 6 months to issue a chargeback, a right granted to them by their credit card, the bank should expect to see most of these transactions come back as chargebacks. In higher risk industries it is quite common for the Merchant Service provider to ask for a personal guarantee. What is a TMF list? The TMF (terminated match file) is a list that all acquiring banks (processors) share, that lists merchants who have had a merchant account terminated previously. Some common causes for ending up on the TMF list is letting another business use your merchant services or start processing transactions far in excess of your monthly average. Getting listed on this file can be a serious problem for a merchant, and can even put them out of business because they are now forced to accept only cash and cheques. Q. Can I use someone else's merchant account to do my transactions? A. No, this practice is known as "credit card laundering" or "factoring." It is against the Visa and MasterCard agreement. It is considered a fraudulent act as you have no arrangement to do so with the processing company. Using someone else's merchant account to process your credit card transactions can lead to heavy fines and perhaps more. In addition, you'll also put that merchant's credit card processing account in jeopardy. This could put the other business owner on the TMF list. That is a high price to pay for doing another business owner a favour. Fraud has consequences 7

8 Questions you should be asking before you choose a Merchant Service Provider Q. How long has your company been offering Merchant Services in Canada? A. In the last couple of years the number of companies offering Merchant Services to Canadian business owners has exploded. Going with a well established provider should bring some confidence that they will still be around next year. Q. Are you actually a Merchant Service provider or are you a third party POS Hardware provider? A. Many of the so called Merchant Service providers are really companies that sell you POS systems and connect you to an actual Merchant Service provider that they are affiliated. Some business owners have changed over the merchant services to this new company, paid a cancellation fee only to find out that they were actually back to doing business with the original provider. Needless to say they were NOT HAPPY with the arrangement but could do nothing about it. Q. Has your company been known under any other names in Canada? A. As in any industries there are businesses that provide excellent customer experiences and those that do not. Sometimes companies will be forced to change their business names to distance themselves from their old name and any negative information associated with it. Q. Who is your Banking Partner? A. Do not assume you are dealing with a bank. There is only one bank in Canada that still has their own Merchant Service department. All of the rest have outsourced it. What does this mean to you? Common sense should tell you that if you add one more business between you and the bank and the Credit Card Company that it will increase the costs. And you can guess who will be paying for the increase in cost of doing business and why there are so many new companies trying sell you merchant services. Q. Is there a cancellation fee? A. Cancellation fees are pretty much standard but there are definitely some that are higher than others. As a special note some Merchant Service providers have an extra component that they neglect to mention during the sale process. It is call a Loss of Revenue clause. This is a potentially very expensive clause for you. Some business owners have found themselves forced to pay for services long after the cancellation. Sometimes for several years. 8

9 Q. Does the Merchant Service Provider include any of the following Hidden Fees? A. It should not come as a surprise that some sales representatives have been known not to disclose any features that might negatively impact a sale. It will do you zero good to try to argue after the contract has been signed that, but that is not what the sales rep said or I wasn t told about that. My advice is to ask about the following list and then get it in writing. Chargeback fees Hidden setup charges Loss of Revenue charges Non Qualified fees Assessment fees Cross Border Assessment fee Retrieval fees Annual fee Termination / Cancelation fees POS Watts fees Hardware fees Sales Items / Per Transaction fee Gateway fees Debit Access fee Gateway Per Item fees High Monthly Volume fee Worst Case Percentage fee Non-refundable setup charges Batch fees Monthly Minimum fees Pass through fees Over limit fees Voice Authorization fees Voice AVS fees Non-Sufficient Funds fees Bank Setup fees Daily Close-out fees Software fees Licensing Fees Amex/Discover setup fees Statement Fees (more for more services) Customer Support / Help Desk fees Technical Support fees SPECIAL NOTE: Do not let the above list of hidden fees dissuade you from setting up your business with Merchant Services. I believe they are vital to the survival and growth of most businesses. I simply want you to be armed with the information you need to have when discussing your Merchant Service needs with a sales representative. Resources: Before you commit to any Merchant Service program I recommend that you contact one of Canada s most trusted Merchant Service Specialist - Sanata Martin. Ranked #1 In Canada in Customer Service and Sales 2006/07/08/09 9+ years Industry Experience Sanata has helped over 2,800 business owners save money on their Merchant Services. Contact her today to make sure you are not going to be overcharged or are currently paying too much. You work hard for your money. Let her help you keep as much of it as possible or

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