First Financial merchant services

9 Smart Steps to Choosing Your Business Merchant Services

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Industry research confirms what we all suspect and even have experienced: consumers using credit cards spend from 20% to 250% more than those who rely on checks or cash.

The average cash payer at McDonald’s spends $4.50 while those using debit or credit cards part with $7.00. The theory goes that those handing over dollar bills want to conserve them, but those using credit cards focus more what they’re getting from their purchase.[ii] In short, this second set focuses more on that steaming burger than the money in their hand.

American consumers love convenience of credit cards. Where 66% use credit and debit cards to buy both items and services, just 27% use cash. Further, experts expect the number of cash-using consumers to drop another few points to 23% by 2017.[iii]

These statistics lead to one conclusion: even the smallest business needs to accept credit cards to maximize sales. While a large corporation can put a team on finding the best merchant services provider for their needs, small business owners must evaluate competitors in the minutes between running their marketing program, taking calls and re-stocking shelves. It’s not easy juggling so many tasks. We well understand the saying,

“It’s great having a small business.
You get to choose which 100 hours per week to work!”

If you are looking to accept credit cards while maintaining solid creditworthiness for your business, finding an ethical merchant services provider who will be your partner in success is critical. These steps will shorten and clarify your research process.

1. Understand that to be able to accept credit cards you need to create a merchant account with a third party so that the money can move from the customer’s account to the merchant or business owners.

2. Determine your monthly sales volume. This step will weed out the merchant service providers that have a monthly minimum higher than your volume.

3. Determine whether you’ll be processing transactions online or at a bricks and mortar location. Equipment and software options will vary depending on this factor. You may need to integrate your account with third party services that also charge monthly fees.

4. Determine how many times each day will you run cards. Estimating this keeps you from over-buying features you don’t need.

5. Determine whether you’d prefer to rent equipment ($20 to $50 per month) or buy it (several hundred dollars). If you’re not sure about the business viability, renting for the first few months could be your best option.

6. Create a comparison sheet with these features listed down the leftmost column.

• Transaction rates: the majority of small business costs
• Equipment and setup costs
• Customer service: critical for small business owners who are not finance or technology experts
• Contracts and service terms: make sure you have clear confirmation
• Funding and processing time
• EMV capability: for smart cards that read data from integrated chips rather than magnetic strips. Credit card companies switched to this method in fall of 2015.
• Customization
• Simplicity of setup and use
• Possible third-party disintegration
• analysis and reports: to make your costs clear
• Types of processing
• Types of payments they accept: Visa, Mastercard, giftcards, debit cards and more
• Service constraints: what your merchant service provider WON’T provide
• Any additional features and benefits

7. Call the merchants you’re interested in and fill in the details.

8. Make sure the new merchant services integrate with any other ecommerce or other accounting software you currently use. Ask your tech people about the merchant services provider you’re considering.

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A+ Rated First Financial’s Small Business Merchant Accounts
Accept Revenue-Boosting Credit Cards to Ensure Your Business Longevity

First Financial is the nation’s leading provider of merchant accounts, particularly for the high risk borrowers. Apply for a small business merchant account here. We know that lots of reputable businesses exist in high-risk categories like Information Technology, simply because they’re new. Fill out the application in minutes. Follow First Financial on Facebook to get smart budgeting and saving tips, too!

Smart Ways to Manage Your Merchant Account for Long Term

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How to Apply

blank You don’t have to tell us how tough it is to win a high-risk merchant account, we hear about it every day from our callers. Luckily, because First Financial specializes in high-risk merchant accounts, every day, we ease minds and get scores of businesses on the path to accepting credit cards. Adult related services, golf club manufacturers, travel agencies and airlines all have one thing in common: relegation to the high-risk merchant account category. Despite a few extra steps, businesses in these industries and 30 or so more niches run profitably. Here at First Financial, we urge applicants to rid the term “high-risk” of its typical, negative meaning and instead consider it just another category that requires a few more steps before credit card money payments start pouring in.

Once a business has proven its reliability and business potential to a merchant services provider, it doesn’t relish the idea of going through the whole process all over again. That’s why it’s key to skillfully manage the high-risk account you win to avoid charge backs and other issues that the processor could see as a red flag. We find that lots of these red flags simply amount to oversights typical of the hard-working, thinly stretched entrepreneur. Still, knowing exactly how to run your merchant account can save you hassle, time and money and hopefully win you a dedicated merchant service provider that stays with you for decades.

Avoid Chargebacks by Providing Helpful, Available Customer Service
We tackle the biggest issue first. A high rate of chargebacks (returns) is the number one reason so many large banks refuse to even speak to the businesses in the 30+ high-risk industries. Airlines and travel agencies get chargebacks when travelers decide last minute that Las Vegas is too just crowded and Yosemite calls to them instead. Golf club manufacturers get chargebacks when their clubs DON’T turn buyers into LGPA tour competitors (imagine that!).

While many put chargebacks in “the price of doing business” category, conscientious customer service reduces them significantly. Giving your ideal clients easy ways to contact you—rather than the merchant service provider—reduces your chargeback rate significantly. Make your business transparent and easy to contact by making the following adjustments to your website and other customer contact points.

• Clearly post email addresses and phone numbers on your website.

• Create Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube channels where customers are free to post their opinions, complaints and even praise. Recognize that every business now has customers posting criticism and praise every day. Most readers can differentiate the crackpots from the reasonable people.

• Consider setting up an email newsletter that keeps your customers in contact with you. Make it clear that the newsletter’s purpose is to support the customer’s optimal use of your products and services.

While this level of transparency can intimidate some business owners, rest assured that research consistently confirms that customer service representatives and others easily turn complaining customers into brand evangelists simply by listening to customer complaints, sympathizing and rectifying any errors.

One of the most respected ways to indicate a business’ transparency is to make sure to include complete descriptor information on the consumer’s monthly credit card statement. Make sure the consumer can read the full company name and complete customer service number. High-risk merchant accounts get cancelled when incomplete phone numbers or business names appear. Ensure your contact information is correct by running a test transaction.

Other ways to limit chargebacks include:
• Manually review transactions where the customer’s authentication request was declined. Consider calling the buyer.
• Create and disclose all return, privacy, refund, return and cancellation policies.
• Review and batch transactions on a daily basis.
• Insist on proof of identification upon delivery for high priced items.
• Cancel orders immediately upon client request.
• Consumers change credit cards frequently. Work with your merchant account provider to set up automatic credit card updates.

Demonstrate Client Service
In the era of digital marketing when businesses have to provide all kinds of value before winning a sale, businesses must go the extra mile to forge lasting relationships with each and every customer. Merchant service providers appreciate signals that a business works to benefit its clients. Express client services take the form of emails to customers to report when an order is shipped that also provides the tracking code. Emails that explain an order is on backorder also indicates to merchant service providers that the high-risk business operates for the benefit of their customer base. Finally, satisfying customers demanding refunds may feel like short-term pain, but long-term reliability and respectability. Even if a business wins a chargeback dispute, that chargeback still remains on their record. Is it worth it?

Fast Response to Merchant Services Inquiries
When the merchant services agency contacts the business to discuss a dispute, a fast response reassures the agency that the business operates in a responsible, efficient manner. Business occurs between people. A merchant services representative that gets a satisfying, friendly answer from a customer service representative or business owner will of course view that case more favorably than the business without this courtesy.

Take the Time to Monitor Accounts and Use Fraud Protection
Increasingly sophisticated Internet criminals attempt fraudulent purchases in hopes for a return that results in cash. Always manually review your monthly statements and consider calling buyers that seem suspicious. Do not ship until you’ve established the buyer’s sincerity.

Most merchant services offer fraud protection that block transactions from countries notorious for high levels of fraud. It also compares each credit card transaction against reliable standards to reduce instances of fraud.

First Financial Merchant Services Welcomes Businesses In High Risk Industries
First Financial has found the merchant service providers who are hungry to get businesses in high-risk industries accepting credit cards. With the majority of American consumers using credit cards more than other payments at a rate of three to one, any business that wants to reach optimal cash flow must accept credit cards. Apply for a high-risk merchant account here. Follow us on Facebook to get smart budgeting and saving tips!

How Terminated Merchants Get Card Processing Services

blank Have you been surprised with a terminated merchant notice? You’re not alone. Each year, tens of thousands of business owners get the same notice for both legitimate and unnecessary reasons. Terminated merchants have several options available. Landing in  “Terminated Merchant File” (TMF) doesn’t mean you’re out of business. While these designations are confusing and even infuriating now, rest assured that A+ rated First Financial can help get you back to accepting credit cards fast.

Terminated merchants turn frown upside down

 

Who Controls TML and MATCH?

For a long time, the term “terminated merchant list” served as a casual designation indicating that a merchant has become “black-listed” with even high risk merchant account service providers. MasterCard made the system official by creating a database about businesses and their owners whose merchant account services providers had terminated them. They gave the new system the acronym MATCH for “Merchant Alert to Control High Risk.” At this time, most in the industry use this terminology.

Understanding Why Your High Risk Card Processor Dropped You

When terminated merchants get in contact with us, their designation “MATCH-listed” has come as a surprise. Many only realize their business is on this list after seeking a new credit card processor. The MATCH list was the first place the new processor went when considering this new high risk merchant account. Presence on the MATCH list is the quick and easy way the new processor finds rationale to turn a business down—AFTER collecting the application fees. If you’ve been placed on the MATCH list, the only way of removing your name is by contacting the processor or bank that put you there. Only that entity has the legal authority to remove you. Disputing the designation with the bank or merchant processor may require a lawyer’s help, and some lawyers specialize in this niche. Legal expenses can be worth it considering the MATCH listing remains active for five years. Understanding why your processor placed you on the MATCH list will prevent this hassle from happening again. Generally, the acquiring bank or processor finds out that while you were with your previous processor, you committed one or more “disqualifying acts” that exceeded the level of risk they contracted to undertake. Typically, your contract listed these acts and informed you that committing them qualified as a breach of contract and justification to end the relationship. Disqualifying acts include:

  • Excessive deposits for transactions without cardholders authorization
  • A conviction for credit or debit card fraud in any federal, state or county court
  • Evidence of counterfeit activities
  • Excessive chargebacks caused by business practices or procedures
  • Evidence of money “laundering”
  • Sufficient evidence that merchant is engaging in fraudulent activities.

On the other hand, keep in mind, too, that banks and card processors SOMETIMES MAKE MISTAKES. If you feel your MATCH listing is an error, by all means fight it. Beware “Guaranteed Acceptance” Offers for Terminated Merchants In an effort to bring in application fees, some shady businesses imply or even claim that their high risk merchant account processors accept all terminated merchants. Merchants apply and wait a few weeks or even a month, only to learn that they didn’t qualify after all. First Financial’s carefully screened and selected processors specialize in terminated merchants in high risk industries. These processors are aware from the beginning that the merchant is on the MATCH list. They strive to make the relationship work. Further, A+ rated First Financial merchants get:

  • the most competitive rates in the high risk niche
  • highest levels of security and encryption permitted by the U.S. government
  • the most current processing equipment
  • quick response time and courteous support
  • simple approval process and set-up

The ability to accept credit cards can make or break many businesses. Get your business

Merchant Accounts in a Tough Environment

payday loan service merchant account

Organize for Approval! 

blank PayDay lenders have been getting quite a bit of attention recently, and not much of the good kind.

In August of 2013, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman charged Western Sky Financial with requiring interest rates of 300%, many times the state’s cap of 25%. More, several large e-check processors cut ties with all payday clients, making it impossible for check cashing, cash advance and payday businesses to serve customers.

The recent crackdowns have sent payday lenders scrambling for ways to keep their doors open. A+ rated First Financial has the reliable cash advance and payday loan merchant account services that keep you in business. We’re proud to help both brick and mortar and online cash advance and payday loan providers service their customers efficiently. Our fast approvals at competitive rates are the best in the industry.

 Fast Approval:  Just a Matter of Document Organization

Here is everything you need to get in business (or BACK in business if you’ve been dumped by another processor) as a payday loan or cash advance service:

  • last six months of processing statement from your current processor if you have one.
  • 3 months of business bank statements
  • business’ articles of incorporation, corporate resolution for officers and bylaws
  • Fictitious Name Statement or copy of Proof of Publication
  • Customer loan agreement
  • Business marketing materials
  • Owner drivers’ license of passport
  • Recent utility bill displaying owner address
  • List of states in which your business operates
  • Business most recent BSA/AML review

As you can see, it’s just a matter of pulling up some files. Possibly you have them all in one place anyway.Once these documents are reviewed, we may request the business’ tax returns, statement of information and fee schedules for finalization.

A+ Rated First Financial Gets your PayDay Loan Service Going Again

Whether you’re just getting started, looking for a new merchant account to replace an existing one or scrambling madly after being dumped by your current processor, First Financial has the solution to stabilize your business. Apply online in minutes. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the frequent tips that will help your business thrive!

 

7 Things You Should Know About Having a High Risk Merchant Account

7 Things You Should Know About Having a High Risk Merchant Account

Conceptual business illustration with the words merchant account
Having a high risk merchant account is a necessity for some businesses. Learn more about this type of account with these seven facts.

If you have an online business, accepting credit cards as a form of payment is absolutely critical to your success and your bottom line.

But if your business is considered high risk, finding the right match can be a daunting task.

So, what do you need to know about having a high risk merchant account before you begin looking for the right company to serve your needs? Here are nine things you should be aware of before you make a commitment.

1. Determine if Your Business is Considered High Risk

Before you select a merchant processor, you need to know if your business is even considered to be high risk. The criteria can vary widely between providers, but one of the first things they look at is if your industry typically has a high rate of fraud or chargebacks.

If you’re not operating from the United States, this is another potential indicator of high risk. Certain categories like firearms, drug paraphernalia, or even auction sites may also be considered high risk. Find out if you fall into this category first so you can be prepared for the next steps.

2. Prepare for Higher Fees and Longer Contract Terms

If you have a high risk merchant account, you can expect to pay more in processing charges and billed account fees. The reason is that your processor is taking you on as a risk, so they’re passing the cost of that risk on to you.

You’ll also likely have to keep your contract with the processor longer than you would if you were not a high-risk client. On average, high-risk accounts must stay with the same processor for three years or even longer.

An auto renewal clause is usually included which can force you to remain an ongoing customer for periods of a one-year minimum after each renewal. If you want to cancel, you’ll likely get hit with an early termination fee.

3. Check Available Plans for Your High Risk Merchant Account

Merchant processing plans can vary, so shop around until you find one that offers terms you can live with. Traditionally, these fees are charged on something called an interchange-plus pricing plan, although your rates will be higher than a low or no-risk account.

Find out if you can get a flat-rate pricing plan which will make billing a lot easier. If you discover that a merchant processor is charging extremely high per-transaction charges, you may want to steer clear. Compare rates and plans until you find one that’s within a reasonable amount.

4. Be Aware of Rolling Reserves

The term rolling reserves refers to money that is set aside from the proceeds of your sales in order to cover certain expenses. These reserves will help pay for things like chargebacks, and they’re put in place to protect the merchant processor.

Since many high-risk accounts tend to go out business, these reserves are there to cover any unexpected costs to the merchant processing company. If you’re new in business, you can almost guarantee that this is a requirement. However, as time goes on, the rolling reserves should decrease as long as your account remains in good standing.

5. Read the Fine Print

Any reputable merchant processor will give you a contract that spells out all of your fees and terms. Make sure you read this thoroughly before you make a commitment.

Look closely for different clauses that could cause you to pay even more than you expected. Some companies claim to specialize in high-risk accounts so they feel that they can charge their merchant accounts exorbitant fees. Do your homework and never sign anything until you’re completely comfortable with the terms and the cost.

If you’re ever in doubt about a potential merchant processor, ask your fellow business owners who they recommend. You can also read reviews online to find out which ones most high-risk customers are happy with, and which ones to avoid.

6. Security Measures will be Added

A quality payment processor will add some layers of additional security to your account. This can actually benefit you since it will help prevent fraudulent transactions and dishonest chargeback claims.

Requiring things like CVV2 verification is a good thing since it protects you and your processor from fraud. Ask your provider about what kinds of security measures they take to protect themselves and your business from unscrupulous transactions.

7. Develop a Good Track Record

If you really want to lower the costs associated with a high risk merchant account, work diligently to prove your salt. This could mean anything from reducing or completely eliminating chargebacks to consistently showing a profit for a long period of time.

The longer your business does well and maintains its reputation, the better off you’ll be in the eyes of the merchant processor. Some providers may even reward their high-risk accounts with lower rolling reserves over time or even reducing fees as time goes on.

Ask several potential merchant processors what kind of benefits they offer high-risk accounts if they do well. You might be surprised at the progress and positive benefits you can reap once the business is more established.

Success is Possible

Even if you operate a high-risk business, there’s no need to despair. With a few helpful bits of information and a little research, you can find a quality high risk merchant account that will serve your needs well.

Visit our website for more information about: High Risk Merchant Services.

4 Ways to Reduce Your Merchant Credit Card Processing Fees

Credit card processing fees just come with the territory. That customers spend 20 t0 50 percent more when using credit cards should reassure you that accepting them feeds your profits. Use these tips to keep even more of your profits when you reduce your merchant credit card processing fees.

Find the Processor that Wants You

GET STARTED

Just as lenders can specialize in certain types of borrowers, processors like to stock their portfolios with merchants that meet carefully selected criteria. They marshal the software and hardware that caters to different transaction amounts and volumes. They may also design their offers by a merchant’s average ticket price (ATP) or lifetime value (LTV). That’s why you should evaluate several merchant processors to see which wants to work hardest for your business.

This said, make sure that processors offering low rates also provide sufficient services and aren’t hiding fees. When you find a possible processor, check its Better Business Bureau rating. Create a spreadsheet and get answers to the following questions:

· What is the total interest rate when including all fees?

· What are the application, cancellation, statement and service fees? Can these be waived?

· Do you require contracts? What are the terms?

· How can I get a lower fee per transaction?

Those not willing to work with you do not deserve your business. Review the answers other merchant account services. Always read the fine print.

Hardware Considerations

Leasing credit card terminal means you’ll end up paying up to 20 times the machine’s cost. Typically, leases run for three to five years. While the terminals cost $200 to $400 up front, leasing can run from $40 to $70 each month. Keep in mind that you can also consider mobile credit card readers that plug into smartphones. These include Paypal Here, SparkPay, Intuit GoPayment and more.

There are also a handful of new mobile credit card readers merchants can consider. These inexpensive devices plug into a smartphone or tablet and allow credit cards to be accepted from anywhere. Examples include Square, Etsy, Intuit GoPayment, Paypal Here, Spark Pay and Amazon Local Register. Evaluate them to determine which fit your sales type and volume.

Remember to Swipe Rather than Entering Manually

When the merchant enters the cardholder’s information manually, they’ll pay more in fees per transaction than if swiping the card. Accounting software Intuit tells us that this is because processors know that manually entered transactions can be more easily hacked by thieves. A credit card’s magnetic strip or EMV chip has the most state-of-the-art security features. When a merchant enters numbers manually, those security features are not engaged. With risk of fraud high with manual entry, processors balance their risk by charging more. If you have to retrain cashiers, do it.

Use Minimum Sales Amounts to Maximize Profits

Convenience stores and restaurants have credit card use minimums for good reason. Small transactions with thin margins can make the sale a money loser. Some merchants worry that a minimum could cut sales. If customers push back on this policy, explaining the costs involved usually helps them understand.

All it takes is putting up a note that says you accept credit cards, but require a minimum sale of $10 or $20. If a customer doesn’t understand, simply explain that the cost of processing plastic can be burdensome.

Today, all businesses must accept credit and debit cards. With all of the additional payment methods requiring a processor, no business can go without a merchant account. The fees involved should not scare you away from providing your customers a wide variety of ways to pay.

Merchant Services Help You Increase Your Sales – Call 1 (800) 950-0212

First Financial

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