Thursday, April 18, 2013

Recommended Solutions

One Size Does Not Fit All

One of the most important things for merchants to remember is that what works best for one business may not be a good fit for another. This applies in almost every area of business, and the processing set up for a business is no different. Except in one way: every merchant wants the cheapest solution that will serve their needs.

The problem is, what saves one merchant money may not save another merchant who does business very differently. Having the lowest transaction fees is terrific until it means that all transactions are going to have to be stored for later because a merchant is trying to save on mobile processing fees, only to discover that more charges are downgraded and other charges are simply not approved... In fact, there are dozens of considerations to be made before ensuring that the merchant has the best program set up.

Some generalizations remain true

It is always in the best interest of a merchant to save money. The rates and fees set by Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, et al,  are varied by card type and transaction type, and even have built in adjustments by industry. There are ways in which the processing companies have worked to save merchants on some types of charges while profiting off other types of charges. This was the birth of "Tiered" pricing.

A good "Tiered" deal may actually save a merchant money over an Interchange-based plan. This may be the case when the Mid- and Non-Qualified markups are not excessively high and the Qualified rate itself is low, because many cards may be processed at very little profit or even at a loss for the processing company, versus the consistent markup on every charge as processed via an Interchange-plus agreement. These kinds of "Tiered" plans are pretty rare, however, and many merchants find that their "Tiered" rates are raised periodically to compensate for the increase in Interchange costs for a few card types every six months or so. This is also assuming that the Interchange-plus plan is based on the typical "book rates" from most processors (likely 50 basis points over cost).

I generally believe that Interchange-based plans are the most fair-minded and often the most cost-effective. There is no undue rounding up on rates, no downgrading. And there is usually no additional transaction fee to go along with the downgrades, either. A merchant pays the cost of processing with a nominal surcharge on the total and a reasonable fee per transaction. This "cuts the fat" and makes the costs much more equitable most of the time. Still, this sort of plan sometimes looks complicated and does not work best for every merchant, so the pros and cons must be examined.

Recommended Solutions

I like to put my merchant clients into a narrow range of solutions whenever possible. For some, they have an existing POS system that needs to be reprogrammed and it is as simple as discovering what processing company will interface best with the POS system and then setting an account up with the proper parameters and lowest available cost. I'll use the First Data network for most POS systems, because I can provide that through a third party at much less than First Data usually charges merchants who have accounts directly set up through their processing wing. Plus, I'll do it with no long-term contracts and without cancellation fees. I can also process over the Global Payments network, or through a gateway like For most high volume businesses, this sort of solution is perfect for them. They have the hardware already, I'll simply provide them with better numbers. I'm not precisely in the POS business, but I have the ability to set up several types of systems and can provide a limited range of them as well.