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Card terminals: 5 questions for your merchant bank

Reading time: 2 mins

All you need to take credit and debit card payments is a merchant bank account and a card payment terminal.

When considering providers, arm yourself with the following questions. 

Visa and MasterCard rule the credit and debit card market, but as a retailer you won’t deal directly with them. Instead you’ll deal with your merchant bank , which will handle your payments and, most likely, supply your card terminal. So what information is essential from your merchant account provider?

1. Charges beyond transaction fees?

Most merchant banks will charge additional fees (startup, monthly, annual, statement, regulatory compliance, etc). Ask for a list of all extra fees you’ll be charged for merchant services and your card terminal. In any case they should be relatively small compared to overall transaction fees

2. Early termination fees?

Some suppliers don’t charge for an early exit, but some do. Even if you’re willing to tolerate cancellation fees, at least make sure your contract doesn’t require you to pay the estimated amount of the full-term contract if you cancel prematurely.

3. Interchange-plus pricing possible?

Interchange is the fee-per-transaction charged to merchant banks by Visa or Mastercard. Interchange-plus pricing shows you the interchange fee plus whatever the merchant bank adds onto it. If they don’t offer this pricing model, you may be paying too much without realising it.

4. Payment gateway compatibility?

Not all card terminal software platforms are the same, and there’s a chance that a merchant bank’s card terminal may be incompatible with your business’s online shopping cart (if you have one). This could cause real headaches, so ask about it before signing up. 

5. 24/7 customer support available?

No product or service is flawless, and card terminals are no exception. Yours may break down one day, and you’ll need help fast if you hope to avoid lost sales. Insist on a customer support line that’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Ask about repair and replacement policies while you’re at it.

You have many choices for merchant accounts and card terminals, so the best strategy is to compare supplier offers side by side to make sure you get the best deal possible.