What is a Payment Processor, Exactly?

When you’re running a business, your primary goal is to make a profit. And in order to earn these proceeds, you need to receive payments from your customers. At the most basic level, customers pay for your goods and services in cash. One step above that is the card or check payment, and more recently, digital cash transactions on mobile apps.

As a business person, accepting credit card payments is essential. A payment processor is a third party company that transfers the money from your customer’s credit card account to your merchant account at the time of a purchase.

Payment processors are a crucial part of online transactions. If your customers are making purchases from your website, they need a secure way to process their cards. They need to feel safe from card fraud or identity theft. Since debit and credit card providers can’t link to every single commercial website, they use payment providers as the go-between.

Invisible to the customer

Businesses plug themselves into the processor’s system, and the processor handles the rest. They can offer all the necessary hardware and software including mobile apps, electronic keypads, encryption, SSL certification, and PCI compliance.

Payments processors are sometimes referred to as merchant processors. They can enable your phone, tablet, and website to accept payment. They can make it possible for you to make sales any time of day or night, allowing your customers to pay in person, on the phone, by mail, or online. Once payments are made, cash reaches usually the seller’s account in 24 to 72 hours.

Merchant processors have different fee structures. Typically processors will charge you per transaction, as well as a percentage of sales volume. It’s important to shop around and find the merchant processor that balances good service with reasonable fees.

Tips to pick the right payment processor

A quick online search will list several payment processors. If you’re doing business within the US, it’s a good idea to select a home-grown merchant processor. It eases transactions because you are already familiar with local financial regulations. It’s also easier to get assistance when you’re within the same geographical region.

Pick a company that offers round-the-clock support, preferably at no additional cost. This way, you can contact them for 3.00 a.m. sales emergencies, as well as for anything you might need during normal business hours. Find other customers who have used their services, and get testimonials wherever possible. If the processor offers technical training, that’s even better.

Security is a deal-breaker in online transactions, so dig into their data security protocols. Find out what kind of encryption they’re using, and whether it complies with the card security regulators’ standards. It also helps to confirm if the processor’s software is compatible with your website or shopping cart.

For more information about payment processors or to sign up for a merchant account, please call (888) 924-2743 or go to Charge.com.

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