A quick internet search will turn up dozens of different payment service providers for small businesses, but how do you know which one is right for you? Finding the perfect fit can take research because businesses are all different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
If you’re struggling to pin it down, don’t worry, we’ve put together some key questions to help you find the best payment processing software for your business.
What should I look for in a payment service provider?
The ideal payment service provider for your small business will be the one that ticks all or most of your boxes. Naturally, that will depend on many factors, such as the type of products and services you sell, where you sell them, whether you intend to sell abroad, what your plans are for scaling your business, your transaction volume and even the look and feel of the system.
When you start looking, it doesn’t hurt to use your intuition – at least initially – to draw up a short list of the payment processing software that appeal to you. It also helps to have a rough shopping list of the features that matter most to your business. Once you’re clear on the general picture, you can start asking more specific questions, like these:
1. How easy is it to set up your system?
Legacy payment systems are often complex to set up and require in-depth training before you start. Cloud-based payment providers, however, have transformed the market, offering inexpensive, functional systems you can get running in minutes.
When you’re busy managing a business, you want something that can quickly integrate with your set-up.
2. What transaction reporting is available?
Knowing what you sell and how much is essential for planning future business and marketing activities. Such reports give you valuable information such as what’s top performers, your peak selling times as well as key customer information. You can then use the information to optimise your marketing strategy.
It’s also important to ask how much transactional information you receive and how quickly. The speed at which a transaction is approved or declined, for instance, can have an impact on both your operations and the customer experience. So having a provider that delivers this information quickly is a plus.
3. How much does it cost?
With any payment processing software, there will be fees to pay. These vary greatly between providers, and you’ll need to balance the cost of the service with the quality. Ask if there is a one-off set-up fee, any monthly fees or subscriptions and whether they charge a flat fee per transaction. Don’t forget to ask about the cost of chargebacks, international transactions and currency conversions as well.
4. What countries do your payment services work in?
Not all providers will operate in all countries. So if you run an international business, make sure that your provider of choice is available in all the required countries. If you’re planning to expand to other territories, you may want to ensure your provider accepts payments there too – even if your expansion plans are a way off. Get an idea of fees and charges too.
5. What platforms do your payment services operate on?
If you run your business across multiple channels, make sure your payment provider works across them all too. Can you take mobile card payments? If you’re in retail do they have payment terminals and registers that will fit seamlessly into your shop? Can you take payments online? Can you send electronic invoices and accept payment that way too? These are all questions you should be asking before deciding on a provider.
It’s also worth checking how they offer integrated payments with platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok if you sell on social media. That way, you can create a seamless payment journey for your customers.
6. What kind of support do you get?
When you take card payments, you may encounter issues from time to time, such as declined transactions, problems issuing refunds and duplicate transactions. These can cause problems for your business and its reputation. Customers who suffer payment issues are likely to become frustrated and go elsewhere if they can’t get what they want from your business.
Check if they have a dedicated team to deal with any issues and what their working hours are.
7. If you go offline, can you still process transactions?
If your business is mobile, for example, you’re a mobile hairdresser or you run a food van, you may be in areas with no signal or WiFi from time to time. Knowing you can complete transactions with your merchant payment processor even when you’re offline can keep your business running smoothly.
8. How long does it take before the money lands in my account?
Cash flow is hugely important in a small business and any delay in receiving money from sales can have a huge impact. Check with the payment provider how long it takes before the money is transferred into your business bank account. Some will do it within 24-48 hours, while others may hang onto the money for a week or longer.
9. Are there many integration options? Will it work with other software?
You want a provider with payment system integration, whose payment gateway will integrate easily with any hardware or software you’re already using. If you sell online or have an eCommerce store, check how well the gateway will integrate with it. Find out what the integration is like with any accounting software you use too. Another good question to ask is whether transactions are automatically imported for easier reconciliation or if that has to be handled manually.
10. Is your payment system scalable as my business grows?
Having a scalable system that changes as your business grows is important to avoid disruption later on. For this reason, it’s worth asking what support is in place. Do they offer guidance selling in new overseas markets? How do they handle increased sales volumes and how will this impact any fees you pay?
As your business scales, you may need multiple gateways which are tied to specific locations, for example, if you run several restaurants, having location-specific gateways can help you track sales data at each establishment and compare performance.
11. How portable is your payment system?
Many merchant payment processors offer systems which let you take the payment terminal to the customer, whether that’s at the table in a restaurant, at a festival or on the shop floor. Ease of use and portability can demonstrably improve your customers’ shopping experience.
12. How good is the security?
A good payment provider should ensure your customer transactions are secure and encrypted. Square’s Reader encrypts the data as soon as a customer taps, swipes or enters a pin - this makes it much harder for data to be intercepted. In addition, Square POS doesn’t store your customer’s financial data on any devices you use. Instead, the burden of security and ensuring transactions are PCI compliant sits with Square.