Many times, credit card processing is one of the biggest expenses incurred by small businesses. It seems that payment by credit card is not really optional anymore and business indicators say that this method of payment will increase in the future. Because of this trend, it is imperative that small business owners know the ins and outs of how merchant account provider services work in order to negotiate the best deal.

Whether you are shopping for a merchant account provider for the first time or looking to switch services, you should contact more than one provider. You'll get the best deal when companies compete for your business. For example, if you have an existing service that does your credit card processing and you call another provider, they will probably be able to quote you a lower rate than what you are currently paying. But what if you call several companies? You will then have these companies all competing to give you the best rate. Here are a couple of tips for executing this strategy:

1. The best way to shop for merchant account providers is to be upfront and honest with the companies you are considering. Tell them that you are comparison shopping and let them know if their bid is not competitive with other companies. Often times, they will work to get you a better deal.

2. Have several statements ready to fax or scan so you can do your business efficiently.

3. The more professional and educated you are about the service you are shopping for, the less you will have to deal with ridiculous offers. Also, merchant account providers are always on the lookout for fraudulent businesses and unprofessional-sounding people are a red flag. If you are informed and professional, you will lend credibility to your business.

4. Once you have chosen a merchant account provider, be certain to get each detail in writing. Go over your contract with the salesperson and make sure you understand every line. By doing this, you will avoid hidden fees that might be lurking in the fine print.

Last and most importantly, in transacting online always choose a provider with the best Customer Service. Be sure to realize that there will be times when you need some help. Make sure that your credit card processing company can provide excellent customer service when the need arises. There is nothing worse than hitting a glitch and having to spend hours being routed to a generic call center where the support staff is anything but supportive. Worse yet is not being able to contact a human at all. Existing customers are the best resources for finding out how accommodating a company's customer service department is.

Even though shopping for a merchant account service can seem like a time-consuming task, small business owners usually find that it is worth the effort. Your investment of time and energy will most likely pay off in future dividends.

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