Choosing Your Studio’s Merchant Account Provider

By Jon Koerber, President of ClassJuggler Dance.

A merchant account provider is what you need in order to accept debit or credit cards in your business or on your website, as explained in our previous article Accepting Credit Cards: A How-To Guide for Dance Studios. But how do you go about the business of comparing merchant account/gateway providers to know which is best for your dance studio?

Consider a pre-negotiated merchant account

Sometimes, your decision on a merchant account provider is easy. When you choose one of the more full-featureddance studio business management software services,such as ClassJuggler Dance, JackRabbit, or MindBody, to manage a broad range of your business needs, the service often offers discounted prices on merchant processing/gateway services from a preferred partner, saving you the trouble of shopping around to dozens of potential providers.

However, if you’re not using a business management service with negotiated discounted provider rates, or a service with no integrated online customer payment features, be aware that a merchant processor of your own choosing will take extra work to set up and may not be as gracefully interconnected with the business software service’s features as going with the merchant account processor that the business management software is already working with – an important consideration when comparing and choosing your business management software service!

If you decide to, or need to, go at it alone in locating and selecting a merchant account, a good place to start is with your business bank. You can also check with another software service provider to see if they can secure you a deal you are comfortable with.

The top 4 factors to use when comparing merchant account providers

There are really just a few measures you need to focus on when looking at a provider on your own. Here are the main four metrics for cross-comparison. The first two deal singularly with the merchant account provider; the last two deal with how well the merchant account can work with your cloud-based service or computer-based business management software:

  1. Protect your business. Make sure your merchant account providers are fully Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant.
  2. Protect your customers. To ensure the safety of your customer’s credit information, make sure your dance studio software service or computer-based software only stores customer credit card information with the gateway provider, and not on the dance studio software’s servers nor your computer.
  3. Ensure full integration. Verify that the merchant account service can be fully integrated with your dance school business management software’s features so that you can do everything in one place instead of logging into three different software systems to manage payments – time lost is money lost!
  4. Protect your income. Watch for hidden fees and high fixed rates. See our previous merchant processing article for a list of the fees to ask them about.

Count the costs … but don’t get lost!

Regarding the fourth factor above, you will likely find that, no matter how many merchant providers you talk to, the next one always seems to beat the previous one’s pricing in one fee or another. But, if you really sit down and crunch the numbers, the differences are often just a handful of dollars each month, which is hardly worth the effort of an in-depth cross-comparison.

Getting bogged down in the effort of comparing providers can be like driving 10 miles further down the road to save 2 cents/gallon on your gas. Sure, you saved 25 cents on that fill-up, but was it really worth it?

So, do your homework, but don’t let it keep you from running your business.

Also, see our related article Five Key Reasons to Offer Customers Online Credit Card Pay, which provides a compelling case for offering debit/credit card processing.

Questions? Contact author Jon Koerber at ClassJuggler.


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