Choosing a payment processing solution that will meet your business’s needs--now and into the future--can feel like an overwhelming task. There is much to consider besides simply getting an approval or a decline. The payment processing industry is competitive and crowded. Merchants may be tempted to consider pricing as the deciding factor. While it is important, the lowest processing rate may not be the most cost-effective option for your business in the long term.

Business owners should also choose a product that offers a robust payment management front end. Here are the seven key questions to ask when shopping for a payment solution, so you make the most informed decision. 

1. What does the solution offer in order to keep sensitive card data safe?

Visa and MasterCard require that all merchants who accept credit and debit cards follow PCI regulations in order to protect card holders from fraud. The cost of a data breach can devastate and bankrupt businesses. Be sure you are using a platform that is a Level 1 PCI Compliant Service Provider. This means the solution has undergone stringent scanning and testing for vulnerabilities on a regular basis, which is an expensive and time-consuming process. A Payment Card Industry data security standard certification, especially at the Level 1 Service Provider Level, indicates a dedication to card security and is Visa and MasterCard’s highest level of certification.

In addition, ask if card information is tokenized and stored in a secure vault. Many card processors use data encryption rather than tokenization. When a credit card number is sent to a tokenization system after being swiped or keyed, the system replaces the number with a string of random characters called a 'token.’ The token is then sent back to the merchant’s system and stored instead of the credit card number. This means the credit card number is never stored on your system, which decreases security risk and liability for your business.

If the credit card information were to be stored on your network, your business becomes responsible for the protection of that data, and can leave your company at risk for a data breach. This includes ensuring proper firewalls are in place and a vulnerability management program has been implemented in order to protect against malicious hackers. You will also need to be routinely scanned by a third-party company such as Trustwave or Security Metrics to ensure you are meeting all PCI guidelines.

When choosing a payment solution that is a Level 1 Service Provider, your business is not completely exempt from PCI regulations. As stated above, all merchants accepting credit cards are subject to PCI regulations. To find out what your responsibilities would be, please see our PCI Compliance post. 

2. Can the payment solution’s front end support the preferred payment methods of your target customers?

Consumers like to have options. Will the front-end solution you’re considering allow for the methods of payment your consumers prefer? You want to create a path of least resistance so they can get their payment to you as quickly as possible. Some of the processing considerations you may want to keep in mind are:

  • The product’s ability to swipe cards (card present transactions) and/or have agents key in credit cards from telephone orders or payments
  • A front end that also allows you to process ACH transactions
  • The ability to set up recurring payment plans and/or allow your consumers to set up their own recurring payment plans online
  • Providing your consumers the ability to self-serve via an IVR system or online payment system
  • The product’s ability to present well on a mobile device and maintain simplicity of use for the consumer.

Besides providing options, a front-end solution that combines multiple methods of payment can be beneficial, especially when being audited. You only need to get a PCI certificate and attestation of compliance from one vendor instead of several. In addition, your reporting and reconciliation would be consolidated for all your payment methods, so you can have an overall picture of your accounts receivables health. 

3. Does the payment processing solution reduce your staff’s manual work processes?

Having one vendor that can meet the payment preferences of your target consumers will not only assist in the collection of more payments and increase your customer satisfaction with your business, but it can also simplify your daily workload. Consider what automation features it offers, since it could reduce the work required of your staff. For example, does it:

  • Offer automatic receipts (find out if they can be sent out via email or text)
  • Offer automatic payment reminders for recurring schedules
  • Combine processing a payment and getting a signature on that payment in one workflow

Examine whether the aspects above would reduce the effort your staff must go through to do their jobs. If automating menial tasks or receiving a payment and a signature simultaneously will save your team time, find a payment processor that can make your life easier. 

You may also want to consider whether the solution can be integrated easily with your account or patient management software. This may be through direct API integration, iframe technology, or even something as simple as a batch download of payment activity to upload into your software. Automation of processes can significantly free up your staff’s time so they can concentrate on other areas to improve your bottom-line. 

4. Does your payment solution automatically take care of payment compliance regulations?

Between the CFPB, Regulation E, Electronic Funds Transfer Act, PCI, and NACHA Regulations, your business has a lot to think about to remain compliant in your payment processing.  When you are looking at different payment solutions, find out if the sales rep is knowledgeable about the compliance challenges in your industry and what the solution has implemented in order to meet them. For instance:

  • Can the solution enable you to follow Regulation E requirements by getting a legal wet signature on every ACH and debit card recurring payment plan
  • If you plan to accept ACH payments, find a solution that displays the proper NACHA Mandated Revocation Language on its website
  • What customization features it offers in order to meet mini-miranda laws or any other specialized language that your industry would need to include when taking a payment 

5. Does your payment processing solution provide a user friendly and easy consumer experience?

User experience is an important aspect for any software, but especially in payment processing. You want the availability of accepting online payments, but you also want to make sure that it is an easy process, even for the least sophisticated consumer. If a consumer becomes frustrated with the process or cannot figure it out quickly, they will give up and that could be lost revenue for your business.

Research how many steps or clicks it will take the consumer to make a payment or set up their own recurring payment schedule. Be sure to have the online payment center demonstrated to you, and don’t forget about mobile optimization. With mobile payments expected to reach $90 Billion in 2017, according to, this is an important feature that shouldn’t be ignored. 

6. Does your payment processing solution provide training and accessible customer support?

You should also consider the user experience for your employees. Although it should have robust functionality, it should also be easy to navigate and intuitive for your staff.

Adoption of a new product can be a time consuming and frustrating experience, especially if you have to train several departments. When thinking about training your staff on a new payment system, you will need to consider:

  • If your new processor provides you and your staff the personalized training necessary
  • Whether you need an online help center and the availability of self-serve support
  • If their support center is in house or will reroute you to a separate call center
  • What is their customer support response time

Ask the rep if they have customer reviews and references you can call. If support is a big concern for you and your staff, these recommendations can provide helpful insight. 

7. What are the fees? What is the cost of equipment?

After deciding what features and functionality are important for your business to take payments smoothly and easily, you will need to look at the cost. Find out:

  • The price of Merchant services as well as software cost (these two are often listed separately)
  • What is included in your payment processing
  • Does the price includes a free online payment portal
  • Whether it costs extra to add recurring payment services
  • If you can add a separate convenience fee to your processing to help cover merchant services costs
  • What the processor charges for swipers/terminals (for merchants who take card present transactions)

Making an informed decision based on your payment processing needs will allow you to choose the right payment management system at the right price in order to grow your business.

PDCflow offers a complete suite of payment and compliance services. For more information visit or call 1-877-732-4814 x1.

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