Follow me in this scenario…

Merchant Account Provider (indicates by way of “apply now” button): “Go ahead and just sign up now...

You:But I don’t even know what I’m applying for…

Sound familiar?

It seems a little premature to ask you to sign up for service BEFORE you understand everything that you’re going to get with the service, right?

To me, it’s kind of like asking someone to buy a house for $100,000, site unseen! Not many people would do that if they care about where they’re gonna live.

Most merchant services providers have some sort of “get started now” or “apply now” button on their website WITHOUT ANY information as to the type of merchant account that is being applied for.

Have you seen these buttons?

I’m not here to pick on anyone in particular so I’ve left any identifying web links or company names off of these screenshots. I merely want to bring to your attention that these call to action buttons are not in your best interest if you don’t know the whole story… i.e. what you’re applying for.

Example #1:

This is ONE of the many “apply now” buttons that showed up on a landing page as a result of clicking on an email invitation for merchant services.

Apply Now - Merchant Account

It’s simply a percentage rate with a “1” next to it indicating that there is a catch to the advertised rate, along with a transaction fee of 19 cents. There is no mention of:

  • Contract term
  • Type of equipment
  • Customer service protocol

That little blue apply now button takes you to a page that looks like this:

Apply Now - Merchant Account - Step 2

 

It’s great in theory and certainly plays to the desire to have an active merchant account immediately, but you might be leaving some very important questions unanswered if simply apply without knowing what your signing up for.

Example #2:

Apply Now - Merchant Account - Step 2b

This one is from a prominent merchant account company that has this call to action button on their website in various places.

Again, with no explanation of the type of account or cost of the service they are asking you to apply and (presumably) hold all questions for a later date.

After you select the option above it takes you to a full page application with about 10 questions concerning your business.

Now, in all fairness, this is a “get started” (vs. an “apply now” button) that claims to be a merchant account quote rather than an application. Since I didn’t fill out all 10 questions to see what the next step was they may very well ask you for social security number and bank account information on the next page. I’m not really sure.

Either way, I don’t think that the average business owner is going to know how to answer most of these questions on top of the fact that the advertisement just gives you a piece of the whole story.

Maybe you should pump the brakes

First off, there are lots of areas that you could get pinched by the fine print of a merchant account contract so you’ll thank yourself for doing a little bit of research first.

If you don’t know what you’re signing up for you should stop and get clear about that first, and then proceed confidently after you know the terms and service of that application you’re signing.

I pointed out a number of things that are missing in the examples above and these are coming from actual questions asked by merchant account users prior to signing up for service.

Here’s some questions you should ask:

  • What are the exact rates and fees (ALL of the rates, not just the advertised teaser rate)?
  • What kind of terminal do I get?
  • Is next day funding available to me?

Or, any one of the many other questions that you should be asking prior to signing up for service with a merchant account provider. I have listed 7 of the most important questions in this article and there are certainly others that should be asked.

Just for the record

I’m not against online applications.

My company has them and they serve their purpose when used correctly.

The whole reason for this article is remind you to simply know what you’re signing up for so that you don’t suffer financial problems down the road as a result of unfavorable contract terms.

Reset and move forward

In the end, it’s all about properly aligning yourself with a provider that will take care of you.

Asking simple questions can help you avoid the common pitfalls that most business owner make when signing up for a merchant account.

I hate to see anyone get charged unnecessary fees or charges that could have been avoided with just a little bit of help.

So, what’s answer?

If you have questions, ask them up front. CLICK HERE to send us a question or visit our credit card processing 101 page to learn a little more before you run off and get hitched to a provider that may or may not take care of you.

It doesn’t have to take loads of studying and researching to pick the right provider, you just need to be “in the know” before making a final decision.