If ever there was an industry that attracts greed it’s credit card processing. I guess that’s what happens in an industry that processes more than $2 trillion dollars in volume each year – everyone wants a piece of the pie. Well the greed has gotten out of hand, and unfortunately it’s the merchant who usually ends up paying for it. This article exposes 5 deceitful tactics credit card processors use to line their pockets at their merchants expense.
Tactic #1: The “Rate Game”…
Sales telemarketers love to call business owners and promise to give them a “lower rate”, and to “save them money” if they will switch processors.
Question: How can they possibly know they’ll be able to save you money before they’ve even looked at a statement and seen what you are currently paying?
The answer is – they can’t!
But here’s the dirty little secret: they don’t care what your statement says because in most cases they don’t intend to save you money anyway. It’s amazing how many merchants say they’d switched processors for a lower rate – only to find they ended up paying about the same total costs as before when it was all said and done.
The reason this can happen is because there are so many variables to a processors rate structure, that discount rates can easily be manipulated to offer savings in one area, while making up for it in a different area altogether.
An example of this is offering a lower discount rate, and then making up for it in transaction fees, statement fees, annual fees, PCI fees, or ‘all of the above’.
The solution? Demand that your processing rep explains VISA and MC’s Interchange Rates (which can be downloaded from each of their respective websites), and can justify what they intend to charge your account for, based upon published interchange rate charts.
Tactic #2: The Binding Contract…
Another trick processors use is to lock you into a 2,3, or even 5 year contract – without verbally telling you they’d done so. Sure, you could have found it somewhere in the details of your processing agreement, but it’s rare for someone to read page after page of small print “legalese” when jumping through all the hoops of filling out a contract and listening to a well skilled, friendly salesperson.
Similarly, at the end of the original contract term, another devious trick is to include a clause somewhere in the contract stating that unless the processor is notified in writing at least 30 days prior to the expiration of the original processing agreement, the contract will automatically renew for a period of 1 year.
A good solution is to find a processor with no binding contract. Which leads to the next problem…
Tactic #3: Early Termination Fees…
Competition is fierce. In an attempt to lower or eliminate high merchant turnover processors have added Early Termination Fees (ETF’s) to the fine print of their contracts. ETF’s ‘fine’ a merchant if they decide to switch processors before the contract terms are up.
The problem with ETF’s is that it gives an unscrupulous processor power over their merchants. Many of them use this clause as a green light to abuse their customers, knowing most merchants will give up an attempt to leave and go to a new processor once they’re made aware that by contractual agreement it’s going to cost them money.
a good solution is to demand, in writing, a contract with no early termination fees!
Tactic #4: New PCI Fees
While it is true that merchants need to be in compliance with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS), most Level-4 merchants are able to achieve compliance without too much difficulty. As long as they use PCI compliant hardware and software, and don’t store sensitive cardholder information, most of their PCI issues are resolved.
Yet credit card processors have almost universally seen fit to require a monthly, quarterly, or yearly “PCI compliance fee” (which really amounts to nothing more than a new ‘annual fee’). At the same time, processors rarely, if ever, do anything to educate their merchants about PCI. Instead, they simply slap them with a new fee which shows up on their statement as being “for PCI compliance”. No wonder merchants get so angry.
Solution? Find a processor that’s committed to educating their merchants on the important issues of data security, and doesn’t require an arbitrary “PCI fee”.
Tactic #5: The Bewildering Statement
Another tactic processors use is in the format and content of the processing statements mailed monthly to each merchant to summarize their card activity. The majority, from what I’ve seen, look as if they are designed to confuse, rather than disclose the rates and fees paid for the month.
Some even go so far as to hide certain fees, or even completely eliminate disclosing what they are. When a processor doesn’t reveal fees on a statement it’s usually an attempt on their part to prevent a competitor from going over it and coming up with a competitive analysis.
While it does protect the processor, it does so in a way that seems highly manipulative. If a processor is fair, open and honest with a merchant then THAT ALONE will go a long way in preventing merchant turnover. Why would a merchant leave a processor that was open, fair, and honest to go with a new one they didn’t yet know if they could trust? Highly unlikely.
The solution is to ask to see a processors statement before going with them. If it looks like it’d take a semester in college to read you may want to keep looking for a processing company with nothing to hide.