The moment your customers get their credit or debit card out is important for every business’s success. Whether you’re taking payments over a physical counter, online, or both, this is the point at which all of your careful planning, investment, development, recruitment and marketing quite literally pay off. But in order to actually accept your customer’s payment, you need a payment processor.
What’s a Payment Processor?
When a customer attempts to make a card payment – either in person or online – and you accept the transaction, it then has to be processed and completed by a verified third party. In other words, your chosen payment processor will be the “middle man” between your bank and your customer’s bank, making sure that payments are processed securely and quickly. It all happens in just a few seconds, giving your customers the impression of an instant transaction – magic! If you want to know more about exactly what goes on in these crucial seconds, you can find a step-by-step breakdown here.
Is That The Same as a Payment Gateway?
Not quite! A payment gateway is the software you use to accept and authorize online payments from your customers before the transaction is sent on to the payment processor to be completed. Acting like a physical point of sale register, payment gateways like PayPal are a great way of giving your online customers multiple payment options, as well as peace of mind, but you still need a reliable payment processor at the other end!
Making A Smart Choice
Unless you’re just getting started, you’re probably already using a payment processor, but have you taken the time to think about which one to choose, and whether they’re the best match for you? Let’s take a look at some of the things to consider before making your final decision:
- PCI Compliance & Data Protection – When dealing with things like credit card information, and especially when this data is going to be changing hands, security must be a top priority. Aside from basic loyalty to your customers, the bad press of a data breach is the last thing your business needs! Protect your customers and your business by doing your due diligence before choosing an accredited processor that prioritizes security and fraud prevention.
- Compatibility – The smooth running of your business relies on multiple individuals, teams, partners and suppliers working seamlessly together, and the same goes for your systems and software. When you’re doing your research, make your life easier by looking at which payment processors and payment gateways are compatible with your existing systems. That way, when you partner with them, you won’t have to deal with disruptions to your sales or a costly systems overhaul.
- Your Current & Future Needs – Your choice of payment processor will depend on your particular business needs, but don’t be short-sighted! As you grow, your needs will evolve, and you don’t want to have to do your research all over again. Thinking ahead, you can save yourself the hassle of switching your payment processor further down the line, which is likely to cause some disruption. For example, if you don’t currently sell your products or services online you don’t necessarily need a payment gateway right now, but chances are that you will want to launch an e-commerce site at some point in the near future, so it would be worth looking for a payment processor that includes a gateway.
As with any area of your business, the supplier that you partner with at this point needs to be someone you can trust, with a service that won’t let you and your customers down at the crucial moment. There are plenty of accredited payment processors out there, but there may only be one that’s the perfect match for your business, and taking the time to do your homework now will pay off as your business booms.