Merchant Account Providers: Compare Fees and Technical Capabilities
BY Aaron Spitzer
Once you've developed a list of merchant account providers who might offer you anaccount, you need to compare the different MAP offerings. Be certain to ask detailedquestions about each MAP's technical requirements and make sure your system can work withyour MAP's gateways -- the software that actually submits your customers' credit cardinformation for payment authorization.
Compare Fees and Rates
In the chart below, requested MAPs to quote rates for a 3-month-oldInternet-only business with excellent credit that expects 200 transactions per month, withan average of $100 per sale. To date, the 30 or so MAPs charted below have responded to oursurvey, but we'll continue to post new results as they come in. Each MAP on the chartidentifies its preferred discount rate and transaction fee as well as the fees itwould charge the hypothetical (case study) client.
Internet business only (3 months old, sells books)
200 transactions per month
$100 average transaction size
Evaluate Technical Needs
In addition to comparing rates, you should also ask your MAP which gateway software itrequires. You'll need to then contact the gateway providers--CyberCash is a common one--to learn about the technical requirements for implementation. Questions you'll want toask include the following.
For nonautomated systems: These questions will help you determine how you can move your customer's creditcard information from the E-mail message generated by a form on your Web site through yourMAP's authorization process.
Do you have a Web page that allows me to key in my requests for credit cardauthorization?
If not, do you provide point-of-sale (POS) hardware for me to type in my request?
For companies with minimal technical resources: These questions will help you find integrated packages that can minimize yourprogramming expenses. However, you'll pay more for this integration, either in monthlyfees, up-front costs, or switching costs related to changing ISPs, shopping cart softwareor other technology investments you may have made.
Do you work with any ISPs, hosting providers, or other MAPs that provide anintegrated solution that requires minimal programming skills?
Do you provide technical consulting or access to third-party developers whom I can pay tointegrate your gateway with my current hosting and shopping cart software?
For companies with programming staff: These questions will help you determine whether the MAP's required gatewaysoftware is compatible with your existing software.
Do you have an API--a set of codes called an application programming interface thatallows applications to pass data back and forth--for Perl, CGI, and ASP?
How do I get that API, and can I test it before I agree to purchase your gateway?
What kind of administrative interface do you provide to make it easy to monitor ouraccount?
What kind of technical support do you provide?
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