Start-ups are always looking to increase revenue or save costs. When Sean Harper was running his e-commerce business, he started looking at costs, and zeroed in on how much he was paying his credit card processor. When he started comparing, he realized he had overpaid by about $40,000 in a year. This gave him his next business idea—a comparison engine and marketplace where people can compare credit card processors in an apples-to-apples way and get the best prices and features they need. FeeFighters was born.
According to Stella Fayman, Marketing Ninja at FeeFighters, a lot of card processors make their money off small businesses who don't read the fine print. 'Often you'll be sold 'tiered pricing,' where you're quoted a low rate, but only for 'qualified' transactions. Then you find out over 70 percent of your transactions are not qualified like a 'rewards card'—and the rates are much higher on those card transactions.'
A business goes to FeeFighter's site, answers a few questions, and gets several bids to compare. I tried the process and it took about 2 minutes. The card processors don't get your information; they don't get your number or any details until you decide to choose one. Once you go through the auction, FeeFighters offers a free statement analysis to let you know how much you can save by switching compared to your current plan.
FeeFighters doesn't deal with processors that use hidden tiered pricing models, and they don't deal with companies that have lots of fine print. In order to participate processors have to follow specific, merchant friendly terms, and the contracts and all fees are transparent.
'We get paid when a user converts,' said Fayman, 'So we get the statements for the customers, and we audit them to make sure that terms stay the same. There are hefty financial penalties if processors change terms and they can get kicked out of our marketplace.'
According to Tom Auer, President of Bearse USA, a manufacturer of bags, cases and pouches for specialized clients including the US military, they were able to save about $5,000 a year for the last two years. 'We're primarily business to business—so we're getting corporate cards from small companies. Fee Fighters put us through a process so we could effectively comparison shop between processors. It's almost like a strategy for these companies to confuse you so you don't really know what you're paying. We never got what we thought we were getting and there were always surprises on the bill. It's brilliant that they let you fairly compare pricing between competing processors.'
I asked Faymen about how this affected ecommerce processing. 'In order to accept payments online, there are 2 pieces: a gateway and a processor. People like Authorize.net are a gateway – similar to the black box in a merchant store. The processor can be changed at any time. So it is easy for anyone to switch out the processor, and keep the gateway in place. Most people think they're locked into their processor, and are surprised at how easy it is to change.'
Said Auer, 'Previously we had no idea what we were paying and why. FeeFighters made the process much better than it was before.' It seems like a no brainer to do a card-processing checkup, and see if you can save money. Let us know if you do so, and how it works for you.
Last updated: May 25, 2011
HOWARD GREENSTEIN is a social media strategist and evangelist, and president of the Harbrooke Group, which specializes in helping companies communicate with their customers using the latest Web technologies. @HowardGr