Working at Helcim, I get to share advice with all types of businesses from all different industries. 

When I’m helping people understand what to look for in a payment processor, the most useful parts of the conversation are usually what to look out for. I wanted to share my top pieces of advice for you if you’re a new business looking for a payment processor - so you know what to ask, what to watch out for and are able to protect yourself and your business. Whether you decide to go with Helcim or not, we choose to share advice with merchants because we’re committed to building trust in everything we do and giving people the information that they need when they need it. This may sound like I’m feeding you a company line, but it really is refreshing to be encouraged to just be honest with customers on a daily basis, and know that what we’re offering is the most honest and transparent method of providing payment processing.

Do your research

If you’ve never worked with a payment processor before, then there can be a lot of information to take in. Take your time to review the websites of multiple payment processors to get an understanding of what different companies offer and how they can serve your business. Not all processors openly list their pricing and rates on their website, so you might need to reach out to get additional details. We’ve included a multitude of resources on the Helcim Blog like "Things to Ask Your Payment Processor" and what to look out for when you’re reviewing contracts, as well as having all of our rates and fees listed on our pricing page. Not all merchant services providers are alike, some will be better suited for your business compared to others.

Speak with other merchants about their experiences

In the same way you may ask for recommendations from friends and family on which restaurant to eat at or which internet provider is better, asking other business owners about their payment processing experiences can provide you with valuable insights. There’s no better way to learn how a payment processor might treat you if you become a client of theirs than hearing it firsthand from somebody who has experienced it for themselves. People are often very willing to share their opinions and experiences so be sure to include recommendations from those you know in your payment processor research.

Understand the pricing structure the processor uses

Payment processors use different pricing structures for their services, so understanding what the different pricing systems are and how the fees breakdown within each system can help you understand what sort of fees your business will be looking at. Understanding how the pricing structures are comprised can also help you identify introductory "deals" that may be too good to be true. The different pricing structures that you will come across are Interchange Plus Pricing (what Helcim offers), Tiered Pricing, Flat Rate Pricing, and Differential Pricing.

Pay attention to the fine print

Once you’ve completed your research and selected a payment processor, review the contract closely to ensure that what you’ve discussed or read on the processor’s website is reflected in the final contract that you’re signing off on. This will also ensure that you don’t miss any important clauses like early cancellation fees, rate changes or other items that will affect your business’s bottom line. Because there are a wide variety of fees that your account may be subject to, a processor may not have them all listed on their website. They should, however, all be listed in the contract, so make sure you identify and understand all the fees before signing off. For example, some payment processors may choose to charge PCI fees as a percentage of the total amount processed. This is an important differentiation from a flat rate because even if the percentage is as small as 1%, if you’re processing $10,000 a month that’s an additional $100 a month in fees - significantly more than a $20 flat rate another processor might offer.

Avoid contracts

I can’t tell you how many times we get calls from unhappy merchants who are locked into contracts that they want to get out of. We don’t offer contracts at Helcim, every one of our merchants is on a month to month agreement with us. We do this because we want to build relationships with businesses who continue to work with us because they want to, not because they have to. However, other payment processors might lock you into long, multi-year contracts that are difficult and expensive to get out of. You never know when your business needs might change and having the flexibility to change processors or end your services if needed can provide you with additional peace of mind.

Never sign up for leased equipment

Similar to how we don’t offer contracts because we don’t believe they’re good for merchants, Helcim doesn’t offer any terminal leases because we feel it’s generally just a bad option for merchants. Leasing equipment will cost your business anywhere from 10 to 20 times the purchase value of the terminal over the life of the lease. For more information on why you should never lease equipment check out our blog post.

Bonus Advice – If you’re a Canadian Merchant know “The Code”

I’m referring to the Code of Conduct for the Credit and Debit Card Industry in Canada. It’s there to help merchants. By being aware of the Code of Conduct, you can identify if a processor is taking advantage of your business and how you can exit a contract with a payment processor if there are changes to your rates.

With this advice, I hope that new business owners can make an informed decision about which payment processor will be best for their business and have a positive payment experience.