The Top Things to Look for in a Payment Processor

The search for a payment processor can be, at the very least, confusing. Just take the comprehensive blog series by New York Times writer Paul Downs, who explicates the hunt in detail starting here. Understanding all of the pieces simply involved is arduous enough (you can get the breakdown in our blog post), but add in rates, fees and features – and you can have quite the mess to sort through.

So what really matters when you need a payment processor? Aside from cost, which seems like the most obvious motivator, there are a number of other highly important factors that weigh into what makes a good processor. We’ll do the whittling work for you.

Here are the top things to look for in a payment processor.

A fast system with funding and submission options

When it comes to processing payments, time matters. Of course, in the life of a transaction there is a little bit of lag time. Because the funds can actually take several days to fully settle, it’s important to be aware of a processor’s settlement times.

Look for options.

Next-day funding should be available. However, it usually requires more risk since the funds are, in fact, loaned to you before they officially settle. This will be sorted out during the underwriting process, but a good processor should have the capabilities to make this happen if you need it, and if it’s appropriate for your business. Late cut-off times also help, as this means you can submit a transaction even after the business day officially closes and still process it on that day. Some companies, like Forte, even offer Sunday ACH origination – just to guarantee a head start on processing.

Generally speaking, look for processors that offer features that happen in real-time. This demonstrates strong capabilities. For example, real-time reporting and fraud management tools can have you up-to-speed on your business instantly. There shouldn’t be any reason you are waiting around for things like reporting, even if you do have a wait a couple of days for settlement.

Security and fraud prevention

When it comes to safety, there should be no illusions. A good processor lists up front their credentials. These should include the following items:

Fully redundant data centers. This means that data is copied or rewritten so that it is stored twice. This means the system can roll on even with worst-case failure. The best processors know that sensitive data requires the highest, most stringent standards of protection. Some can even offer compartmentalized data security zones that are managed biometrically with physical security, 24/7/365.

PCI compliance. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard lists the requirements for companies that “process, store or transmit” payment information. Your processor needs to be compliant with these standards, and they shouldn’t make any fuss about it.

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) embedded security. SSL is the security protocol for encrypted links between servers and clients, particularly when transmitting sensitive items like payment data or customer information. It typically shows up as a green padlock in a web browser’s address bar (Firefox, Chrome, IE), but can also be something discrete like the tiny lock on the far right of the bar in Safari. This indicates that the information about to be entered on this page is secure. Payment processors that offer web payment solutions should have this embedded into their products, so that when you integrate your website, all sensitive data adheres to this standard protocol.

CVV codes. Additionally, processors that allow you to take credit cards should request the CVV code, which cuts down on the risk of fraud.

Another fraud prevention item that can be really helpful? Account verification. Account verification products also give a real security boost. For those processing eChecks and ACH, an account verification service will validate the bank routing and account numbers to decrease errors at the point of capture. This will minimize fraud.

Easy integration and support

An ideal payment processor is going to make integration seamless and painless. Native integration with shopping carts will transition customers naturally from your website to a checkout page. A good product will be able to weave itself harmoniously into the branding of your company. APIs, sample code, and a test environment should be quick to locate and easy to navigate.

Quality support is another thing to look for. The right processor will have a legion of knowledgeable, friendly, and consistent team members. Support should be reachable by several different methods, like email, live web chat, and telephone. They should be able to cover everything from the application process to technical issues – and be available during the times you need them most.

Resources and training are another integral aspect of support. Consider a payment processor that makes training a standard step in going live, whether through webinars or online forums. And you can never have enough information. The more resources and guides made available, the better. Look for ones that have a glossary of terms, FAQs, or a topic-filled blog.

Utter transparency

When you’re looking for a trustworthy payment processor, you better be able to see right through them. While it’s tempting to link that to Ghostbusters, what we’re really talking about here is transparency with the touchy stuff.

A good payment processor will have clear policies, including those about sensitive items like chargebacks. Be sure to ask. The policies may be dependent on a number of factors that can’t be fully prepared for, but the processor should be able to give you some clear guidelines.

Additionally, locating the pricing should not be a chore. Clear, honest, and straightforward pricing and fees should be, if not immediately visible, only a phone call away.

When in the market for a payment processor, you have a lot of options. Keep these four key points in mind during your search. They will guide you, much like a softly lighted pathway of velvet unfurling down the rows of an Orpheum Theater.

Check out Forte’s payment processing options at And find us on social media!

Photo credit: Vestman

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