A merchant service provider acts as an intermediary between the customer, the merchant, and the customer’s credit provider. In essence, the MSP is what allows customers to pay using a credit or debit card. These services approve customer transactions by contacting the payment provider and verifying that they have the funds required to make a payment. They can provide the hardware required (such as card readers) to make in-person sales happen, as well as the software for making remote (online, phone) payments possible.
Why do I need a merchant service?
Much of the world has rapidly transitioned from a cash-based to a cashless society. 59% of Americans now cite payment cards as their preferred method to pay for goods, compared to 29% who prefer cash. In addition, consumers are willing to spend up to 100% more when using a credit card as opposed to cash, and only 16% of Americans always carry physical money in their wallets.
Even if only operating a physical business, accepting cash-only payments isn’t really feasible. This is compounded by the prevalence of online commerce where there is no choice but to pay virtually. The landscape is further complicated by an international market with a multitude of preferred payment methods and providers.
A merchant service provider provides the tools necessary to accept all modern forms of payment and seamlessly integrate them into your revenue stream. Whether prioritizing online or in-person sales, an MSP offers the hardware and software the modern merchant requires.
What should I look for when choosing an MSP?
There are a few important factors to consider when choosing a merchant service provider, dependent on the size and requirements of your business. Here are some of the key considerations:
Contract length - Some providers offer a no-commitment, transactional contract, meaning they do not tie you into any lengthy deals and provide their service on a transaction-to-transaction basis. Other companies have contracts for as long as 3 years. Longer contracts may offer better rates but they can also hinder flexibility.
Hardware provided - If you are a purely online merchant you may not require a physical payment machine. If you offer your services in person you will likely want some form of card reader to take payments. Some providers offer these for free but that can result in less generous rates down the line. Others charge upfront but offer better rates. Which is best for you depends on your business.
Payment processing speeds - Being a successful business in a competitive market often requires rapid access to funds. Waiting 5-7 business days for a payment to be processed is no longer sensible. Look for providers that guarantee same-day payments or similar.
Monthly minimum transactions - Many companies will charge a penalty if you fail to pass a certain transactional threshold each month. If you are a new or small business you should look for a small minimum to avoid paying unnecessary fees.
What fees does an MSP charge?
Choosing a merchant service provider can be complicated with all the different types of fees they charge. Most will charge an interchange fee and this is applied to every transaction you take. Rates vary from as little as 0.15% to as high as 2.9%. However, dependent on the needs of your business a lower rate isn’t always the cheapest overall. Higher rates often come with free equipment and are more forgiving in general on smaller businesses. Other fees can include terminal leasing, monthly membership, and online payment terminal fees.
The aim of this website is to help you find the perfect software for your needs in an easy-to-view comparison list. You can read more about how we review and about our background in the About Us section of this website. Software.fish does not feature all of the software available in the market, we cherry-pick what we consider to be the leaders in each vertical. We try to keep this site updated and fresh, but cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information as well as the prices featured at all times. All prices quoted on this site are based on USD so there could be slight discrepancies due to currency fluctuations. Although the site is free to use, we do earn commissions from the software companies that we have partnered with. If you click on one of our links and then make a purchase, we will get paid by that company. This has an impact on the ranking, score, and order in which the software is presented in our list and elsewhere throughout the site. Software listings on this page DO NOT imply endorsement.