There are innumerable credit card processing agencies vying for business by offering cheaper and faster services. However, businesses need to delve a little deeper to assess the true value of a credit card processing company. The processing fee rate is just one factor in the evaluation of a credit card processor.

A reliable credit and debit card processing company has clear terms, offers excellent value-added services, and a prompt customer care setup. Select the right credit card processor for your business by ensuring the following:

Include every fee in the contract

Some credit and debit card processing firms offer compelling processing fees to lure businesses. Once a business has signed the contract, the hidden costs start piling up. Avoid this situation by having the credit card processor include all fees — monthly, yearly, one-time or any other — in the contract. If the fees are disclosed at this stage, the merits and demerits of each can be discussed and evaluated. Once the contract is signed, there is nothing much the merchant can do except to pay up or terminate the contract. It makes more sense to be proactive and prevent the situation altogether.

Verify the performance record of the credit and debit card processor

Credit processors will have a good sales pitch, but may not follow up on their promises. Survey the market for agencies that have processed credit and debit card transactions for businesses in your industry and with comparable sales volume. Compare the fees charged, terms and conditions of contract, policies and accomplishments. Getting references from business associates always works well.

Time taken to transfer funds

Usually, a batch of transactions are processed once every 24 hours. The funds are not available in your merchant bank account immediately after processing. The time taken to transfer funds varies with different agencies. Ask the agency what their timeframe is, and make sure you get it in writing, so that you can be assured of timely funds in your account.

Have a lawyer look over the contract

Contracts are couched in terms that are confusing and unclear to most people, even accomplished business person. Having your lawyer look over the contract is always a good idea. Make sure there is nothing you do not understand. Many businesses make the mistake of signing a contract without understanding it completely, and pay for it afterwards. Contracts are legal and binding. Therefore, take the time to scrutinize it minutely for ambiguity and hidden meanings. Have your lawyer explain it all, and only then sign on the dotted line.

Get contact names and numbers from the credit card processor

Make sure you have some contact names and numbers of people you can get in touch with directly, without going through customer care service. Get contact details of as many company representatives as possible. Talking to someone in the company directly is useful when you are short of time, and need immediate assistance.

These useful tips can help you select a reliable credit card processing company. Do not get carried away with promises of cheap and fast service without substantiating the agency's reputation and past performance. Make sure you have every fee and other details on paper. Clear-cut communication with the credit card processor makes for a long and profitable business relationship.