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Shaw Merchant Group
Flat Rate Processing
 Flat Rate Processing 

Thursday, December 07 2023

If you are a first-time or small business owner, then you may have heard of flat-rate credit card processing. Every business needs a provider for credit card processing, as it is one of the most important aspects of any business--the ability to accept payments. However, choosing a provider and a fee structure can be a challenge that takes time, energy, and research. If you’re going to succeed, then you need to be familiar with every type of processing service and why they might be suitable for you. One of the most popular services purchased by small businesses when it comes to credit card pressing is flat-rate credit card processing. 

Flat-rate credit card processing has many benefits, but it's not the right situation for every business. This brief analysis of flat-rate credit card processing will give you some insight that helps you decide whether flat-rate credit card processing is the right option for you, or if it's a bad choice for your specific business.

Credit card processing isn’t always the easiest concept or industry to understand

As a business owner, you are already aware of some of the struggles that you can experience when trying to determine a credit card processing provider. It is one of the most difficult things to do as a business owner, especially if you are trying to estimate the cost of accepting credit cards using a merchant services provider. Determining these costs can be difficult, which is why some business owners are drawn to a flat-rate processing model where the pricing is easier to understand.

However, these decisions depend on so many factors that it becomes a time-consuming task to determine which pricing model is best for you. To make it easier, this article will serve as a knowledge base and guide to helping you understand the factors that go into this decision and what concepts you need to understand.

Definition of flat-rate credit card processing

The first important concept of credit card processing to know is what exactly flat-rate credit card processing is. If you’re going to determine if it is the right choice for you, then knowing what it entails is the first and most important step. With an understanding of what flat-rate credit card processing is, you’ll be well on your way to understanding it at a deep enough level to decide whether it is the right choice for you. 

Credit card processing isn’t free. It costs the merchant a fee to implement and accept payment processing solutions. The variable here is what the cost is. Just like in any purchase, there are varying costs from different providers. Though consumers don’t consider it, it is the reality of being a business owner. In addition to trying to find the lowest fee, merchants also face the possibility that credit card processing fees will vary within the credit processing provider that they choose. 

One of the most significant and common reasons for credit card processing fees to fluctuate is the various fees charged by Visa, Mastercard, and other suppliers for using the card. In addition, there are fees charged by the issuing bank for the transaction and there are a couple more mouths to feed along the way. There are hundreds of services that are involved in this process and each one takes a different sized bite. For this reason, credit card processing fees can often fluctuate and have business owners confused about what they are actually paying to process credit card transactions.

To simplify things and make it easier for the merchant to understand, credit card processing companies have begun to offer flat-rate credit card processing fees. With flat-rate credit card processing fees, merchants are more able to predict exactly what the cost of accepting credit cards will be and forecast that into their profits and margin calculations. It comes with many benefits, but it’s not right for every business.

Benefits of flat-price processing

As you can imagine, there are many benefits to flat-rate payment processing and that is why it is so commonly used by businesses that are seeking simplicity in their processing arrangements. When you have flat-price processing, there are a few aspects to love about your credit card processing agreement.

Predictability

The first benefit of using flat-rate credit card processing is being able to have a predictable credit card processing fee each month. With predictability in the rates that you are charged to process credit card transactions, you can not only plan your expenses better, but you can also price goods and services better to provide you with a more consistent margin. 

When you know what your processing rate is going to be, the need to fluctuate your item pricing will disappear. You can plan ahead and be sure of what you are going to be charged to process credit card transactions.

Flexibility

When you have a flat-rate processing plan, another benefit that you will be entitled to is the flexibility that comes with these processing plans. With flat-rate credit card processing plans, you often don’t have to get locked into long-term commitments that hinder your flexibility and make it difficult to plan ahead. For small businesses looking for short-term credit card processing or to lessen the long-term overhead for their business, this is the ideal situation.

Flexibility is also a benefit to any business that might be considered high-risk or in general need of agility due to possible changes in the business model, revenue, and other aspects affecting their business.

Simplicity

When you work with a flat-rate credit card processing contract, one of the most important benefits is the simplicity of the contract. As we touched on earlier, traditional credit card processing agreements will often feature clauses, charges, and fees that you don't even have access to seeing the details on. For this reason, in those arrangements, you can never tell exactly what your credit card processing fee will end up being.

However, with a flat-rate processing plan, you can always understand what the fees are and exactly how they impact your business. You can plan to include enough margin for your processing fees and make it easier to understand the implications of your credit card processing agreement. 

Who is a good candidate for flat-rate processing?

If you are considering flat-rate processing for your business, you probably want to know a bit more information about who is a good candidate for flat-rate processing and which businesses should pursue flat-rate processing for their processing needs. It is very easy to identify merchants that are good fits for flat-rate processing because of the straightforward nature of flat-rate processing. 

Startups

Startups are the ideal businesses for flat-rate processing because they usually need to have less overhead and a shorter contract. Startups are often young and unstable, so having a processor that is flexible in the terms is ideal. Startups also typically have a lower volume of transactions. Many credit card processing companies have solutions that are specifically geared towards the needs of startups and young companies. 

Small Businesses

Small and local businesses are another frequent customer of flat-rate processing solutions. This is because small and local businesses typically have a much lower volume of transactions than larger companies and they are unable to attain better rates. In addition, small businesses are slightly more unstable and higher risk than other companies and don’t have the leverage to get favorable contracts with other processing solutions. 

High-Risk Businesses

Businesses that are higher risk industries also tend to use flat-rate processing because they are subject to riskier transactions that could lead to increased fees by processing companies. If they are able to get an account with a flat-rate processor, then high-risk businesses typically take that opportunity because it is a favorable situation for them. 

Doing better than flat-rate processing

For some, flat-rate processing simply isn’t a great option. This leaves many wondering if it’s possible to get a better deal than flat-rate processing. It’s true, there are some downsides to flat-rate processing and that is the reason that some choose to pursue other options. It is possible to get a better deal than flat-rate processing has to offer, but there are certain conditions that you have to meet. 

The first condition that you have to meet if you want to get a better deal on your processing than what flat-rate processing has to offer is that you have to be able to do a high volume of transactions. The higher the volume, the better deal you are going to get on your processing. 

Another condition that you will have to meet if you are going to get a better rate than what most flat-rate processing solutions have to offer is you will most likely have to sign a longer-term contract for your processing needs. This means less flexibility, but it is possible that you will get a better rate, though it will be dynamic and subject to change. 

If you are a business that cannot get flat-rate processing or you do a high volume of transactions for an established and long-lasting business, then you can possibly get a better deal by going with a solution other than flat-rate processing. 

Posted by: Admin AT 10:03 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email

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Applying for a Merchant Account for Small Businesses

If you are a merchant, then you will undoubtedly need a merchant account. Merchant accounts are accounts that your business holds with a payment processor or merchant services provider that give you access to the critical tools that your business needs to succeed and accept payments. Without a merchant account, your business will be unable to complete the most important part of any transaction--the receipt of the funds for the goods or services that were rendered. If you want to get a merchant account for your business, then the first thing you need to know is how to apply for a merchant account and what is involved in the process of the application. This insight will give you the knowledge and information that you need to be successful in the merchant account application process and provide you with a competitive edge when applying for your merchant account.

Information needed for applying to a merchant account

If you’re hoping to have success in the merchant account application process, then one of the first things that you will need to know is about the requirements for applying and gaining approval for a merchant account. There are several pieces of information and documentation that you will need if you’re going to have success in your application. Providing these pieces of documentation and information will greatly increase your chances of being successful, but that’s not all that matters. You will also need to display several traits and factors that prove yourself to be a reliable and trustworthy merchant.
 
Here are the pieces of information that you will need when applying for a merchant account:

  • At least 3 months of bank statements
  • At least 3 months of processing statements, if applicable
  • Valid identification
  • EIN or SSN for the account
  • A functioning website that has information about your business

Before you apply for a merchant account, you should be sure to have each of these pieces of information available and ready to send with your application. The absence of any of these pieces of information could prevent you from getting a merchant account or getting good rates if you are granted a merchant account. This could delay the process and make getting a merchant account take that much longer.

Getting approval for a merchant account: factors explained

When you are applying for a merchant account, one of the most important concepts that you should understand beforehand is that there are a variety of factors that go into your approval or rejection as a merchant for a merchant account. Being familiar with these factors can increase your chances of success when applying for a merchant account because it will enable you to optimize your application and make it much more attractive to the merchant services that you hope to work with. Here are some of the most important factors in getting approved for a merchant services account and why they are considered to be important.

Bank history

The bank history is one of the required pieces of information for your business if you hope to get a merchant services account. The merchant services provider that you apply with will ask for at least documentation of 3 months of bank history. The reason that merchant services providers ask for this information is pretty obvious--they want to ensure that your business is reputable and is in good standing with your bank. Without this verification, they might not be able to establish confidence that you are a trustworthy financial partner to work with. Merchant services companies want to verify that you are a legitimate business with a verifiably good relationship with your banking provider. By verifying this, they can guess that you will be a good partner to them, as well. Always provide the most comprehensive statement information that you can and be sure to not just provide the bare minimum, if possible. Applications will ask for at least 3 months, but if you are comfortable you should supply up to 6 months of statements.

Processing history

Another thing that will factor heavily into the decision that is made regarding your merchant services account status is the processing history documentation that you are able to provide. When you apply for a merchant processing account, the company that you apply with will very likely want to see at least 3 months of processing history. Again, the more information that you can provide, the better. Those that are able to provide up to 6 months of documentation will likely have more success. The reason that merchant services companies request this information is also clear--because they want to know that you will be a good partner to them in your merchant services and credit card processing relationship. Being involved with a company to provide credit card transactions is no small matter, and the companies that you work with want to protect themselves just as much as you do. When you provide this information, they will look into your past success, chargeback ratios, and any concerns that have arisen in your past relationships with processing companies.
 
It is possible that you are not able to provide this information, in the event that you are a new business. Still, you should answer as many questions as they have and provide them with answers to the questions that you are able to such as what your expected volume will be. Going the extra mile to provide this information could certainly be the difference between denial and acceptance for your merchant services account.

Credit score

When evaluating your application for a merchant services account, your merchant services partner will very likely want to see your credit score. This is a piece of information that you will likely not have to provide yourself, as many merchant services companies have a way to check this. Your business credit score will tell the underwriter, the person who approves and denies processing accounts, about your financial history and whether there are any red flags. If there are blips on your credit score, that doesn’t mean that you will not be eligible to get a merchant services account. However, it might mean that there are more hoops to jump through or that you don’t get as good of a processing rate that you were hoping for. The best way to handle a poor credit score as a business is to apply to a merchant services program that approves businesses that are in a similar situation and works with businesses to overcome challenges that they might have struggled with in the past.

Industry

Even though you might not have given much thought to it in the past, one of the most relevant factors in your approval or rejection for a merchant services account is the industry that your business is in. It is very important to consider the industry that your business is in because some businesses are at higher risk than others for chargebacks and fraud. If you are in a very normal and ordinary industry, then you probably don’t need to worry that much about the specifics. However, if you are in a high-risk industry that is known for chargebacks and fraud, then you likely want to start looking at ways to bolster your application and show that you can stand out above the rest as a merchant that will not cost the services provider money in the long run.

How long does it take to get approval for a merchant account?

One of the most common questions that is asked when applying for a merchant services account is how long the process takes. The answer is not so straightforward, as there are dozens of factors that go into the decision-making process of either approving or rejecting a merchant for a merchant account. If nothing goes wrong in the process and the underwriters don’t need any more information, then it’s possible that you receive an answer within 24-48 hours, when working with the right merchant account provider. However, this is not always the case. Oftentimes, your merchant account provider will require additional information including clarification on the business plan, more documentation, or just general questions about your business. You can help to reduce the amount of time that it takes to get approved by being upfront with all of the information that you will need for the application and having it on-hand for clarification if needed.

Be selective in who you choose for a provider

One thing that you should know if you want to get the most out of your merchant account is that merchant processing is a serious business. There is a lot of money at stake, and that is why merchant account providers are so selective in who they approve for a merchant services account. You should be equally as selective when choosing a provider. Make sure that you know what you are looking for in a merchant services provider because they are going to have a large impact on your business and what you are able to achieve with your merchant solutions.

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    Shaw Merchant Group is a registered DBA of EPX, a registered ISO of BMO Harris Bank N.A., Chicago, IL, Fresno First Bank, Fresno, CA, and Citizens Bank N.A., Providence, RI.

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