Step One: Understand your CURRENT contracts
Your current merchant contract could have a number of “gotchas” in it:
- Early termination fees, charged if you want to get out of the contract before the stated expiration date
- An “evergreen” clause, which automatically renews your contract (usually for the same term again) if you don’t notify the processor of your intent to cancel at least a specified number of days before expiration.
- An “exclusivity” clause that prevents you from using another merchant services provider while under contract with them.
Read your current merchant contract carefully, and look for any clauses that could cost you.
Your merchant contract isn’t the only contract to examine, however. If you have a specific point-of-sale (POS) system, ensure that the POS system vendor doesn’t charge a fee for you to change providers. We’ve seen these third party fees range from $300 to $1,500 and up for a change. These fees are intended to cover the cost of software changes within the POS system needed to support your new processor.
If you are leasing your equipment, you also need to consult your lease agreement. Don’t assume that your equipment lease is for the same term as your merchant contract. We’ve seen situations where merchants change processors only to find they are stuck with another year of lease payments on their terminals. Don’t let this happen to you. Your new processor may or may not be able to use the terminals you have (and you might not want them to anyway). You likely will have to return leased equipment within a specified time period after the lease is up, and, if you have multiple locations, you’ll need a plan for collecting all of that equipment also.
If you own your current equipment, and you want to use it with your new processor, be sure that’s part of your discussion with your salesperson. If your equipment is older, there may be very good reasons for purchasing or leasing new equipment with your new merchant contract, and you want to make the best decision possible.
Be sure you have the facts. The salesperson from your new merchant processor should be able to help you decipher your current contracts and work with you to determine the best way to extricate yourself from your old processor without unnecessary costs and without disruption to your business. Be sure your salesperson puts everything in writing for you so you have a checklist to use as you’re going through your processor transition.
Step Two: Put All the Cards on the Table
Your new processor should be able to work with every aspect of your payment processing needs, from credit card processing to check verification to gift cards to online payment gateways.
BUT – you have to tell them everything you have. Anything that has to do with accepting payments should be part of your discussion with your new processor so that they can ensure you don’t get hit with leftover fees from your old processor (or worse, accidentally hit the above-mentioned evergreen clause for something you forgot about) – or find out that some key aspect of your business stops working after the switch (gift cards are a great example of a possible “gotcha” there).
There’s nothing worse than switching providers but forgetting some detail that causes you to get another bill from an old provider, yet it happens. Though there are many reasons that can happen, the most frequent cause we see is forgetting to change your online payment gateway over to the new provider. Your in-store systems are going through your new processor, but your online transactions are still going through the old processor. Whoops.
While our team at EPS is one of the best around when it comes to painlessly switching merchants out of their old provider and over to EPS, even we can’t handle things we don’t know about. We’ll ask all the questions; if you have all the answers, you’ll be in great shape.
Step Three: Final Details
Schedule your switch for a slow time of year (if you can) or a slow day of the week for your business, just in case there is an issue with the transition. Work with your new provider’s Customer Service team to set up the best time, and talk with them about any needed contingency plans. We always plan for minimal disruption to your business, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
Be ready with a few REAL transactions before the installer leaves (after the standard system tests are done). Have a friend or two come in and make ten dollar purchases, on different cards (Mastercard and Visa at least) to try out your new system. (You can always hand them a ten dollar bill instead of processing a refund!) Close batch when you’re done running the tests. You want to have the first few transactions easily identifiable, so you can see them run all the way through the system without a problem.
Make sure all of your employees are trained in new or different procedures with your new processor and new equipment (if any). This is a great time for an employee refresher course – and a great time to change passwords as well.
Finally, it may make good business sense for you to close the bank account that your former processor had access to for deposits and withdrawals – after your final monthly statement is settled of course. Do this in two steps – 1) leave a minimal amount to cover any chargebacks that could occur, and 2) when the chargeback window has closed, close the account. Use a new account for your new processor to access. This will simplify your bookkeeping and your audit trail.
Switching providers can be simple and disruption-free if you follow these simple steps.