Finding software can be overwhelming. Software Advice has helped many business owners choose the right merchant service provider to simplify payment processing.

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Toast POS

Toast POS is a flexible system built exclusively for restaurants and the food service industry. Offering tools like online ordering, delivery, takeout, mobile app ordering, contactless payments, and e-gift card purchasing, this so... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 71 recommendations

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HungerRush

HungerRush is a food delivery solution that enables restaurants of all sizes to streamline operations related to online ordering, loyalty programs, reporting and more. Professionals can utilize the platform to create custom order ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 71 recommendations

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Epos Now

Epos Now is a retail management system for small to mid-sized businesses. In addition to its Point of Sale module, the solution also offers integrated Inventory Management, Customer Management, and Retail Accounting, including gen... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 70 recommendations

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Rain POS

Rain retail software is a cloud-based point of sale (POS) and integrated website solution that is Mac OS and Windows compatible. Rain is an all-in-one platform designed for small to medium sized specialty retailers that offer... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 35 recommendations

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Lightspeed Retail

Lightspeed Retail is a cloud-based POS solution that is suitable for retailers in industries such as apparel, footwear, bike, jewelry, pet, sporting goods and home decor. The solution offers retailers tools including inventory man... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 28 recommendations

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Hippos POS

Hippos is an on premise point of sale (POS) can be operated with or without the internet. The internet is only used to sync data between the POS and Cloud (web portal). Hippos solution is designed for cafes, bakeries, quick and fu... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 28 recommendations

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SpotOn Restaurant

SpotOn Restaurant is a cloud-based point-of-sale solution that enables businesses to streamline processes related to food ordering, tableside payments, customer retention and more. The online ordering functionality enables busines... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 21 recommendations

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AmberPOS

Pacific Amber’s AmberPOS offers a point of sale software solutions to a variety of retail specialties, ranging from small to midsized, in the United States and Canada. In addition to point of sale functionality, AmberPOS incl... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 20 recommendations

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Agiliron

Agiliron cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) solution is designed to serve both in-store and mobile businesses as well as online sales channels. The system offers a host of features that work in tandem with the point-of-sale solution,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 16 recommendations

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KORONA

KORONA provides point of sale software, inventory management, and CRM services for all types of retailers, such as convenience stores, liquor shops, and QSRs. The POS software also caters to museums, theme parks, and wineries with... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 15 recommendations

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Epicor Retail Solutions

Epicor retail POS and business management solutions are designed to help independent retailers work smarter, not harder. With more than 45 years of experience built-in, Epicor retail solutions help retailers in nearly 8,000 locati... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 14 recommendations

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AIM

AIM is a secure end-to-end point of sale (POS) business solution that can be used in any retail environment. This retail management solution features customizable menus and screens, inventory management, complete POS activity and ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 13 recommendations

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Revel Systems

Revel is a cloud-based business platform that integrates operations and customer channels with point-of-sale (POS) functionality in a single dashboard. It is suitable for stores and restaurants of all sizes and provides users with... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 9 recommendations

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COMCASH Retail ERP

COMCASH ERP is a cloud-based retail management solution that caters to multi-channel and multi-location retailers. The point of sale module utilizes multi-touch capabilities allowing users to navigate the menu similarly to th... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 8 recommendations

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The Consignment Shop

The Consignment Shop by SBS Solutions is a hybrid consignment management solution that caters to small and midsize consignment businesses across various industries like jewelry, furniture, books, apparel and more. The solution off... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 8 recommendations

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Ordorite

Ordorite offers a fully end-to-end management software solution for furniture, bedding and related retailers. The system can manage every aspect of your business from point of sale, inventory control, warehouse management, deliver... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 8 recommendations

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HelmBot

HelmBot is a cloud-based solution designed to help small to midsize businesses manage various administrative operations, such as appointment scheduling, project management, marketing automation, inventory tracking and more on a ce... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 6 recommendations

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GiftLogic

GiftLogic is a retail management solution for small businesses. In addition to Point of Sale, the solution includes inventory management, customer management, and e-commerce integrations. GiftLogic is an on-premise solution, and c... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 6 recommendations

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SimpleConsign

SimpleConsign by Traxia offers a web-based single or multi-store solution for consignment stores, resellers, small retailers, antique malls, and art galleries. No download is required, and set up, data conversion and backups are i... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 5 recommendations

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RockSolid MAX

RockSolid MAX is an easy-to-use software solution that helps home and building supply retailers with outdated or manual systems upgrade technology and get more done. The software is cloud-based so the initial investment is lower, ... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 4 recommendations

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Buyers guide


Last Updated: June 22, 2021

The exchange of funds between businesses and customers was fairly simple before the introduction of the internet, and so was the role of merchant service providers. From 1979—when Visa introduced the first credit card terminal—to the mid-'90s, merchant services were limited to terminals and telecommunications services. However, with the introduction of the internet, payment processing grew to include virtual payment terminals, payment gateways, payment processors etc., complicating the role of merchant service providers.

These providers act as intermediaries between banks, businesses, and end customers. They come into play as soon as a customer swipes their card to pay for a product/service.

We've created this Buyers Guide to help you better understand the role of merchant service providers.

Here's what we'll cover:

Who are merchant service providers?

Merchant service providers are entities that help process, store, or transmit customers' transactional information on behalf of a business. These entities include payment service providers, merchant account providers, payment gateway providers, and any other service provider that facilitates receiving payments in non-traditional modes i.e., not cash or paper checks.

 

Common offerings of merchant service providers

The merchant services market is a diverse and rapidly evolving space. The offerings of each provider may differ widely; however, their core services remain consistent. Let's look at some of these:

Merchant accounts Accept payments using a virtual terminal (a web-based app that connects to a payment processing gateway). Track funds deposits, save customer card details, and generate online payment links.
Payment gateways Process diverse debit and credit cards, eChecks, and multi-currency payments. Store customer information and ensure PCI compliance
Point of sale systems Scan items, apply discounts, and create/print invoices. Accept cross-channel returns, initiate refunds, and create multiple returns for one sales order.
Payment processing hardware Process payments done by cards. Integrate your merchant account with payment processing consoles and readers.
Online shopping systems Track orders and wish-lists, remove out-of-stock items, offer express checkout options, and run special offers for items in the cart.

What type of client are you?

There are two broad client categories that merchant service providers cater to:

  • Small businesses: Being limited in their requirements and budget, small businesses require services that are largely centered around credit card processing, online billing, and wireless and mobile access. They should look out for the scalability of services to be able to accommodate future growth and the subsequent increase in transaction volume. Some examples of these businesses include local ecommerce websites, restaurants, field service companies, and small retail businesses.

  • Midsize businesses and enterprises: Midsize businesses and enterprises often operate in multiple states/countries and deal with large volumes of data. These businesses are more likely to require services such as Level 2 and Level 3 corporate card processing, integration with existing business management or accounting software, and high-level data protection. Some examples of these businesses include multi-national companies, large retailers, and franchises.

Benefits offered by merchant service providers

By now you must have understood the core offerings of merchant service providers and their customer types. Now let's look at some key benefits that will be of value to you.

  • Better customer experience: Improve purchase experience for customers by providing the flexibility to make payments through multiple channels such as physical terminals or mobile wallets.

  • Increased sales: Increase overseas sales and tap into international business opportunities by supporting cross-country payments and simplifying the purchase experience for international customers.

  • Improved funds management: Simplify funds management with detailed reports that describe total transactions based on parameters such as currency, payment method, and bank details. The reports also make it easier to get a complete view of profits and tax details.

Key considerations for selecting a merchant service provider

As the last step to selecting your merchant service provider, you need to keep a few additional things in mind.

Fee and other costs: Some service providers peg their fee to your sales—the more you earn on sales, the higher is the fee you pay. Therefore, you should explicitly ask about the fee structure to avoid paying more than you had planned. You should also check the costs for additional services you may require in the future. For example, currently you may need only the credit card payment service but upon business expansion your requirements can increase to include fraud filters and point-to-point encryption.

Fraud protection: Payments fraud is the top concern of financial services professionals, and fraudsters are constantly on the look-out for opportunities. Some common payment frauds include chargeback fraud, spoofing, or data theft. You should inquire about the safety measures the vendor has in place. Some of these features may include pattern-based transaction monitoring, checking for hotlisted cards, and thorough Know Your Customer (KYC) checks.

Service provider track record: You should look into a service provider's track record to identify aspects such as the quality of their customer service, their technical support record, and their charging practices. You can learn about these by reading reviews on third-party websites or on the service provider's website. You could also check if they have featured in any market reports or if they have been in the news for some reason.