Credit Card Processing and the Seasonal Merchant
If you fall under the category of special events, fall festivals, window ice cream shops, fundraising, weddings, or Christmas tree lots, then you probably have an off-season to your business. It also means you might have a difficult time finding the right merchant services provider for your company. Most credit card processors charge on a monthly basis and it might not be easy to switch your account on and off if you know you won’t be accepting any credit cards during the month of December. When shopping around for the right merchant account, here are some things to look for, and be wary of, to make sure you’re paying the right price for your seasonal business.
Over Charging - this is probably the most common issue you will find, and it’s important that you look for a credit card processor that will work with you, regardless of the months you will need to accept credit cards. Since your revenue may be sporadic, credit card processors might view that as risky and increase the cost to go through them in order to compensate.
Turning On and Off - another thing to look for is the ability to turn the account on and off as needed, or better yet, look for a pay-as-you-go plan. Foregoing the need to close and open a new merchant account every season will quickly save you time and money.
Equipment Options - depending on your industry and the setting in which you will accept credit cards from customers, you might want to forego the traditional, large POS system and get a mini attachable swiper to use with your phone or tablet. Again, look out for deals with equipment that will let you use them only when you need to - so you’re not paying for upkeep during your off-season - or purchase a small terminal that can easily be used on the go and as you need it.
Customer Service - when it’s all said and done, customer service should be an important component when choosing the right merchant services provider. Especially with seasonal businesses that don't always need to be in contact with their credit card processor, it can be an important component easily overlooked.
Additionally, many pay-as-you-go options with inexpensive equipment that essentially let you run your own show can be great, but also may mean a disconnect between the customer service department and the merchants. Making sure you’re going to be supported if something goes wrong or you need to make a change to your account quickly is key in making sure your business runs smoothly.