Choosing the right merchant service can make your business excel

When it comes to choosing the right merchant service for your business, it’s not as simple as plugging in a PDQ machine on your business premises.

It takes research and real consideration to find the right merchant service to ensure your customers are happy and your business remains profitable.

Static PDQ machine

Depending on your business offering, there are different options available for your company. A static PDQ machine is the most common choice, and often the cheapest for bricks and mortar companies. They tend to sit on a reception desk or beside a checkout till.

They’ve advanced over recent years, and now enable merchants to take contactless payments. Modern machines now accept mobile payments and Apple payments and enable merchants to key in card details to take payments over the phone.

Static PDQs are a stable and secure offering for customers. They’re a great fit for retail stores, where it’s generally a given that as a customer you have to join a physical queue in order to complete a purchase.

Wireless chip and pin

Perfect for restaurants, the wireless chip and pin is very convenient device. Most wireless machines work within a range of up to 100m and enable you to take your machine straight to the customer. It prevents the customer from having to queue, which isn’t ideal after a relaxing meal.

There are still many restaurants that only have static PDQ machines on their premises. It can alienate a large customer base, whose main requirement is convenience.

Thinking ahead

When deciding on your merchant service provider, it’s important to choose a service that will accommodate your future business plans. Consider whether your business will be attending exhibitions and creating pop-up shops, where transactions will need to take place. If so, it may be worth investing in a truly mobile terminal that allows you to take payments wherever there’s an internet connection.

On top of that, if your business dynamic changes and you need to adapt your payment offering, you need to ensure you’re not tied into lengthy contracts that can’t be amended or adapted.

Integrating an EPoS system

Depending on the PDQ machine you choose, your payment service offering can be further supported by an EPoS system. An EPoS system best serves medium to large-sized businesses with significant SKU counts or customer base. They integrate with your PDQ machine and have the ability to hold vast amounts of information including transactions calculations, sales and refunds, and can even keep track of stock levels. The ability to track both your customer base and stock levels enables businesses to perform much more efficiently and therefore be more profitable. Also, having access to your customers’ spending habits can vastly improve your targeted marketing activity.

Costs and fees

When looking at merchant provider costs and fees, think about what your business can afford, and not just in the short-term, but long-term, too. Contracts can be lengthy and you need to ensure you can keep up your monthly payments.

You should examine your volume of transactions. This is because all merchant providers will charge a fee per transaction you make. The higher the volume of transactions, the more you’ll be paying, so look for a contract with a low transaction fee that is offset with a higher monthly fixed cost.

Can you afford to go cheap?

It’s generally true that the most well known merchant providers will be the most expensive, and with expense and popularity comes real efficiency. However, that shouldn’t stop you exploring lesser-known merchant accounts. These are likely to be more cost-effective and offer very similar deals. Of course, there may be limitations from some of the smaller providers, but that doesn’t mean they are sub-standard and, especially for small companies or start-ups, these options are far more affordable and can do exactly what’s needed in that businesses’ life stage.


All of the above points can be carried across to eCommerce businesses. In fact, the efficiency of the payment process in eCommerce is actually much more paramount to business success compared to bricks and mortar business. This is because of the high percentage of cart abandon rates. As an eCommerce store owner, it’s your job to reduce your cart abandonment rate and encourage repeat custom.

You should make you shopping cart process as seamless as possible. The easier it is for a customer to checkout, the more chance they will complete the payment process. So when it comes to choosing you gateway provider, ensure it’s a reputable firm that integrates well with your eCommerce platform.

A great product alone won’t carry your business. Offering a seamless payment process is part and parcel of good customer service and business success. Customers don’t want data signal errors, slow connections or technology glitches when it comes to keying in their PIN, tapping their chip or entering their details online.

By Libby James, co-founder of Merchant Advice Service