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5 Questions Merchants Should Ask Their Acquirer


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Andy McDonald knows a lot about acquirers. He is a payments industry expert with over 25 years of experience managing Sales and Marketing teams for companies ranging from NCR and Moneybox to Retail Decisions and ACI Worldwide. These days Andy manages his own advisory business focused on helping businesses grow, and we’re fortunate to call him one of our UK Board Members. Here are his main 5 questions that merchants should ask their acquirers. It’s great advice for any business looking to sign up with an acquirer.

Find a Payment Partner, Not Just a Service Provider

For merchants, it is vital that their chosen payments acquirer has the ability to work with them as a partner as opposed to simply a provider of payment services to fulfil consumer purchases. Acquirers should be able to work with their merchants and payments intermediaries in order to complete as many transactions as possible while managing the risk of fraud and chargebacks effectively.

Smart acquirers will use business intelligence tools, data, and payment experts assigned to their client’s accounts to be able to truly optimise acceptance rates that, in turn, maximise the basket size for merchants. This is critical for each party’s revenue flow. Too often, acquirers flout high acceptance rates as their unique selling proposition without any consideration of the risk and resources required to deliver on their promises.

With that in mind, there are five main questions for acquirers business owners should ask before beginning a relationship.

1) Are You Adaptive and Resolutive?

Leading payments acquiring technologies need to be supplemented by expert processes and people. Merchants should ensure they have regular contact with their acquirer to test and adopt new approaches to match their business needs. These needs differ across payment channels. Business owners should ask themselves how their acquirer will support them whether they transact online via e-commerce or if they are store-based. Does the acquirer support regional differences that require different payment and currency types?

Merchants have had to accelerate their online channels to their consumers in the current COVID-19 environment to fulfil demand for their products and services. It is, therefore, essential that entrepreneurs can quickly adapt their business to offer payment capabilities beyond their traditional business model. Acquirers should be able to offer the required omni channel capability and be agile enough to help their clients introduce new payment channels immediately.

2) Can You Provide More Payment Solutions in Addition to Acquiring?

Can your provider support you with a complete suite of payment solutions including not only acquiring but gateway, fraud prevention, chargeback management, and payout services? Mid-size and small businesses do not have the internal company resources required to manage multiple suppliers so sourcing solutions from one provider makes it possible for merchants to focus their efforts on their core business. 

Having a full-service acquirer gives business owners an integrated approach to payment transaction optimisation with clear responsibility lying with the provider to successfully process transactions.

3) Are You Compliant With PCI-DSS and SCA?

On the subject of clear lines of responsibility, security and compliance is increasingly a burden on smaller businesses that don’t possess this capability in-house. So, their chosen acquirer must provide PCI-DSS compliant solutions and reduce any security tasks to a minimum. Business owners need to rely on their trusted payment partner so they can respond quickly to increasing regulations related to consumer security such as SCA (strong customer authentication) in the EEA (European Economic Area).

Again, having one full-service acquirer puts the responsibility squarely at the doors of that provider as opposed to the all-too-often dilemma of what each provider is responsible for. Having an acquirer that can’t offer this can lead to a huge overhead in supplier management and delays in delivery of critical payments updates.

4) For Partners: Can You Provide Seamless Transactions and Fast Onboarding?

For those payment facilitators and intermediaries that process payment transactions for thousands of small and micro merchants, they should be working with an acquirer that can provide a seamless and fast onboarding experience for their clients. Mastercard recently extended its massive financial inclusion initiative, committing to bringing 1 billion people and 50 million micro and small businesses into the financial system by 2025.

This can only be achieved if the core acquirers have the latest tools and technologies to onboard merchants in volume and enable clear visibility of their application process in real-time. Once onboarded, merchants and partners should have access to their transaction data whenever they require.  In this way, they can manage their funds accordingly.

5) Are Your Fees & Services Transparent?

Finally, transparent pricing is essential to merchants. Too often, business owners are surprised when they see their monthly statements come through with hidden charges for items that were not explicitly laid out in their terms and conditions. For example, these can range from card types, specific countries or areas, or alternative payments. It is fundamental for business owners to know in advance the fees that will be applied in each case and circumstance.

Fees are set by the main card schemes, especially Visa and Mastercard. Since they are changing continuously, acquirers must keep the merchant updated on which fees are being applied, not only to better understand the cost of each transaction but to build a relationship of trust. Beyond this, acquirers add their own fees.

The Bottom Line

Finding an acquirer that is full service and treats their customers like partners is worth doing. A good acquiring partner can save merchants a lot of time and resources, so business owners can spend more time operating and less on their payments process. The right one will be able to provide business owners with everything they need to adapt to changing consumer needs, optimise acceptance rates and boost revenue.  

It is the merchant’s responsibility to provide a safe and compliant payment experience for their customers. By knowing the right questions for acquirers, and asking them, business owners can find a reliable partner to share this responsibility, provide game-changing technology and expert guidance.