Choosing a merchant account provider for your credit card processing needs needn?t be difficult, but it does take some preparation and consideration. If you’re new to the process and wondering how to get started, here are some tips to help you make the wisest choice for your business.

1. Put together a list of potential merchant account providers. Start by asking for recommendations from other merchants with similar businesses or local business associations. Research the names on your list, check them out with the Better Business Bureau and visit their websites. If one doesn’t pan out, move on to the next.

2. Credit card processing is no place for newbies. Look for a merchant account provider with a long history in the industry. This is one area where experience really counts because you want a provider you can rely on to deliver services effectively and consistently.

3. Technology is the name of the game when it comes to credit card processing, so you want a merchant account provider who stays on the cutting edge of products and services. Choosing the right hardware and software for your processing needs is important, so find a provider who offers trained representatives who can answer all your questions.

4. Security should be high on your list of musts? when talking to a potential merchant account provider. Ask about PCI compliance and other measures that they offer to help keep you and your customers safe from credit card fraud and identity theft.

5. Customer service and support are critical to successful credit card processing. If your system goes down, so do your sales until it rebounds. At minimum your processor should provide 24/7 support that’s easily accessible by phone more is even better.

6. Provide a good overview of your business and your credit card processing needs. The provider should be well-versed in the various solutions and merchant accounts that are available and which is best suited for your needs.

7. Talk products and services first, and then negotiate rates and fees. Look for transparency when it comes to pricing. Ask for the provider?s rate schedule and question any fees you don’t understand.

8. Inquire about free trials or other special offers that the provider may have. Reputable companies that offer quality products and services are often willing to let you sample before you buy.

9. Price is important, and in a highly-competitive field like credit card processing you’ll find a range of rates and fees to suit every budget. But don’t choose your merchant account provider on price alone. Get the best bang for your buck and chances aren?t you won?t regret your decision down the road.

10. Go over all the terms of your contract before you sign. If you don’t understand something, ask for clarification. If necessary, have a business advisor or legal consultant review the terms. That’s the best way to choose the right merchant account and provider for the specific needs of your business.

This post was written by Sarah Levy of Merchant Express. Learn more about Merchant Expressand?follow Sarah on Twitter @sarah_levy81.