There is a consistent debate amongst business owners as to whether or not there is a clear benefit when using a large processor to accept credit and debit cards versus an Independent Sales Organization. Although it is very much a personal decision, both have very similar qualities when it comes to payment solutions, the major differences that resides between large processors and ISO's are the size of processor, and the quality of service that you receive.
Although I am speaking in general terms, and not for any specific merchant services provider large or small, it is typically the smaller more nimble ISO that is able to service their merchants more effectively. Whether you are a small sized business, medium sized business or a large sized business, there is definitely an ISO that can service your merchant services needs. Not all ISO's will be able to take on large sized merchants as their resources simply cannot provide the support and service necessary that is not the case for all.
Merchants services, as I consistently speak about, requires due diligence when choosing the right provider. It is not a service that you can simply look at card rates and monthly fees and make a decision purely on the basis of your costs. It is something that needs to be taken in consideration regarding the solutions that you require, the needs your customers require, what your business model is, and the level of service you feel you deserve.
Again, speaking in general terms, unless it is a payment solution specific to a merchant services provider, both ISO's and large processor typically have the same solutions available to you. The equipment will be similar, the payment gateways will be similar, and the virtual or mobile solutions will be similar. Some ISO's will have a payment gateway that is not as functional in terms of online reporting or integration as others, and same goes for virtual terminal or mobile payments. But that is not to say there are not ISO's that have more to offer than a large processor. The key is to take the time to speak to a couple different merchant services providers, and figure out which is the best fit for your business needs.
Service is one part of merchant services that seems to go unnoticed, even ignored until there is a problem that needs to be addressed. This problem could range from missing deposits, transactions issues, technical issues, terminal replacement etc. When a terminal is working fine, or your eCommerce solution is functioning without a glitch, merchant services is something we all take for granted, until something goes awry. This could be in the middle of a large promotion where the lineups are out the door, or an online contest, where hundreds of customers are trying to buy your product at the same time. When a problem happens, service and customer support comes into play. At this point, the last thing you want is to be stuck trying to navigate through a maze of automated paths in your merchant services providers help desk. Waiting 15 minutes in order to finally speak to someone, who then must transfer you or is unable to provide a solution for you at this time can cost you money, and customers. Since an ISO typically has a smaller portfolio, their ability to manage their merchants and provide fast support is a much-added benefit when choosing a merchant services provider.
Whether you choose an ISO or a large processor for your merchant services needs is ultimately up to you. Taking into consideration the types of solutions that are available, what your business needs are, and the service level you require, discounted an ISO based purely on size or fees could cause problems for your business and your customers down the road.