We understand that trying to read your merchant statements can range from frustrating to downright impossible. We can relate to this even though our risk department reviews hundreds of merchant statements every month. Our combined years of experience analyzing merchant statements have allowed us to identify the following six questions which we encourage every business owner to consider.
Rather than surrender to the complexity of your merchant statements, do what’s best for your business and seek answers to any questions you have. Not doing so could cost your business thousands of dollars in hidden fees and unethical billing.
Do you understand your merchant statements?
Will someone at your processing company answer your questions?
What type of rate plan are you on?
Can you identify where the markup is on your statements?
Are your rates consistent?
Can you spot any fees that look out of place?
If you are looking at your merchant statements and don’t have a clue what they say, something is wrong. Don’t accept being in the dark. The quickest way to lose money is to not know what you are paying for. If you can’t understand your merchant statements, you should seek clarity right from the source.
You don’t understand them on your own, but don’t worry! Someone in customer support will happily explain your statements to you in detail, right? In a perfect world, the answer would be “yes.” But we don’t live in a perfect world.
If you can’t find anyone who can explain your merchant statements to you, odds are there’s something in there your provider doesn’t want you to know about.
With pricing options ranging from Flat to Tiered and Interchange-plus, it’s important to know which plan you are currently on. Different business types benefit from different plans, and being on the wrong setup could cost your business thousands of dollars annually. Furthermore, you could take on unnecessary risk with the wrong processing setup.
For instance, on Interchange-plus pricing, your provider has to determine whether you’re on Mail Order/Telephone Order (MOTO) or Retail setup. With MOTO, transactions are expected to be keyed-in, so card issuing banks might chargeback swiped transactions, given that the account is not set up for this transaction method.
Once you know which rate plan you are on, it’s time to dive into your statement details.
Let’s say you are currently on an Interchange-plus pricing plan and your rate is 0.90% of the volume + a $0.25 authorization fee + a $0.35 batch fee + a $25 monthly fee. Does the format of the merchant statement make it easy for you to find where these fees are located? Are you able to differentiate between your provider’s markup, the Interchange (or wholesale cost) and pass-through fees? If so, you’re now able to evaluate your rates.
You know what you are supposed to be charged monthly, but are your rates going up? A common practice of unethical providers is what we call “The Creep.” Some providers will slowly increase your rates until you notice. When you are dealing with percentages of a percent, such a small change could potentially go unnoticed indefinitely.
Let’s say you are processing $40,000 a month at a quoted rate of 0.30%. Unbeknownst to you, your provider has increased your rate by 0.03% for the past six months. Not only has your provider effectively stolen $252 from you, but its rates have increased by 60 percent since you started processing. Another way providers can increase their profits is by charging unnecessary fees.
If you do not have a trained eye, you could be paying all sorts of hidden and unethical fees. A few keywords to keep an eye out for on your statement are: Billback, EIRF, PCI, Monthly Funding Advantage and Non-EMV Enabled.
Another helpful trick is to look for round numbers ($10, $25, $99) or numbers ending in 0.99 or 0.95. If you come across any of these, or anything else that appears to be out of place, it’s in your best interest to have your current statements reviewed by a third party.
The vast majority of merchant statements are, by design, incredibly difficult to read and understand. If you can’t make sense of them or obtain any help from your provider’s support team, then chances are that there is something unsavory in your statements. When dealing with your money, it is paramount that you partner with companies that value transparency, integrity and that always keep your best interests at heart.
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Did any of the above advice help you spot something fishy in your current merchant statements? If so, share it in the comments section below; we’d love to help you weed out any unethical billing practices.