Online Payments

12 Essential Questions to Ask a Payment Solutions Provider

Callie Hinman
July 14, 2021

Is your payment solutions provider leaving you a bit underwhelmed? Have you started to feel like you and your staff/volunteers are having to “just make do” more and more often?

Then it’s probably time to find a new provider. But how do you make sure you’re choosing the right one? Simple: ask them the 12 questions below.

1. What kind of experience does the provider have with the associations industry?

Most generic payment solutions providers aim to reach as wide an audience as possible by offering a platform that can be used by any individual or entity, regardless of industry. They aren’t typically interested in developing a product that serves only certain audiences (for instance, associations, professional societies, nonprofits, and AMCs).

However, because your organization has unique pain points, goals, and workflows, it’s crucial to find a solutions provider who has experience supporting your specific industry.

2. Which types of payments can the system process?

In addition to credit and debit cards, the right online payment solution will also allow you to accept eCheck payments. With eCheck payments, members and supporters can electronically transfer funds directly from their bank accounts to yours.

Along with being more secure and convenient than paper checks, eCheck payments are a better option for recurring payments since bank accounts don’t have expiration dates like credit cards. Plus, account numbers change less frequently than credit card numbers.

3. How does the provider debit processing fees?

Efficient and accurate reporting and reconciliation are essential for associations and nonprofits. If a payment solutions provider takes the processing fee off the top of every transaction, it makes monthly and quarterly reconciliation that much more difficult.

Instead, find a provider who debits all processing fees incurred the previous 30 days in one lump sum at the end of the month.

4. With which solutions does the software integrate?

One of the primary reasons you’ve decided to partner with a payment solutions provider is to simplify your billing and payments. The right software will integrate directly with the solutions you’re already using to manage your organization, including association management systems, learning management systems, and event management systems.

As part of your evaluation process, you need to make sure you’ll be able to securely accept payments in the same solutions you know and trust.

5. How user-friendly is the system, and how easily is it implemented?

During the demo, pay close attention to how intuitive the user interface is. If it’s clunky or difficult to navigate, it may cause more issues than it solves.

Be sure to also ask the provider what the average onboarding timeline is. While custom implementations will certainly take longer, a standard implementation shouldn’t require extensive training or take months before you’re up and running.

6. Does the provider support mobile payments?

Slowly but surely in-person events will once again be the norm and the ability to accept mobile payments will be essential. Ask the payment solutions provider how they support mobile credit card processing.

Do they have a native mobile app? Do they provide secure, mobile-friendly payment pages? Do they allow you to accept payments using QR codes? Ideally, all three options should be available.

7. Are scheduled or recurring payments an included feature?

Scheduled or recurring payments can offer major advantages to your organization. They’re convenient for both your members and your association, can support higher recruitment and retention, and help you weather seasonality and establish a steady cash flow.

As a result, scheduled payment functionality is a critical feature that your payment solutions provider should offer. Further, the feature should be included in your subscription at no additional cost.

8. Does the solution have an account updater feature?

Outdated cardholder information leads to declined payments, which means a loss of revenue.

An account updater helps prevent failed transactions on recurring payments by regularly reviewing stored cards and fetching the most current details from the issuing bank. This includes information such as account numbers, account closures, expiration dates, and CVV/CVC codes.

An account updater feature is essential to maintaining the most up-to-date card data and, in turn, keeping recurring dues and donations flowing into your organization.

9. What kind of customer support is available?

When you reach out to the provider’s support team, the last thing you want is to be met with cumbersome automated systems, unhelpful canned responses, or ludicrous wait times.

Accordingly, a fundamental aspect of a positive partnership is the combination of a comprehensive self-service knowledge center and access to an in-house team of payments experts that are available to provide personalized assistance via email, phone, and live chat Monday–Friday.

10. How secure is the payment technology?

As the number of cyberattacks continues to rise, it’s critical to choose a payment solutions provider that has data security as one of its number one priorities.

Look for a provider who offers an end-to-end payment processing solution that immediately encrypts all payment data to ensure every transaction is secure from start to finish. The best payment technology is also PCI Level 1 compliant—the highest level available.

11. What kind of PCI compliance support does the provider offer?

Speaking of PCI compliance, ask how they will help your organization become and remain PCI compliant. If they offer no assistance or if they offer support but it comes at an additional cost, then keep looking.

On the other hand, if they provide expert guidance and resources throughout the process and live, on-demand support from an in-house team, then you know they’re committed to helping you achieve PCI compliance and reduce your PCI scope.

12. What is the pricing structure?

Some providers offer lower rates to new users but don’t disclose that those prices are only introductory and that maintaining the same level of service after the initial period ends requires you to pay a higher fee.

Others will charge extra for things like access to a virtual terminal or impose a higher transaction fee for keyed vs. swiped payments. As part of your assessment, make sure you ask for a detailed list of all fees.

An online payment solution is critical for modern associations, professional societies, nonprofits, and AMCs. And if it feels like your payment processing provider has stopped pulling their weight, it’s probably time to start looking for a new partner. Asking the questions in this article can help ensure you’re making the right decision.