The Internet is replete with sites that provide a merchant account recommendation, ranking so-called elite providers based on a set array of criteria. However, one must determine whether these are objective sites or ones that have a hidden agenda.
Trying to keep abreast of the happenings in the merchant account field, I visit a great number of industry-related sites, particularly those that purportedly offer merchant account recommendations and even reviews on merchant account providers. Knowing our competitors – at least those that enjoy a high degree of optimization – I am able to separate the wheat from the chaff. (While reputable companies exist, there are too many merchant account providers whose programs and services are not palatable – providers who shall remain nameless.)
Still, it never ceases to amaze me that such suspect providers frequently rank among the best credit card processors on so-called objective sites. Such sites declare, for example, “Company X has the best rates in the industry.”
Invariably, when I compare our rates with Company X, I realize that this merchant account review site forgot to indicate that there exists at least one exception. In an absolute fair world, the site would be able to compare all providers (and all relevant rates) to offer completely accurate information.
At times, I contemplate calling these merchant account comparison sites – the ones that do not list us – to say, “How about us?” Occasionally, when I am feeling a little brave, irritated at the slight, or just plain bored, I actually do so. Recently, I called a webmaster about her confounded #1 selection, and requested that she examine our program to make an informed choice. To her credit, and to my utter astonishment, she did so, and after exhaustive review, now tabs us under the heading, “merchant account recommendation.”
My communication with another merchant account review advisor did not materialize into a successful result. The owner of a rather large company listed two of our competitors as the best choices and even recommends them on business forums. When I emailed this owner, urging him into looking into the specifics of our program, he replied that advertising space was available for about $500 – $600 per month. Now this owner may actually believe that his advertisers happen to be the best in the industry (a coincidence, I would say), but it appears likely that such recommendations reflect the need to retain advertising profit.
If a given credit card processor could start forking over money to such website owners, it would be declared the best merchant account provider that money can buy. Certain vendors may opt to take the higher, ethical road, refusing to pay for compliments and more justly earn a referral or recommendation.
Please note that I need to differentiate tried and true advertising (e.g., now, a word from our sponsor) to advertising, masquerading in the form of “objective and helpful” recommendations. I would not have a problem if the merchant account review advisors believed that they were selecting the best merchant account choices – even if they were profiting from such a recommendation. The moral problem exists when such advisors have not truly examined programs and dispense advice, based on the highest bidder. I also aver that certain merchant account companies are actually buying such sites themselves, and in the guise of objectivity, present themselves as the best merchant account choice.
Owners who are trying to glean information about providers should consult a variety of sources. Reviews and comparisons may provide useful data but should not automatically be “accepted as gospel.” Continue to perform your due diligence once you receive a merchant account recommendation.