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Cracking the Code: Lower Your Credit Card Processing Fees

Cracking the Code: Lower Your Credit Card Processing FeesCracking the Code: Lower Your Credit Card Processing Fees
Reduce your credit card processing fees.

Published: December 13th, 2023

Credit card processing fees are not just a mere aspect of your business; they hold significant sway over your bottom line. In the contemporary business landscape, where payment processing is indispensable, they can exert a notable impact by chipping away profits and influencing your overall competitiveness. As a business owner, having the proper knowledge is paramount for navigating the complexities of credit card processing and ensuring you secure the most advantageous deal possible.

This blog is here to help businesses save money by lowering payment processing fees. We'll cover critical components of these fees, factors influencing their rates, and practical steps to reduce them effectively. From auditing past statements to negotiating with processors and reducing fraud risk, our guide aims to empower businesses with the knowledge to navigate this financial landscape confidently. Read on to explore how to unlock savings, lower business expenses, and establish a foundation for sustained financial efficiency in the realm of credit card processing fees.


How Do Credit Card Processing Fees Work?

Understanding how credit card processing fees work.
Understanding how credit card processing fees work. 

The network of credit card processing fees involves a multifaceted structure that demands understanding. Charges are incurred when a business accepts any type of payment, whether through debit card or credit card transactions or even ACH payments. Different types of fees are charged by and paid to different players, and understanding them provides a foundation for lowering these credit card processing costs.

Key Components of Credit Card Processing Fees

Interchange fees: Major credit card networks like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover set these fixed fees, which go to the issuing bank.

Assessment fees: The same credit card companies that impose the interchange fee set and collect the assessment fees.

Processor markups: Processor markups are the fees payment processors charge for their services. These markups impact the overall cost structure and are negotiable.

Incidental fees: These fees are charged under specific conditions, not as flat fees, and may occur in situations like chargebacks and compensating for administrative efforts.

Factors Influencing Credit Card Processing Fees

Understanding the factors influencing credit card processing fees is pivotal for creating targeted cost-saving strategies. The nature of the business itself is a key determinant, with specific industries considered to be at higher risk, potentially incurring higher fees. Moreover, transaction volume and average transaction size also play integral roles, as higher volumes and larger transactions can impact payment processing fees.

Additionally, the type of credit card used, such as rewards or business cards, may result in varying interchange rates. 

Strategies to Lower Credit Card Processing Fees

1. Audit all your statements

Initiate a proactive approach by regularly auditing your previous credit card statements. Examine each transaction, comprehend the associated fees, and identify potential discrepancies. This meticulous review is crucial in starting conversations with your credit card processing company because the aim is to explore ways to optimize transaction fees, ultimately securing better rates for your card payments.

Moreover, understanding every detail is essential to identifying areas for potential negotiation. Keep a close eye on your contract renewal dates; this is an opportunity to make adjustments and obtain improved terms for your credit card payments.

2. Research and understand the market

Stay updated on the latest developments in the credit card payment processing market and compare the fees of one provider with those of others in the industry.

Many providers value full transparency and will publicize all their prices for customers to view; this benchmarking process provides valuable insights, ensuring that you evaluate all the possibilities. Additionally, knowing how these service providers apply their prices and charges allows you to examine the changing pricing structures throughout the whole payment processing industry, giving you leverage during the negotiation process.

3. Choose the right pricing structure

Explore different pricing models, such as interchange plus, flat rate, subscription, or tiered pricing, to find the most suitable option for your business. Each model has its advantages, and selecting the right one contributes significantly to saving on credit card processing fees. 

Interchange plus pricing is the most transparent structure a provider can offer. It gives businesses a good idea of the processor’s markup fees and the interchange rate set by the credit card networks. Subscription and flat-rate prices are also considered transparent, as merchants who charge a flat rate only charge a fixed percentage for all transactions, and subscription pricing consists of no merchant markup but a monthly fee. 

On the other hand, some providers use a method known as tiered pricing, where they divide each transaction into three tiers: qualified, mid-qualified, and nonqualified. Qualified transactions usually come at a  lower transaction fee, while nonqualified transactions incur a higher cost. Processors using this method bundle up the breakdown of their fees, providing businesses with no clarity whatsoever. 

Interchange plus pricing is considered the best for its transparency and consistency regardless of transaction volume; a flat rate is not ideal for businesses with high transaction volumes or ones who process large transactions; subscription-based pricing is the pricing model ideal for high transaction volume and large transaction businesses; and finally, tiered pricing is considered to be the least favorable due to its lack of transparency, complexity, and high processing fees. 

4. Ensure compliance and reduce chargebacks 

Compliance with PCI standards.
Compliance with PCI standards.

Prioritizing compliance with robust data security standards, particularly those set by the Payment Card Industry (PCI), is imperative. This strategic emphasis on adherence to PCI standards holds significant weight, given that non-compliance can expose your business to undesirable consequences. 

These may include additional fees and penalties that can considerably impact your financial stability. Therefore, paying attention to maintaining PCI compliance is a proactive measure, safeguarding your business against potential financial repercussions and ensuring a secure and trusted environment for your credit card transactions.

5. Lower your fees by reducing the risk of credit card fraud

It is crucial to implement robust strategies to lower the risk of fraud. This is not just about enhancing security but also taking active measures to avoid extra fees tied to fraudulent transactions. Consider using Address Verification Services (AVS) to sustain security and reduce costs related to credit card payments.

An AVS is a system that detects any fraudulent behavior by verifying a customer's billing address with the one associated with the credit card account. This system works by allowing the customer to enter their billing address during the checkout process, which is then cross-referenced to the one on file with the issuing bank. 

Once the address is verified, a code will be sent to the merchant, facilitating payment confirmation. This fraud prevention system benefits merchants who process card-not-present payments and reduces the risk of chargebacks.

6. Negotiate the presented fee with your credit card processor

The most valuable step you can take to reduce your costs significantly is through negotiation, and to navigate this process effectively, there are specific actions you can take to ensure you're getting the best deal possible.

The first step in negotiating with your processor is to thoroughly understand the key players involved in the process. Understanding the fees and players involved lays the foundation for effective negotiation, which means knowing what aspects can be negotiated and what cannot.

As highlighted earlier, the markup fees are negotiable, providing an opportunity for favorable terms during negotiations. Likewise, some processors may charge dual pricing methods, such as interchange plus and subscription models, which can also be subject to negotiation and avoided altogether. Additionally, there might be flexible hidden fees that, with proper negotiation, can be addressed and potentially reduced. 

Knowing the ins and outs of your business, from the monthly amount of transactions to the payment methods your clients choose, is incredibly valuable since some providers offer discount rates for companies with high transaction volumes; therefore, calculating your projected transaction volumes significantly assists in this process.

Engaging in meaningful conversations, leveraging your business's and industry knowledge, and asking pertinent questions will help you secure better rates. 

7. Other strategies to consider 

Additional strategies to lower your fees.
Additional strategies to lower your fees.

Looking at other ways to save on credit card fees, you might consider two strategies. First, there's 'surcharging,' where you pass on the interchange rate to customers, lowering the cost you pay to the processor. However, before doing so, it is essential to make your customers aware of the additional charge they are required to bear. 

Second, think about offering discounts for customers who pay with cash. This strategy increases the number of cash transactions and can help reduce the number of credit card transactions, which cuts down on processing fees. 

8. Consulting with a credit card processing expert

As a last resort, consider seeking advice from a credit card processing expert. These experts can provide personalized insights into the best pricing models, negotiation strategies, and industry practices. Seeking expert advice is an investment that can guide you in making smart decisions for your merchant accounts, helping you navigate the world of credit card processing more effectively while reducing business expenses. 


In conclusion, while credit card processing fees may seem hefty, there are different ways to reduce them. Understanding interchange fees and processor markups is key to navigating the business landscape. Auditing statements, negotiating effectively, and exploring alternatives like surcharges or cash discounts can also help businesses. By implementing these strategies, businesses can confidently navigate the market.

Regular reassessment and adaptation to industry trends are essential to sustained financial success. By embracing these insights, businesses unlock immediate savings and fortify their position in the dynamic realm of commerce.

Now that you know how to lower the fees, searching for the top credit card processing companies is the next step. To do so, we recommend taking a look at our expert reviews, comparison tools, and blog pages

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