Investing in your credit card processing is one the best decisions you can make for your small business today. That’s because the benefits of accepting credit cards heavily outweigh the costs, and most business owners can no longer afford to take only cash or check payments without losing a significant portion of their clientele.

Payment processors know this and often take advantage of unsuspecting business owners by forcing them into contracts they may not entirely understand. To avoid getting stuck in an unfavorable agreement, consider these tips before you sign on the dotted line.

1. Obtain a Fair Pricing Structure

It takes money to make money, but you don’t have to break the bank just to experience good payment processing. Whether you’re new to this or have already worked with a payment processor before, always pay attention to the pricing structure when negotiating your contract.

The most fair pricing model available today is called interchange plus. Unlike tiered or flat structures, which are notorious for hidden terms and junk fees, interchange plus is transparent and simple to understand.

The interchange portion stands for the interchange fee set by payment networks, like Visa and Mastercard, while plus refers to the markup rate that consists of the transaction fee and a certain number of basis points. One of the main highlights of interchange plus is that your processor’s margin remains the same regardless of your volume, which is great news for small businesses that are planning to grow.

2. Review Your Terms and Conditions

Although it’s tempting to blame a bad contract experience on deceptive tactics, it’s not always the payment processor’s fault. Oftentimes, it’s simply the result of failing to carefully read terms and conditions prior to signing.

To be fair, rarely do small business owners have the time or desire to sit down and sift through the complex legal jargon of every service agreement and privacy update, but with credit card processing it’s different. After all, it’s your money and you have plenty of options when it comes to choosing who you want to process with.

At a minimum, you should inquire about the length and the cancellation terms of your contract. Even if you’re not ready to fully commit, some payment processors offer a free trial that gives you a chance to test everything you’ve been promised.

3. Work with a Dedicated Account Manager

Considering the importance of credit card processing to your small business, it’s crucial to ensure that someone’s got your back if you run into a technical issue, want an equipment upgrade or need help with PCI compliance. And that someone likely won’t be an independent sales contractor who may not even be working for the company the day after you sign up with them.

The account manager who you want to be dealing with is ideally a W-2 employee working at the office and capable of using their company’s resources to help you out. In many cases, this type of employee will have an established reputation in the area where your processor is located or specialize in working with small businesses in your industry, both of which are great signs of their reliability,

4. Seek a Variety of Payment Solutions

Technology is changing, your customers’ preferences are changing and, as a result, the needs of your small business may change as well. That’s why you should always ensure that your chosen payment processor is able to actively support those needs through reliable merchant services and modern payment solutions. Having access to a variety of point-of-sale systems, online payment solutions and mobile credit card processing tools compatible with current and emerging standards is key.

The same goes for industries with which your chosen processor works. A large portfolio of industries means that the merchant services provider has experience meeting the demands of many types of businesses, and can accommodate yours as well.

5. Demand Flexibility and Adaptability

Just like you have to adjust to your customers and your industry, your payment processor should be adaptable to constant shifts in the world of payments. Although every company has its limitations, best merchant services providers are always pushing their limits to deliver exceptional experience for their merchants.

Before signing the contract, check whether the payment processor is staying on top of the latest payment trends, like innovative payment APIs, cutting-edge mobile solutions and modern security features.

No matter whether you’re just starting to consider accepting credit cards or already actively looking for a payment processor, it’s important to do your due diligence. It’ll pay off in long-term savings and stress-free credit card processing at your small business.