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Choosing a credit card processor for a medical practice

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Elaine Pofeldt is a journalist whose articles on entrepreneurship and careers have appeared in Fortune, Working Mother, Money and many other publications. She is a former senior editor at Fortune Small Business magazine and an entrepreneur herself, as co-founder of 200kfreelancer.com, a website for independent professionals. She writes "Your Business Credit," a weekly column about small business and credit, for CreditCards.com.

Ask Elaine a question or read her prior answers in the 'Your Business Credit' archive.

Question Dear Your Business Credit,
Is there a preferred credit card processor for medical offices? Or, is there a company that specializes in credit card services for medical offices? -- David

Answer Dear David,
Since every medical office is different, I would hesitate to recommend any particular provider as a "preferred" one. A credit card processor that does a great job serving a high-volume urgent care facility might not be the best fit for a slower-paced private practice in a small town that doesn't do as many transactions.

The American Medical Association publishes a thorough guide on choosing a merchant account provider for a medical practice. I highly recommend reading it before you shop around, so you can ask providers the right questions.

One way to find a good provider to meet your needs is to ask the medical organizations to which you belong if they have a partnership with a provider. It's in the best interests of professional groups to be able to offer their members useful information on this front.

In the event that you don't belong to any associations, you can get some leads by looking at the merchant account providers that have formed alliances with medical groups. The American Medical Association offers special rates with TSYS Merchant Solutions as a member benefit, so that service may be worth investigating. The National Association of Doctors, a nonprofit organization offering financial services for medical professionals, also has a relationship with merchant account provider NXGEN, giving you another option to consider. Meanwhile, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians offers its members discounted access to Gravity Payments.

Don't limit your search to these three. Ask other medical providers in your area which services they use and if they are happy with them. Also check out our sister site, Merchant Account Guide. It offers information on the latest deals being offered by merchant account providers, so you can compare them across variables such as the startup fee, other fees and the monthly minimum you must meet.

At a medical office, your relationship with your patients is very important, so the last thing you can afford is to get taken in by a shady merchant account provider. Make sure you investigate any company you're considering before you sign a contract, and don't opt for one that seems to be an unknown.

The Federal Trade Commission publishes press releases on crackdowns it has done on companies in the merchant account field with questionable practices. Search FTC.gov to see if the name of any processors you are vetting come up. This is one case where getting what seems to be the cheapest price doesn't always mean you're getting the best deal. A processor's track record means a lot -- especially when you work in a field where your reputation does, too.

See related: Can my medical practice charge a credit card surcharge?, When does a merchant account make financial sense?, Which credit cards should your small business accept?

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Published: February 3, 2014


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