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If you've ever shopped around for payment processing – either as a new merchant or someone looking to switch – you have probably noticed the same thing as me: lots of Payment Service Companies all promising to save you the most money.

But, in a world where (apparently) everyone is the cheapest, exactly how low do you go? And who really is offering you the most (or the least)? Think about it: what would you give up to save a few pounds?

It's confusing, isn't it …

Today I am wondering … is saving money really the most important thing for merchants out there? Perhaps you could let me know in the comments because, whilst I am sure the cost-saving element is important, I have always strived to offer our customers the absolute most for their money, rather than promising extra cheap rates at any cost.

On average LibertyPay saves customers switching to us by around 25%; this is because we work with several different acquirers, unlike many providers, and this means we can pick and choose flexible, tailored solutions more easily than some. However, I have seen companies promise savings of more than 25% (or perhaps just promoting the rare savings that seem inordinately high) and it leads me to wonder: are these rates simply promotional, i.e. very large companies with high volumes of transactions may land the very cheap rate advertised, but barely anyone else is eligible? Or is there something else at work here …?

To me, incredibly cheap rates rings warning bells because, as you will know, there is always a cost to doing business. If a company offers extremely low rates, then what exactly are they giving up in order to do so? My first thought has to be: service.

I have given a warning in a previous article (called ‘How I put the Service Back into Merchant Services') about the dangers of turning the payment processing industry into a numbers game for sales personnel. However, if we turn this around to look at it from the merchant's point of view, the same rule can be applied. If merchants only look at the figures on the page, then it's highly likely they will end up missing other vital aspects of the service that aren't so tangible or quantifiable.

What if, for example, terminal support at your very cheap Provider operates between the hours of 9am – 5pm (because, of course, there is no money for longer hours), but you are running a bar on a busy Saturday night when your terminal stops working? With the bar three people deep can you afford to turn away card-paying customers and risk losing their trust and custom? Wouldn't it be nice to just be able to phone support at any time, day or night and have the issue fixed straight away?

I also find that companies that compete solely on cost tend to pay low salaries and have a high level of staff discontent and thus turnover. You'll know the sort: every time you ring their call-centre for help or support you end up speaking to someone different and explaining your issue, which company you're from, and which product(s) you have again and again. This is not the way I like to do business at all. It's frustrating for everyone involved, and I believe that when it comes to something as important as taking payments for a business, merchants deserve a named point of contact who already knows their organisation in and out.

The above scenario can also lead towards some murky practices when it comes to ethical selling – and this has tarnished the payments industry, I think. It is often the case that low paid sales personnel can earn very high commission and bonuses by up-selling to merchants who only have the advertised rate in mind. This can mean bonuses for longer contracts, or keeping other charges hidden in the small print (I've written a complete breakdown of all the charges you can expect in my article ‘Surprise! Surprise! Caught Out by These Payment Processing Charges?' so do check that out if you're interested). Of course, it's not until the unknowing merchant gets their first bill that all the extra charges come to light … but you're also roped into a long contract by then.

What do you think? Is the Payments Industry ‘all about the money' or not?