Smart Answers

Q: I'm having problems with my credit-card processor. Where can I get help? -- K.N., Seabrook, Tex.

A: A credit-card processor acts as a liaison between companies and banks, processing transactions, calculating fees, and returning funds to the company. Common gripes include tardy payments and chronic rejection of cards. For most problems, contact the Better Business Bureau or the consumer protection division of your state attorney general's office. They'll investigate the complaint and try to resolve the matter.

Problems arise because most small outfits are sold processing services by independent sales organizations, or ISOs--freelance sales forces that offer small businesses better deals than they could get directly from a processor. What ISOs don't offer is customer service. Says Marc Myerson, CEO of L.A. processor Premier Merchant Services Inc.: "Once they get their commissions, they move on to the next merchant." Fortunately, the market is competitive. Finding someone willing to buy out your existing contract should be easy--ask your bank about alternatives. If your processor is not paying up, don't give them any credit.

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