Below you will find some of our frequently asked questions.
Click on the question for helpful answers.

 

How do I apply for a merchant account?

Please contact us at 407.401.0772 to discuss your needs with a payments specialist and we will send you the documentation needed to get setup.

How long does it take to get setup with a merchant account?

If the merchant application is received and submitted before 3:00 pm EST, you could be processing the following day. There are a lot of variables to consider but a typical merchant account setup from start to finish is 1–3 business days.

When do my transactions get funded?

FirstClass Merchant Services will submit funding to your bank that day if batches are settled by 7:00 pm EST. If you miss the deadline, you will receive your funds the following business day. Please note that funding does not occur over the weekend or on holidays.

What types of merchant accounts does FirstClass Merchant Services support?

We support a variety of merchant accounts including, but not limited to: Retail, Restaurant, Lodging, Petroleum, MOTO, ecommerce and Mobile.

Can I get approved if I have bad or no credit?

Yes. Your credit is only one of the many factors looked at when opening a merchant account. We have a very high approval rate and some customers have been surprised that they qualified. We do not charge an application or setup fee so there is really no harm to try.

What do I do if I need help with my merchant account?

FirstClass Merchant Services prides themselves with the personalized support that they offer their customers. We always recommend that you contact your dedicated payments specialist first with any questions or issues you may have. We also offer 24/7 support to all customers.

What is PCI DSS?

The Payment Cardholder Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) was created by Visa, MasterCard, American Express and the Discover Network to protect cardholder information and reduce data theft. PCI DSS establishes and enforces security requirements for members, businesses and service providers. When you become PCI compliant, you protect your customers from losing valuable card data and safeguard yourself from possible legal issues and certain fines from the credit card companies. If your business fails to comply with PCI DSS, you risk substantial fines—and even risk losing your ability to process credit card payments.

What are the steps involved with processing a credit card transaction?

Credit card processing always involves at least the following two steps: Authorization & Settlement. An authorization is when a credit card transaction for a sale is processed and connects with a credit card processing network and submits a transaction request. The processing network takes the request and matches it with a database maintained by the bank that issued the credit card. If there is enough credit available, the transaction is approved and the necessary funds are held in a reserve. This reduces the card’s “open to buy” (available credit) by the transaction amount. No money changes hands at this point. Approved transactions are written to a settlement or open batch file and these transactions remain in the file until settlement is performed. The next step is the settlement (or “close batch”) procedure. You must settle before the funds from approved transactions are deposited in your bank account. During settlement, the transactions must be sent to the processor so funds can be transferred to your account.

What is Interchange?

Interchange is a set of rules that enables issuers and acquirers to exchange information, transactions and money on a standardized and consistent basis when going through the bankcard system.

What are Interchange Fees?

Interchange Fees are set by Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and so on to accept the various types of cards offered by their brand. These fees vary by industry and card type, and are the majority of your processing cost. All of the Interchange fees go back to your customer’s card issuing bank and is considered compensation to reimburse the issuer for the expenses of processing the transaction as well as the risks associated with providing loans. All banks and credit card companies have the same Interchange cost and are bound by the exact same schedule. Therefore, interchange could be considered the wholesale cost of processing a transaction.

What are processing Fees?

Processing Fees are any charges above Interchange cost and are paid to the payment processor for performing authorizations, settlement, risk underwriting, network infrastructure, customer service, equipment deployment, and other back end functions.

What is a discount rate?

When a processor groups Interchange and processing fees into a single rate, it is called a merchant discount rate. Merchant discount rates are generally quoted as part of a three tier billing system which includes qualified, mid-qualified and non-qualified transactions where the interchange fees are hidden by the Merchant Account Provider. These categories can also be viewed as “Buckets” where processors will group many Interchange fee categories together. The processor then sets a surcharge for that bucket that will cover the highest downgrade plus add profit. This price structure can be costly to your business as often times the surcharges are three to four times higher than the actual Interchange fee category.

Do you sell, lease or rent the equipment?

FirstClass Merchant Services can provide you with any of the three options. However, the cost of terminals have significantly gone down over the past couple of years as more competition has entered the marketplace. Most standard machines and be purchased brand new for $300 or less. Leases will lock you into an agreement of four years or longer and carry outrageous markups in excess of 1,500% or more. Therefore, we do not recommend that you rent or lease the equipment unless you need a more expensive device such as a wireless terminal or POS System and need to pay for it over time. We can also use your current equipment if it is supported and PCI Compliant.

Will I be trained on the equipment?

Yes. Your FirstClass Dedicated Payments Specialist will train you on the equipment in person or walk you through the process over the phone, depending on your situation. We also provide a quick reference guide and have online interactive tools available for your convenience.

What card types do you support?

FirstClass Merchant Services supports Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, Diners, JCB, ATM, debit, check, and stored value / gift card transactions.

Will I need a separate account to accept AMEX Transactions?

No. FirstClass Merchant Services provides an AMEX Full Service solution (a.k.a. AMEX One Point) which is a new processing product in the industry. It is available to merchants through First Data, allowing merchants to more easily accept and process American Express cards, and may lower the overall merchant cost to accept this card type. In addition, AMEX Full Service simplifies the merchant card acceptance experience by consolidating reporting of card types into one report.

What is a Chargeback?

A chargeback is a transaction/debit that an issuer returns to an acquirer because of a dispute between the cardholder and/or their issuing bank and a merchant, usually because of fraud, dissatisfaction on the part of the cardholder with service or merchandise or non-authorization by cardholder. If you receive a chargeback notification or chargeback retrieval request you must reply to this as quickly as possible. The best way to protect your business from chargebacks is to stop them before they happen by creating a chargeback prevention plan and be sure to follow if for every transaction. FirstClass Merchant Services is here to help assist you with any disputes or chargebacks that may occur.

How long should I retain transaction receipts/documentation?

It is recommended to retain all processing documentation for at least 18 months. This will help resolve any customer disputes or chargebacks that may occur.

What makes FirstClass Merchant Services different from other processors?

FirstClass Merchant Services is a family owned company that specializes in working with Small to Medium size businesses. Being a small business our self and having another one in the family for over 100 years, we understand what our customers go through on a daily basis and make it a point to be there when they need us. We also understand that knowledge is power so we try to educate our customers as much as possible about the industry to help them minimize their processing expense. We want to keep our customers long term so we have put together a pricing model and support structure to reflect our goal and commitment to you. In addition, FirstClass Merchant Services utilizes a referral based business model and does not directly solicit businesses. We believe that honesty and transparency is good business and feel that gimmicks and hard sales tactic is not. We look at and treat our customers as family.

What are your rates and fees?

At FirstClass Merchant Services, we set our customers up on a true Interchange Pass-Through price structure. This is the most cost effective structure to date for merchants, as all fee categories are simply passed through at cost. All other rate structures will lead to added cost to your business. As an educated merchant, you should settle for nothing else. Many processors will hold back Interchange Pass-Through for only their biggest and more informed merchants because the profit margins are very minimal on this structure. We believe that all merchants should get the same advantages and service levels and urge every merchant to insist on true Interchange Pass-Through, whether they choose us or another processor.

Who is Joshua Cole and what is the FirstClass Merchant Services story?

Joshua Cole currently holds the position of President, First Class Merchant Services, and is Vice President and Secretary of JCMS, Inc.

I am already in contract with another processor, how can I switch to FirstClass without being penalized by my existing processor?

If you’re already locked into an account with a contract there are a couple of ways that you may be able to cancel without having to pay a cancellation fee. First, we need to look for the small print in the merchant service agreement that waives the cancellation fee if rates and fees have changed during the contract period. If this is the case, you will be able close the account without being penalized. The second option is for us to review the savings to see what the payback period is. If you’re processing enough volume to justify the expense, we will work with you and may be willing to pay some or all of the expense incurred from changing providers. At FirstClass, we understand that we have to earn your business.

What are the different types of pricing structures processers use with merchants?

There are a number of different pricing models that act upon the underlying interchange fees differently. The three main types of pricing are tiered, interchange plus and enhanced recovery reduced (ERR). Of these three, FirstClass Merchant Services utilizes the interchange plus model because it is the least expensive and most transparent to our customers. Tiered pricing generalizes interchange categories resulting in potentially large surcharges and ERR pricing has a hidden charge that is the difference between target interchange and the qualified rate.

What is tiered merchant account pricing and why should I avoid it?

In this structure, interchange fees are categorized into buckets or tiers and is one of the most expensive way to process credit cards. Aside from being expensive, increases in interchange fees are amplified on a tiered structure. When a single interchange category is increased by Visa and MasterCard, many merchant service providers compensate by raising the rate of an entire tier. The end result is that the merchant pays higher costs on interchange categories that haven’t actually been increased by Visa and MasterCard. The across-the-board rate hike also produces larger profits for the merchant service provider.

How can other merchant service providers “guarantee the lowest rates and fees”?

The truth of the matter is that there’s a little fancy footwork going on behind the scenes. Whenever you see a provider advertising a single rate it tells you right away that they’re using a tiered pricing structure. This type of pricing facilitates an artificially low qualified rate (which is what you see advertised) and additional mid and non-qualified tiers that have higher rates. This tiered structure is what makes it possible for providers to advertise one rate and then deliver another. To keep from losing money (and to make a profit) the provider gets to dictate into which tier the interchange categories will be placed. Providers use something called a qualification matrix to dictate into which tier an interchange category is placed. While there are some standard practices, the qualification of interchange categories from one provider to the next is inconsistent. These “inconsistent buckets” make it possible for merchant service providers to offer a very low qualified rate while still turning a profit because they’re able to route interchange categories into the mid and non-qualified pricing tiers.

My local bank offers these same services and I trust them, why should I consider other processing options?

Your local bank is not always the best merchant account provider for your business. It is natural to assume that because your local bank is a financial institution and they also offer merchant account services. In many cases, small local banks are contracted by a third-party processor or an independent sales organization (ISO) to resell merchant services to their banking clients. FirstClass Merchant Services is one of those providers that handles processing for local community banks. Therefore, we know it can be a good thing if your bank has contracted with a good merchant services provider. However, because many banks are purchasing merchant services from a reseller, they generally sell at higher rates and fees in order to make a profit. In addition, in most cases the local bank is not the entity responsible for handling customer service issues and is the responsibility of the originating provider that is reselling the merchant processing services to the bank. With that said, not all local banks are resellers, and not all local banks will have higher rates and fees. Many banks do offer very competitive merchant accounts and services to their banking clients. It is always good to consider obtaining merchant services through your local bank, but you should not give the bank extra consideration over other providers based solely on the fact that they are local.