The Merchant Bill of Rights seeks to level the playing field for small businesses

(BPT) – Consumers who make just a few purchases each day may not think much about the companies that process their credit card. But for a small or mid-sized business, processors who aren’t transparent about the costs they pass on can add up to an expensive headache. Heartland is celebrating 10 years of the Merchant Bill of Rights as an industry standard to promote fair card processing practices.

Its purpose: to enable merchants who don’t have the resources of large purchasing organizations to effectively manage their costs, determine which processor best meets their needs and realize significant savings.

1. The right to know the fee of every card transaction, who is charging it, and if there are surcharges and bill-backs.

Owners or operators of a small or mid-sized business deserve — and should expect — competitive pricing and the best value for payments processing including credit, debit and prepaid card processing.

Many processors and their middlemen hide arbitrary charges — often classified as “surcharges” — without disclosing them to merchants. These charges are pure profit to processors and their middlemen, making transactions that are already expensive even more costly.

2. The right to know the markup of major credit card fee increases and reductions.

Credit card companies typically adjust interchange rate categories and fees semi-annually in April and October. When rates go up, many processors seize the opportunity to inflate them even more and then deceptively blame the increase on the card brands.

3. The right to know all transaction middlemen, and have reasonable equipment costs.

The chain of events that begins when a merchant swipes a customer’s card is fairly straightforward. At minimum, it requires four essential entities to process the transaction: a bank, a credit card brand, a telephone or internet connection and a processor.

When big companies buy equipment, they often solicit proposals from multiple equipment manufacturers to drive the best deal. Owners of a small or mid-sized business may not have the time or resources to shop around for a payment device, and oftentimes turn to their processor for guidance. However, they may not be getting the deal they’ve bargained for — and most likely don’t know it.

4. The right to real-time, dedicated, live service 24/7/365.

Service and support are critical factors in implementing and maintaining a card acceptance program. Unlike national merchants, small local businesses may lack the resources needed to ensure proper training, ongoing support and the best available rates.

With most Americans relying on credit and debit cards for their purchases, one minor problem that prevents or delays the processing of transactions at the point of sale can have devastating effects. Combine the ripple effect of customer dissatisfaction with lost revenue, and it’s easy to see why live customer support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year is mission critical for all merchants.

5. The right to encrypted card numbers, secure transactions and real-time fraud and transaction monitoring.

Credit and debit card fraud costs American businesses billions of dollars every year. Thieves work overtime to find ways to steal from merchants. Often disgruntled or dishonest employees — even some customers — are masters at making money the illegal way, and not getting caught.

For more information, to share stories about dishonest business practices or scams, or to ask a question, visit