You’ve built your site and your customers are ready to pay – but is your payment solution sending them away? The right merchant account gives your customers the flexibility to pay quickly and conveniently, and offers you the peace of mind of knowing that all your transactions are safe.

There’s no way around it. Online payment methods like PayPal and BitCoin are okay if you’re only handling a few transactions, but showing only one payment method gives your site a distinctly amateur look.

More importantly, these aren’t true banking solutions that will get your money to you quickly while protecting you and your customers. As private companies (not banks) they can make the rules and change the rules – and their rates – at any time.

A merchant account hooks your bank directly up with your customers’ banks – without the hassle. And it takes less time than you think to get set up. You could be pre-approved in as little as one day.

But before you get started, take a few minutes to make sure the merchant account you want offers these five crucial benefits:

1. Accepts as many cards as possible.

Why send eager customers away just because their card isn’t accepted? Your merchant account should offer your customers plenty of choices, so make sure you can offer a range of cards that is more likely to match up with the one they want to pay with. They may have another card, but that’s not the point; payment should be as convenient as possible so they’ll complete the transaction smoothly. Don’t give them an excuse to search for a different card… or maybe just cancel the entire checkout.

2. Protects you in a high-risk arena.

Whatever your industry, whenever you’re not meeting your customers face-to-face, you’re entering the risky world of card-not-present (CNP) transactions, one of the leading fraud vectors today. You need to make sure that every transaction is secure and that you keep all the money you can from every possible transaction. Ask around and make sure your merchant account will offer state-of-the-art fraud protection measures, including address verification and 3D Secure.

3. Takes your customers’ currency.

You’re competing in a global marketplace, so why assume your customers want to pay in U.S. dollars? Customers love the convenience of paying without having to convert totals back and forth. They know exactly how much will come out of their bank account – no surprises. Why give your competitors the advantage of local-currency payments? Any merchant account you choose should have a well-developed network of acquiring banks around the world to offer true multi-currency processing.

4. Integrates with your eCommerce site.

You should be free to build your site the way you want it, and that means choosing the shopping cart provider that will offer the best experience for you and your users. There are dozens to choose from, and your merchant account should work smoothly with the one you pick. Beware of any payment service company that forces you to work with a limited list of shopping carts and doesn’t seem to care what’s already working on your site… or about your customers’ needs.

5. Keeps your fees as low as possible.

This is so important that we’ve put it last. Make sure you’re not being charged unnecessary fees, like an application fee. To get as much value as possible from your provider, watch out for flat-rate pricing, which usually charges you the highest possible rate for every transaction. Look for the flexibility of tiered pricing instead. Even if you don’t have a bricks-and-mortar presence, your payment services provider should respect your business and offer rates that let you pass on the best deals.

There are lots of pop-up operations offering one-stop payment processing solutions. These companies usually don’t offer other business products, such as smartphone credit card processing, MOTO merchant accounts, or incorporation services. These shady dealers rarely have a strong network of business and banking contacts to assure you of the best rates and the tightest security with no hidden fees. Working hand in hand with the right payment services provider, one with a track record of long-term success, your merchant account can be the strongest link in the chain connecting you to customers around the world.