How to Choose an Association Credit Card Processor

credit card process cycleWhen it comes to selecting an association credit card processing company, no provider is perfect… but like any service, the company should be efficient, accurate, and affordable.

When shopping for a company to process credit cards for your association, be sure your organization is getting the whole picture when it comes to the “small print.”



Payment gateway:

The payment gateway is provided by a 3rd party that authenticates and authorizes credit card transactions. Its role is to protect identity and sensitive data and is used for e-commerce or “card not present” transactions. The payment gateway gathers and encrypts information and then sends it to the payment processor. The gateway is generally not necessary for member transactions where the physical card is present.

Payment processor:

A separate service that communicates transaction information between the merchant, the issuing bank, and the acquiring bank. For certain types of association member transactions, such as online payments, the payment processor must receive information from a gateway. When a member presents a physical card for payment it typically doesn’t require a payment gateway because the card doesn’t need to be authenticated.



Fees related to things like:

      • Cancellations, fund withdrawals, and batch processing
      • Early contract termination
      • Exceeding or missing monthly quotas
      • PCI compliance/noncompliance fees
      • Statement fees
      • Extra fees based on card/transaction type (e.g., rewards cards, business cards, and manually entering the card)

Cost related to things like:

      • Switching providers (e.g., training and set-up, buying out your contract)
      • Equipment lease
      • Refunds and chargebacks
      • Cost to transfer funds

Tip: Check on the timeframe for accessing your funds and if there’s a cost to transfer funds.




      • Qualified rate: the lowest rate. Generally, applies to a very limited selection of cards and applies when they are physically swiped (often the rate that is advertised).
      • Non-qualified rate: generally online and rewards cards (think airline miles, cash bonuses, etc.).
      • Interchange-plus pricing: the non-negotiable rate that is charged by Mastercard or Visa plus the merchant account provider’s mark-up.



Partner with a processor that:

      • Is PCI compliant: meets the payment card industry data security standard. (aka PCI DSS)
      • Uses tokenization: substitutes customer primary account number (PAN) with a token. This renders information useless to hackers and you aren’t storing association members’ sensitive information.
      • Has P2PE (point-to-point-encryption): encrypts card data from swipe, through transit, to authorization so your system doesn’t see or touch PAN data.
      • Utilizes fraud detection and management tools.

Tip: Make sure your provider will guide and assist you in completing the annual SAQ compliance verification packet (and if they charge for this service). The SAQ (Self Assessment Questionnaire) is a validation tool for merchants and service providers to self-evaluate their PCI compliance.



Ask about:

      • Contracts
      • Customer support availability
      • Complexity of setup
      • Recurring/automatic payments
      • ACH payments
      • Reporting options



Use GrowthZone Pay

Save yourself time and headaches with a single interface. Use an all-in-one gateway provider AND processor which integrates with your AMS. Using an interface that includes a payment gateway and payment processor AND integrates with your association management software reduces errors, eliminates double-entry, allows the association to track transactions from inception to settlement, simplify reconciliation, and save money.

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