(Director, Alliance to Maximize Profits)
First: of all the ways to process money, the credit card processing industry is unique in that there are no laws to govern it. (yet. one of my companies is working on that).
What that means is that there are currently about 40 Processors who are permitted to deal directly with 'Interchange' (Visa and Mastercard). Nearly all of these companies will contract with just about anyone who claims to be able to sell the services. So there are hundreds, if not thousands, of these sales organizations.
All of them make their profits from one or both of two sources: the processing and the machinery.
So... here's what your costs are going to be comprised of:
1 Interchange fees ( .95% to over 3%, depending of hundreds of factors, and not controllable by you, anyway)
2- Processing fees by the Processors and/or the sales groups. These are ALL negotiable
3- machinery. Nearly all the machines out there cost under $300, depending on your needs. Some machines can be programmed for two separate businesses, incidentally. If you businesses are not face-to-face, you can set up a computer to handle all this. You can even get a small 'wedge' that attaches to a UPS slot in that computer to handle card 'swiping'. 'Swipe' here means the physical movement of a card through a card-reader, not ripping you off.
What you should do is:
1- buy, DO NOT LEASE, whatever machine you want.
2- insist on a contract that provides a rate guarantee for at least two years
3- Insist on a contract that is 'cost plus' instead of 'tiered'.
4- check the service 800# in the middle of the night to assure yourself of good service.
Any salesperson who can provide these criteria should be acceptable. I personally have narrowed the several hundred down to only three, and I'm phasing one of those three out because of software problems.