Processing credit and debit cards is a must for most businesses. According to a Federal Reserve study, credit and debit card payments are the most popular forms of payment. The same report showed that other payment methods, including several different types of alternative payments, are gaining ground. Even after alternative forms of payment begin to dominate commerce, businesses will likely have to offer credit and debit card processing options to customers. 

Because credit and debit card processing is a part of doing business, some store owners don't take the time to research their options before signing on with a processing company. Usually, that's a mistake. There are a number of credit card processing companies out there and finding the right one for your business can be difficult. Here are some research starting points for retailers: 

Businesses end up getting higher tech payment equipment than needed
While some businesses will need card processors with fast speeds, it's important to determine just how important it really is for your specific store. In some cases, speed won't be that important. Don't let a salesman sell you on equipment that isn't needed. Remember, it's almost always easier to upgrade your equipment than it is to downgrade to something more simple. 

Also, if possible, don't lease processing equipment or software. According to Business Know-How , leasing equipment will often lock you in for a number of years, and in that time you could have just bought the equipment. Sometimes, when you're starting out there is no other option. However, if you can purchase equipment instead of leasing, do it. 

Processing fees are not all the same
Rates and fees for processing credit card transactions can vary depending on the company. Business Know-How notes there are many factors that can influence the rates a business is paying. It's important to fully understand what the fees are and how or if they can change overtime. Typical fees are between 2 and 3 percent of the sales transaction, although sometimes companies will charge as high as 5 percent. There may be other fees as well, such as a monthly fee, so be sure to ask about those as well. 

Contract cancelation penalties are high
In addition to processing fees, you need to know if there are any cancelation of service fees and if so, what they are. Almost all contracts have a cancelation fee. Sometimes it is based on the monthly fee and sometimes it is based on something else. If you can, try to sign up for a shorter contract period so that you can change at the end of the contract period if needed without having to pay a cancelation fee. 

Deceptive sales person
According to Shopify, sometimes you'll come in contact with a salesperson who is deliberately deceptive. While this is rare, it does happen. Before you sign your business up for any credit card processing company, you need to make sure you fully understand all fees, penalties and requirements. Never sign anything unless you're 100 percent sure it's the best decision.