By Suneera Madhani

In 2016, consumer spending was at an all-time high. For big businesses that can spare the extra expenses, the end of the year was a breeze, but for many small business owners, every transaction cut into their bottom line. This year, there’s a heightened need to closely monitor all expenses, including credit card processing. For retailers, restaurant owners, or anyone who takes credit cards, looking into your processing options could be the most cost-effective decision you make in 2017.

Investigate Your Invoice

Booming business and high transactional volume might sound like a recipe for a profitable season, but lack of transparency in your monthly bills could have the opposite effect. In a survey conducted by merchant services provider, Fattmerchant, results showed 32 percent of participants either don’t look at their bill before paying it or have no knowledge about their merchant processing account. Monthly credit card bills can be in the thousands, which is a lot of money to be spending with no idea where it’s really going.

First, take the time to familiarize yourself with your invoice and all the jargon along with it. Interchange rates are the direct cost of every credit card transaction, and they are set by the credit card companies. These should be unchanging month-to-month. However, be on the lookout for certain terms such as statement fees, batch fees, monthly minimums, PCI compliance fees, customer service fees and IRS fees. These are ancillary fees with nothing to do with the actual cost of each transaction. Also, search your bill for hidden markups, which are established by merchant service providers to make a profit off your volume. These costs exist in addition to interchange rates and may be listed on your invoice as basis points, discount rates, or other similar terms.

Start Negotiating

Once you know the puzzle pieces making up your monthly credit card processing bill, it’s time to start seeing where you can cut down on costs. After all, you’re getting charged for every swipe or insertion of a credit card, meaning when business is booming for you, you’re also paying more money to your provider. Busy times are the perfect time to start questioning where you can save. When it comes to processing, there are certain extra costs that can easily be avoided if you work with your services provider.

Try to negotiate any of the above ancillary fees to a bare minimum. Regarding markups, these costs should be considered the most negotiable aspect of your invoice. If you have a provider claiming these markups are 100 percent non-negotiable, it’s probably time to find another provider. There are also some providers out there that charge zero percent markups and no ancillary fees in exchange for a flat monthly membership. If you are a business processing over $7,000, these providers can save you up to 40 percent a month and the headache that comes with negotiating.

Know Your Options

The survey also found 52 percent of respondents believe they are overpaying for merchant processing each month, yet so many merchants still pay their bill without knowing they could be paying significantly less. Every extra fee adds up when it comes to increased transactional volume during top spending seasons. If you’ve taken the time to look into your bill, negotiate your costs and are still spending too much money, start shopping around for other credit card processing providers. Check to see if you can find a provider that doesn’t require a contract, has negotiable or no ancillary fees and markups, and carries the equipment you need. Some companies will provide you with free equipment while you process with them, while others will encourage you to rent or purchase outright. Do your research to weigh the costs and benefits of each option, and the success of 2017 will never be determined by the cost of your credit card processing.

Suneera Madhani is the CEO and founder of Fattmerchant, a subscription-based merchant processing company based in Orlando, Florida. Fattmerchant offers unlimited payment processing at direct cost for a flat monthly membership and no contract without adding mark-ups or other fees, and providing free equipment, no contract and no ancillary fees. @fattmerchant