Image courtesy of James Barker /

Image courtesy of James Barker /

Whether you are a dentist opening your first practice or a seasoned veteran who has been running your own practice for years, it is a good idea to keep a watchful eye on the fees and percentage rates you are being charged by the company that processes your patient credit card payments.  You may be surprised to learn that almost all fees and rates can be negotiated with the sales person when selecting a company for credit card merchant bank services. Most of these companies are very competitive when it comes to gaining your business and will commonly bring their fees down significantly to earn you as a customer.

It is important to note that once you are a customer, some credit card processing companies will add fees after a few months of doing business. As painful as it may sound, it is imperative to negotiate every two years to find if a better deal exists. Also, make sure to review your credit card merchant statements on a monthly basis to ensure that you are not being subjected to additional fees.

What is a reasonable rate?

A reasonable average percentage rate is just north of 2% for Mastercard and Visa processing. American Express will be just north of 3%. It may not behoove a dental practice to accept American Express since their rates are higher and almost all patients have either a MasterCard or Visa. The rate charts provided by credit card companies can be confusing due to the large number of variables that affect the rate they charge. Some of these variables include: whether the card is present, whether the security code is entered and whether it is a debit or credit card.

Other than negotiating upfront, how can I lower my overall rate and fees?

You can achieve the lowest rate when swiping a card as opposed to punching in the numbers. You will also want to enter the security code on the back of the card or if it’s an American Express on the front of the card. This additional step further lowers your rate.

What fees should I be concerned about?

When negotiating fees and checking your monthly statements, watch out for monthly statement fees, transaction fees and noncompliant PCI fees, as well as batch fees.  When signing up with a new company, make sure to ask if there is an early termination fee if you would choose to switch companies. There is typically a fee for a credit card processing terminal as well. This particular fee can be avoided altogether with the ability to process credit card transactions online using current software.