Credit Card Merchant Fees – Reduce Merchant Fees Without Changing Processors

Credit card merchant fees, which are charged to businesses by the credit card processors have been a headache for business owners for a long time. The rules that govern these fees are often several pages long and are changed, at a minimum, twice per year.

In 2008, banks raked in over $48 billion in merchant fees, mostly from small and medium businesses. Elsewhere in the world, over 44 countries have taken legal action to limit the overcharging of merchants that still is occurring in the United States.

Consequently, most business owners and cannot keep up with the ever changing landscape that their payment provider gives them, and are often being charged excess fees because they do not have the expertise to optimize their account to reduce the fees that are being charged. For a company that uses credit cards for the majority of their transactions, these excess fees can add up to literally tens of thousands of dollars on an annualized basis, costing their business dearly in the process.

The issue of fees has gotten to be so contentious that members of congress are actively working on a bill to attempt to limit these fees. Unfortunately, many banks and merchant processing companies have foreseen this eventuality and are already working on ways to circumvent this law legally to keep their lucrative fee structure in place.

To that end, merchants have banded together to attempt to stop these unfair interchange fees with a petition to lawmakers like senator Dick Durbin, who has actively taken up the cause. Because 93% of all businesses that currently have a merchant account are being overcharged, the problem has attracted the notice of prominent lawmakers.

In the meantime, there is a new way to lower a businesses merchant fees without having to switch processors or go through any changes to the normal routine of business. This new way, known as Rate Lock, allows a merchant to:

  • Lower their merchant fees, on average, between 8-20%
  • A contingency program – no upfront fees whatsoever.
  • Once fees are optimized, the account will be continuously monitored to ensure that fees do not begin to “creep” back up as rules change. Optimization is ongoing
  • An easy way to add back revenue to a company’s bottom line without increasing sales and with no upfront expense.

The fight against excessive merchant fees is sure to continue for sometime to come, as the stakes are very high in terms of dollars. In the meantime though, you do not have to stand idly by and accept these high fees. Click here to find out how to lower your merchant processing fees.

Reducing Legal Fees – A New Way to Manage Your Legal Costs

It may come as no surprise that lawyers can at times be dishonest. Lawyer jokes, politicians, and our justice system all reinforce and perpetuate this perception. That overbilling is rampant in the legal profession may be slightly more surprising. In point of fact, the padding of legal bills is so common that the American Lawyer published an article recently on the eight ways law firms overbill.

This culture of abuse prevalent at some law firms is a violation of client trust and further erodes society’s respect for attorneys. The broader problem here is a legal system that enriches attorneys at the expense of clients.

If you are involved in a lawsuit, then there are some remedies for you. First and foremost, choose an attorney that you can trust. Avoid the yellow pages and stick to referrals to attorneys with proven records. If the lawsuit requires the resources of a lawfirm, make sure that you do your research on the reputation of the firm and the partner that will be handling your matter.

Before you sign on the dotted line and allow an attorney to represent you or your company, make sure that you have laid down the proper ground rules for the engagement. This is usually done with a retainer agreement or engagement agreement as they are typically called. Here, you will delineate what exactly you are willing to pay for, so you are not surprised down the road with outrageous legal bills.

Finally, educate yourself on the many ways that attorneys overcharge for their services. There are some websites out there that offer comprehensive guides on this subject. The most widely respected is the website www.lowermyattorneysfees.com. This website offers resources — like sample engagement letters and sample budgets — that will reduce your legal costs by staggering amounts. Lowering your legal fees is one way to fight back against unscrupulous attorneys that routinely overcharge for legal services.

Good luck!

Understanding and Negotiating Legal Fees

You’ve decided that you need a lawyer. What you do next will have a major effect on the final outcome and your peace of mind.

Types of Fees

– A Consult Fee is a fee charged by a lawyer to hear a potential client’s case. This can be a flat fee, an hourly charge or no fee at all.

– A Contingent Fee means that the attorney will be paid only if you win, and will then receive a hefty percentage in the range of 30-45% of monies recovered. These typically don’t occur in certain types of cases such as criminal matters and divorce. Even where a contingent fee is possible the client is still responsible for all expenses.

– Costs vary but generally include any expense incurred not covered by the lawyer’s hourly rate. Examples include: filing fees for court documents, mileage, copies, faxes, service of papers, parking, postage, telephone toll charges, subpoena fees to name some but by no means all.

– Experts such as independent custody evaluators or small business evaluators are two examples. Each will charge for time spent including preparation, preparing of reports and testifying.

– Fees Set by a Judge involve cases in which a judge or hearing officer may establish a fee based on the complexity of the issues and the work involved. Fees in probate cases are an example.

– A Flat Fee will sometimes be accepted by a lawyer generally for cases where the lawyer can estimate with some confidence the time required for settling the matter. These occur commonly in routine service cases like drafting a simple will, real estate settlements or uncontested divorces.

– The Full Service Package including legal advice, fact investigation, legal research, correspondence and pleadings (court documents) preparation; negotiation; representation at hearings; formal discovery; trial. The client retains the lawyer who provides all services needed within the package. The scope of needed services in decided unilaterally by the lawyer who then bills the clients accordingly. This is the high priced option.

– Hourly rate charges are based on the amount of time the lawyer spends on the matter. The rate is dependent upon the lawyer’s experience or the volume of demand. Some of the work will likely be handled by law clerks, legal assistants, associate attorneys and paralegal and should be billed at a reduced rate.

– Minimum Billing Increments occur when an hourly rate is charged. You are not billed to the minute but rather in increments for time spent under an hour. Examples are increments charged by the quarter hour. That means that if 10 minutes are spent you will still be charged for 15. You pay less if the attorney bills by tenth hours. So if your attorney spends 12 minutes and bills by the quarter hour you will be charged for.25 of an hour rather than.20 if your attorney is charging by tenths. These add up over time.

– Negotiated Percentages are often used for debt collection. The fee is a percentage of the amount claimed or collected.

– Payment Arrangements or plans typically require monthly payments and vary greatly from lawyer to lawyer.

– Referral Fees are sometimes charged by lawyers who refer you to another lawyer to handle your matter. The first lawyer may ask for a portion of the total fee you may. Referral fees may be prohibited under state codes of professional responsibility unless certain criteria are met.

– Retainers are advance payments to be used toward defraying hourly fees and incurred costs. When the amount is depleted the lawyer may request an additional retainer or may simply continue to bill on a periodic basis. Lawyers must follow strict regulations for safekeeping and accounting for these client funds. Whether or not you have an established relationship and payment history with the lawyer will impact the amount and recurring nature of the retainer.

– Written Retainer Agreements between lawyer and client are legally binding once signed by both parties. You can still fire the lawyer or complain informally or formally about fees charged and services provided and the lawyer can still quit.

These agreements clearly set forth all fees and costs to be charged. As well as all other matters agreed between you and the lawyer such as a payment plan, limitation on hours, services to be provided or any other promises or understandings. All should be clearly set forth. This document will force you and your lawyer to be clear about your expectations and may save you future grief. You will need this document if a dispute does arise later.

Remember the rules that govern the ethical conduct of lawyers require that all fees be “reasonable.” This generally means that they be fair and competitive as well as reflect the skill required to obtain the desired results.

Strategies for Lowering Costs

– Ask the lawyer to be your coach while you do most of it yourself.

– Avoid, generally prepaid legal service plans. Most low cost plans only cover a few phone consultations and some basic services. After that you receive a discount for other legal work. The resulting fee has not proven to be better than what you can get by doing your homework, and interviewing several lawyers on your own. More expensive plans do cover some thing like bankruptcy or drunk driving, but few people need a lawyer more than a couple of times in their life and this may be unnecessary insurance.

– Be clear about you your expectations and what is being provided and get it in writing.

– Be willing to help out on routine tasks. You can do a lot of the work yourself like lining up witnesses, making phone calls, or delivering or gathering documents.

– Stay Informed and up to date.

– Unbundle necessary services into discrete affordable tasks and hire a lawyer for discrete tasks.

– Use a variety of professionals piecemeal as the need arises.

– Use non lawyer professionals for tasks within their expertise like accountants or tax preparers for preparation of financial documents, insurance agents for insurance advice, real estate brokers for property valuations or independent paralegals for routine form preparation.