Whether you want to start an online business or open a brick-and-mortar shop, you will need to open a merchant account in order to accept and process payments from your customers. However, opening a merchant account from the wrong provider will end up costing you a lot of time and money — precious resources you could be investing into your company.

Before you go with just any merchant account provider, follow these helpful tips on how to choose one that meets your business goals and budget.

Say no to bogus fees. These days it seems every type of service comes with a hefty fee attached to it. Merchant account providers are charging for everything from setting up a merchant account to processing your application and providing a payment gateway. They are also charging for products that should simply come with the package of opening a merchant account, such as ecommerce credit card processing, online check software or web shopping carts. Don’t buy into these fees.

Say yes to the word free. Instead of paying fees for every service under the sun, go with a company that eliminates fees altogether. It’s possible to find a merchant account provider that offers free setup, free application processing, and free products, including free online check software, free web shopping carts, free virtual terminals, and much more. If you do your research and don’t settle on the first company that comes along, you will save a lot of money on fees that you shouldn’t have to pay in the first place.

Don’t sign a contract. Once you select a merchant account provider, you might change your mind about their services after a few weeks or months. In order to prevent yourself from being stuck with a merchant account provider that might not meet your needs, don’t sign a contract. However, this might be easier said than done. This is why it’s better to find a company that offers a pay-as-you-go service. Without a contract, you’re free to change your provider at any time.

Say yes to an affiliate program. Once you’ve found a company you’re happy with, why not become an affiliate? Through an affiliate program, you can get paid for every referral you make.  The god news is that you don’t have to do any marketing or sales. You simply need to add the logo on your website. Find a company that not only offers an affiliate program, but one without a cap. This means you can get paid for as many referrals as you send their way. Who can say no to free money?