Whether you recently opened up a small business or have it in your plans for the New Year, is your credit history going to impede you?

As many small business owners discover over time, some bad handling of finances in the past (specifically credit cards) can lead to problems when it comes to getting a loan to start a company or negotiating a deal for a merchant account.

Whether you find yourself in that position now or may soon be there down the road, there are available options for you to get a merchant account, albeit you have to do some searching.

Among the things to keep in mind:

* Search wisely - You see the ads all the time. This merchant account provider or that one offers you an account, even though your credit score is sinking faster than the Titanic did. If it sounds too good to be true, there is a very good chance it is. Make sure you do your homework and read all the fine print before agreeing to anything on paper. You may think you are getting a good deal on a merchant account for those with bad credit, but you could be setting yourself up for all kinds of hidden fees, etc. Check the provider out with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for starters to make sure they are as legit and reliable as they claim to be. If you go online and come across a number of customer complaints about the provider, go elsewhere;

* Know your credit score - First and foremost, know and understand your credit score and your credit history. In order to be in good shape in today’s economy to receive a small business merchant account, you should focus in on a credit score of 700 or better. With the recession of several years ago, not to mention the countless people who defaulted on loans and credit card debts, most lending institutions upped the average credit score before they would even consider extending an account;

* Explain your story - It is not uncommon for many individuals to have bad credit in this day and age, especially given the recession in the late 2000’s. The key, however, is to be able to explain to a merchant account provider why you and/or your small business ended up in that predicament in the first place. Was it due to bad investments, a divorce or sickness in the family or problems with a co-owner? Never part company with the truth when explaining your circumstances to a lending institution. While many Americans have scaled back on using their credit cards, your small business still needs to accept credit cards online or at the point-of-sale (POS) in your store. If you are only accepting cash (in some cases checks), you stand to miss out on a lot of potential business;

* Weigh the pros and cons of a co-signer - One of the challenging decisions you may face in trying to get a merchant account with bad credit is bringing in a family member or friend to co-sign. On the plus side, that person’s high credit score could very well land you the merchant account, meaning the process moves more rapidly. On the con side, what happens if you continue to have financial problems and your relationship to your friend or family member becomes strained over it? Short of a bankruptcy over the last seven years, you should be able to locate a merchant account provider who works with individuals facing credit challenges.

Given that a bad credit history is not all that uncommon, don’t automatically think you are doomed from the start in obtaining a merchant account.

Know where to look, what to say, and how to go about crediting yourself for getting the account in the first place.