When I walk into a store and see the phrase “cash-only,” I panic. I almost never have cash, and I hate paying ATM fees.
For this, and many other reasons, most businesses have adopted a standard of accepting credit card payments, and sometimes doing away with cash altogether.
Different fees for accepting credit card payments
While accepting credit card payments is more difficult for small businesses than it is for enterprise companies, it doesn’t have to be impossible.
How to accept credit card payments
If you don’t already accept credit cards, you’re likely missing out on a lot of business. Studies have shown that individuals are more generous with their money when using credit cards. In other words, they overspend.
If you want to implement a point-of-sale system in your company or store, simply take the following steps.
Accepting credit card payments in-store is pretty simple. You’ll just have to invest in either a point-of-sale (POS) system or payment service provider (PSP), or a merchant account accompanied by a traditional credit card terminal.
Let’s discuss what each of those are.
Point of sale system or payment service provider:
This is considered a simpler method of accepting credit card payments. Solutions such as Shopify and Square make it possible for you to streamline store payments straight to your business or personal bank accounts; wherever you want that money to go.
There are generally fewer hidden fees associated with these systems as well, so you’re clear on what goes into your account and what you have to pay to the credit card companies and the PSP systems.
The following POS software is highly rated by users on G2 and could be a good place to start in your quest for the right tool.
Shopify is designed specifically for small and medium-sized businesses. Business owners can set up their entire online store through Shopify, and can utilize it in brick and mortar locations as well as in pop-up locations.
Square Point of Sale
Square Point of Sale offers business owners a solution for swiping magnetic credit cards on the go. Square is known for getting money from customers to business owners quickly. Square also offers inventory management features.
Toast is a restaurant technology POS system. I mention Toast as a way to point out that not all systems are created for all businesses. Not only is Toast a great POS for restaurants, it also shows owners their sales on a daily basis.
Another way to accept credit card payments in-store is by opening a merchant account. A merchant account is a separate bank account that acts as a holding cell of sorts. Revenue from all purchases goes into the merchant account and then has to be transferred out to other accounts (inventory, payroll, etc.).
Depending on where you sign up for a merchant account, you may be able to receive the mobile equipment for free along with it. You can speak to your local bank, or call a payment processing company and see if they offer these accounts. One pitfall to this strategy is that merchant accounts are known to have more hidden fees, so be prepared for that.
In order to accept payments online, you need a merchant account for all of your payments to go to, as well as a payment gateway that facilitates secure transactions. Alternately, you can bypass this combination by using a payment service provider that offers both of these services.
eCommerce store example courtesy of Adobe Muse
If you want to accept payment over the phone, for instances in which customers aren’t able to enter their own information online, you will want to invest in a virtual terminal. Virtual terminals are software that enables your computer to securely accept and process credit card information.
As far as fees go, you’ll find that it is more expensive to accept credit card payments online than it is to process them in-person. While unfortunate for small online boutiques, this is essential for keeping information safe and secure.
In the wild
Not everyone is either online or in-store. For example, some people sell their items on-the-go, such as out of a food truck or at a craft fair.
To sell goods at a craft fair, you need a mobile card reader.
If you’re one of these individuals, you’ll need a mobile card reader. These have become increasingly popular and are not as intimidating as they once were.
Typically, you plug the mobile card reader into your portable device (phone or tablet) and are able to swipe cards just like you would with a traditional card reader.
Credit card processing fees
Before you decide how to accept credit card payments for your business, let’s talk about the various fees you may encounter. Especially as a small business, it’s important to understand fees so as to create an accurate budget.
Every major credit card company will charge an interchange rate as a fee for accepting payments from their cards. Rates vary depending on card and transaction type. (If you have ever walked into a store that doesn’t accept a certain card, it could be because that card has too high of an interchange rate.)
Payment processor’s markup
If you use a payment processor, you’ll accrue an additional fee, which is the markup. This is a fee you owe for using that payment processor. Markup fees are determined based off of the plan you choose. They also vary depending on how “risky” or likely a transaction is to be fraudulent.
You can choose a plan for your processor’s payments in the same way you can choose plans for paying off loans. Here are a few plans that are available to business owners:
Tiered plans: These plans base their fees off of how risky a transaction is. Risk is determined by the type of card, as well as the type of transaction. There is no perfect way to predict transaction type, which could result in excessive fees that you did not budget for.
Interchange-plus plans: This plan combines the interchange rate and the markup fee.
Flat-rate plans: Flat-rate plans are fixed rates per transaction types. Because there is no variance, it’s easier to budget with this plan. Typically, PSPs come with flat-rate plans.
To your credit
Starting a business is a lot of work, and you’ll want to make sure you get your hard-earned money in the best way possible. Choosing one of these options should set you up for financial success.
Want to learn more about payment systems? Check out how to set up Facebook payments in messenger.
Grace Pinegar is a lifelong storyteller with an extensive background in various forms such as acting, journalism, improv, research, and content marketing. She was raised in Texas, educated in Missouri, worked in Chicago, and is now a proud New Yorker. (she/her/hers)