5 Things You Need to Know about Taking Credit Card Payments
1. YOU'RE MISSING SALES: If you sell online, at the beach, at farmers market or somewhere, you need to take credit card payments. If you don't you're missing out on a lot of sales.
2. ACCEPTING CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS CAN BE EASY: It's a lot easier than you think. There are many good options these days. You won't be stuck with some old payment processing technology. You'll be able to take payments in almost any kind of website. You can take payments in person on your mobile phone or iPad. You can also take payments on your computer with a virtual terminal. You've got more options than ever before.
3. PAYMENT PROCESSING IS CHEAPER THAN YOU THOUGHT: Payment processing fees have fallen. There is a lot of competition. Sure you'll have to pay anywhere between 2% to 3% of your sale in fees to your payment processor. But without credit cards you would not make any sales. Also you can pass the cost of the payment processing to your customer.
4. PAYMENT PROCESSING COMPANIES ARE TRICKY: Let's face it. Most of us don't buy credit card payment processing everyday. Or even give it a second thought. The payment processing company, merchant account provider and merchant services providers do think about this all the time. They have the upper hand in any negotiation with you. But that's where we can help you.
5. TAKING CREDIT CARDS IS TOO COMPLICATED: Not really. When you get a Square payments account or some alternative to Square like PayPal, you can get up and going in less than an hour. If you got a website, a little cut and paste of some code and you'll be selling online. If you're using WordPress, no problem. There are many options for you. Any website of any kind can be easily integrated to a payment gateway.
How do I get started taking credit card payments?
- Decide what kind of business you are in:
- Retail Store (Click to jump to our section on Retail)
- Farmers Market, Craft Show, Kiosk or other pop-up retail (Click to jump to our section on Mobile Payments)
- Ecommerce (Click to jump to our section on Ecommerce)
- Find a payment processor or merchant account provider
- You can do a simple online search, ask other businesses like yours or you can click over to our recommend list of payment processors and merchant account providers.
- We recommend setting aside a little time to contact three payment processors. Tell them about your business and have them explain how to get started accepting credit card payments from your customers.
- Pick a payment processor that you like. Or you can apply our checklist to help you select the payment processor that is the best for you.
- The payment processor will take you through the steps to accept credit cards online or in your store or on your smartphone.
What do I look for in a Payment Processor?
Here is our checklist for picking a payment processor.
1. Use a payment processor who is reputable. Look at testimonials from other merchants. Also look at how long the payment processor has been in business.
2. Do a Google search on the payment processor's name. Also look for Better Business Bureau complaints. You'll see a few complaints so don't let that throw you off. If you see hundreds of complaints then there may be a problem.
3. Think through your business. Do you have a website and does the payment processor offer an easy solution to add their payment gateway to your website? Do you sell in a store and does the payment processor offer payment solutions for retail stores similar to yours?
4. If you don't want to go through these steps, try our list of recommended payment processors. This will help shortcut the process.
I am a retail store. What do I do?
You're in luck. Most of the credit card payments have been designed for you. Here is what you need to do to get started:
- Find a payment processor or merchant account provider. Here is our list of recommend providers for retail businesses.
- Tell the payment processor to tell you what is available in the retail space for credit card payments.
- Ask about mobile payments where you accept credit card payments on a smartphone, iPad or a wireless credit card terminal.
- Ask about credit card terminals that are enabled for Apple Pay, Google Pay, NFC and EMV. Don't worry if you don't know what those things are because we explain them right below.
- Ask the payment processor to make you a proposal and price their per transaction fee and a fee for credit card terminals.
Apple Pay became available a few years ago. It's really taken off. You will have customer that want to use it and so make sure your credit card terminal can accept it. With Apple Pay your customer simply puts their iPhone close to your credit card reader. The credit card information is passed from the iPhone into your credit card reader. The purchase transaction is then sent from the credit card reader over a data line to your payment processor. Apple Pay is useful because you'll have people who want to use it. So make sure you have it.
Google Pay came out before Apple Pay. But it is less popular. It works in a similar fashion as Apple Pay. Normally if a credit card terminal has Apple Pay it will also have Google Pay. No big thing here.
NFC means near field communications. This is what Apple Pay uses. When a customer put their iPhone close to your credit card terminal then the two devices talk with each other. That's it. Make sure you're NFC enabled. This gets you ready for any other type of Apple Pay, Google Pay, or whatever pay comes down the road. Payments are changing a lot so you need to stay with them.
EMV...ah yes... EMV is where a chip is embedded in the customer's credit card. You've probably received one of these already. Look in your wallet and you'll find one. The chip encrypts all the information on the credit card and sends the information securely to the payment processor.
I am wholesale business or I sell mainly to businesses. What do I do?
If you sell mainly to businesses your needs will be similar to a retail store. You may also want to take checks. Businesses will write checks to you. You can accept these in your business but you'll want to use a service to make sure you're not getting a check that will bounce. You will also want to scan any paper checks you receive and send these electronically so that they can be deposited.
I sell at a farmer's market, craft show and in a kiosk. What do I do?
You're in a great place! You'll want Square Payments or the alternatives to Square such as PayPal and others. Here is our complete list of mobile payment processors for farmers markets. Here is some more information on what you'll need.
Mobile Payment Processor
You'll want to accept credit card payments on your smartphone or iPad. This means you'll need Square Payments, PayPal Here, iZettle and others. These processors will get you a device that plugs into your smartphone or iPad. You'll use this to swipe your customer's credit card or insert your customer's credit card. The transaction will be sent to the payment processor and you'll get an approval to charge the credit card in a few seconds. Normally, 5+ seconds or so with Square Payments.
- Mobile Payments Equipment
- iPad Stand
- iPad Cover
- Paper Receipt Printer
- Bar Code Reader
I have a website. What do I do?
You're in a great place! You have so many options. Sorting out your options is hard but we've got a guide to help you!
We'll cover a few basic things and then we recommend that you look at our guide located here. The three things you need are
- Payment Gateway
- Merchant Account
- Shopping Cart
If you sell online you'll need a payment gateway. A payment connects the shopping cart on your website to the credit card network. What's a shopping cart? We explain shopping carts right below. A payment gateway secures the purchase transaction and sends it to the credit card network. It also does more. There are often extra options in the gateway such as recurring payments, fraud controls and other extra features. We explain some of these things below.
These are repetitive payments where you charge your customer once a month, once a week or once a year. A schedule is setup and stored in the payment gateway. When the time comes to charge your customer you don't have to do anything. The gateway automatically charges your customer and you collect your money. Recurring payments are great if you run a subscription service. For example, if you offer web hosting, a paid newsletter, online games, online movies, online music and etc. It can also be a yard service, house cleaning, rent and any other type of payment that repeats on a regular basis.
Payment gateways also often provide some fraud controls that you can manage on your own. These are handy in preventing fradulent purchases. Typically these types of fraud controls allow you to stop high dollar amounts, purchases of more than 5 or 10 items at a time. More sophisticated controls allow you to stop purchases from a list of countries, regions or IP addresses.
Multi Currency Payments
If you're selling outside the US you may also want to offer prices in the local currency. Some payment gateways will enable you to do this. Generally, when customers see the price of an item in their own currency they are more comfortable. This can lead to more sales for you. Sure. The customer can convert your US dollar prices into foreign currency prices but that is work. Shopping online is all about convenience so make it easy for you customers to buy from you.
There are many more features in a payment gateway. You need to ask the payment gateway provider to help you understand all that they offer.
In addition to a payment gateway, you need a merchant account. A merchant account does two things. (1) It is a place for money from your sales to be held before being transferred into your bank account. (2) A merchant account is also a bank relationship where the bank verifies that you are who you say you are. Also that you will abide by credit card codes of conduct. Conduct such as refunding customers when a request is made. And of course providing the product to the customer when they have paid. Generally, you can get your payment gateway and merchant account from the same place. Although the merchant account is typically from a bank that the payment gateway has relationship with.
One of the big deciding factors in your choice of a payment gateway needs to be how easy or how the payment gateway connects to your shopping cart. If you have a site built with WordPress, for example, then you'll need a shopping cart that works with WordPress. And you'll want your payment gateway to easily connect to your shopping cart.
- What is your website built with today?
- What shopping carts work with your website?
- Does the payment gateway easily connect to your shopping cart?