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My Small Business Doesn’t Accept Credit Cards. What Do I Need to Know to Get Started?

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Owning a small business is exciting, but it means doing a lot of research. For example, as your business grows, you might be wondering how to get started with accepting credit card payments.

Luckily, the Nerds are here to help. We’ve put together a resource to provide you with the background you’ll need to begin accepting plastic. Eager to learn more? Take a look at the details below.

Know the benefits of accepting plastic

First and foremost, you should know that it’s probably a smart idea to start accepting credit cards. In doing so, you’ll be providing your customers with a convenience many have come to expect. This increases the likelihood they’ll shop with you again.

Also, you could end up selling more items – no additional advertising required. According to the Small Business Administration :

The convenience of using credit cards generally increases the likelihood of consumer ‘impulse purchases,’ which ultimately contributes to an increase in a business s average sale. Customers are more likely to make these purchases if they have access to credit or their available bank account funds.

All this means that accepting credit cards is a savvy move for most small business owners.

What is a merchant service account?

If you’ve done any preliminary research about accepting credit card payments, you’ve probably read about the importance of setting up a merchant service account. These accounts are somewhat confusing, but they’re key to the traditional credit card acceptance process.

Be aware that a merchant service account is different from a business bank account. A business bank account holds the funds your company earns; payments and expenses also typically come out of a business bank account. A merchant service account is unlike other types of bank accounts; it has a complex web of connections to credit card payment processors, issuing banks and your business’s bank account.

Essentially, a merchant service account acts as a stopover point between a customer’s credit or debit card and your business bank account. When a customer swipes their card, the payment information is processed by your merchant service provider. When the funds are approved, the money comes out of the customer’s account and is transferred to your business’s account.

Although merchant service accounts differ from business bank accounts, when you set up a merchant service account, you’re typically working with bank. The benefit to this is that the bank acts as a full-service provider for getting you set up to accept credit cards. They will usually provide you with payment terminals (with you can rent or buy), plus other services and supports.

The major drawback to using a traditional, bank-based merchant service account is the fees. You’ll be charged monthly fees to keep your account active, as well as fees for every credit card transaction you accept. You will probably also have to pay for the initial installation of the payment terminals and other equipment.

The terminal and beyond

Using a conventional merchant service provider is one option for accepting credit card payments, but it’s not the only game in town. In recent years, online processors have become a popular alternative to traditional systems.

Online credit card payment processors, such as Square and PayPal, work without merchant service accounts. They use the Internet to move funds between a customer’s credit or debit account and your business bank account. There are several major benefits to using an online processor:

  • The equipment is usually inexpensive and easy to set up.
  • Many new businesses don’t have an established credit history. This can make it hard to get approved for a merchant service account. With online processors, this isn’t an issue.
  • Online processors usually provide mobile options. If you have a business that keeps you on the go, you’ll be able to take credit cards anywhere.
  • If your business is web-based, online processors usually offer options that are more convenient and cost-effective than merchant service providers.

There are two potential drawbacks to using an online credit card processor over a traditional merchant service provider. The first is customer service. If the payment technology isn’t working for some reason, it might be more difficult to get in touch with an online provider for assistance. Most banks have a dedicated customer service center you can get in touch with at any time.

The second is swipe fees. Online processors usually charge more per swipe than merchant service providers. For example, Square charges a flat 2.75% per transaction if you use its card reader, which is higher than the roughly 2% a merchant service provider would collect for a Visa payment. However, startup costs and monthly fees will likely be less, so be sure to take those factors into account.

Final considerations

Now that you understand your options for credit card acceptance, it’s time to think through some final considerations:

Is an online processor really cheaper? Many small business owners are enthusiastic about online credit card processors because they appear less expensive than a merchant service provider due to lower monthly fees. But be sure to do the math to verify that this is true for your business. Again, keep in mind that most online processors charge more in swipe fees (see above). Of course, if your business is mobile or web-based, the added convenience might outweigh additional costs.

Have I priced out all my options? Regardless of whether you go with an online or merchant service system, be sure you’ve shopped around. Fees vary wildly between providers, so doing your research is key.

Am I ready for EMV? Smart chip cards coming, so be sure to go with a provider that will allow you to accept EMV cards when they become the norm in the near future.

The takeaway. Getting your small business ready to accept credit cards might seem daunting. But now that you know all the vital details, you’re well-positioned to have your customers swiping in no time!

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Hardware Compliance – Software Compliance – PCI DSS #credit #card #processing, #credit #card #payments, #accept #credit #cards, #compliance, #pci, #pci #dss, #payment #card #industry


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Credit Card Processing: Hardware Software Compliance

Credit card payments are as fundamental to your fiscal stability as customers: you simply cannot do business without them. But are your transactions safe? If your credit card processing equipment is out of compliance, the answer is NO .

Just like your business, the credit card processing hardware and software that you use to accept credit card payments must meet all current government and payment card industry security standards. Meeting these standards helps to ensure that your customers valuable information is safe and that your business is protected against fraud, data theft and penalties.

What s at stake?

If your customers credit card information or other personal information is stolen or otherwise compromised (in what s known as a data breach), the consequences could be disastrous. If you are out of compliance and suffer a data breach, you could see losses in the form of fines and chargebacks. Worse, you could lose your customers trust.

What is hardware/software compliance?

Compliance simply means that all of your credit card processing equipment (hardware and software) meets the requirements set forth by the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council. The council was founded by the five major credit card companies — Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and JCB International — to enforce the PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). To be in compliance, hardware and software must meet the 12 requirements outlined in the PCI DSS, as well as Payment Application Best Practices (PABP).

How do I know if my hardware/software is compliant?

The best way to ensure compliance is to have your equipment evaluated through a compliance scan. Compliance scans check your operating systems, networks, servers and devices for vulnerabilities that could result in a data breach. Because of the sensitive nature of the data involved, quarterly scans are strongly recommended by the PCI Security Standards Council and can only be conducted by an approved scanning vendor.

Terminal Compliance – See where your credit card processing terminal falls on the PCI compliance scale.

Software Compliance – Find out if your credit card processing software is PCI compliant.

How do I maintain compliance?

Once you get compliant you need to stay compliant. That means making sure that your business is virtually and physically secure. To maintain compliance, you must protect your:
network: the operating system you use for credit card processing
terminal: the device you use to take credit card payments
software: the credit card processing program with which you accept payment

Network Compliance

Make it a top priority to ensure that your network is configured for maximum security and compliance. If your system isn t properly configured (including using complex encryption algorithms), all the data within your network is at risk.

Terminal Compliance

Nearly half of the data breaches that occur are through point of sale (POS) terminals that are out of compliance. This has become such a concern that MasterCard has instituted a POS Terminal Security program requiring regular equipment evaluations.

Software Compliance

If your software is not secure, neither is any of the information you re using to process payments, including credit card numbers, expiration dates and customers personal information. Noncompliant software is a data breach in the making.

Get Compliant Today!

The first step to finding out if your equipment is in compliance is to complete a self-assessment questionnaire. By following this process, you will determine whether your equipment is compliant. If not, there are established steps you can take to achieve regulatory compliance.

The information on this page is not intended to be a source of legal advice. Therefore, you should not rely on the information provided herein as legal advice for any purpose, and should always seek the legal advice of competent counsel in your jurisdiction.

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