How to Accept Credit Card Payments for Small Business
If you’re ready to accept credit card payments for your small business, there are a few steps you’ll need to follow. But once you get a system set up, it’s relatively easy to oversee and manage.
1. Decide how you’ll accept credit card payments
The first step is determining when and how to accept credit card payments. For example, you can take credit card payments:
- Using a mobile card reader
The option you choose may depend on the type of business you run. If you have a brick-and-mortar retail store, for example, you may accept credit cards in-person at checkout or online if you’ve set up an eCommerce store. But if you run a mobile business, using a mobile card reader may be the best option.
You’ll also need to decide which of the major credit card networks (Visa, Mastercard, Discover, or American Express) you want to accept.
2. Choose a payment processing system
When a customer gives you their credit card to pay, there’s more to it than simply swiping the card. The customer’s card and account details have to be reviewed and processed electronically so the payment to you can be authorized. All of this happens digitally behind the scenes in a matter of seconds, but you need to hire a payment processor to make it all work.
If you want to accept credit card payments, there are two ways you can do it: merchant accounts or payment service providers. A merchant account is an account you open with a bank to accept credit card payments. Payment service providers are companies that allow you to accept credit card payments without setting up a merchant account.
Of the two, a payment service provider may charge lower processing and transaction fees. So it may work well for you if you have a newer business or relatively small credit card payment volumes. But if you do a large volume of sales from credit cards, then a merchant account could be an easier way to manage your credit card payments.
When comparing merchant accounts and payment service providers, consider whether you have to sign a long-term contract and what fees you’ll pay for credit card processing.
3. Get your credit card payment software and hardware in place
Once you have a method of processing credit card payments in place you may need to update your point of sale software and hardware to actually accept them.
For example, if you run a brick-and-mortar business you may need to purchase checkout software to accept card payments or install a card reader that’s EMV chip-enabled at the checkout. Some payment service providers will also supply the equipment you need to get set up for accepting credit card payments in-store or via a mobile card reader.
If you plan to accept credit cards online you’ll also need to set up a payment gateway for that. Again, this may be included with your merchant account or payment service provider plan.
Pay Attention to Credit Card Payment Processing Fees
Accepting credit cards through a merchant account or payment service provider isn’t free; both charge service fees to facilitate those payments. As you get ready to accept credit card payments, consider how those fees factor into your operating and overhead costs.
If the fees are going to take a serious bite out of profits, you might compensate by increasing prices for your products or services. Or you could add on a surcharge or convenience fee for processing credit card transactions below a certain dollar amount. But be sure you’re aware of state and federal regulations on credit card surcharges to avoid any illegal practices
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