Accept Credit Card
Why accept credit cards? For many new businesses, the idea of merchant credit card processing seems like an added and unnecessary inconvenience. It costs money to accept credit card payments and margins are tight, right? Why take on another layer of complexity and give up a percentage of profits? And what about fraud – aren’t I opening up myself to abuse if I have the sign on my door that says “Accept credit card payment”?
All good questions. If a credit card merchant account were merely a convenience for your customers, you might have a case to not take them. And for hobbyists or amateurs, the case is strong. But consider the advantages for small businesses in general.
Convenience Translates into Higher Sales
It’s true. Customers who pay with credit cards spend more. When you take credit cards, you allow your customers to focus on products and services over prices. The current checking account balance or how much they happen to have in their PayPal account isn’t an issue.
For those in the service sector, taking credit cards allows immediate collection instead of a 30 to 60 day wait while billing is accomplished. And accounts in arrears drop as well. Collections become a problem for Visa or MasterCard instead of you. Getting money in a timely fashion without the begging is a win for small businesses working on cash flows without much fat in them.
The stats: Customers spend, on average, about 30% more when using a credit card. Businesses that rely on billing average 20 to 25% of accounts with more than 60 days outstanding.
With these facts in mind, processing credit cards is a convenience, not only to your customers, but to you as well. Some service oriented businesses will require a credit card as part of a contract – if payment isn’t made in a timely fashion, the credit card is billed instead.
Giving Life to your Business
Small business owners are often wary about taking on something new. Becoming a credit card merchant means partnering with a financial service that seems complex and feels like an intrusion. The reality is no different than taking on any service that helps your business. Even better, there’s real competition in the market now, and merchant solutions come in all flavors and sizes. Finding the best merchant rates for your business is no longer difficult – you can comparison shop in the same way you would for phone or Internet services. As mentioned several times on this website, I don’t advocate basing you decision on rates alone. Rates are simply one component of the criteria you should consider when choosing a merchant account, but far from the only or the best component.
Without merchant card processing, a business will continually run up against lost opportunity. This isn’t just customers who “walk,” but other businesses as well. Your reputation suffers if your clients think you can’t get a credit cards merchant account. They’ll wonder why. On the other hand, having a merchant account in good standing reflects a healthy business that is moving forward. Just as your personal credit history is a measure of your good character, so too does a solid business credit rating. Banks share this information and it helps build your reputation.
Getting those Internet Sales
Online or offline, businesses are finding that when they accept credit card payments online, it comes with some great advantages. First, it’s the natural way to pay online. It’s also becoming a real boon to offline businesses, when their customers can look up your website, pre-pay by credit card, and then pick up the merchandise. This is occurring all around us – not just at the local pizza parlor, but major offline retailers as well.
Mail order is an easy segue into online, but even service-based businesses can set up appointments and have services paid for online. Accepted credit cards can be the “majors” – Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express – or many others, including store cards, promotion cards, debit cards and others. This works especially well for subscription services where an online merchant account allows you to take periodic payments as services are rendered.
Setting up a Merchant Account has Never Been Easier
Small business owners wonder, “How do I accept credit cards”? Most of them follow that question with, “How do I accept credit card payments online”? Again, because of competition, internet processing has never been easier, or more accessible. Providers are more than willing to process credit card business from you.
The question of “how to accept credit cards” is a matter of finding a good merchant along with a good rate and excellent terms. Then you will need to use the provided software – either directly through your website or with an offline entry method. There are security checks and you will have to demonstrate your credentials are authentic – no different than opening any other type of account. Depending on whether you’ve had a merchant account before, the process can take just a few days.
Businesses process credit cards through a merchant account or with a third party service that bills through a merchant account. This makes the “how to accept credit card credit card payments” less of a barrier than making the decision to move forward. Once you get past the “why,” the “how” falls into place. In fact, the options are as variable as the business that uses them. Among these are standalone offline-terminals, remote terminals, custom processing through a mobile device, smart phone processing, online only processing and a wealth of others. At this point it is so easy that you have to wonder why any business owner wouldn’t be accepting credit card payments.
The whys: Convenience for you and your customers, higher sales, better cash flow, more secure payments, less defaults, enhanced reputation and a way to prove creditworthiness.