You run a small business and are ready to take the next step: accepting credit cards. Congratulations! Whether this is your first business or a new venture you’re investing in, you might not be too familiar with credit card processing.
Outlined below are four steps to set up credit card processing for a small business. We threw in our industry expertise for each action item.
Step 1: Choose your preferred pricing plan
Small businesses tend to have simple business models and low processing volume, so an uncomplicated pricing plan is best. Our recommendation is either Flat or Interchange-plus pricing for small businesses as each offers unique benefits.
- Flat: Every transaction costs the same to process, hence the name. Flat pricing consists of Interchange, the wholesale cost, and varying markup to create the same, flat cost for every transaction. Whether you’re processing a debit card or a business rewards card, you’ll pay the same flat fee for the transaction. This is a good entry point for your business, but it’s important to note that as you grow you’ll want to adjust to a more cost-effective plan that saves you money on low-risk, low-reward transactions.
- Interchange-plus: With this pricing plan, each transaction is uniquely priced. Instead of a varying markup, you pay a consistent markup in addition to the Interchange cost. So when you process a swiped debit card, you’ll pay a cheaper transactional cost than when you swipe a business rewards card.
From a cost-savings perspective, Interchange-plus is the winner, but that pricing plan requires your business to be set up with a proper merchant account (more on that later). Gaining an understanding of how fees are calculated is helpful as you take these steps; a good starting point is learning about credit card processing basis points.
Step 2: Determine your must-have features
It’s likely your small business doesn’t need all the bells and whistles to process credit cards, but it’d be silly to pass up on tools that fight fraud, keep your customers’ data safe and give your business a competitive advantage. There are plenty of tools to consider for your small business credit card processing. We believe the following are must-have features for small businesses:
- Cards on File: A loyal customer base is often what keeps small businesses afloat. A great way to stand out against your fellow small businesses is by securely storing cards on file. Instead of keeping a filing cabinet of customer card info and transaction history, you can keep customer card data on file via the cloud, quickly search through customer history, and even issue one-click refunds. All while reducing your risk and liability of compromising customer data.
- Remote Signature Capture: Protect your business when taking over-the-phone payments (even if they are rare) by capturing remote signatures. This feature will ultimately minimize losses from disputed credit card charges and fight fraud, which can be disastrous for a small business.
Step 3: Assess contracts, terms and fees
Now that you’ve evaluated pricing plans and features, it’s time to consider the not-so-fun stuff: contracts. You’ll have two options for a credit card processing contract: month-to-month or long term.
Long-term contracts can include sneaky terms that lock you into an extended agreement or pose a hefty fee if you want to exit the terms before the end date. You should also be wary of miscellaneous fees, some of which are completely unethical, that can have a significant impact on a small business with low processing volume.
An easy starting point is to ensure you avoid a monthly fee for your small business credit card processing.
Step 4: Sign up
Depending on what you find out during steps one through three, the process to sign up for credit card processing can go one of two ways: instant set up or an application process.
If your heart is set on Flat pricing, you’re looking at instant set up with a Payment Facilitator. Processing can start as soon as you fill out your information, but you’ll likely receive limited support from the facilitator and sometimes deal with held funds.
With an Interchange-plus pricing plan, you must work with a true Merchant Service Provider and go through an application process, which includes an underwriting period before approval. This process usually takes two to five days to complete, but you benefit from quality support and uninterrupted access to your funds.
As you read through each step, what were your preferences for your small business credit card processing? Tell us in the comments below!