Credit card processing for your small business in 8 simple steps
We haven't yet reached the point where cash is extinct, but more and more transactions depend on credit cards than at any other time in our nation's history. Community Merchants USA reported in 2016 that 27 percent of transactions were made with cash, and projected that number to drop to 23 percent in 2017.
Debit and credit cards provide obvious benefits for consumers, but accepting them is great for businesses as well. After all, customers will spend more money in any given purchase when they use a credit card, while also focusing more on a product's benefits than its drawbacks. Intuit conservatively estimates that on average, a small business that does not accept credit or debit cards misses out on $7K in sales per year. No small business can afford to miss out on that revenue.
So, if you aren’t doing it already, here's how to get started accepting credit cards in your small business.
Step 1: Think about where you’d like to accept credit and debit cards.
In-store only? In-store and online? Or maybe you don’t have a store yet and are just getting started with a home-based business. Where you’ll be operating your business makes a difference in the types of equipment and services you’ll need.
Step 2: Do some research on the hardware you’ll need.
If you answered yes to accepting credit cards in-store only, you’ll want to explore PIN pad terminals and integrated point of sale (POS) systems. If you’re opening a small retail business with only a few types of products, you may find that a standalone terminal is all you need. But if you have a larger retail operation with more products, or a restaurant, an integrated POS may be your best bet. Home-based businesses and those that sell from seasonal booths and kiosks may prefer to use a mobile device like a phone or a tablet with a credit card reader that plugs into the auxiliary jack. Whichever terminal you pick, make sure it has EMV chip card acceptance since you’ll have liability for fraudulent transactions involving a chip card. You likely don’t need to purchase a hardware device until you have chosen a payment processing provider. But you’ll want to have an idea about what you need when you start searching and comparing credit card processing services.
Step 3: Get recommendations for payment processing or merchant services providers.
Do you have friends/family/acquaintances who operate businesses? Ask them about their experiences with credit card and payment processing. Or you can ask your bank or your POS dealer who they prefer to partner with for payments. If you turn to Google for answers, be sure to read more about how to identify a good credit card partner before you get too deep.
Step 4: Put your top picks to the test with a payment processor comparison checklist.
This easy-to-use checklist helps you narrow down the aspects of payment processing that are most important to you, and how to identify a quality provider and a fair price.
Step 5: Sign your merchant agreement and return it with your banking information.
Once you return the requested materials to get your account set up, it can take a couple of days to process, so don’t wait too long or your opening date may have to be pushed back.
Step 6: Set-up your credit card acceptance equipment.
If you opted for an integrated POS system, your vendor will likely handle system set-up and installation for you. If not, you may receive a credit card terminal or mobile plug in device in the mail. Follow the set-up instructions and don’t hesitate to call customer service for help if you’re not sure what to do.
Step 7: Train your staff to process payments, reversals, and returns.
If you opted for a gift card service, train them on gift card transactions and upselling gift cards to customers checking out. It’s also a good idea to learn about common fraud strategies and how to spot and prevent them. Your employees are your first line of defense against fraud.
Step 8: Accept your first payment.
Congratulations. You made it. You’re on the road to seeing an increase in sales and customer satisfaction that comes with accepting credit cards. Be sure to maintain PCI compliance on your businesses systems to prevent hacking and data theft. It’s your responsibility!
If you need more information, or want to get started, feel free to contact Vantiv. We have a customizable solution for every kind of business. And if you’re still researching, we have a lot of resources to help you identify the payment processing services that best fit your business.