Accepting credit cards is one of the easiest ways to grow a successful business. When you allow your customers to pay with plastic, you benefit from:
- Fast and convenient payments
- Global reach (especially when selling online)
- Advanced fraud protection (if you choose the right processor)
And arguably most important, credit card acceptance is what your customers want.
According to researchers, 80 percent of American shoppers cite credit and debit cards as their preferred method of payment. Cash is no longer king, and paper-based checks are quickly falling out of favor.
Not only do customers prefer using plastic, but also they typically spend more when buying with credit cards — because using a card helps to reduce the “pain of paying.” Customers don’t actually see the money leaving their hands. Instead, cards act as a payment substitute. This is the same reason why casinos use gambling chips, and amusement parks use tokens.
However, updating your payment environment isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. Before you can accept credit cards, there are several important factors you need to consider. Below is a handy checklist to help you get started.
1. Important Considerations for All Merchants
The first step involves determining how you want to accept credit cards. Although most merchants use a dedicated payment processor, you can also use third-party marketplaces or your local bank to handle transactions.
You also need a merchant account to begin accepting plastic. Applying for these accounts is pretty straightforward. Just make sure you have the following materials ready:
- Any relevant legal and tax filings for your company
- Estimated sales volume and average transaction sizes
- Proof that you’re a “going concern.” Utility bills, bank accounts and employer identification numbers (EINs) are usually sufficient.
In addition, you want to choose a payment provider that specializes in PCI-compliant data security. Doing so can help reduce the severity and frequency of fraudulent charges.
Finally, you must choose where you’ll accept credit card payments:
- At your store’s POS terminal?
- Through an online shopping cart?
- Via mobile devices and tablets?
- All of the above?
This decision informs which of the sections below is most relevant.
2. Selling Through a Brick-and-Mortar Store
If you own a physical retail store, you’ll need POS or mobile readers that can accept credit cards at the cash register. In addition to having magnetic swiping capabilities, these terminals should be:
- EMV-ready so you can process chip-enabled credit cards
- NFC-ready so you can process contactless payments
Fortunately, most modern terminals support both payment options. Furthermore, you want your POS software to be compatible with any existing inventory management, accounting and CRM software you currently use.
3. Selling Through Mobile Devices
To accept credit card payments through smartphones and tablets, you need either of the following:
- App-enabled mobile checkout software, wireless terminal capabilities or dedicated software to help you process payments
- A virtual terminal with a keypad (for entering credit card numbers) or an external card reader
4. Selling Through an E-Commerce Site
At the very least, you need a secure shopping cart so that users can fill their baskets and initiate payments. When building your cart, you can choose between:
- Payment gateway plus checkout form. This option provides the greatest control, but requires the most setup and management.
- Hosted payment pages. This option provides the greatest fraud protection since you never capture credit card data within your payment environment. You don’t enjoy as much control, but most high-quality hosted payment pages allow you to customize and brand your shopping cart accordingly.
Depending on the nature of your business, it may be worth exploring extra security features such as IP blacklisting and velocity filters. Since online shopping is mostly anonymous, e-commerce sites are especially vulnerable to fraud. According to some estimates, online fraud is a $6 billion industry.
One Final Consideration When Accepting Credit Cards
Everything listed above should be enough to get you started, but there’s one final thing to consider — you want to choose a credit card solution that can grow with your business.
You might be a brick-and-mortar retailer today, but who knows what the future holds? The same goes for e-commerce merchants and those who sell via mobile devices. The payment landscape is fluid, and customer shopping preferences evolve over time.
So as you begin exploring credit card solutions, choose a PCI-compliant processor that supports as many payment options and channels as possible.
For a more detailed breakdown of this credit card acceptance checklist, be sure to read the infographic below.
Checklist Credit: cell phone credit card processing company BluePay
Author bio: Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing firm. She has more than 20 years of experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management and marketing. Follow her on Twitter at @BluePay_CMO.