Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Accepting Credit Card Payments with Your iPhone

There is no question that credit card processing smart phone applications are changing the dynamic of credit card processing today.With new gadgets hitting the industry the mobile credit card processing industry is getting pretty crowded quickly. One of the most popular applications is the iPhone application that works in connection with a payment gateway service such as Authorize.net. Although iPhone has an application you can download for a one time fee for $49.00 there are credit card processors who have their own applications that are free and have Bluetooth rechargeable card reader for swiping cards, which deliver enhanced security, savings and convenience. These mobile smart phone applications work with other smart phones such as the iTouch and Blackberry and Storm.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Websites and SEO: Expanding Your Business Locally

I discussed that without a website it will be difficult for your business to really thrive. There are exceptions to that rule of course but to the majority of businesses websites are an integral part of their company . This applies even if even if they only sell retail. There are many way you can expand your business locally and we discussed some local seo tips. Let's go into some further discussion about local seo. Keywords are an essential part of local seo. You want to make sure you have the right keywords that people are actually searching for and not what keywords you think they may be using. There is no need to try to figure it out since Google has done the work for you. Use the google keyword tool to find the most popular keywords for what you sell. Next step is to integrate those keywords and add the area you sell in such a "Italian Restaurant Bergen County" and so on. The other seo tip you want to try is link building. Link building means you want to try to get your website linked to from other sites and preferably sites that aelate to your business as you. The more relevant the site is to what you sell or service you provide the more "weight" it will carry with the search engines. Many people add a link page to their sites and  simply link to other sites they would like to be linked to and see if they will reciprocate while other simply email and request a link swap.Happy linking!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Accepting Credit Card VS Cash Only

Many merchant who have always been a "cash" business worry about switching over to credit card processing.One of their main concerns and rightfully so is the cost. There are of course ways to keep those costs down but there is a cost nonetheless. I read an interesting article by Jim Prevor where he discusses Cash or Credit? Which is more expensive? He points out:: The whole issue of complaining about the cost of credit card fees is really an example of how hard it is to change our perspectives in business.Because the use of cash came first, we tend to view the cost of handling credit as an additional cost. But credit and, more broadly, electronic payment devices such as debit cards and key fobs are clearly destined to be the payment devices of the future. For a consumer, they facilitate easy record-keeping, avoid the risks of carrying cash, etc. He goes on to explain that handling cash has a cost for merchant's too.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Debit Card Processing and Technology: BIN $mart

There are many ways you can process a debit card. The most common are pin based and signed debit card (i.e. you swipe the debit as "credit " and then sign the receipt). Depending on the scenario one may be less expensive then the other.BIN$mart works by evaluating each card transaction by using a complex algorithm to estimate the least expensive processing method. After the card is swiped, BIN$mart will prompt the cashier to either collect more data, prompt for PIN entry, or simply have the customer sign the receipt. Your staff simply needs to follow the prompts on the terminal – BIN$mart does all the thinking for you.

You have probably seen similar technologies at work in the big box retail stores. When you swipe your debit card, the terminal will automatically prompt you to enter your PIN number. Large retailers have known for years that getting the customer to enter their PIN saves them money on larger transactions. In fact, small merchants may save up to $1.00 on a $100 sale by having the customer enter their PIN. The problem with many of these solutions is that they are only looking to see if a card is debit and not calculating to see if PIN-debit is actually less expensive or if there are other cost saving opportunities.
Compare that to BIN$mart’s technology, which looks at all of the following:
  • Your specific rates and merchant
  • account structure
  • The exact sale amount
  • The card type (debit, credit, corporate)
  • Your SIC code
  • The likely Interchange category for this transaction
  • Probable debit network costs
  • Your zip code
Each one of these can influence the decision to favor one transaction method over another. BIN$mart uses them all in real time to maximize your potential savings.Our company is currently proud to offer this technology to small and medium sized businesses.Feel free to visit Prestige Merchant Services for a demo on BIN$mart technology at work.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hotels and Credit Card Processing: Saving Money

Hotel News had an interesting article about saving money on your merchant account. Hotels certainly process a lot of credit cards and in different ways that can effect the rates their charged.The author, Joel Ross wants to point out that more important than the actual rate itself is being aware of downgrades and reclassification of cards which is very prevalent in the hotel industry. As he explains:

It is not what you think you are being charged it is what you are really being charged that matters. The real costs often are intentionally difficult to decipher when the monthly statement arrives. Transactions get downgraded or reclassified for a wide variety of reasons, and unless you are a real expert at analyzing the statements, you will not see it.

These are just some of the reasons to stay away from contract as companies can pull all sorts of dirty tricks and by the time you figure out what way is up you are stuck paying heavy fines. Hotels unfortunately are  sometimes limited to the processors they can use especially if they are using propitiatory software.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The problem with PayPal : Reasons for a Merchant Account.

Although PayPal has certainly made it easy for online merchants to accept credit cards, it is not without it's share of problems. If you are going to accept credit using PayPal it would be a good idea to sign up through a separate bank account. Pay Pal has a history of siding with the customer much more than a bank would with a traditional merchant account. Reading through PayPal's agreement may surprise you ( and not in a good way) and few ever do. This way if they Pay Pal decides to debit your account they won't get much until the issue is resolved. I have heard many horror stories about PayPal freezing funds for a merchant for several months. Although this could certainly happen with a traditional merchant account (i.e. if you did something that would raise a red flag for fraud) it seems to happen a lot more often with PayPal. Another problem many client's tell me is that it's very difficult to get anything resolved with PayPal when things go wrong. Many credit card processors have 24/7 customer service so should an issue arise you can always get a live person on the phone.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What is a Downgrade? How can I avoid them and save money?

People who accept credit card now or plan to in the future, should be aware of the various surcharges and markups that can occur. Some can be easily avoided ( i.e. Interchange plus pricing VS Tier Rate Pricing ) while others can not (i.e. higher risk cards are always more expensive to process). The question is: what is a downgrade? Can I avoid downgrades on my merchant account? Downgrades refer to a card that has a higher cost associated with it (i.e. reward or corporate cards). There are other things that can cause downgrades which are easily avoidable such as batching out within 24 hrs. If you fail to batch out within a 24 hr period, in most instances your rate will jump automatically to "non-qualified" status and you will pay the highest rate category for that card processed. An easy way to avoid this problem is to set your merchant account to "auto-batch". This will allow the merchant account to check and see if anything needs to be "batched out" and you can set up the time for the batch beforehand.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

PCI- Compliance: What We Learn From Heartland Payment Systems

Here is a great article that discusses PCI-Compliance and how the various security breaches at Heartland Payment Systems show that PCI may not be enough. Heartland, the 5th largest processor in the Nation goes down in history as having one of  the largest breaches of security of any credit card processor. The hacker of the breach, Albert Gonzalez has plead guilty to computer fraud and identity theft. Meanwhile Heartland Payment Systems agreed to pay Amex 3.6 Million in a settlement over a criminal breach of Heartland's data network.

Visa: The Credit Card Game Video

Here is a great video brought to you in part by the New York Time. In my recent post I mentioned how Visa is using higher fees for signature debit by steering customers to sign as opposed to pin based debit. It also discusses lawsuits against Visa for price fixing and anti-competitive practices.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Iphone Credit Card Reader Gadget Wars

I just posted an article about the latest innovation by twitter's co-founder, namely the Square. The market for add-ons for mobile credit card readers is getting crowded  rather quickly.Two products are ready to hit the market and give the square some competition. 1) Morphie: one of the largest iphone accessory manufacturers is getting set to unveil it's iphone credit card reader at this month's consumer electronic show in Las Vegas (shown here). 2) Veriphone , a global leader in secure electronic payment solutions has unleashed PAYware :a sleek and durable card reader that slips over the iPhone.  iPhone/iPod accessory makers out there today, is set to launch its own iPhone-only

iPhone/iPod accessory makers out there today, is set to launch its own iPhone-only

Monday, January 4, 2010

Visa: Playing Card Games with Merchants?

The NYT has an interesting article on how Visa seems to be playing a game with merchants in regards to how it can obtain higher fees. Especially for larger retailers, pin based debit fees are lower than signed debit fees. Visa is promoting the use of signed debit (i.e. with chase offering  a "pay your bill" sweepstakes) through banks and other efforts. This pushes up fees for retailers and it's interesting to note that: The Justice Department is investigating if rules imposed by payment networks, including Visa, on merchants regarding “various payment forms” are anticompetitive, a spokeswoman said. Several bills have been introduced in Congress seeking to give merchants more ability to negotiate interchange, which is largely unregulated. Large retailers are steering customers to use only pin based debit by prompting them to use their pin after they swipe their debit cards. Visa seems to have a real hold on the industry as it increases it's domination over rhe debit card market and raises it's fees. It is a real cause for concern for retailers.....

Twitter: Breaking Into the Merchant Service Industry?

Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter is looking at the credit card processing as his next innovation. He's looking to target the mobile merchant service industry by developing a new piece of hardware called square. This hardware would connect to the jack of an iphone, balackberry or other mobile device and allow it to accept credit cards. Here is a video with Jack Dorsey discussing this new innovation:


Merchant Accounts & Search Engine Optimization

A Merchant Account is a very important aspect of your business as is having a website and good search engine optimization. The common denominator among these ideas: they help expand your business. accepting credit card for your business will help it several ways:
  1. People are not limited to the amount of money they have on hand
  2. It allows them them to pay for your product or service over time
  3. They are more likely to by more since they don't have these restrictions
  4. If you advertise the fact that you accept credit cards you will most likely get more interest
In today's economy more than ever people are relying more on credit even for small purchases. Why else would 7-11 accept credit cards for everything from milk to chewing gum?

Getting back to your website and SEO: these are other ways for people to find you. The first thing is you need to build a website and as I mentioned that is a very inexpensive venture to start. Now once you have a website you want people to find it. Of course you can always start an online ad campaign like google word ads and use various keywords to get traffic. There are free ways to drive traffic as well. If you are just starting out it's very difficult to get listed in the top 10 on major search engines because you are most likely fighting many other sites nationwide for those very same spots. The easier more cost effective methos is working on local seo. After you have submitted your website to all the major search engines like Yahoo, Google, Bing etc. you need to check out local business litings on sites like Google and Yahoo. These websites can give you great exposure and it's free. You also want to list your website on all the online yellow pages such as superpages.com, yellowpages.com and others.The next step is to have your website listed on all the major local listing websites like Yelp, Best of the Web, Kudzu and others. Stay tuned for more ideas....

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What is a Merchant Account?

Many people wonder just what is a merchant account? How can I obtain one? A Merchant Account is an agreement between a retailer, a payment processor for the settlement of credit card and/or debit card transactions. You don't have to open a special type of bank account with the processor to get started. You can use a personal bank account if you are a sole proprietor and if you are a corporation or LLC you must have a business account. In order to open up a merchant account and start accepting credit cards as a form of payment you can only use a checking account. Savings accounts won't work. There is usually a verification process in order to prove your existence to the bank ( not all that different from a loan application requirement). Many processors will require some of the following documents:

  1. Driver's license (proof of signature)
  2. Business License or Sales Tax ID ( sole prop could use a utility bill etc.)
  3. Printed voided check ( or bank verification letter)
  4. Marketing materials (i.e. website, brochures, business cards etc.)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Understanding Credit Card Processing Rates & Fees

This video is a tutorial into understanding some of the rates and fees and fee structures associated with a merchant account. It can be confusing to understand but if you listen carefully you will certainly gain some insight as to how pricing policies work to some extent and how risk is associated with the rate you pay.

It explains the following fee structures:

  1. 3-Tier Pricing
  2. 6-Tier Pricing
  3. Interchange Plus Pricing
  4. Bill Backs

Friday, January 1, 2010

Wireless Credit Card Terminals and Leases: Be Careful!

Many people just jump into a lease with a wireless credit card terminal without thinking about the consequences. Perhaps their business goes up in smoke or they feel that the equipment no longer serves it's purpose. Any way they cut it they are locked into a lease ( typically 48 months) and they  may be paying anywhere from $60-$100 a month for something they are not even using.  Leases are a big source of income for credit card processors and you trypically end up paying 10-30 times what the equipment is actually worth. Our company offers the lowest prices on wireless credit card terminals so that if you really need one  you can purchase it and then you own the equipment. If you need a wireless credit card terminal and settle for a cheap model you get what you pay for. The king of wireless credit would be a nurit 8020 (shown here) which has superb wireless connectivity and a built in printer.