If you are just getting your small business up and running you are probably wondering how to accept credit card payments – whether your business is online or in a brick and mortar store front, it is more and more the case that customers want to pay using cashless methods. With so many ways to get paid, it might seem overwhelming to try to figure out how to get set up. Thankfully, it is not complicated, but it does depend to some degree on how you expect to be receiving payments. Here are some things to consider.
Will you get paid online or in-person?
If you are planning to accept credit card payments in person, whether in a traditional store or in mobile business setting, then you will need a merchant account. This is a special kind of account which can be set up through a bank or financial institution which acts as a middleman between you and the credit card company, and which transfers money from the credit card to your bank account. There are providers who can offer one-stop shopping to set up a merchant account and supply the necessary equipment.
If you are accepting money online only, then you don’t necessarily need a merchant account because many e-commerce sites are able to transfer money directly. You should know that some online sites may require a merchant account, however.
What equipment do you need?
If you have a single physical location from where you will be conducting business, then you will need what is called a “point-of-sale” or POS system. This will include a credit card swiper, readers from Apple Pay or Android Pay, a barcode scanner, cash register, printer and other peripheral devices. Basically, everything you are used to seeing as pay for something in a traditional store is part of this POS system. This system will usually require a merchant account.
If you will be conducting your business on the road, you can opt for mobile credit card processors or credit card terminals. Mobile processors connect to smart phones or tablets via a dongle attachment, whereas credit card terminals are physical readers that swipe credit cards. These systems may or may not require a merchant account.
How to choose a merchant account?
Once you have figured out whether you need a merchant account, you should ask potential providers about their services to help you choose the right one for you. Questions to ask include whether they can process payments online and offline, whether they offer online fraud protection services, and whether they offer extended customer support. Because merchant accounts will charge fees for processing credit cards, you want to be sure understand the fee structure. Don´t forget to ask about contract length and fees for cancelling. Especially if your business is new and you are still evaluating your needs, it may be worth looking for a merchant account provider that works on a month-to-month basis without cancellation fees.