Small-business owners compete for customer dollars with local peers, websites and mega brands.
While your products, services and prices are important, the payment choices you give a customer can have equal significance on where and what to buy.
Here are the credit card processing tools all small businesses should use:
Mobile payments allow small-business owners to process credit or debit card payments on the very mobile devices they already own, and that customers trust.
Using either a dongle (which plugs into the jack of the mobile device), or a mobile payment provider’s secure app, merchants can input a customer’s payment information for secure processing once a mobile payment merchant account is established.
On top of the low overhead that small-business owners enjoy with mobile payments, customers can choose when and where they want to pay, and receive a receipt via email or text message.
Sales figures from businesses that use mobile payments support the potential benefits the tool provides the bottom line, too. In 2014, Forbes reported that the Girl Scouts of America tripled its average cookie sales soon after it began accepting mobile payments.
Related Article: EMV 101: What You Need to Process Credit Cards Today
Card swipe hardware that’s affixed at the point of sale allows the customer to maintain ownership of his/her credit or debit card throughout the transaction. Because there is less "back and forth" between customer and point-of-sale staff, the tool may also expedite the time required to pay.
In an era where data breaches and identity fraud are common, the ability to self-swipe and keep sensitive information close at hand may reduce customers’ security concerns, especially when they’re buying from a small business for the first time.
Card swipe hardware also allows customers to process their payment as a debit or credit transaction, using a secure pin code or signature. Once the sale is complete, consumers can receive a hard copy of their receipt (which some may prefer to electronic options).
EMV-Compatible Card Terminals
As of October 2015, merchants (except for gas stations) that accept debit and credit cards are expected to accommodate customers who want to use EMV-enabled smart cards.
As of late summer 2015, most debit and credit cards were reissued to include an enhanced security feature, known as an EMV or smart chip. Such cards now include a magnetic strip on the back of a card and a square chip on the front.
Customers can choose how they want to pay, using either the traditional swipe method or the EMV chip. Those who use the chip card feature insert the card into an EMV-enabled terminal and leave it there until the transaction is approved.
Though data suggests that fewer than half of merchants in the United States met the October 2015 EMV deadline (and many still aren't compliant), liability for payment fraud has now shifted away from financial institutions.
Now, the vendor found to offer the lowest level of payment security is liable if a breach occurs. The costs for a fraudulent payment event can include fines, lawsuits, identity theft services and even card reissuance.
Though affixed EMV-enabled terminals can cost hundreds of dollars per unit, according to CreditCards.com, there are alternatives appropriate for small businesses. For example, many mobile payment providers offer EMV-enabled processors for less than $50.
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Payment Gateways for Online Payment
If you sell any product or service online, all online payment transactions should involve a secure third-party payment processor, which may redirect the customer to a payment gateway for secure processing.
In such a transaction, the customer is empowered to visually confirm that certain online security measures, like an https:// prefix in the browser, exist before entering secure payment data for processing. In some cases, your mobile payment provider may also offer secure online payment options.
Regardless of how your customers currently pay, you can improve customer convenience and payment operations by understanding what various credit card processing tools do, and the benefits they offer.
In an era where customers expect to be in control of their purchase decisions and transactions, customers are more likely to be satisfied with their experience when you give them more credit card payment choices.