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Ways to Pay: Credit Card Processing Tools All Small Businesses Should Use

business.com editorial staff
business.com editorial staff

Small business owners compete with their peers for customer dollars. Here are credit card processing tools you should be using.

  • When you are shopping for a credit card processor, be mindful of things such as costs, payment method coverage and customer support.
  • All small businesses should use tools such as mobile payments and swipe hardware.
  • The number of payment choices you provide your customers can make or break your business.

While your products, services and prices are important, the payment choices you give a customer can have equal significance in where and what they buy.  

What to look for in a credit card processor

According to CNET, you should pay attention to these things when you are shopping for a credit card processor:

  • Cost. When purchasing a credit card processor, be mindful of not only the upfront costs but also the fees you must pay over time.

  • Payment method coverage. Not all credit card processors are created equal. Make sure you are purchasing a credit card processor that covers payment methods of all kinds. If not, you may deter certain customers from patronizing your business.

  • Customer support. When you own a credit card processor, at some point, you will need to contact customer support. Be sure that you are purchasing a credit card processor that has good customer service. Look for a credit card processor that offers support 24/7, 365.

  • Interoperability. Additionally, for ease of use, you will need to connect your credit card processor to your point of sale system. However, the type of point of sale system you choose depends on your unique needs as a business.

  • Fraud prevention and security tools. If you want to maintain a credit card processor over time, you must make sure that it comes with a good level of fraud protection as well as tools to help keep the system secure.

Below are the credit card processing tools all small businesses should use.

Mobile payments

Mobile payments allow small business owners to process credit or debit card payments on their mobile devices.

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 get 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.

Swipe hardware

Card swipe hardware that's affixed at the point of sale allows the customer to maintain ownership of their credit or debit card throughout the transaction. Because there is less "back and forth" between the 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

Debit and credit cards now 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 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.

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. 

Image Credit: cyano66 / Getty Images
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