Payment Solutions

For both retailers and consumers, the options for payment have continued to increase. Each new offering gives more flexibility and meets different needs. For consumers, payment can now be by credit card, debit card, ach payments and check processing. For merchant accounts, credit card processing service can be tailored to match both customer needs and specific business demands.

The general categories of payment solutions are:

Internet Credit Card Processing – One of the most popular options, merchants tie in directly to a payments gateway over the Internet. This can be accomplished “hands-off,” with the customer essentially entering all the information themselves.

e-Commerce Credit Card Processing – A type of online processing, this solution also includes transactions for subscriptions, ach transfers, setting up accounts and a host of other secure payment solutions. Third parties often act as intermediaries in the chain. PayPal, for example, can accept a credit card on someone’s behalf with just an email address.

Online Credit Card Processing – This usually means one of the two methods mentioned above, but it refers to the online payment processing of transactions, whether or not they occur at a website. So-called, “virtual terminals” are communications that run over the Internet and can be linked to cash registers or other devices. The card is validated and the transaction recorded over the web.  Keep in mind that although online credit card processing has done wonders for businesses around the work, it has also made secure payments more challenging than ever.

Retail Credit Card Processing – Retail payment solutions started with the traditional “swipe at check out” found throughout the retail environment. Payments are made more secure when the card is physically present and a signature can be obtained. This also keeps costs lower because of less risk of fraud.

Phone Credit Card Processing – Designed for phone orders, this allows customers to pay bills and purchase items with a phone call. It found use with infomercials, catalog sales and has spawned an entire industry with the Shopping Channel.  It pre-dates the Internet but mirrors some of the advantages.

A second type of processing uses smart phones to take credit cards (see next section).

Mobile Credit Card Processing – This newer way to take credit cards finds use when business is transacted outside of a retail location. It can use a mobile phone to scan and register the purchase, or devices can be customized for the purpose. Delivery services first exploited this option by simultaneously tracking packages and taking payment at pick-up or delivery.

Wireless Credit Card Processing – This can be used in mobile or fixed situations. Whenever it is inconvenient to have a wired data connection, a secure link can be created using radio frequencies. Examples range from temporary retail setups (fairs, conventions, vending) to fixed locations where wireless is easier to use. One advantage is that devices can be added to a secure network whenever needed and removed when not.

Restaurant Credit Card Processing – Credit cards are a popular option for diners as well as establishments. Customers appreciate the convenience, while management knows tabs are higher and tracking is easier with plastic. There’s also an advantage in security – less cash means less temptation for employees. For busy locations, cards can be run tableside with wireless devices.

What’s the Best Credit Card Processing for my Business?

With the ability to customize payment processing services, entrepreneurs are finding not only the ability to match their current needs, but generate new ideas and open new areas. Those who never considered online or catalog sales can start processing credit cards through their websites – turning them into virtual stores.  The same merchant who once thought in terms of monthly billing for off-location services can now think about mobile payment solutions and offer their customers credit card processing services as an attractive part of their offering. Gift and loyalty cards are now within reach of small businesses. In short, the expansion of services is good for business.

Convenience has a value. Payment processing solutions that meet your customers where they are, not only leverages the convenience for them, but gives you control over cash flow. Immediate payment verification changes the landscape for businesses used to a cycle of billing (and re-billing) customers.

With merchant processing solutions abounding, it’s now up to you to decide which of methods fits the way you do business. So the best payment solutions may actually be a mix that includes mobile, fixed and an online payment solution.

The most desirable will be a combination of what matches your business needs and costs. They start with a credit card merchant account as a basic, entry level requirement. Businesses will get merchant account functionality and then add gateway services to run transactions. Equipment is often leased or purchased outright for a low initial cost. Companies have an interest in keeping you in their network and will often offer great deals on different payment solutions.

Before you shop, know what’s available, your expected sales volume, average per sale amount, and how you’d like to run cards. This will allow your service company to fit your needs – lowering fees in one area and making them up in another. There is no single best solution, but the variety of credit card payment options works to your advantage– you are no longer trapped into one method.