Are You Accepting Credit Cards?

How Do You Compare Merchant Service Providers?

Accepting credit cards will improve your jewelry business cash flow and increase sales. People will make impulsive purchases if they know you accept credit cards. Customers will see you as more professional because you are making it easier for them to shop with you. But how do you compare merchant service providers? What questions do you ask?

The first place you should check when you're ready to accept credit cards is with your bank. You already have your business checking account there. It's a friendly place to start asking questions and they will be very patient with you.

Then go online and fill out some applications to accept credit cards. Get all your quotes in writing and then sit down and compare them all side by side.

What Are the Fees to Accept Credit cards?

What monthly fees do you pay to accept credit cards? Compare discount rates and transaction fees. This may be the most confusing part. Some companies offer you a smaller discount rate but then they charge you a higher transaction fee. Then there are the companies that charge a higher discount rate because you are a small business but then the transaction fees are lower.

The best way to compare these is to do some number crunching. Take your average sales number and plug it into the formula to see which is the best way to go. Don't just go for the one that offers you the lower discount rate because if you do a lot of smaller sales the transactions fees start to mount up.

What monthly fees do you pay to accept credit cards? What are you getting for this monthly fee? Do you have access to your account online? Will the monthly fee be more if you receive a printed statement? Is there a cell phone charge because your swipe machine processes transaction without being connected to a phone line. If you lease a machine do you pay a higher monthly fee because the machine will be replaced if it's defective?

Are deposits posted to your bank account the next business day or do they keep your money for a week? Make sure the sale (deposit into your account) and the fees (subtractions from your account) are separated on your statement. It makes it much easier for you to do your bank reconciliation at the end of the month.

How Long is the Contract & Can You Break It?

How long is the contract? Are you locked in for one year and then you renew annually or are you stuck with this merchant account for a long time? Find out how much it will cost to break the contract before the renewal date. Some companies won't let you break the contract and that means you still have to pay the monthly fee until the contract expires.

Should You Buy or Lease a Machine?

Should you buy or lease a machine? The cheapest route to accepting credit cards is to just use the 800 number and call in every sale to get your authorization number. But, I like having a swipe machine with a printer. This way the customer has a receipt and you have a copy of the receipt with their signature authorizing the sale. Some machines will give you a print out after it has auto batched at the end of the day.

Leasing a machine to accept credit cards has its advantages. If the machine breaks they will replace it. If technology changes and your machine is a dinosaur they will upgrade you to a newer model for a small fee. Sometimes your paper for your printer is covered in this fee and they send you supplies when you run out.

If you decide to purchase a machine to accept credit cards find out how much the merchant provider charges. Find out what machines and models they support and can program for you. Sometimes you can find a used machine on ebay at a great price but make sure your merchant provider supports that type of machine.

Is Customer Service Available 24/7

Also find out the customer service hours of operation. How many operators are there? Can you talk to someone seven days a week 24 hours a day? If you are at a jewelry party and you are having problems accepting credit cards you want to talk to someone at merchant services NOW! You don't want to sit on hold for 40 minutes. Your customer will not be happy and you just might loose the sale.

My merchant service provider charges a little higher fees for me to accept credit cards, but whenever I call for help I always get a friendly, knowledgeable person who can solve my problems. I've been down the cheap road with merchant service providers who have very poor customer service. I've spent more time on hold and frustrated then I care to remember.

Finally find out what credit cards you can accept. Some merchant service providers only accept MasterCard & Visa. If you want to accept debit cards, Discover Card, or American Express you may have to pay more fees. It all boils down to what services you want to provide your customer. I recommend starting out with MasterCard & Visa. These are the credit cards most people will be using.