Your 5 Step Guide To Taking Card Payments

It is a competitive world out there, yet over 80% of Independent Businesses still process card transactions through their bank. Is this necessary for you? At Annecto we want to address that question today, along with several other important ones that we’ve been sent since starting out. Advice that will help when thinking about starting to take payments, or indeed switching providers. 

1. I’m looking to accept cards for the first time, what’s the best solution for me?

Initially, there are two simple choices to be made:

a) You need to look at whether your trade is one that expects to process the occasional card transaction, such as a plumber, or

b) Whether processing card transactions will be fundamental to your business. Deciding this will set you off in the right direction.

If it’s the former, then a ‘pay-as-you-go’ facility would work best for you.  This is a Card Reader that links to your Smartphone and will cost you a small set up fee, typically £60 with transactions charges in the region of 2.75%, but you are not tied into any contract.

If it’s the latter, and you expect to be processing hundreds of card payments a day, then you would need a Chip & Pin terminal. There are a variety of options, contracts, and prices available here which we will cover a little later.

2. Which Bank should I choose?

It’s a common misconception that you have to choose a bank to process your credit & debit card transactions and, in fact, they will encourage you to do this when opening your business account with them. In actual fact, there are a number of Independent companies out there who can probably provide you with a better value proposition and much better rates, such as Annecto.

So, don’t just buy on price.  Find out what service they will offer:

a) Do they have one point of contact for all your questions?

b) Is someone local who can be on hand to install your terminal?

c) Is there is someone to assist you with your business moving forward and growing?

Don’t just settle for the first provider that comes along. Like buying insurance, shop around and make sure you are being looked after.

3. How do I choose the right terminal for my business?

There is a wide range of options out there, but let’s break them down into three distinct types:

a) Countertop

b) Portable

c) Mobile

The vast majority of retail businesses will need a Countertop terminal that sits by the check-out and is plugged into the power supply and telephone line.  If there is only one point of sale, the till, then this is your option.

Hospitality businesses such as restaurants/hotels will need a portable terminal whose base is plugged into a telephone socket whilst the actual terminal can be carried to the table – it connects to the base unit via Bluetooth, just as a cordless phone at home would.

Mobile terminals can used anywhere a mobile signal exists and are ideal for deliveries, market traders or anyone who is truly mobile. This is becoming more and more prevalent as businesses change. Even now, retailers are providing staff with tablets to aid in the reduction of queuing time.

Make sure that whichever terminal you chose, it can work on a standard telephone line and a Broadband line plus it can also process Contactless transactions as this will ‘future proof’ your terminal.

4. What do I need to watch out for when choosing my supplier?

Watch out for hidden fees and misleading contracts

My biggest frustrations in this industry are the hidden fees, the lack of transparency and the poor advice given to Independent businesses. That’s one of the main reasons for setting up my own business. I saw the flaws and I wanted to change things.

I’ve seen multiple companies claim that they can fix or cap your prices for the duration of the contract, they can’t!  If you read the small print in their contracts or the detail on their web site then they also state that they can’t, this is poor selling at best, miss-selling at worst.

Another common complaint is to do with contract length.  All banks and independent companies will ask you to sign into a contract for 24-48 months which is perfectly OK, so long as you know what you are signing into.

With any standard lease or rental contract for any product you purchase, you would expect to pay up the remainder of the contract if you cancelled early.  E.g. Car Lease / PCP plans or Mobile Phone Contracts.

Do not sign with any company that will charge you a cancellation fee on top of the remaining rentals.  Ask what happens when the contract expires, are you tied into a secondary (or rollover) period? If so, be very wary of these.

5. What is PCI DSS?

These are the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards that Visa & MasterCard mandate that any business accepting card payments has to adhere to. These are extremely important to work with and cannot be ignored. There is plenty of information out there so get informed before you go down the road of taking payments. If you need advice, call us at Annecto.

Don’t forget, ask your current / future provider to assist you in becoming compliant with these regulations, if they can’t or won’t then you may wish to consider a different supplier.

I feel as though I’ve painted a picture of an industry lacking in professional advice and poor service, which is quite deliberate as sadly, that is the truth. 

At Annecto we are looking to become one of the founding members of a new Association made up of Card Payment Professionals, plus we are backing the campaign to provide support for Independent Retail (www.independentretail.co.uk). Please contact us if you need help or advice.

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