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Are you frustrated with your full and complete understanding of your credit card processing services and all that you’re paying for?  Don’t feel bad since you are like the majority of merchants I come in contact with.  Unfortunately, it’s quite often by design that you are pretty much kept in the dark about your merchant services.  Hopefully, this site, my email course and frequently posted articles, will help bring clarity and enlightenment.

I’m assuming that since you are on my site, that you are either a merchant, or accountant  that has a desire to learn more about credit card processing.  Hopefully, your visit today won’t be disappointing.  Take some time to read a few articles but, most importantly, fill in the form at the right and subscribe to my FREE email course.  This course was originally being sold nationally, on this site, for $47.  It received great acclaim from merchants for its thoroughness and great displeasure from those in the industry…for its thoroughness.  I felt that offering it for FREE would open up the opportunity for more hard working business owners to expand their knowledge.  By the time you’re done with the course, you’ll know more than probably 80% of the reps contacting you.  The easily digestible lessons are spread out over approximately a month so as to not be overwhelming.  I’m confident you will find the knowledge gathered to be extremely helpful so why not take it for a spin.

It’s unfortunate that in the world of credit card processing, there are numerous reps that are….well, let me just say, less than ethical.  Typically, it’s not their fault as they have had less than stellar training.  The bottom line is this….all processors have the same cost so, consequently, every one of them could, theoretically offer the same pricing to you.  But, what happens when a rep walks thru your door….”I’ll bet I can offer you better rates than you’re currently paying“.  They mostly focus on rates, don’t they?  Sound familiar?  Well, honestly, it’s not just about rates and, as a merchant, that shouldn’t be your focus either.  Ask lot’s of questions (you’ll find some good ideas in the course) of those trying to sell you and, in addition, be cognizant of how many questions they are asking you about your business and how you transact business.  Are they truly interested in offering and providing “solutions” or are they primarily interested in just “selling” you?  My success in this business has always been by developing, and maintaining, mutually rewarding relationships.  That’s what you should be looking for and hopefully, you’ll discover information here that will be beneficial in that endeavor.  Remember, Benjamin Franklin once said…”An investment in knowledge, pays the best interest“.

Keep in mind that while I will never actively solicit your processing business here. I am, however, available to answer any questions that you may have regarding your current relationship.  And, if after spending some time here, you desire my assistance with your credit card processing needs, I would welcome the opportunity.

I have relationships with several merchant services providers and will place your business with the most appropriate entity that will provide exactly what your needs require and do so in a totally transparent manner.  Additionally, I can help by providing other business solutions for increasing your sales and, subsequently, your bottom line.

While this site is primarily about merchant services, you will frequently find articles posted discussing other marketing and business ideas that I have found to be beneficial to business owners.

So, with that said, welcome and thanks for coming by.   If you have any specific questions or comments, please post them here.  If there’s a business related type topic that you’d like to see covered, please let me know.

To Your Continued Success

P.S.  If you’ve found the content on this site, or in my e-course, to be helpful or enlightening, please share it with others utilizing the helpful buttons at the bottom of each article.  You may also subscribe to the RSS button below and add us to your feed burner, so that you will automatically be notified when new content is posted.  Thank You!

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Posted in business services, credit card processing, marketing, merchant accounts, merchant services, Visa and MasterCard | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Merchants May be due a Refund from Visa/MasterCard

How much of the $6 billion class action lawsuit against Visa/MasterCard are you entitled to?  This suit has been approved but it will likely be a lengthy process before payments are actually made, if ever. As a merchant that accepts credit/debit cards for payment of your goods and services, you’ve likely thought that you were paying too much for this privilege.  Well, obviously, you’re not alone and, in fact, you may be owed a refund.  On December 13, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York approved a Class Settlement among merchants, Visa, MasterCard and other Defendants in a class-action lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that merchants paid excessive fees for accepting Visa and MasterCard because of an alleged conspiracy among the Defendants.

Here’s some of the basics but I wouldn’t start getting too excited just yet imagining what you’ll spend your windfall on.  Settlement with merchants is currently being appealed. Claim forms are not available at this time and will not be available until after all appeals are resolved. And you know how long those processes could take so you’ll just need to stay in the loop.  You’ll find information on how to do that further into this article.

The total amount of the first cash fund is in the amount of $6.05 billion.  The suit states that any person, business or other entity that accepted Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card in the U.S. at any time between the dates of January 1, 2004 and November 28, 2012, may be eligible to receive a payment from this large fund.  There is a second fund of $1.2 billion that only addresses certain merchant types and for only an eight month period beginning July 29,2013.  So, obviously, this pertains to a much smaller merchant group.

Additionally, the Settlement requires Visa and MasterCard to modify some of their rules for merchants that accept their cards.  For example, you may now charge a surcharge to customers that want to use plastic to help you offset some of your costs.  But honestly, how many of you will really be willing to possibly lose business by doing so?

Now here’s a heads up for you.  Your current provider or even some independent outside third-party may make contact with you stating that they will offer you a “Settlement Recovery Service”.  YOU DO NOT NEED THIS SERVICE!!!  Now, if you’re feeling burdened already with your current workload, then maybe it could be of benefit for you.  Typically there is no up-front fees and they operate on a contingency basis.  However members can get NO-COST help from The Class Administrator and Class Counsel during the claims-filing period.

More information on the Settlement can be found by visiting the only Court-approved website www.pavmentcardsettlementcom.  And, of course, as always, if you have any specific questions for me, you know how to make contact.  Thanks for reading.

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Compare Current versus Past Merchant Statements

Happy mid-May to you.  Hopefully where you are, the weather is in full blown spring mode….unfortunately, here in west Michigan, we’re still experiencing 30-40 degree temps at night with highs only in the 50’s and 60’s….YUK!  Usually by this time of year, we’ve been out on the boat several times and my girls have already been in Lake Michigan….not this year!  Anyway, I’m not writing to give you a weather update.  So, let me make this brief so you can get back to what you were doing.

As you may know, every April and October Visa and MC make adjustments to Interchange Rates.  And, since this is the baseline of all your rates, any increases can change your Discount Rate that you are paying your payment processor for the “privilege” of accepting plastic in your business.  So, the purpose of this brief article is simply to encourage you to take a look at your merchant services processing statement from, oh let’s say March or maybe even February.  Then take a look at your April statement that you likely just recently received.

Here’s what you’re looking for.  Every statement will have a “comments” or “important information” section where your provider will inform you of a variety of things.  This is the spot where they will let you know that your rates may be increasing due to Interchange adjustments.  So, see if there was any indication of this on your February and March statements in anticipation of April adjustments.  If so, then you want to thoroughly check your actual rates to see how much and what adjustments were made to your plan.  Sometimes processors won’t make any moves with every interchange rate hike and will simply absorb small upticks.  However, some will also utilize this semi-annual phenomenon to pass it on or pass it on plus some for themselves.  What I’m getting at here is that you absolutely need to know what is going on, what your rates are and how you are being charged.

Now, let’s say that you did see some upticks in your rates.  Was it across the board on all types of transactions that you receive or was it adjustments only on certain card/transaction types?  Then, once you get a grasp on exactly what adjustments are being made, decide if it’s worth sticking with the current provider based on what type and quality of services you are receiving from them.  Personally I have a very high retention rate with my merchants simply because I take care of them and am responsive to their needs.  So, even if there is a need to pass on slight increases, they don’t mind because I take care of them.  Plus, I’m always proactive with them in looking for and providing other valuable services to benefit their business.

So, get on it and don’t delay.  And, if I can be of any assistance, you know how to reach me.

Thanks for reading!

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Restaurants are at risk

As a professional in the credit card processing industry, it always amazes how many restaurants are still processing payments using old technology.  Restauranteurs are subjecting themselves to potentially huge risks.  How many other businesses do you visit that, when it comes time to pay for your goods, you hand your credit card over to them and they disappear with it?  I can’t think of any other business than the restaurant industry.  Virtually, with any other type of business, your credit card really never leaves your site as your transaction is processed.  And, in many cases these days, a customer facing terminal is used where the card never leaves your possession.

With as many data breaches that happen these days, you would think that merchants of all types would be much more cautious.  The risks are huge when you consider the possible consequences.  There’s the loss of confidence in your customers, huge fines and possibly even the risk of having to close your business altogether.

Whenever I dine out and see that wireless handheld terminals aren’t being used for pay-at-the-table, I ask to speak with the manager.  I explain the risk that they are potentially exposing their customers to and their business.  In some cases it gets their attention and an appointment is set for further discussion.  Unfortunately, in most cases, they just blow it off as not a big deal.  I say “unfortunately” because nowadays, we are seeing that more data breaches are being seen in smaller regional type businesses than there are with the major chains.  The bad guys know that there are easy pickings to be had with these type merchants and less risk of being caught.

The current system of restaurant payments is among the most antiquated in the payment universe.   Consider how it works in the greatest majority of cases.  It tends to be a four step process:  guests give their card to the server who then takes it out of sight to the terminal, performs the swipe function, brings the the check back to the guest who adds a tip, and then the server has to enter the tip information.  Don’t you think it would be much faster and safer on all parties to have a methodology for paying at the table?  Most restaurant owners feel that their employees are trustworthy and that there is no way they would do anything improper with the customers card and don’t see the need for the handheld terminals.  Risky thinking in my opinion.  All it would take is one compromise and the word would get out and spread like wildfire.

There are numerous ways that a compromise could potentially take place with my card once it is out of sight.  For example, there are very small devices that a server could potentially have and hide on their belt, under their apron.  On the way to the credit card terminal, they simply swipe the card thru the device and immediately the card data is sent to the bad guys.  Within minutes, your card details can be used to make unauthorized purchases.  Doesn’t that make you a bit nervous?  While it is not as widely publicized as the the big breaches, it happens more frequently than is made known to the public.  The next time you dine out and have to pass your card to a server that trots off with it, why not ask to see the manager and find out what they are doing to protect your privacy.

In Europe, wireless table-side payments activated by the server and concluded by the consumer have been the standard method of payment processing for years.  The US is way behind in the restaurant payments methods as well as utilizing EMV technology that I’ve written about before.  Maybe the soon to come EMV technology that will be coming to the US will be the catalyst for more table-side checkouts in restaurants.

There is low-cost table top technology that is soon going to be seen in more restaurants of all types.  They improve the guest experience with a sleek, well-designed device that can be useful in creating a scrolling video menu, self-serve ordering capability, as well as the ability to pay whenever the guest wants to.  These devices can connect diners to the kitchen for ordering purposes, the bar for drink orders and other uses.  How many times have you sat patiently waiting for your server to notice that you are ready to place your drink or food order?

These types of terminals are connected to the internet so they can pipe in other useful information like movie times, nearby shopping destinations, news feeds and more.  For a small fee, the restaurant guest can access games on the terminal, take a picture with the terminal’s camera, log on to Facebook and download it to their page. Not only will this technology enhance the guests experience, it can potentially be an additional revenue center for the restaurant.  You are able to survey your guests, on the spot and provide opportunities for them to enroll in your loyalty program.

The possibilities for revenue enhancement are virtually endless utilizing this new technology and the enhanced protection for the restauranteur is priceless.  If you’re in the restaurant industry, you owe it to yourself to do some more research.

Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for more payment processing articles that will be of benefit to your business.

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Posted in Business Management, business services, credit card processing, merchant accounts, merchant services, Technology, Visa and MasterCard | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Credit Card Data Breaches~~EMV~~Merchant Services

As a business owner, have you heard the terminology,  EMV?  If not you will likely hear it soon as the spring influx of new merchant services reps hit the street and come knocking on your door.  The purpose of this article is to bring you information on this technology so that you are on top of your game.

As defined by Wikipedia, EMV stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, a global standard for inter-operation of integrated circuit cards (IC cards or “chip cards”) and IC card capable Point of Sale (POS) terminals and automated teller machines (ATM’s) for authenticating credit and debit card transactions.  EMV is a joint effort with the three entities to ensure the security and global interoperability of chip-based payment cards.

OK, so now you know what it is but what effect does it have on you and your business?  Certainly you’re aware of the huge data breach at Target during the holiday shopping season.  And maybe, to a lesser extent, you have heard of the Neiman Marcus data breach as well that dates back as far as July of 2013.  Estimates indicate that at least 110 million consumers were affected by these hacks.  Obviously, simply because of the sheer size of these data breaches and the businesses involved, it made headline news.  However, I’ll bet that you weren’t aware that your business is more at risk of being hacked than these large business entities.  A recent study conducted by Trustwave revealed that 92% of all data compromises originated with level 4 merchants.  Level 4 merchants are those that process under 1,000,000 transactions a year and have fewer than 20,000 eCommerce transactions  annually.  I would venture a guess that since you’re reading this article, this describes your business.

Data security is a very important topic that you absolutely need to be aware of and do all you can to protect your customers information.  Consider the risk to your business if a compromise occurs:

  • Potential loss of customers
  • Loss of reputation
  • Liabilities from bank fines
  • Potential litigation
  • Card association fines and penalties
  • Inability to accept future credit card payments
  • Lost merchandise due to fraud

For sure, you will and do need to make certain that you are fully compliant, currently, with PCI/DSS standards.  And, eventually, you will need to adopt EMV technology in your business.  But here’s my word of caution to you:  as of right now, the mandate for the implementation of EMV equipped terminals in your business is October of 2015.  However, you will have reps coming thru your door trying to tell you that this is an urgent matter and needs to be addressed immediately or “you will be at risk”.  Don’t fall for it!!!  Certainly, eventually you will need to adopt this new EMV technology into your business and there will be a cost (i.e. new EMV POS terminals). The benefits are great in that since when you are fully compliant, fraud risk shifts to the your merchant services provider.

So, in closing just know that increased data security and standards are valuable discussions to have with both your current provider and any processor trying to attract your business.  As the “deadline” for implementation approaches, don’t be surprised if it gets pushed back again.  The US is one of the few remaining markets that doesn’t use chip and pin technology for point-of-sale transactions.  It’s a major task and expensive proposition for banks (issuing expensive new chip embedded  cards) and merchants (replacing all their terminals) but, it is coming.  Watch for future article on this topic as I strive to keep you informed.

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Merchant Surcharges for Credit Card Transactions

For those of you that missed it, check out THIS ARTICLE which was recently posted on Yahoo.  This is not the first of these types of articles and to many, it may seem to be a bit complex.  So, let me try to break it down for you here a bit.

There have been many class action type suits filed against the major credit card brands with the basis of those suits being a call for lower Interchange Rates.  The brands, however, as you might imagine, have argued that the current level of fees are appropriate based on all the costs and risks associated with card issuance and consumers usage. This battle of “fees” has gone on for the better part of a decade and now, the three major credit card companies, as an option, are allowing merchants to charge a “surcharge” to customers paying with plastic.

The article referenced above pertains primarily to the recent suit against American Express where they have conceded and will now allow merchants to assess a “surcharge” to their customers.  However, this surcharge must be the same as when customers pay with any of the other card brands as well.  This “deal” comes less than a week after a judge approved a settlement that included a similar change of rules in a huge class-action lawsuit against Visa and MasterCard, billed as the largest private antitrust settlement in American history. The changes clear the way for vendors of all types to institute essentially a two-tier pricing system — charging more at the register to shoppers who pay by credit than to those who use debit cards or cash.

In some states, you may have seen this situation, mostly at gas stations, that offer a “discount for cash”.  Merchants are continually looking for ways to improve their bottom line.  Many, unfortunately, are enticed by some fast talking merchant services rep that promises “lower rates” only to discover later that they seem to be paying more.  So now, with this new development, you’ll be able to charge more for purchases made with a credit card….but will you?  You stand the risk, of course, of driving customers away and isn’t it already an ongoing challenge to increase sales?

So, what’s your best course of action?  As you may already know from other articles I have written on the topic, that I have always been a strong proponent of transparent, Interchange Plus pricing for better cost controls.  But, even in addition to that, I have always encouraged merchants to do all they could do to encourage their customers to pay with cash, or at the very least, with their debit cards.  It used to be, before the Durbin Amendment, that pinned debits always incurred lower fees.  Now, however, swiping debit cards will be, for the most part, your lowest cost method of payments other than cash.

So now, as a merchant, the questions you have to ask yourself regarding improving your bottom-line are these:

  • Am I currently processing based on the most transparent form of pricing?
  • Do I begin surcharging my customers that pay with plastic and stand the risk of losing business?
  • Do I entice buyers with a slight discount when paying with cash?
  • Do I unplug my pinpad and begin simply swiping all plastic type transactions (which will only benefit you if you are priced appropriately)?

Simply put, nobody cares more about your business and profitability than you.  It’s imperative that you make some decisions regarding this cost center in your business because it’s quite obvious the card brands aren’t really on your side.

I hope this article has been helpful and ask that you would forward this to others that could benefit as well.

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