How to Set Up your Business to Accept Credit Cards?

by : Joe Almedia

So you've decided to start accepting credit cards. Congratulations! Accepting credit cards is a great way to increase your sales and to get payments much more quickly than you would have if you were sending invoices to clients.

But your work doesn't end with the decision to accept credit cards--here's what you need to know about how credit card payment processing works.

There are basically three ways to set your company up to accept credit cards: through a bank, through an independent sales organization, sometimes called a credit card broker, or, in the case of Discover and American Express, with the credit card company directly.

If you're a very small business you might first talk to the bank that has your business account and see if they can make you a deal. Banks are sometimes picky about who they will give merchant accounts to, however, and you'll probably get a better deal from an independent sales organization.

Costs for setup and regular fees for payment processing vary widely depending on the service provider and the amount and value of sales you are making. The rate you pay per transaction is known as the discount rate, and it can usually range from 1.5 percent to 3 percent, depending on how the charge was made. There's also a per-use fee that's usually not more than 20 cents that's tacked on to each transaction.

All of this sound like it is costing you a lot of money to accept credit cards. Shopping around for the best rate and lowest fees you can find is certainly in your best interest.

You'll also want to check on any additional fees you might incur such as an application fee, annual usage fee, statement fees, Internet processing fees...the list of potential fees you might get socked with goes on and on.

It is vital that you do your homework and make sure you understand all the fees you will be assessed and what they are for before you sign up with a company.

And since you're giving them your hard-earned money, see if you get anything from them. Some companies have free equipment programs so that you can get your credit card processing machines at no cost, which is certainly an advantage.

There are a lot of things to think about when you begin to accept credit cards. Learn all you can about the companies you are considering working with so you can make an informed decision.