Why All Professionals Must Accept Credit Cards

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, October 04, 2012 at 12:56 PM with 1 comments

photo of credit card logos on retail store in ChicagoWhere you’ll rarely find a retail merchant who doesn’t accept credit cards, you’ll find plenty of professionals – from painters to physicians – who do not. Whenever I ask one why they don’t, whatever reason they give me is almost predictable to me, especially as I am a small business person who didn’t always accept credit cards. Despite this, I look back on my decision to do so as a wise one. Rather than counter common reasons, I’ll present it by benefits, as well as how to decide how to accept them.

Credit – AND Debit Cards

Today most all debit cards are branded with a credit card company logo, so automatically when you accept credit cards, you are able to accept debit cards too. This is not only good to know as some people only have a debit card rather than a credit card, but also for the various “sources” of debit cards, including:

  • Flexible Spending and Health Savings Accounts – Most FSA or HAS accounts provide their insured customers with a debit card, and not checks, so the only other way to draw from the account is to pay in cash or check, then submit a claim for reimbursement. As a result, patients would prefer to pay by debit card and not have to front the money and wait for it to be reimbursed to them.
  • Unemployment Benefits – Some states, including Illinois, pay unemployment benefits by addingto the balance of a debit card rather than sending a check. Thus, this may be the best – of not only – way for someone to pay you.
  • Gift Cards – Just because it was given as a gift it doesn’t mean it has to be spent that way.
  • PayPal – You can draw on your PayPal account balance by debit card to a merchant or even at an ATM, and many people choose this rather than transferring the funds to their bank account.

Credit Card Fees Vs. Getting Paid Sooner

The fees, the fees! Yes, credit card processing involves fees, where depositing a check usually doesn’t. The best argument I can give in justifying the fees is getting paid sooner when someone pays with a credit card than with cash or a check. Why? In order to pay by cash or check you need to have the money on hand (not considering overdraft protection on your account or just overdrawing your account) where a credit card, providing they have credit available, someone will let you process it right away or sooner than the terms you have offered them. If there is any delay, it may be to wait until after a billing cycle closes so the charge appears on a statement in 2 months as compared to the next one.

My personal experience with my Web consulting business has shown me that clients who pay by credit card typically pay me in HALF the time of my terms with them, which are net 30. Some of them have asked me to pay them when I generate the invoice. For me, that’s huge!

Credit Card Fees Vs. Not Getting Paid At All

Earlier I mentioned I didn’t always accept credit cards. The catalyst for me was when I presented a proposal to an existing client for a new Web site project. They said they didn’t want to proceed right away as they did not have the cash on hand, but if they could charge it they could. I wanted the project to happen and I also realized that at some point I would have to accept credit cards, and there’s no time like the present! By the end of the day I was setup to process cards and ran theirs, and the project began the very next day.

The Magic Numbers For Determining Credit Card Fees

There are many ways to process credit cards, and I will get to that next. Before you inquire you need to know 2 key inputs to how credit card fees are calculated – the number of transactions per month and the average transaction dollar amount.

Any processor that can provide customized rate plans will use these values to determine what they will charge. As you can guess, the higher these numbers are the less your fees may be. Where you may be able to accurately calculate these values, others may not, especially if you have never processed credit cards before. If not, you can survey your customers to see if they’d prefer to pay you by credit card. If you still have no idea – no worries, as that can help narrow the choices for you initially.

Choosing A Credit Card Processor

Below is a list of some credit card processors and is not meant to be an exhaustive list. In addition to these, talk to colleagues or other business owners for ideas on who they may use.

  • PayPal – The pioneer in person-to-person is ideal for business as well, especially if you don’t know your transaction volume, or if you do and it is sporadic. PayPal charges per transaction only and has no monthly fees, though the per transaction fee may be higher than others. PayPal offers Web online payments as well as a smartphone card reader.
  • Square – The newcomer introduced the smartphone card reader and now others are adding it to their feature set like PayPal and Groupon. Square offers per transaction as well as flat monthly fees. Soon you will be able to buy a Square at Starbucks stores.
  • QuickBooks - Intuit’s QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online integrates credit card processing right into their software and Web site functionality. This reduces extra steps – and vendors – and provides a 1-stop shopping with a quick turnaround on setup. Their fees may be higher than what you can get from a bank, and they do charge a monthly fee even if there are no charges for a month.
  • Your Bank - The bank where you do your business banking may go the extra mile to keep credit card processing under the same roof as your bank accounts. They can provide custom rates by volume and can waive setup fees. They will charge a monthly fee but it could vary by volume. I’d suggest looking into all options first and presenting all of this to your bank to see if they can match or beat it.

Note no matter which way you can start, you can always change if your volume changes.

I’d welcome your feedback and comments on this, and even if you’re still not convinced to accept credit cards.

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This is from The Hot Iron, a journal on business and technology by Mike Maddaloni, Founder and President of Web consulting firm Dunkirk Systems, LLC.

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