Monday, February 20, 2012

Mobile wallets' outlook

When I blogged about mobile payments last week, I brought up the concept of a mobile wallet. Mobile wallets are the future of retail payments, but you wont get to use one any time soon!
Why mobile wallets?
The idea behind a mobile wallet is that a customer will pay for their purchase at the point of sale with the cellular phone, rather than a credit card. Because over 90% of the US population uses a mobile phone, arguably a higher percentage than people whom even own a credit card, a mobile wallet solution boasts a potential existing user base of nearly everyone. Unlike trying to invent some payment technology from the ground up, which has worked fewer times than I have fingers on 1 hand, a mobile wallet will capitalize on existing technologies and existing products that are widely in use.

How a mobile wallet should work:
This is one area there are going to be many answers for. I will take a purely consumer approach to it. The mobile wallet must work as follows:
  • Must allow me to use any payment method I chose (Credit card, bank account, paypal, etc.)
  • Must allow me to use my existing card and bank account.
  • Must work with my existing phone (1 software installation is acceptable).
  • Must be just as fast or faster than using my credit card.
  • Must provide me additional security in the event I lose my phone.
This is the bare minimum for a functional mobile wallet. Note that the first 3 features stress independence from the company that supports the mobile wallet, and being able to use multiple methods to pay. This is extremely important, as there’s no chance in getting me or anyone to change card issuers, banks or anything else just because your company offers a mobile wallet. The mobile wallet must be independent of any requirement to use a specific card issuer, bank, or other service provider.

Where’s my mobile wallet?
As of writing this article, no company has come close to implementing a working mobile wallet solution. We’re going to hear stories from a number of companies on how close their mobile wallet solutions are, but realistically there is an enormous amount of work before these become reality. Not only does a very intuitive software program need to be created for a person to load onto their phone, but retailers must have software / hardware that allows them to interact with the phone, and retailers must have some connection to the wallet platform through their credit card or other payment processor, more on this later…
One idea that is beginning to rear its ugly head, is that cellular phone companies can bypass credit card companies and banks and simply add a charge to a customer’s phone bill. While this is a fantastic idea that would eliminate one of the biggest hurdles in the entire system, there’s no possible way it’s going to work given the current customer sentiment towards cellular carriers and cellular infrastructure. Cellular companies are neither operating under a business model to grant revolving credit like a bank, nor one that would allow them to underwrite and manage businesses whom accept payments on their platform. Personally, I wouldn’t even entertain the idea of my cellular carrier becoming my bank or credit issuer! Lastly, the SMS billing systems have already shown merchants what the cellular companies think their billing service is worth, which is nearly 50% of the transaction amount. For retail merchants, 5% let alone the current 50%, is simply not acceptable. It’s going to take policy and operating changes that would rival a country switching from socialism to democracy for cellular carriers to successfully become mobile wallets providers. Being some of the largest companies on earth, I just can’t see them moving quick enough with the amount of interested that this technology has developed in a short amount of time. Consumers may drive the payment industry, but no amount of consumers is going to force retailers to pay 50% to accept a mobile payment!

The real hurdles

Throwing my cellular provider’s mobile wallet out the window, there are several areas that major hurdles must be overcome before mobile wallets are close to becoming reality.
Customer software
The first hurdle, and the easiest to overcome will be creating software that works on a variety of mobile phones. This software is what will interface with a merchant’s POS system or other payment capturing device. It will act as the bridge between the merchant and the customer’s payment method. Realistically this isn’t an extremely difficult technical feat considering that a vast number of mobile phones supporting Bluetooth and other communication protocols. It will simply be a matter of allowing the wallet application access to the internet and the Bluetooth or communication capabilities of the phone.

Merchant software / hardware
Merchant based software and hardware on the other hand will be a huge problem. The easiest path for merchant to interface with the software on a phone will be some sort of 3rd party peripheral. This could easily be something the size of a PINpad and would ideally use existing connection options on the POS or terminal to communicate with the customer’s phone. The difficult part comes in trying to get the authorization through the mobile wallet platform. Many POS systems and terminal use dial or proprietary methods to connect to processor or the internet… There are 3rd party companies like gift card providers that interface with POS systems and credit card terminals, but they are very limited in the systems that can use them. While I think that this burden will be on the shoulders of the POS companies and the credit card terminal manufacturers, it’s no less daunting tank in the overall picture. Based on what I’ve observed of POS and terminal manufacturers over the past 10 years, particularly with regard to the speed that new technologies are adopted, I believe that this will end up being the final piece of the mobile wallet puzzle.
Credit card processors
The biggest hurdle for mobile wallets to work is there has to be a mechanism that would link a customers credit card and/or bank account with their phone (This hurdle is due to the bureaucracy of Visa/MC not the actual implementation). This doesn’t sound a particularly daunting task, but if you’ve worked with Visa and MasterCard and their books of regulations and operating procedures, you would know how difficult it is to go against the grain on anything related to their systems. The “grain” that I am referring to is not allowing a business to accept a payment for another business (also called factoring). In short, this means that the mobile wallet provider cannot accept the customer’s payment and then pay the merchant. The payment must go directly from customer to merchant. For the payment to go from customer to merchant, through the mobile wallet, there has to be a lot of back-end integrations and agreements between processors and platforms, card issuers, and communication platforms. The complexity of integrating with multiple processors across multiple processing platforms is well beyond the scope of any article that I can write, but it would take years to perform even by someone who knows what they are doing.

A realistic outlook

If I were to bet on when we see the first mobile wallet, I think we could safely say 5 years before anything exists at all, and 10 years before it is common. This is my best case scenario based on a mobile wallet working relatively close to the above description. The exception is if Paypal makes a mobile-retail platform, which could probably exist in a few years for select retailers. This would be much simpler to implement since Paypal doesn’t have to adhere to the Visa/MC regulations as described above and they have their own platform, which would bypass the bureaucratic mess that everyone else is going to run into. However, Paypal is in its infancy in the retail world, and still has many of its own hurdles to clear. We will most likely see mobile wallets progress in steps. I would bet that we will first see Visa or MasterCard apps that link your credit card to your phone. From there we can probably expect to see 3rd parties pushing for more independent services and banks should be joining in soon after. Eventually we will need to end up with mobile wallet providers that can handle all cards and bank accounts without having to use multiple companies. Only then will we truly have a mobile wallet.

A construction and tools writer can be reached at skype:goodluck3801 and paymentgateway@yahoo.cn

New Smartphones Approved for use with VISA payWave

On January 10, 2012 Visa Inc. and Visa Europe made public their certification of a new range of NFC-capable smartphones that can be used with payWave, the company’s aptly named mobile system for point-of-sale payments. The new phones by Samsung, LG, and RIM have been added to the list of Visa-compliant payment products and can now be commercially deployed by financial institutions.

The specific models include the LG Optimus NET NFC, Samsung Galaxy S II, the Blackberry Bold (9900 and 9790), and the Blackberry Curve (9360 and 9380). On each phone the payWave app is hosted on a secure SIM and makes use of short-range Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to send payment information to contactless terminals. Users literally “wave” their phones at the device.

The potential for smartphones to be used as mobile payment devices is another step forward in moving away from the less-secure magnetic stripe cards that have long dominated the payment sector, and toward chip-enabled cards and other NFC-based payment methods. Not only is the technology more secure, but it allows merchants a broader ability to offer added-value services at the point of sale.
The industry is clearly trending toward NFC-based transactions as the standard, with analysts like Yankee Group predicting the value of these transactions, which stood at $27 million in 2010 will grow to $40 billion by 2014. NFC usage has already gained much broader acceptance in Europe, where Visa has approximately 30 million contactless cards in distribution through 54 banks. By the end of 2012, Visa expects their number of contactless cards to reach 50 billion.
While the chip cards and NFC enabled technologies have been slower to catch on in the United States, Visa has been a leader in offering incentives to merchants to switch out their terminals. All of the smartphones now approved for use with payWave are highly popular with U.S. customers who are rapidly becoming accustomed to using their devices for action-specific purposes well beyond texting and voice calls.
The ease with which such transactions can be handled, mitigating the need to carry multiple cards, is proving highly attractive with the public. Business travelers who routinely use their cards in Europe have been clamoring for American acceptance of the new technologies.
By the end of the 2011 gift-giving season, 50 percent of Americans were carrying some variety of smartphone, with the number expected to grow steadily throughout 2012. As these new users become more comfortable with their devices, and more sophisticated in their use of the available apps like payWave, the transition to NFC technology will gain even more momentum.

How to deal with your high risk business?

Often businesses run into the problem of being labeled as a high risk business for processing electronic payments and are forced into unconventional processing agreements. Many business owners have no idea that their industry falls into a high risk category.
Shades of Grey and Red:
High Risk businesses fall into either the gray area between a normal business and a definitive high risk business, or fall into the red zone for truly high risk businesses.
What determines if a business is high risk?
There are several factors that determine if a business is to be considered high risk for credit card processing. The main reason that a business is considered high risk, is the type of business that it is. Risk is based on the merchants probability of chargebacks, returns, the businesses history, and the planned method to accept credit cards. Yes, returns are a large factor in determining the risk of a certain business type. Processors assume that if there is a lot of returned merchandise, then the merchant isn’t doing something right.

I believe the exact opposite of this, as merchants who accept returns are doing what is required, to keep their customers happy. To me this equates a lower risk business.
Certain business types are considered high risk no matter what the individual businesses history is. These businesses are in the red zone. They must find an international method to help them accept credit cards. Businesses that land in the gray area, are either high risk due to their own processing history or their business is determined to be high risk on a case by case basis.
Businesses that fall into the gray area that have good processing and financial history can usually find an American provider to help them accept credit cards, while new businesses or businesses with poor history are more likely to be considered high risk.

Common High Risk Businesses (Red Zone):
Travel and Advanced Booking
Products requiring a long term commitment (magazines, subscriptions, etc.)
Adult Products
Online Pharmacies and Supplement Websites
Debt Collection
Gaming, Gambling, and Sports Booking
International Businesses
Common High Risk Businesses (Gray Area):
Custom Products
Inbound Telemarketing
Ecommerce & Card-Not-Present (in general)
Short Term Businesses
If a business lands in the gray area, the businesses history is going to play a large roll in what types of credit card processing is going to be available to them. New businesses are always at a disadvantage, especially for card-not-present businesses. Fraud on the internet has created close scrutiny of all potential online businesses.
The most unfortunate incidence for an existing business is for their business type to be changed to high risk even though they are currently processing and have a successful, honest history. While rare, this does happen from time to time and is generally applied for all businesses within a certain industry.

If you are high risk:
If you are a high risk business, your options are a third party processor or using an offshore merchant service provider. Either way, make sure that you shop around to find the best possible solution for your business. If you business is in the gray area and you are having trouble at one place, check all of your domestic options before moving onto an offshore provider. The most expensive domestic provider is generally cheaper than the cheapest offshore provider.

A construction and tools writer can be reached at skype:goodluck3801 and paymentgateway@yahoo.cn

High-Risk Products

Counterfeit products are so common in today’s marketplace that many people take them for granted. Indeed, some consumers are happy to purchase cheap imitations of expensive designer clothing and accessories and knockoff watches bearing prestigious brand names. Others purchase counterfeit goods, thinking they are genuine, and are disappointed or outraged when they discover they have been duped with a fake. Of course, these kinds of counterfeits pose no safety risk. However, counterfeit electrical products—their number rapidly growing—bring serious performance issues and safety hazards that can result in injury and death.

Product performance and safety are not considerations of counterfeiters who use inferior materials and assemble products made to fail, enabling them to sell their goods at prices far below genuine products. Counterfeiters focus on products that can be easily mass produced at low cost. Furthermore, they often use well-known names and include unauthorized Underwriters Laboratories (UL) marks to further mislead buyers.
Categories of electrical products identified as high risks for counterfeiting by the Electrical Safety Foundation International include control relays for industrial equipment, circuit breakers, fuses, electrical receptacles, ground-fault circuit interrupters, conduit fittings, electrical connectors, lamps, electronic lamp ballasts, dry cell batteries, lithium-ion batteries, smoke detectors, power strips and surge suppressors, electrical extension cords and power cords for computers and other equipment.
Counterfeit circuit breakers have become a global problem, said Clark Silcox, legal counsel for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA). 

“We are seeing knockoffs of several well-known North American brand names of residential circuit breakers. In the Western Hemisphere, the problem is present from Canada to the end of South America. The source of the counterfeit residential breakers appears to be exclusively China, where Chinese counterfeiters are even making knockoffs of well-known Chinese brand name circuit breakers,” Silcox said.
In addition, the industry is seeing knockoffs of well-known brands of larger molded-case circuit breakers used in commercial settings.
“Some of the larger circuit breakers are from China,” Silcox said, “but others are genuine products believed to be destined for export but which were diverted and labels adulterated to remove valuable product information, including information that could be critical to a product recall or relabeled for the domestic market. In some of these cases, the circuit breakers have been ‘up-amped’ to misrepresent them as products they are not in order to resell at a higher price.”

Silcox noted that, while there is evidence of counterfeit brand names on wire and cable, the bigger problem is products that bear counterfeit certification marks primarily on extension cords and power strips sold through deep discount retail outlets and at flea markets.
“These products are dangerous,” Silcox said. “The common thread and threat is that the cord is substandard and does not meet the listing agency’s specifications. Almost always, the copper wire gauge is thinner than that called for by safety standards that the test labs test to. Because copper has become very expensive, using less copper enables the counterfeiter to sell the product at a lower price by creating an unsafe condition.”
NEMA members estimate approximately 750,000 counterfeit ground connectors were imported from China and India in 2007.
“The safety standard calls for a minimum 10 mils of copper to be applied evenly across the 8-foot steel rod to protect the rod in the ground from degradation due to corrosion,” Silcox said. “Ground rods meeting the safety standard will typically last for 40 or even 50 years in the ground, providing building owners and utilities with long-term protection from the risks of power surges due to events, such as lightning. The counterfeit rods that NEMA has seen have 2 to 3 mils of copper, which means they will last five to eight years in the ground, at which time the risk of corrosion sets in.”

Label issues
In legal terms, a product is counterfeit if it bears a mark identical or substantially indistinguishable from a genuine trademark registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Unauthorized use of the UL or Canadian Standards Association International mark places a product in the counterfeit category. Typically, the term has come to be used to include inferior equipment that has no name or marking, labeling that misrepresents the product’s specifications, and look-alike knockoffs that do not carry the imitated product’s name but are designed to look like the genuine article. Silcox said court cases have held that the practice of label adulteration is counterfeiting.
“Producers of counterfeit products, including circuit breakers, use inadequate materials and manufacturing processes, often without a thorough understanding of the products’ necessary design specifications or intended use,” said Jim Pauley, vice president, industry and government relations, Schneider Electric North American Operating Division, Palatine, Ill. “Most counterfeiters have no knowledge of how the product works. They use reverse engineering to attempt to replicate the genuine article. But after disassembling counterfeit circuit breakers, we find they are made of inferior materials and may include parts that would never be used together—parts from different models, for example. Tests confirm counterfeits will not function properly and cannot pass basic tests as circuit breakers.
“Counterfeiters do not care if their products work,” he added. “They are not looking for repeat customers. If a recall of a counterfeit product is issued by a government agency, the original counterfeiter never bears the burden of that recall effort. Suppliers have no recourse, and buyers get what they paid for.

“In our experience, most counterfeit products are manufactured in China, but we also have discovered entities in the U.S., Mexico and South America that are distributing counterfeits,” Pauley said.
“Counterfeiting is a significant problem, and it’s growing as counterfeiters become more sophisticated and more brazen,” said Kevin Yates, vice president, Residential Products Division, Siemens Energy & Automation, Alpharetta, Ga.. “The problem is especially troubling in the residential and commercial construction markets, as electrical components like circuit breakers are easy targets. A recent survey in ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR magazine found that almost 86 percent of those responding could not tell the difference between real or counterfeit breakers. Counterfeit circuit breakers pose serious safety and business issues beyond the economic impact. They put lives at risk. Safety standards are not being met, and no warranties or guarantees back them up.”
Yates said Siemens’ primary interest in this issue is the safety of its customers and channel partners. However, Siemens also wishes to protect its brand. To address the situation, the company is focusing on education, identification and prosecution if necessary.
“Counterfeiters make copies. They are not the designers,” said Kevin Harris, international policy manager, European organization, Eaton Electrical Group. “They use inferior or recycled materials. And they may eliminate certain components, and they miss out on quality control. The products may look okay and very often can be quite difficult to identify as counterfeits. But they do not work and rarely perform to the specifications on the labels, so reliability is greatly impaired, which can result in severe health and safety issues to the public.

Larry Wilson, senior communications manager, Fluke Corp., Everett, Wash., said Fluke is facing a different problem.
“We aren’t seeing counterfeits of our testers, but cheap look-alike units whose makers attempt to make their appearance through face design and color combinations appear to be Fluke equipment,” he said. “To protect our brand, we own rights to the color combination and faces of our testing units and are very vigilant about taking legal action against those who violate our copyrights.
Wilson said Fluke tests all of its meters before they are sold, subjecting them to high voltage spikes to make sure they exceed industry standards. It is unlikely look-alike equipment meets industry specifications, and those Fluke has tested fail to withstand spikes.
“The insidious thing about this is that, to make a buck, people are put in danger,” Wilson said.

A construction and tools writer can be reached at skype:goodluck3801 and business24@ecpss.com

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Non-Profit Merchant Account

Special Deal for Non-profits with LEADERS:

  • Free Terminal or Authorize.net Gateway!
  • No Statement Fees!
Take advantage of this special offer for Non-profit organizations today!

Non-profit organizations and charities can now accept credit cards and checks securely over the Internet or in their establishment. Best of all the total start-up cost is zero! LEADERS is offering non-profit and charity organizations a special deal to accept credit card and e-check donations online.
Accept Bank Cards from your website or physical location. Securely! And with NO setup cost or Statement fees!
If your non-profit organization’s fundraising efforts are entirely focused on one-time donations today, you are definitely selling yourself short for tomorrow. Recurring Donations are POWERFUL!

Many donors are looking for ways to make giving more convenient. However, only 28% are aware of automatic donations by payment cards as a giving option. Only 5% are currently donating in this fashion, which leaves a potential market of 95% of total donors. Among donors surveyed, 13% said they would definitely consider making recurring donations if the option was offered by their selected charitable organization.
How would you like to be able to give your donors the capability of choosing the date of when their card is hit, the frequency (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, semi-annually, etc.) of when it is hit, and the amount of each hit? AND having this all done automatically. Send them a “Thank You” e-mail automatically. AND allow you to format the reports you receive automatically…

Types of non-profits that can use our services:

  • Local chapters of Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, Humane Society, Easter Seals, etc.
  • Churches (Catholic, Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Episcopal, etc.) and other Christian Ministries
  • Jewish Synagogues
  • Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO)
  • Theatre and Performing Arts
  • Animal rescue groups
  • Hospitals and medical centers
  • Colleges, Private Schools, and Pre-Schools
  • Crisis Pregnancy Centers
  • and many, many more!

LEADERS Non-Profit features:

  • Accept ALL Bank Cards: Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Check/ATM/Debit Cards
  • 24 x 7 customer service
  • Payments by mail or telephone? Our “Virtual Terminal” (any computer connected to the Internet) function can be used to manually process a payment
  • YOUR organization’s name appears on your Donor’s credit card statement, NOT “PayPal” or an “Aggregator”. This is what “Branding” is all about. Promote your non-profit organization, not theirs!
  • Your transactions are SECURE.
  • A Shopping Cart is available to assist you in sales of goods and premiums from your website.
  • You will find our “Gateway” to be extremely customizable. Practically anything you want to do can be selected from a menu. Automatically send e-mails after an event such as a donation. Send receipts, Thank You’s, etc.

Rates? You simply will not find a better Non-Profit rate plan anywhere in the industry.

You simply won’t find any better non-profit merchant account rates anywhere in the industry! No upfront costs, no leases, no high monthly fees, and no hidden fees,. Accepting credit card and e-check payments for your organization or charity couldn’t be any easier or more affordable!

ATM Machines and Services

Sure your competitors have an ATM, but do they have an ATM that can increase store traffic by providing multiple services that will generate additional income for your business or organization?
MerchantSeek’s featured provider (Thompson Merchant Services, Inc.) can help customize an ATM program just for your business that will generate revenue every time your ATM is used to Dispense Cash.

It has been established that a well-placed ATM can increase profits, foot traffic and revenues in grocery stores, nightclubs, restaurants, casinos and movie theaters. ATM’s also increase the amounts given to Non-Profits or other organizations that have an available ATM service. Customers have come to expect easy access to cash at these locations any time day or night. When an ATM is non-existent or frequently unavailable, you lose more than transaction fees; you lose the confidence of your patrons.
TMS, Inc. can either upgrade** your current ATM or provide you with a state-of-the-art ATM that will allow you to sell most of these services on a single piece of equipment. It’s like adding a new clerk who won’t ever need time off.
Additionally, TMS, Inc. provides merchants with web-based, real-time reporting 24/7/365, which allows them to easily balance their terminals whenever it is convenient. TMS, Inc. also provides monthly reports, which include:
  • All terminal transaction activity.
  • Revenue generated by transactions
  • Amount of ACH deposit or check.

Popular ATM Locations

  • Convenience Stores
  • Churches
  • Charities With a Physical Location
  • Grocery and Super Markets
  • Pharmacies
  • Restaurants
  • Bars and Nightclubs
  • Casinos
  • Hotels and Motels
  • Movie Theaters
  • Salons and Spas
  • Schools
  • Amusement and Theme Parks
  • Sporting Venues
  • Convention Centers
  • Get Free ATM Machines Quotes!
  • ATM Purchase and Lease Options


    If you choose to purchase your ATM directly from Thompson Merchant Services, you may keep around 75% (sometimes more) of the customer surcharge. You can make your purchase with checks, cash, and/or credit cards. Inquire for more info.

    Free Placement

    You can have a machine placed with you free of charge and still earn 25%-45% of the surcharge (Based on a typical customer surcharge that’s still around $0.55-$1.00 earnings for your business or non-profit each time a customer uses your ATM machine). Inquire for more info.


    You can lease an ATM from Thompson Merchant Services and earn 40-60% of the surcharge each time a customer makes a withdrawal. Merchants who select a lease option must meet certain credit requirements, but with our Lease Assurance Program, you shouldn’t have to worry; most lease applications are approved. We have specials that run from only $75.99 to $99.99 per month (small fee while your store earn revenue from each withdrawal). Inquire for more info.

    ATM Service

    As with any MerchantSeek Featured Provider TMS, Inc. is committed to providing their customers the most cost effective and efficient maintenance services in the industry. Their internal software allows them to generate a daily report of ATM terminals that have not performed a transaction within a specific time frame. Every location appearing on that list receives a call from one of their customer service representatives (CSR) in order to ascertain the cause for the inactivity.

  • These calls are tracked, monitored, and escalated to management when necessary. CSRs also utilize the real-time access to terminal information to assess the needs of each individual customer. If a technical support problem is discovered that cannot be resolved over the phone, TMS, Inc. will dispatch a technician to the site, usually within 24 to 48 hours.
    The staff of fully trained certified technicians and service representatives are available nationwide to make sure that your installations and repairs are completed quickly and professionally.
    Thompson Merchant Services’ ATM options offer low-cost comprehensive service agreements that cover parts, labor, and supplies, so you won’t receive any unexpected bills and you have access to our Technical Support Center 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.

Check Verification Service Providers

Check Guarantee – What It Is, How It Works and Fees Involved

Check Guarantee is a program in which you are guaranteed to be paid on your checks. It is a type of insurance provided to merchants. A fee is charged to the merchant in exchange for the service of paying the merchant on any checks that are returned. There’s no need to worry about accepting checks or collection on returned checks. Usually, the cost for this solution is about the same as credit card acceptance, however, some may offer it for a lower price. Check with your Merchant Account Provider for further details.

How Check Guarantee works is each check that you accept is verified. The check guarantee company lets you know whether the check writer has any outstanding unpaid bad checks. This is completed by running the check through a check reader or keying the check information and/or check writer into a terminal. If it shows that there are no outstanding checks in the system, the check guarantee company issues approval or an authorization number which means you are guaranteed payment for that particular check. You are also responsible for getting certain information about the check writer such as driver’s license number and phone numbers.
Check Guarantee has been around for a while and it’s nothing new; the Guarantee Processor charges the merchant a Discount Fee (percentage) on ALL checks they accept, usually around 1.50% (or in the range), and agrees to cover all returned checks, provided that the merchant has followed the Processor’s Check Acceptance Rules. The fee scale varies by merchant type and the associated risk, but is rarely lower than 0.99%. A per item Transaction fee of around $0.15 to $0.35 is also charged. There IS often times a Monthly Minimum fee and always a Statement Fee, especially when dealing with retail check processing accounts. There may be a sign up/application fee, and also a programming fee to put the service on the merchant’s Point of Sale Terminal (if applicable). A point of sale terminal and check reader is required if you’re processing using a retail hardware solution – but there are also online/virtual terminal solutions that are now available if this is what your business needs instead.

Check Guarantee with Conversion means that not on is the check Guaranteed but it is also “converted” into electronic funds, this means that you do not have to deposit the check into your checking account; the funds will be deposited into your checking account for you automatically.

Check Verification – What It Is, How It Works and Fees Involved

Check Verification is a process that screens checks and check writers against a “negative database” of “bad check writers”. This is done at the point of sale when the customer presents a check as payment. This service is performed using a point of sale terminal (or a real-time internet process) to access one of these large negative databases and compare the new transaction against the list. If the customer has a history of bad checks, the transaction will be declined. If they are not in the database for bounced checks, they are approved. Verification transactions usually cost around $0.15 – $0.35/per item. There may be a sign up/application fee, and also a programming fee to put the service on the merchant’s Point of Sale Terminal. There IS often times a Monthly Minimum fee and always a Statement Fee, especially when dealing with retail check processing accounts. A point of sale terminal is required if you’re processing using a retail hardware solution and a check reader is optional – but there are also online/virtual terminal solutions that are now available if this is what your business needs instead.

When accepting checks and debit cards a verification service should be all that you need. Check guarantee, in addition to using a verification service can actually cost you more money to process. Unless you yield a high sales volume each month to cover the extra cost for using a guarantee service, just stick with verification.
Check Verification with Conversion means that not on is the check Verified but it is also “converted” into electronic funds, this means that you do not have to deposit the check into your checking account; the funds will be deposited into your checking account for you automatically.

Who Needs These Solutions?

Check guarantee/verification is a benefit to any retail-type business that accepts checks. If your business cannot afford check losses, you will want to consider getting the check guarantee solution.

How Do You Get The Best Deal In Check Guarantee?

  • Look for the most reasonable monthly minimums and statement fee.
  • Look for the most payment times per month possible, this varies from one to four times per month.
  • Look for online reporting.
  • Look for the most liberal check acceptance policy out there.
  • Make note of which checks ARE NOT COVERED under the program.
  • Consider stop payment coverage.
  • Try to get a system with a check reader that can automate the verification process (if you’re using retail hardware).
  • Find out if the provider has a set number of “bad checks” that they will consider before labeling your account as high risk.

How Do You Get The Best Deal In Check Verification?

  • Look for the largest National Negative Database possible, there are fewer than 10 companies that are really big
  • Make sure that the Negative Database has a large following of merchants in your geographic region
  • Look for a verification system that provides not just negative data, but also positive data
  • Look for a verification system that has sophisticated “Rule Sets”; these are programs that use logic to analyze many variable to screen out adverse risks as defined for specific business types
  • Look for online reporting
  • Try to get a system with a check reader that can automate the verification process (if you’re using retail hardware).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Buyers’ Guide to Online Payment Acceptance

Welcome! Below is an outline of the journey we will take to learning about payment acceptance. Some sections you may already be familiar with, if so, just skip ahead. You can also click any of the headings or sub-headings below to go to that particular section.

Otherwise, just click the “Next” button at the bottom of the page.
  1. Introduction
  2. Commonly Used Words & Phrases
  3. Credit Cards
    • The Merchant Account
    • International Merchant Accounts
    • Real-Time versus Deferred Processing
      • a) Real-Time Processing
      • b) Secure Payment Gateways
      • c) Deferred Processing

    • How Online Transactions Are Processed
    • Rates & Fees Involved
    • Purchase or Lease?
    • General Questions To Ask
    • Questions For Internet Real-Time Processing
    • Third Party Credit Card Processors
    • Chargebacks and Fraud
  4. Secure SSL Certificates
  5. Shopping Cart Software
  6. Alternative Payment Acceptance Services – Introduction
    • Debit/ATM Card Processing & eChecks
    • Micropayments & Digital Cash
    • Escrow Services

ECPSS merchant account Review

Merchant Account Rates

These are the typical fees you will see associated with a merchant account. Rates will vary from one provider to the other. We showcase a wide array of merchant account providers included in the following links.
Finding a low cost merchant account is easier today, then it was 5 years ago. While processing rates and fees remain the same, setup and solution purchase costs for Internet businesses has gone down considerably. Where it used to cost $600 to setup, many now only charge $0 to $150 to setup your business with a low cost merchant account. Non-High Risk Internet businesses should never pay anymore than that for a merchant account. Retail businesses can expect to pay anywhere from $75 and up for a retail swipe terminal solution. You can review the other rates and fees associated with a low cost merchant account below.

Application/Setup: $0 – $100+ (one time fee)
Most providers have an application fee. Some charge it right out at the beginning, while others add it into the solution purchase/lease costs. Some providers do not have an application fee at all.
Hardware/Software: $99 and up or Lease: $20/month and up.
One important note worth mentioning here, though leases are sometimes beneficial to you because they keep you from paying up front for a terminal, it’s usually much better to purchase from the beginning than pay a lease for the next 12, 24, 36 or 48 months. Why? With a lease you’ll end up paying sometimes 3 times or more then if you would of just purchased the solution outright from the beginning. While a $29.95 monthly lease for 48 months sounds good in reality it isn’t. Leases are very hard to get out of once started. If your business goes under before the 48 months are up, you still have to pay on the hardware/software costs until the last penny has been received by the leasing company. Also, the lease fee you see does not include your state sales tax or the amount charged for the damage/loss waiver. If you do go for the lease, always determine the lease’s buyout clause, end of lease terms, and especially beware of clauses that allow the lease company to continue charging you even after the 48 months have passed (they say that you should contact them in writing one month prior to the end of the lease, or you can just let them keep charging you).
Programming: $0 – $100+ (one time fee)

This usually only applies to retail merchants who have changed from one provider to another. The programming process isn’t difficult but watch out for the cost, some providers may nickel and dime you on programming fees. Why do they charge this fee if you use your own equipment? It’s used to somewhat make up for the loss of not selling or leasing you their equipment.
Discount Rate: Standard is 1.49% – 4% per transaction or learn about “Interchange Plus Pricing”
This is the fixed percentage amount that is deducted from the purchase cost. The lower discount rates are for retail establishments while the higher are for Mail Order/Telephone Order (MOTO) and Internet-based businesses. Why the lower cost for retail? The instances of credit card fraud are much lower so banks are able to charge lesser percentages for these types of businesses. A typical discount rate for US business is right around 2.30% for online and 1.79% for retail, perhaps a little higher or a little lower. Non-US businesses will pay a higher discount rates closer to the 3% to 4% range. Depending on your provider and current qualification levels you may want to check into Interchange Plus Pricing.
Don’t let a few tenths of a percentage point be the deciding factor between two providers. For example, if Provider “A” charges 2.29% and Provider “B” charges 2.49% you’ll only save $0.20 for every $100 processed through your merchant
Transaction: $0.20 – $0.50 per transaction

In addition to the discount rate a transaction fee is also deducted from the purchase cost. Also, just as with discount rates, transaction fees are lower for retail businesses while slightly higher amounts are charged for MOTO and Internet
establishments. Address Verification (AVS) may either cost an additional fee, or may be included in the base transaction fee. The typical transaction fee for US businesses is right around $0.30 while the higher end of this fee is sometimes the case for Non-US businesses.
Monthly Minimum: $0 – $25 per month
The fee is based on your transaction and discount rate fees from your credit card sales each month. For instance, say your bank charged $25 as a monthly minimum, the transaction and discount rate fees collected by the bank must equal or go over $25 each month. If this is the case no monthly minimum will be charged. However, if the fees collected for that month do not meet the $25 minimum, you will then be charged the difference. Not all processors have a monthly minimum fee, however most do.
Gateway Access: $0 – $25+ per month
Since in most cases, the Secure Payment Gateway provider (e.g. Authorize.Net, VeriSign, etc.) is a separate company from the Merchant Processor, they charge extra fees. For every month that you are on their system, you usually pay an access fee.

The usual fee to pay for gateway access is around $10.
Statement: $0 – $15 per month
The statement fee is charged because at the end of each month you will receive a statement from your processing bank that will list all the transactions that went through for that particular month. It’s very much like your credit card or telephone bills.
Daily Close-Out: $0 – $0.15 each day
Associated with software and terminal processing solutions where at the end of every business day you close-out all your transactions. Many providers do charge this daily closeout fee.
Address Verification System (AVS): $0 – $0.05 per transaction
The AVS service checks to see that the billing address given by the customer matches the credit card. If you opt not to use AVS, VISA and MasterCard will not support your transactions and will charge you an additional 0.17% to 1.25% on those sales. Most merchant accounts do have an AVS charge, even if it’s bundled with your transaction fee. The AVS service works only with US credit card holders. Currently, there is no AVS service in place for non-US credit card holders.
Chargeback: $5 – $35 per instance
A chargeback occurs when the cardholder disputes a charge that they found on their monthly credit card statement. A large number of chargebacks can cause your merchant account to be dropped totally and leave you in a bind when trying to get another merchant account for your business. If this is the case you may not be able to get another merchant account for several years. As a merchant it is important that you take the necessary steps to reduce and potentially eliminate the instances of chargebacks.

Reserve: Varies, ask the provider for details
Some providers will require you to have a reserve account where the amount is determined by your businesses estimated sales receipts. Usually a reserve is almost always charged to a Non-US based merchant who is trying to obtain a merchant account. Also, businesses that do a high volume of sales each month may be charged a reserve fee. Otherwise, there usually isn’t a charge. In most cases, the reserve fee is used to cover for any chargebacks on the merchants account. A reserve should be avoided if all possible.
Annual Fee: $0 to $100 per year
Some credit card processors will charge this fee just as additional way to pay for maintenance and system upgrades. This fee usually isn’t disclosed upfront. Ask your merchant account sales representative for information.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Cell Phone Credit Card Processing

Do you need the flexibility of processing credit cards on-site? Then wireless cell phone credit card processing might be exactly what your business needs. With the proliferation of smartphones in the US, it becomes more and more common to use a smartphone such as i-phone, Android, Blackberry or a Windows-run mobile device for your on-site credit card transactions. This is obviously a very convenient solution when you are out on an event or otherwise out in the field.

Most top merchant service providers offer some sort of credit card processing for cell phones, through a credit card machine for cell phone and software/apps for i-phone, android, Blackberry and Windows. Check in the comparison chart above, for the merchant accounts that process cards by phone. Always remember to check for compatibility between the cell phone you plan to use and the credit card processing solution, for both hardware such as the credit card swipe and the software.

ECPSS merchant account offers a free virtual credit card application. This virtual POS (point – of – sale) payment application is called MerchantWARE Mobile. No wireless terminal for several hundred $ needed. It works with a Bluetooth Card Reader for $149.00 or the iDynamo Credit Card Reader with data encryption for $129.00 for iPhone 4 and 3Gs. This cell phone application does not require any specific gateway fees or any other fees, you will only be charged your regular merchant account costs with Merchant Warehouse.
  • Works with iPhone, iTouch, Android, Blackberry, and Windows mobile devices.
  • No annual fees, contract fees, or termination fees
  • Includes MerchantWARE virtual terminal that can be used for CC transactions with any computer connected to the web.
Apply for a Merchant Account with Merchant ECPSS ACCOUNT now!
It has never been easier to bring your business wherever you go without having to take cash or checks only.

Debit/ATM Card Case Study

Here’s an example case study we completed to show you the savings by using a PIN Pad.
Solution Benefits
  • No charge backs
  • Reduced employee theft
  • Ability to offer a cash-back option to customers
  • Increased revenues
  • No discount rate, only a per transaction fee
  • Reduced risk of bad check losses
Internal or External? — Choosing a PIN Pad
When it comes to choosing an internal or external PIN pad for your retail establishment you will want to weigh in the pros and cons.
Internal PIN Pads
If you’re someone who wants an all-in-one unit then this may be the route you want to go. These processing terminals have a smaller footprint (since the PIN pad is internal) which doesn’t take up much space.

External PIN Pads
If you don’t mind having two pieces of processing equipment (terminal for credit cards and external, usually handheld unit for Debit transactions) then you may want to opt for an external PIN pad. IVI Checkmate, a manufacturer of payment processing equipment, completed a survey and found a few reasons why choosing an external PIN pad might be in your best interest.
  • Swiveling can take up more counter space
  • Most merchants don’t place their terminals in a customer-accessible location
  • You may not want customers handling your processing terminal
  • Strain on cables caused by swiveling can increase equipment failure rates
Who Needs This Solution?
Debit card processing is another good additional processing solution to credit cards. It is also the fastest growing way to pay for orders, topping credit cards. Any business no matter what industry they may be in can benefit from accepting debit cards. The convenience of not having to write out a check is something that can really draw people to use their debit card to make purchases. Retail merchants can certainly save themselves a lot of money each month by investing in a low cost PIN pad to connect to their swipe terminal. Again, online merchants can save money by looking into an eCheck acceptance service.

Debit Card Processing Resources
Any Merchant Account Provider will be able to set you up to accept debit cards if you are interested. Contact your provider now for details or search for one here

Debit Card Processing

What It Is and How It Works
Debit cards work with the same ease as credit cards and allow customers to deduct funds for purchases from their bank account (usually their checking account). True debit cards require a PIN number to be entered before a purchase can be complete. Many people refer to the Visa/MasterCard Check Cards as Debit cards since they do the same as true Debit cards, except for the fact these check cards do not require a PIN number to make purchases. You can easily identify check cards as they will have the familiar Visa or MasterCard logos on them.

The process works just like accepting credit cards except when you enter in the customers debit card information the amount to cover the purchase is deducted from the customers’ bank account.
Do you operate a retail establishment? You can save bundles on processing costs by accepting debit cards with the addition of a PIN Pad. Unless the swipe terminal you’re using includes an internal PIN pad, you will want to invest in an external one.
Processing debit/check cards as a regular credit card transaction can mean paying twice the amount for processing. By using a PIN pad for debit transactions you only pay a per transaction fee (between $0.35 and $0.55), sometimes no discount rate of any kind. Also, it should be noted that in order to ONLY incur a per transaction fee (if your processor is able to do this) the customer MUST input their 4-digit PIN number into the PIN pad or your processing terminal (if the unit has an internal PIN pad). If the customer doesn’t enter their PIN number, the typical per transaction and discount rate will be charged to those using debit cards with Visa or MasterCard logos on them (also called check cards).

True debit cards like Star, MAC, Honor, NYCE, Pulse, Interlink, and Maestro will only incur a per transaction fee because the customer must input their PIN number in order to use the card — it’s optional for Check Card customers, but it will save you money so encourage them to enter their PIN number, if they know it. This is ONLY available for retail establishments.
If you’re an Internet merchant you will still incur the same charges for debit card processing as you do with credit card processing. There is currently no special Debit card acceptance system in place that only incurs a per transaction fee for Internet businesses. You can save money by using an electronic checks (eChecks) service for your website.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Explanation of Credit Card Processing Solutions

In order to process credit and debit cards through your merchant account, you need to decide which processing solution is right for you.
Retail Swipe Terminal – This particular solution is for retail and storefront merchants who see their customers face-to-face. This type of solution incurs the lowest merchant account processing fees since you actually are able to swipe the customers credit card through the terminal. It is believed that orders that are swiped have a lower fraud risk, hence the reason for the lower processing fees. Check out our Complete Guide to Retail Merchant Accounts & POS Swipe Terminals.
Real-Time Processing – This is the solution for businesses on the Internet. Real-Time allows you to automatically process credit card orders through your merchant account with no assistance needed on your end. Everything is automated, and the funds transferred into the merchant account, from the cardholder, is deposited into your business checking account, within a few days. All Real-Time solutions are secure and the purchase of a secure certificate is not usually required. Get more information on a real-time internet merchant account.

Virtual Terminal – If you are a merchant on the Internet and expect to receive orders via phone, fax or mail then getting a Virtual Terminal solution (along with a Real-Time processing solution) is the best route to go. The Virtual Terminal is a secure website where you login and manually type in a customers credit card information. Once the information is submitted, it is securely processed and funds are then deposited into your merchant account within a few days. A Virtual Terminal can be accessed securely from any computer connected to the Internet. Most all Real-Time processing solutions also come with a Virtual Terminal at little or no additional cost. Virtual Terminals can also double as good mobile processing solutions, click here for more information.

Wireless Merchant Solutions – There are two types of mobile solutions, solutions that allow you to swipe a credit card in a mobile environment and Touch-Tone solutions that allow you to manually enter card information into a touch-tone phone. The Touch-Tone solutions are usually good for smaller mobile merchants that want to process credit cards in a mobile environment without high startup costs. The wireless swipe terminal solutions are great for merchants that don’t mind purchasing the terminal up front (purchasing is usually better than free terminal options as often times free terminals come with hefty termination fees). Both the touch-tone and wireless swipe solutions have benefits, it really depends on your business needs in the area of credit card acceptance. Find out more about available wireless merchant accounts.

Credit Card Processor

The credit card processor gathers the information provided (either via website, phone or retail swipe terminal) and performs a series of security checks. These checks make sure there is enough funds available in the cardholder’s account, makes sure the credit card is not reported as lost/stolen, verifies the billing address the customer provided at the time of the order with the credit card number provided, checks to confirm the correct cardholder name and expiration date were given, and can even verify the correct security code (CVC or CVV) on the back of the credit card should one have been entered during the ordering process.
After the information is processed by the credit card processor, the funds are then deducted out of the cardholder’s account and placed into the merchant’s business checking account. Should the cardholder request a refund, the processor does the exact opposite by taking the funds out of the merchant’s account and placing it back into the cardholder’s account within a few business days.

Specialty Scenarios – What are your processing needs?

Credit card merchant account is something provided by a Merchant Account Provider or bank that allows you to accept credit cards in your business. A credit card merchant account can be setup for any business type. Your business type and credit rating will determine what rates and fees you will incur with your credit card merchant account. Internet and mail order/telephone order (MO/TO) merchants will find that processing fees will be higher than for a retail establishment. The reason is because it is believed the level of fraud is considered much lower in retail then it is when a card is not present to be swiped. Listed below are a number of scenarios. Each case is linked to a cost effective merchant services solution that best fits what you are looking for, or to a comparison of credit card processing companies. Which one fits you?


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Credit card merchant account

Here’s your chance to learn details about different terms and phrases used in the merchant account industry. Our merchant account knowledge base is constantly growing each and every week. If there is a payment processing phrase that is commonly used that you would like to recommend here please contact us.
Please be aware this section of MerchantSeek is very new. We’re developing a list of payment processing phrases that we’ll be adding in as time goes on.

Merchant Account Services & Other Payment Solutions

Merchant services, accepting credit cards online and other payment processing solutions is vitally important to the success of your business. The fact is, your businesses success or failure can depend on whether or not you accept credit card orders. Searching for a good deal from a merchant account provider is a slow and tedious process. Now, we’re bringing the merchant accounts and ATM machine options to you! That’s right, no more time consuming searches on the search engines, because we’ve done the searching for you. We have both developed an online database providers who issue merchant accounts, and created extensive archives and resources (articles, news and more).  MerchantSeek was created to aid you in the process of locating a provider that is right for your businesses needs and budget.

A General Introduction

Credit card processing can be a confusing subject. Before you jump in with both feet lets give you an introduction; What merchant accounts are, what information is needed to obtain your merchant account and rates/fees involved.

What is a Merchant Account?

Merchant accounts are special accounts that are setup for a business to accept and process credit card orders. After processing a customers credit card the transaction goes through a series of complex stages. The money transferred through the merchant account is then deposited into the business’s checking account within 2 to 3 business days.

Requirements for Merchant Accounts

Getting important information together ahead of time will ensure that you breeze right through your merchant account application process. Here’s what you may or may not (depending on the provider) need in order to obtain your merchant account:
  • Checking account (some providers set you up with one but most require that you have one already. If you’re a Sole Proprietor you may usually use your personal checking account, however if you’re an LLC or Corporation you may need a business checking account).
  • A copy of a voided check (if you use your own checking account for funds to be deposited in).
  • Articles of incorporation, business license or re-seller license. – only if applicable. (A ‘Certificate of Assumed Name’ from your county Register of Deeds office may be all that is required. These only cost around $8.) The purpose of this is to prove you are a legitimate business.
  • Pictures of business office and location – usually only if you’re high risk – (this extra step can save you money in credit card processing costs). If you are not considered high risk when you apply this is typically not needed
  • Have a web site (if you want real-time online processing). If you are not an online business you will not need a website
  • Return policy information (even if it’s “no refunds” a provider will need to know this).
  • Higher risk accounts may need to Provide trade references.
  • Photocopy of recent tax returns may also be needed for higher risk accounts (may or may not be needed depending on monthly sales volume you expect through your merchant account).
  • A photocopy of your drivers license may only be required if you’re a Sole Proprietor that doesn’t have a business license.