What you need to know about secure credit card processing

12/17/2013 15:38

All successful businesses these days need to be able to offer secure credit card processing - especially online businesses.  However, finding a secure credit card processing provider can be daunting. Here are some tips that clearly explain the different types of credit card processing solutions so you can easily research for yourself the best solution for your small business.

First, establish a gateway account.  A gateway account acts as a sort of open door to all online commerce. You have a number of choices, but make sure whomever you choose has the following qualifications:

  • Fast customer support. All reputable companies have option for you to ask questions either online or over the phone. You do not want to be stuck without help when your business is on the line.
  • PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) Compliant. If you are a small business accepting credit cards, you have to comply with PCI Security Council standards.
  • Generates reports. Make sure your provider gives you this option, allowing your business to track sales and statistical trends.
  • SSL (Secure Socket Layer). This safeguard makes sure that your customers’ transactions are fully protected. All reputable credit card processors offer this.
  • Full ecommerce integration. This includes the ability to email receipts, offer shopping carts and support recurring payments. This allows you to sell your services and/or goods both online and at a bricks-and-mortar store.

Second, create a merchant account. Your gateway provider may offer this service as well, but it never hurts to shop the competition and find the best solution for your business. Make sure you ask about:

  • Fraud protection: Your credit card processor should have the capability to verify addresses, provide SSL (see above), and verify CVV— the three digit number on the back of credit cards.
  • How long: You need to know what the provider offers as far as digital application and setup time. Most small businesses want to hit the ground running, with minimal amounts of hassle and paperwork. One to two days processing time is the industry standard.
  • Payment gateway: Ask your provider if they have their own gateway service or if they partner with another organization.  All reputable processors have a relationship with Authorize.net.
  • Monthly fees and transactions costs: Credit card companies make their money by charging a percentage of each transaction. Although the percentage amounts may seem small, they can really start to add up.
  • Shopping carts: Secure credit card processing companies make you have their shopping cart applications installed on your ecommerce site.
  • Credit card swipers. There are many new products on the market that allow you to run credit cards right from your smartphone.
  • Virtual terminal: If you need something more affordable than a swipe machine, consider a virtual terminal. They work with all major credit cards and do not require setup fees or a merchant account.

Finding a secure credit card processor is not rocket science, but regardless of which company you go with, make sure you read the fine print in the agreement.  Since most contracts lock you in for at least three years, and many charge heavy early termination fees, you will want to make sure you have done your homework.