Technology has made it possible to accept credit and debit card payments in far more ways than the telephone authorization and clunky card imprinters that were the norm only a generation ago. You may wonder how you can take advantage of today’s variety of processing methods to enhance your business, improve your profits, cash flow, and simplify your accounting. It is possible (and easier than you may think) to integrate your online, mobile, and retail payment systems to take advantage of what each method offers.
The basic and most common payment system is the garden-variety version found in most retail settings. This may be a typical standalone terminal. However, it is much more efficient to integrate your card processing with your point of sale (POS) system. Although a front end cost of a credit card terminal may a little less, a separate terminal means double entry of transactions (with the extra opportunities for error that presents) and more difficult reconciliation of each day’s credit card batches with sales records. Adding the necessary hardware and software to your POS system will greatly simplify your life and make the cashier’s job faster and easier.
If you do business “in the field,” at your customers’ homes or businesses or otherwise away from your own store or office, you should take advantage of a mobile payment solution. Major providers like Intuit offer platforms that will operate across a wide variety of platforms including both Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. These include card readers to enable you to receive the more favorable swiped rate, although the application has a manual entry option that can be used if the card reader is unavailable or by some chance not compatible with your device.
Don’t think that mobile processing is just for service technicians, installers, and others who work at the customer’s location, though. Restaurants in particular have discovered the value of tablet devices connected to the establishment’s wireless network. The advantages of at-the-table order entry are obvious, but these devices can also be equipped with card readers to enable card processing at the table as well. With the publicity that has been given to theft of card information by restaurant staff in recent years, the ability to process a payment while the card never leaves the customer’s sight has definite value.
The third option is online payment processing. (In this context we are speaking of card processing through an online account, not taking payments on an e-commerce website. That is more commonly referred to as “web store” payment processing.) Online processing is particularly powerful because it is available from virtually any internet-connected device. The most common use is for payment processing from directly within your accounting software; this method is typically used by businesses that have no face-to-face contact with the customer when payment is made, such as wholesale and business-to- business sellers. While it offers the most flexibility, the major drawback of online processing is that it is subject to the higher non-swiped rate.
However, payment systems from many providers give you the ability to integrate all three of these methods. Not every business will have the need for all three, but it’s nice to know that they are available if you need to have those options. Better yet, providers like Intuit offer payment solutions that integrate with their accounting and point of sale software, automating a large portion of your card processing and the associated accounting. This level of integration can provide even greater time and cost savings.