It is very easy these days to get focused solely on traditional credit card processing as the main purchasing method and neglect to realize that there are many different options for accepting payments in your business. Although they will never overshadow the reach of Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express, they can all synergistically work together to add additional revenue and attract new customers that may have not been able to purchase any other way.
PayPal and Payment Aggregators
If you’ve done any substantial amount of shopping online, you have run into merchants who don’t take “credit cards”, but instead promote more limited payment options like PayPal. Accepting credit and debit cards means ease of purchasing for your customers and although this may work alright for a smaller company or “micro merchant”, it is not a option that I would recommend using as a stand alone. When added as an option, it gives the people that prefer PayPal a easy way to pay.
Although they are declining in popularity, plenty of consumers still use checks. It’s now possible to integrate check approval into a merchant processing system in order to take check payments with full peace of mind. ACH conversion takes a paper check and turns it into a fully-electronic transaction. This also means that you can take a check as instant payment even from a customer you’ll never see face-to-face. So-called “e-checks” are a payment form that those customers who are unable to obtain a traditional credit card often favor.
Electronic Payments in Government
The move away from paper hasn’t been limited to check writing, either. Years ago the federal government required a move to electronic payments for all government benefits, with full conversion taking place by 1999. Food assistance programs like WIC (Women/Infants/Children) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps) are now managed through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards that work much like a debit card. Many of these programs will only apply to a few businesses, of course; WIC and SNAP are limited to non-prepared food purchases. If you operate a business that caters to these customers, it would be wise to add this as an option. Much of this information can be found on the Food And Drug Administration’s site (www.fda.gov).
Gift Cards or ECG’s
Yet another option to add to your merchant services is the gift card. Formally known as electronic gift certificates (EGCs), these were not that long ago limited to large national retail and restaurant chains. Now it’s possible to put a program into place even for small businesses. Gift cards are a great way to have customers refer their friends and to keep the money from refunds and returns in your store and not spent somewhere else. Closely related to EGCs are loyalty or reward programs, which can also be run alongside most merchant processing. (The customer activity tracking required for a loyalty program will require a point of sale system or point of sale software in most cases, however.)
There are merchant service providers who can provide a comprehensive suite of services incorporating one or more of these payment options in addition to traditional card processing. Evaluate available services and costs against what you need, keeping in mind that as your business grows you will want to scale and add additional options in the future. Regardless of which ones you choose, adding these options will give you great flexibility and help you attract new and retain existing customers without a big investment in expensive systems that your business might not need.
Have questions? Need help?
We understand that setting up these types of systems can be a little daunting and time consuming. If you need guidance in making the right decisions, just give us a call. We have over 21 years of experience in payment processing and the ancillary services that go along with it. Once we know the direction that you want to go, we can usually have everything set up in 24-48 hours. For more information, you can reach us at 866-949-7267 or click here to send us an email.