Accepting credit cards isn’t just one of the options available for accepting payments anymore. It is arguably one of the most necessary forms of accepting payments in any business. Consumer behavior is changing, and we are continually moving to a more cashless society.
Cash usage has been slowly declining for over a decade. But that decline has sharpened in the last couple of years. This largely due to the drive for rewards points and miles, along with the adoption of contactless payments and mobile wallets.
The biggest buzzword in payments is “frictionless”. This means creating as little friction with the payment process as possible so customers have a pleasant buying experience.
And if you love your customers, and you love when they purchase from you, you have to allow them to pay the way they want. If the studies show anything, it's that consumers like to pay with a card.
Since you're going to accept credit cards, you need to know a little about how payment transactions work. Then you just have to choose the best Merchant Service Provider to bring you the most optimized solutions for your business.
Let’s get into it!
Who are the players involved that make payment transactions happen?
Of course every transaction begins with the cardholder, aka the customer, and the merchant. But there are also several entities behind the scenes that make each transaction possible.
There is the acquiring bank, or acquirer, who provides businesses with a merchant account. A merchant account is a type of bank account a business must have in order to process card payments. We also have the bank that issued the credit (or debit) card to the customer. Banks like Citi, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Chase are all examples of card issuing banks.
Beyond that, you have the entities that allow the transaction part of the transaction to take place. The Processor is the one responsible for routing transactions to the appropriate entities for verification. Your payment processor will also provide the software and hardware needed to facilitate payment transactions. Sometimes the processor and the acquirer are the same entity.
Lastly, we have the card brand associations and the network. Nothing can happen unless there is a network for all the transactions to securely travel over. Visa and MasterCard are card brands, as well as American Express and Discover. They are the major card brands and members of the Card Brand Association. They sponsor the credit cards issued by the card issuing banks (Chase). Not only that, but they also run and manage the network and set the rates for processing payments over their network. We refer to this network as Interchange or interchange rates.
How credit card payment transactions work behind the scenes.
Now that you have an idea of the entities involved with credit card processing, let’s take a look at exactly how a transaction happens.
Payment transactions are always initiated by the customer. Once they've decided on their items and are ready to buy, the customer initiates the payment by submitting their payment details. They do this by dipping, tapping, or swiping their payment card. Within seconds, the merchant receives an approval (or decline) and provides the customer with a receipt for purchase.
At this point, as far as the customer is concerned, the transaction is complete, and they can leave with their purchases. But there are a couple more steps that go on behind the scenes to complete the transaction.
When the customer dips their card into the payment terminal, the data captured by the terminal or gateway is encrypted and transmitted to the processor. The processor transmits the data to the customer’s bank for verification. This all happens over the card brand association’s secure network, the Interchange.
The card issuing bank will verify that all the information matches the information on file for the customer. They will also determine whether there are enough funds or credit available to cover the purchase. Once verification is complete, they’ll transmit an “approved” or “declined” message back to the processor. And the processor forwards the message on to the merchant. All this back-and-forth data transfer happens within a matter of seconds.
Merchant funding isn’t part of the initial payment transaction.
Unfortunately, merchants don't get paid in real time for their sales transactions when customers pay with a card. There are a few more things that have to happen before the merchant gets their funds deposited into their account.
In order for merchants to get paid, they must notify the processor of which transactions they need to be paid for. To do that, the merchant must perform a “batch out” on their credit card terminal. A batch is a group of credit card transactions, usually in a 24-hour period. When the merchant closes the batch, it notifies the processor that they are completed and accurate transactions.
Most processors deposit funds into the merchant’s business bank account within 24-48 hours of the batch report.
Just because the customer’s bank OK’d the transaction doesn't mean they send the payment to the acquiring bank right away. In fact, it can take up to 10 days for the card issuing bank to send the funds to the acquiring bank.
This is why merchant accounts are more like a business loan than a bank account. The acquiring bank will fund their merchants even though they have yet to receive the funds from the customer’s bank.
What is a merchant account to accept credit cards, and how do I get one?
In order to accept credit card payments, every merchant must open a merchant account. Merchant accounts are provided by acquiring banks. (And sometimes processors when they are also an acquiring bank). This is a bank account where the funds for all the transactions processed by the merchant are held. And it’s from this account that the acquiring bank transfers the merchant's funds into their business bank account.
The best way to find the right merchant account is to partner with a Merchant Service Provider (MSP). They will act as a liaison between you and the acquiring bank. Not only will they make sure you’re set up with the right solution for your business, they’ll also service your account.
The MSP you partner with can mean the difference between a merchant account that lends to your success and one that just costs you a lot of money.
4 things to look for in a merchant service provider for your payment processing needs:Values: How do they treat you during your sales experience? Do they take the time to understand your needs? Are they taking a consultative approach considering your business's needs? Or are they using pushy sales tactics? You can tell a lot about a business's values by how they treat you and what their focus is.
Service: Believe it or not, your credit card processing needs change with time. And like it or not, sometimes there are issues. Customer service is paramount. What type of customer service will be available to you? You want a Merchant Service provider (MSP) focused on supporting you throughout the life of your partnership. Expect 24/7 domestic customer service with a direct line to your dedicated direct representative. The 800 number is only for after hours!
Solutions: Are they just letting you accept payments or can they actually help your business? Are they able to provide you with the latest services and the most up-to-date technology? Accepting payments isn't the only priority. Can they offer comprehensive fraud detection and prevention solutions? If you’re plagued with high chargebacks, can they help you better manage and prevent them?
Merchants also need to consider their data reporting needs. Detailed data reporting can be used to make better decisions and fuel growth. You want an MSP with deep knowledge and extensive experience to make sure you’re getting the right solutions for your needs.
Rate Structure: Every merchant wants to obtain the best rates they can. But rate structure is the most important part of getting the best rate possible. Certain rate structures can seem like a good deal on the surface, but have a lot of hidden costs. If you want the most fair and transparent rates (I’m sure you do), demand Interchange-Plus pricing. With Interchange-Plus, you’ll know exactly what you’re paying over the wholesale Interchange rates. There are no confusing hidden fees. Rates are clear and understandable.
Accept credit card with Bankcard International Group.
Bankcard International Group has the best merchant account solutions for all businesses. Not only do we have curated solutions for high-risk business, but that means we can readily service medium, and low-risk businesses as well. Whether your focus is online or retail, we can tailor a payment processing solution to your needs.
At BIG, we aim to provide merchant services to our clients in the way that is expected from a provider: honest, professional, dependable, and service oriented.
Credit card processing is not just sales and profits. Credit card processing is also about security. For you and your customers. It’s about protection from fraud. And it's about management; management and prevention of chargebacks.
But it's also about meeting your customer’s expectations. How you accept credit card payments is about innovation and technology. At Bankcard International Group, we understand this.
We’ve curated the right partnerships to bring you the best payment solutions on the market today. We offer robust fraud and chargeback prevention and management strategies. And we have an array of the latest payment technology, from POS to Wi-Fi to wireless and mobile.
Accepting payments is an important part of the success of your business. We have what you need and we make accepting payments satisfying. If you’re looking for a reputable Merchant Service Provider, we’ve got you covered.
Click below to learn more and let us show you the “BIG Difference”.