Small Business In-Person Credit Card Processing
January 12, 2011 5:46 AM   Subscribe

We are opening a brick and mortar retail store in two weeks and need to nail down credit card processing. Where can I find honest recommendations and reviews of services?

I found sites that show reviews, but it seems like paid advertising to me, and the amount of scam stories are scary.

Does anyone have any positive experience with any services or companies?
posted by Mroz to Work & Money (17 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It would help to know where you were.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:47 AM on January 12, 2011

Have you tried going to the bank where you have your business accounts and asking them what merchant services they offer or recommend?
posted by trunk muffins at 5:49 AM on January 12, 2011

Response by poster: Business will be located in South New Jersey, USA
posted by Mroz at 5:50 AM on January 12, 2011

Response by poster: Checking with our bank is an option, but I'd like to do some research online in hopes of securing the lowest fees.
posted by Mroz at 5:52 AM on January 12, 2011

Have you looked at Square?

It's a company started by one of the founders of Twitter. No monthly fees and the only equipment you need is the free Square dongle that they give you and an iPhone, iPad, or Android phone with internet connectivity. They take less than 3% for processing fees.

I know I sound like a shill, but several of my colleagues from my last job work for them, and they seem to be doing good things.
posted by AaRdVarK at 6:11 AM on January 12, 2011

Square is indeed legit. You should also contact VeriFone, which makes all sorts of turnkey solutions for retailers of various sizes.
posted by jbickers at 6:12 AM on January 12, 2011

Agreed: Go with Square. You can revisit other processing options once you're up and running and everything's a booming success, but in the meantime choose the least mentally-complex option since you only have two weeks to get everything else done before launch.

One minor benefit, depending on your clientele, is that Square is still novel enough that some people cone in to buy things just to try it. You can also have multiply devices (several iPads/iPhones) that you or staff could take around the store to handle payments, instead of just one checkout area, which really frees you up to do new things with the store's merchandising, layout and traffic flow.
posted by anildash at 6:22 AM on January 12, 2011

For a new business I would imagine that cash flow is more important than the 1 or 2 percent difference on fees. I would recommend talking with your bank. If it is all in one place there should be no hassles transferring funds etc.
posted by Gungho at 6:34 AM on January 12, 2011

I'd pretty strongly urge you to not use Square until they've got some better hardware. It's definitely not robust enough to withstand frequent use as would be seen in a B&M retail store.

Customers will also likely be sketched out when you ask them to slide your card through an iPhone with what looks like an ATM-skimming device attached to it.

Verifone are worth getting a quote from (they're the biggest in the business), and I'm pretty sure Costco's business services department offers CC processing to small businesses.
posted by schmod at 6:46 AM on January 12, 2011

We had service through FirstData in West Virginia. Not bad, although they did drop our rates down because we were a non profit. The best part was that we had a checkscanner, which turned checks into debit cards effectively, totally protecting us from bad checks while still allowing customers to use them. They had good online tools for monitoring inputs and fees and what not.

Then, about 6 months later, Sam's Club started offering FirstData service for less than we were paying...way below our NPO rates, but you know, whatever.

Our machine ran off our network connection, so it was fast, real fast, and easy to use. It could also failover to telephone line, so that was nice too. I bought our thermal paper via ebay instead of from them, as it was about 1/3 the cost, but other than that everything was gravy. Our reader went down one afternoon, so we had to call in our charges (really not too bad), and we had a new one fedexed to us the next day by whatever FedEx's guaranteed time is. 10am I think.
posted by TomMelee at 7:23 AM on January 12, 2011

Any credit card processor that can fog a mirror will be able to have you up and running in a couple of days. It might be a good idea to get some recommendations from a couple of local businesses you patronize (dry cleaners, coffee shop, etc.) and ask how they like their processor and their rates. If you do make a selection as a "temporary" service until you have time to fully research others, be aware that nearly all have termination fees, minimum months or years of contract or other clauses that will cost on the back end unless you stand your ground to negotiate it out. Read all the fine print if your intention is either short- or long-term with that processor. Avoid leasing a credit card terminal as this is nearly always a losing proposition in the long run. Whatever the sales rep promises you that is not in writing probably won't happen. I've negotiated with processors nearly every year for the past six years I've worked for my company and only recently have I felt that I finally got a decent break. Trend your fees monthly if possible to determine what your ratio of combined fees are (including statement fees and other add-ons) against your revenue. I try to stay below 1.8%. Good luck.
posted by Don92705 at 8:08 AM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

My B&M/online store uses for transactions (our POS system, LightSpeed by XSilva, manages CC transactions natively over IP so we just needed a merchant account. It's been very reliable and drama-free. Just a tip: the rates are negotiable. Put on your haggling hat when you've narrowed the field to two or three candidates.
posted by workerant at 8:12 AM on January 12, 2011

Customers will also likely be sketched out when you ask them to slide your card through an iPhone with what looks like an ATM-skimming device attached to it.

Or they'll think THIS IS JUST LIKE THE FUTURE and get all excited, which is what happens to me when I go to fancypants coffee shops that use Square, or the Apple Store.
posted by soma lkzx at 8:13 AM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

That may be the worst-written answer I've ever posted to the Green. le sigh.
posted by workerant at 8:13 AM on January 12, 2011

The service itself is usually very generic. You won't really have a different experience with one merchant services provider versus another. If you go with your bank, you might get the funds deposited a day faster but that is about it. Everyone in that business completes on price and almost nothing else and the hardware can usually be reprogrammed. So, even if you pick a company now, you'll want to shop around again every 6-months or so. Give you current provider a chance to keep your business if you find better rates but it shouldn't be hard to switch either. Even if you never want to switch companies, you'll want to show them your statements in six months so they can give you rates based on historical data rather the estimates of your transactions you'll be working with now.
posted by VTX at 8:17 AM on January 12, 2011

Seconding - stop by small locally owned non-competitive businesses and ask who does theirs. A picture will probably emerge of a local rep who's been at it a while, knows what he/she is doing, etc. Most any of these companies will do okay getting you a dialup or simple internet terminal. Or if you don't have a lot of time to analyze it, just talk to a couple of local banks. Honestly, the rate difference isn't going to be a big deal - they're all in the same ballpark. But getting your cash held because they've decided you're over some limit they didn't communicate to you in advance - that can be a big deal. Go with someone you trust.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:19 AM on January 12, 2011

Nthing square, at least until you find a more robust solution. I'm not sure how long the hardware would last under constant, heavy-duty usage, but it'd be fine for a short-term stopgap measure.

Bonus: emailed receipts and a nice UI.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:13 AM on January 12, 2011

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