The prevalence of credit cards in today’s society may seem jaw-dropping at first. Given the roller coaster fluctuations our economy has experienced since 2008, it seems strange on the surface that so many people are using plastic to cover their expenses and make their impulse purchases.
That being said, our relationship with cold, hard cash has gone increasingly sour. For one thing, it is inconvenient and even dangerous to carry large amounts of it around. Further, making purchases with it makes returns and exchanges more difficult. Finally, credit and debit card companies send monthly statements that enable us to keep track of what we have bought.
What Do People Use Their Credit Cards To Buy?
We use our credit cards to pay for many daily essentials. These include food, gas, travel and medical expenses. For the most part, these are ongoing costs for products we would have a hard time doing without. In the case of doctor and hospital bills, they can often require more money than most of us have on hand at any given moment, making payment over time on a card the only option.
In addition to items that are most commonly purchased with cards, you should consider using plastic in other specific ways. Take out your Mastercard, Visa or American Express when you need to buy large appliances since your card provider will probably offer you a complimentary extended warranty, purchase protection and even price matching. It is also recommended that you use a credit card for any expenses you plan to deduct from your taxes. These could include charitable donations, business costs, education and child-care. Just be sure that you can produce your credit card statement when tax time rolls around. Finally, consider using your card when purchasing items or services online since it offers fraud and identity theft protection.
Where Do People Use Their Credit Cards?
Credit cards and online shopping go together like a hand in a glove. When you use plastic for e-commerce buying, you are protected to a large degree from identity theft and fraud because of the safeguards put in place by your credit card provider. In addition, there is a built-in shield for your sensitive bank account information that keeps the merchant and anyone else who might be unscrupulous from accessing it.
People enjoy the convenience of using plastic at department stores as well as for food shopping. Today’s EMV cards have an added layer of security, encrypting payments and markedly reducing the likelihood of criminal activities such as cloning and identity theft.
How Much Are People Spending On Credit Cards?
Credit cards are quickly replacing cash, especially when it comes to the larger purchases people can’t make with pocket change. Therefore, it makes sense that the average credit card purchase in the U.S. is $76 and that the average business card transaction is $179. No doubt, the 31.4 billion transactions with plastic in 2015 is a number that will only rise over the next few years.
Is Credit Card Spending Seasonal?
For numerous businesses, the last two months of the year are their bread and butter. Without the extra boost that holiday sales give, many of these companies would not survive. It stands to reason that cash-strapped consumers often use their cards to buy gifts for their friends and families, with card usage increasing the closer it gets to Christmas.
Once the holiday season is over, consumers seem to spend the first three months of the year paying off their bills, with credit card purchases dropping appreciably. From April on, there is an uptick, with August showing as the third highest month for card purchases. No doubt, this is due to the many items that are required when students return to school.
Coping with an ongoing credit card balance has become the norm for millions of Americans. Those who reside in Alaska and Washington, D.C. are especially burdened because the areas where they live have very high costs of living. Michigan, Wisconsin and Mississippi residents are blessed with the lowest amount of debt. This phenomenon could be due to factors such as low energy costs and real estate values as well as geographic location.
Which Credit Cards Have The Most Debt?
When shopping for a credit card, there are many factors you should take into consideration. These include annual percent rate, fees, minimum repayment, introductory interest rates and loyalty features. In addition, you might want to consider which card providers lead to the highest debt in their patrons: Chase, Bank of America and American Express in that order.
Who Provides The Most Credit Cards?
Of course, you don’t choose a credit card solely based on popularity. Primarily, you take note of the variables listed above. But it never hurts to keep your finger on the pulse of which companies are the most popular. After all, they may be doing something right if they are getting the lion’s share of the business. When it comes to credit cards, Visa wins first prize, with Mastercard, Chase and American Express doing their best to gain precedence.
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In recent years, businesses both small and large have begun to embrace mobile point-of-sale systems. After seeing the many advantages they bring as compared to the old-school stationary models, switching to these cutting-edge solutions has been a no-brainer for many retailers.
Today, an increasing number of sellers are discovering that using tablets vs. smartphones for their mobile credit card processing needs is a preferable option.
Mobile POS systems have revolutionized the way restaurants and retailers do business in a wide variety of ways. Perhaps most notably, they help merchants by cutting down on the numerous delays that can occur in a business. For restaurateurs, for example, mPOS systems can make taking food orders much faster and more accurate, and allowing customers to pay with credit right at their tables eliminates unnecessary steps. Retailers can cut down long lines by enabling associates to process purchases on the floor instead of at the register.
While these tasks can be accomplished by mobile phones and POS tablets alike, the latter provide a larger and more visually attractive display that makes performing ordering and purchasing tasks easier for both customers and staff members.
It might appear to be small in size, but a tablet packs a great deal of selling power when it is placed in the hands of your associates. Armed with this tool, your staff can easily search for information and quickly answer customers’ questions about your products. Should the item they want be out of stock, your staff can search for alternatives right on the device, helping to ensure that the customer does not leave your store in favor of buying from one of your competitors.
What’s more, the tablet can provide a way for your employees to upsell additional items that may complement what the customer is already buying, all without ever leaving the floor. These benefits are possible because of the larger size, sharper images, and more vivid colors that a tablet can display.
Perform Vital Business Operations
When it comes to today’s mobile POS solutions, one of the biggest selling features is their ability to automate many of the tasks that once meant hours of grueling work for business owners. No longer do you need to strain your eyes over payroll books or inventory lists when your mobile POS has built-in mechanisms to complete tasks and generate reports at the touch of a finger. With their enhanced storage and speed capabilities, tablets enable you and your staff to check inventory, generate reports about past sales, predict future sales trends, and manage schedules with ease.
Data breaches are an unfortunate reality in today’s commercial world, and keeping your equipment updated is one of the best ways to prevent your business from becoming the next victim. Because tablet POS solutions interface easily with merchant account provider sites as well as traditional app stores, ensuring the devices have the latest security features is fast and easy.
Less Time-Consuming Training
Regardless of what technology you choose, training your staff in its use is a necessity. In years past, teaching associates how to operate a cash register and a stationary POS that took credit and debit cards could be quite a long and arduous process.
Fortunately, today’s mobile POS tablets are virtually indistinguishable from the equipment that many of your staff already use in their personal lives. That makes instructing them in the business uses of your tablet much faster and more intuitive. Because time is money, faster training times mean that your employees can resume their regular duties more quickly, leading to potentially bigger profit margins for you.
Go to the Google or Apple app store, and you will notice that there is a whole subcategory of applications that are specifically designed and enhanced for use with tablets. These niche items provide you with premium features designed specifically for the larger screen and storage capabilities of tablets. When compared to what is available only on smartphones, the environment of the tablet is significantly broader and richer.
Portability and Flexibility
Mobile POS solutions enable you to take your business on the road. Whether you go to the craft bazaar or farmer’s market in your own town or to a trade show on the opposite coast, these portable powerhouses enable you to bring a lot to the party.
You might not be able to lug your entire inventory across the country, but your larger-screen tablet lets you demonstrate products to customers, upsell additional items and consummate the purchase from wherever you are. All that remains is for you to go back to your physical store, box up the products and mail them off. If you had not had the versatility and visual punch of your tablet POS on hand, chances are good that you would never have made that sale.
There may soon come a time when countertop cash registers and stationary POS systems are a thing of the past. As more and more retailers, hospitality professionals and restaurateurs recognize the advantage of mobile POS options, traditional payment solutions become less and less compelling. If you want to take your retail enterprise or eatery to the next level of customer service and profitability, this might just be the right time to embrace the versatility, portability and power of today’s POS tablets.
These days, accepting some types of credit cards is a virtual necessity for most businesses. The question is, should you take all cards or only some. As you might imagine, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.
The Advantages of Universality
In the best of all worlds, your business should accept all sorts of cards, including Discover, Visa, MasterCard, American Express and debit cards, and you don’t need an MBA to understand why. No customer wants to get to the register only to find that you don’t take their preferred form of payment. This type of consumer frustration has led to many lost sales.
While pleasing your customers should certainly be one of your goals as an entrepreneur, you need to balance it against the costs. As you might have guessed, accepting credit cards brings fees along with the benefits.
In order to take plastic, you will need to open a merchant account. In most cases, doing so will enable you to take MasterCard, Discover and Visa. If you want to take American Express as well, you can apply for a separate American Express merchant account with the same application. Regardless of which cards you accept, you may need to pay a setup fee, monthly charges and/or an annual fee, depending on your merchant services provider.
When you accept a variety of cards, the real variation comes in the form of the costs you will pay for the different merchants and types of cards. For instance, Discover and American Express carry with them higher merchant account charges as do debit cards. American Express gives you the choice of paying a monthly flat fee for accepting their cards or paying a percentage of each transaction. In general, AmEx’s fees are higher, perhaps because this card is considered to be high-end or premium. Also, the percentage rates for rewards cards (such as those for airline miles) tend to be higher.
It’s Up to You
The question of which cards you should accept does not have one right answer. The only way you can truly make the best decision for your business is to look carefully at the buying habits of your customer base. If many of them would prefer to pay with rewards cards or American Express, it might be worth absorbing the extra costs associated with these forms of plastic.
On the other hand, if your patrons mostly make their purchases with cash or non-premium card types, you might be willing to put up with the occasional unhappy customer. Taking the time to study your customer demographics and your business goals can help you determine the types of payments to accept in your establishment.
Most hair and nail salons have an established customer base. These are the people who reliably turn to your shop again and again for the services they need. But if you want to take your establishment to the next level, it’s also important to find ways to increase your walk-in traffic.
Because you are part of the beauty industry and must survive against brutal competition, you need to find ways to rise above your rivals. You already want your customers to feel pampered; lure new ones in with some tantalizing perks.
Provide free Wi-Fi as well as mobile phone charging stations. Offer simple refreshments such as small bottles of water and soda as well as individually wrapped cookies or cakes. Do whatever you can to welcome new customers – and don’t forget to prominently advertise these amenities outside your salon.
To increase foot traffic, you can also make coming into your salon appealing in another way. Make each first-time, walk-in customer an instant winner by letting them draw from a prize hat. From discounts on future services to branded T-shirts, you can promote your business while making newbies feel extra special.
Harness the Power of Smartphones
While you have many clients who regularly come to your salon, there are probably many others who have only shown up once or are infrequent visitors. This is where your mobile point-of-sale system can truly shine because it allows you to set up a customer database.
Once it is up and running, it can be used to notify people on their smartphones about sales and promotions. They can even receive a special notification when they are in the neighborhood. This strategy doesn’t just spread the word about your brand; it makes prospective customers feel special.
You might specialize in hair or nails, but your business can also be the place to go in the neighborhood for fun events. Sponsor psychic readings, laser teeth whitening or smoothie-making seminars; the sky is the limit. Ultimately, everyone in your community will see your business as the beating heart of the area.
Educate Your Customers
No one in the beauty business wants to divulge their secrets to customers, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still learn from you. If organic products are one of your hallmarks, for instance, why not offer a seminar on how to make different natural hair conditioners, facial and nail scrubs? With these tips, your customers can maintain and enhance the treatments you provide.
Support Your Community
As a local business owner, you occupy a position of influence that can allow you and your customers to make a difference. Put yourself out there as a positive force by enlisting your customers to be change agents. You might host a blood or clothing drive, for instance.
There are countless ways to get your name out there. Be creative, have fun and keep your eye on your goals. Before long, you should see an uptick in walk-in customers.
From e-commerce shops to traditional brick-and-mortar stores, small businesses need the ability to accept credit cards to compete in the modern market. Opening a merchant account was the only way to do this in the past, but smartphone card readers and other alternative platforms are making “do it yourself” (DIY) processing more popular.
Are these third-party options always the best idea when you run a small business? Consider these four potential pitfalls before deciding on the DIY route.
Time Wasted with Inadequate Equipment
A point-of-sale system (POS) needs to meet the requirements of your business based on pricing structure, sales volume and diversity of inventory. If the POS associated with a third-party processing service lacks flexibility or requires complex inputs to manage sales, it not only takes far too long to set up and manage but also slows down transactions with customers.
Speed and efficiency are hallmarks of commerce in the technological age, and any business unable to keep up with the pace consumers expect will quickly lose sales to competitors with better equipment.
Getting Hit with High Fees
Merchant accounts have a structure of monthly and transactional fees associated with handling credit card processing, but DIY solutions take out a percentage of each sale. Major credit card companies charge additional processing fees, and the combination can exceed the amount you’d pay to open and maintain a merchant account.
You may also be asked to pay setup and equipment fees or be subject to a hefty cancellation fee if you bow out of an agreement. Before choosing any third-party processor, do the math to see how much of your company’s income would go toward payments.
Lack of Supportive Service
DIY point of sale systems are at a much higher risk for failing when you need them most. If you find yourself in an area with poor cellular coverage and no Wi-Fi access, you could be out of luck when trying to accept credit cards. Should other issues arise, it’s harder to get in touch with support representatives than with those handling merchant accounts. You’re likely to have to research and fix the problem on your own or lose sales while waiting for help to become available.
Potential Security Risks
Despite the wide use of third-party payment gateways, some people are still wary and prefer to deal only with companies using traditional merchant accounts. One reason third-party processors are perceived as less trustworthy is the increased risk of hacking. Smartphone apps in particular are susceptible to outside attacks, and merchants using outdated equipment are now held liable for losses associated with data breaches. Should security become compromised, your business could spend a great deal of money making restitution for losses.
Whether you use a merchant account or a DIY process to handle credit card payments can have a significant impact on profits, security and the customer experience. Research the processing services available for your business, and choose the most reliable and trustworthy partner to handle sensitive transactions.
You have probably heard the old adage that “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” It’s just another way of saying that you usually get what you pay for. Not surprisingly, the saying can hold true when it comes to the point of sale systems (POS) that you use in your business, particularly if they aren’t provided by a trusted supplier backing them up.
As you might guess, many “free” POS solutions do not have all the bells and whistles you might want. For example, you may not be able to use handy features such as employee and inventory tracking capabilities. If you run a food service business, you may also find that you cannot utilize extremely helpful tools such as reservation and table management, online ordering, and purchase orders without paying an extra fee.
Be sure to assess whether a free or inexpensive POS system will meet your needs. If you run a small enterprise, a simple system may get the job done. If your business is more complex, you may need to step up and invest in a more complicated POS.
Lack of Customer Service
Maintaining a staff of trained professionals who are standing by to help businesses troubleshoot POS issues requires time and money on the part of service providers. It should not be a surprise that some free POS solutions lack robust customer service. Check with the provider. If support isn’t expressly offered, ask yourself the following:
- Am I tech-savvy enough to do my own troubleshooting?
- Do I have the financial resources to bounce back if my POS goes down during a busy time and it takes me awhile to figure out how to get it back up and running?
- Does the fact that my POS is free make the risk I am taking in terms of the loss of customer service worthwhile?
If the answer to any of them is “no,” you might find that putting out a few dollars for your POS or taking the time to find a trusted provider is well worth the investment.
Lack of Integration
When you pay for a POS, most companies will provide you with built-in integration with third-party software for vital tasks such as accounting, inventory and financial management, customer relations, email and e-commerce. Because POS providers need to spend money in order to connect their systems to these third-party programs, many are not included in a no-cost system.
Only a Partial Package
Many business owners quickly jump at a “free” system only to find out that they still must pay for a part of what they need. Perhaps the software is free while the hardware costs come out of your pocket; maybe you are expected to pay for the software and customer support. Thoroughly review all aspects of any POS solution and its associated agreements before choosing it.
Change is a given when you own a business. That’s why it’s crucial that you understand your free POS solution’s cancelation policy. Often, these packages charge you for terminating the service. Considering that your enterprise might grow beyond a free POS or require modifications for any number of other reasons, choosing a POS simply because it is easy on your budget today might be a mistake if you are required to pay penalties for making changes or canceling it tomorrow. Check with your supplier – some will upgrade or switch out your solution if it no longer meets your needs.
Saving money is an admirable goal for any business owner. But before you elect to get a no-cost POS, take time to assess your needs and those of your customers against the POS and its supplier – often a merchant serves provider – to make sure you are making a wise decision.
Audit. It might be the most intimidating five-letter word in the English language. Just the thought of the IRS painstakingly combing through your records and receipts is enough to scare many small business owners into a state of paralysis. Fortunately, there are things you can do to both avoid getting audited in the first place and to survive one if it does happen.
Be Careful and Meticulous with Your Tax Returns
It may go without saying, but the IRS really does look at the tax returns you file. When discrepancies pop up, they become red flags that can lead to the dreaded audit. For this reason, it’s important to be sure that your paperwork accurately reflects any income reporting forms such as 1099s that third parties may have filed.
In addition, simple mathematical errors can skew your numbers and lead to warning bells at Uncle Sam’s revenue headquarters, so check your numbers two or three times for accuracy before you file.
Don’t Report Losses Year after Year
Hard times can befall even the most successful retailers and small businesses, and the IRS is sympathetic, allowing you to record your losses when tax time comes. However, if you report net losses in more than two out of five years, the IRS might start to think your business is just an insignificant hobby. In the end, they might disallow all of the business deductions you have requested.
Separate Business from Personal
When it comes to bank accounts, mingling your individual assets with those of your company should be avoided at all costs. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially if time is short and you are doing a lot of multi-tasking. However, you are sure to regret it when tax time rolls around.
Instead, set up a separate account for all of your business holdings. Make it a priority to accurately report all of your company expenses and to document them with receipts. That includes receipts for any POS payments your business receives. In the unlikely event that an audit does occur, these will be invaluable as supporting evidence.
Finally, avoid the temptation to round your expenses to a large extent. Rounding to the nearest dollar is fine, but anything more than that can suggest that you are fudging your data.
Use Moderation in Setting Salaries
Of course, you want to compensate your employees for a job well done. However, some business owners fall into the trap of paying overly high salaries to their C corporation shareholders. By so doing, the amount of company profits that can be taxed is reduced, a situation that can often lead to IRS suspicion. Take some time to look at what people in your industry are making. Then compensate your people accordingly, not being either too stingy or overly generous.
Don’t Rely Too Much on Independent Contractors
Anytime you use the services of an independent contractor, you are not required to remit payroll taxes; that responsibility falls to the contractor. For that reason, many businesses use the services of these non-employees to a great extent. This is a red flag to the IRS and might result in an audit, so use independent contractors judiciously.
Be Careful about Home Offices
If you have high expenses for items such as utilities and equipment for your home office or if you also rent a second space, the IRS might decide to give your tax return a more thorough look in the form of an audit. Although requesting a deduction for a home office is perfectly legal, the space should be a separate room that is not utilized for any other purpose. Also, be sure to hold onto receipts for any of the home office expenses you are itemizing.
If you anticipate that you will pay at least $500 in business taxes at the end of the year, you should be filing quarterly estimated payments. Failing to do so can definitely put you high on the to-be-audited list.
If an Audit Does Occur
No matter how meticulous and organized you may be, there is still a small chance that you will be chosen for an audit. In most cases, these procedures simply involve the IRS calculating how much tax you owe and ensuring that your payments are up-to-date. If you get that dreaded audit letter, don’t panic. Instead, follow these suggestions:
- Look carefully at your IRS audit letter. In many cases, the process happens completely through the mail. If that is the case, give yourself the time you need to gather the pay stubs, receipts, bank statements and invoices they are requesting. Then submit them in a timely fashion. Procrastinating will only magnify the seriousness of the situation. If an in-person audit is requested, the IRS representative should be able to tell you exactly what documentation is needed and how long the audit will take.
- Understand the procedure. You have been audited for any number of reasons, and it is your job to prove and explain your claims. Perhaps your expenses rose or fell dramatically; maybe your revenues are much lower or higher than usual. You may have simply made an error in your calculations. Whatever the reason for the federal scrutiny, be calm, polite and thorough, and give the officials any and all evidence to back up your claims.
- Be patient. Audits can take several months, sometimes even longer than a year. Often, you will be visited more than once. Between visits, the data you submitted will be carefully reviewed before the next step is taken. Because a resolution can be slow in coming, your stress level may ramp up with the passage of time.
- Expect a financial burden. The longer your audit takes and the more complicated it gets, the more of your precious time is needed to accumulate documents and otherwise address IRS concerns. As a result, you have fewer hours to devote to your business. If you begin to notice that this is taking a toll on your bottom line, consider hiring someone to deal with the auditors, thereby allowing you to re-dedicate yourself to your other responsibilities.
For most small businesses, audits are a nightmare that never become a reality. Do all you can to decrease your chances of generating red flags that could bring on extra federal scrutiny. But if you do receive an IRS audit letter, rest assured that as long as you devote time and effort into satisfying the officials, the situation will be resolved.
As an entrepreneur, there are times when virtually every penny counts. When your credit card processor puts a hold on your funds, it can shake your company to its very foundations. What are some of the reasons why processing companies may do this?
Processing companies act in the middle between you and your bank. When your customer makes a credit card payment, their bank is extending a line of credit to make it happen. By the same token, your processor is paying you on the customer’s behalf long before they receive the money. If anything goes wrong in this procedure, it is the credit card processor that is on the hook for the money.
Let’s say that, despite your best efforts to stay afloat, your company goes out of business. One of the unintended casualties might be your credit card processor. If you terminate your account while you still owe merchant fees, it is the processing company that suffers the hit.
As a business owner, chargebacks may be one of your most time-consuming nightmares. They occur when a customer disputes a charge and requests to reverse it. Believe it or not, these chargebacks are even more damaging to merchant companies.
Let’s say that one of the purchases made before your business went under was a very large one. For whatever reason, the customer chooses to dispute the purchase, basically refusing to pay the charge. If your company is no longer a business entity by the time the chargeback becomes official – they can sometimes take as long as 180 days – the processing company is again left owing the money to the bank.
Credit card fraud is one of the biggest reasons for chargebacks. Merchant processing companies are often put in the unenviable position of owing many thousands of dollars when a transaction or merchant company is found to be bogus.
To sum it up, your funds are probably on hold because your processing company is attempting to protect itself from the risk of fraud, chargebacks and fees that cannot be recovered due to a merchant closing. For an entrepreneur, this situation can be frustrating in the short run. However, it’s safe to say that it is an inevitable part of doing business with credit card processing companies.
In today’s digital world, E-wallets are quickly gaining prominence and becoming customers’ preferred method of payment. That’s because they are cutting-edge, secure and easy to use. Incorporating E-wallets into your business model may well be one of the best things you could do to enhance your company and make your customers happy.
Advantages of E-Wallets
It’s no wonder that these digital payment devices are taking the retail world by storm. They offer a wide variety of attractive qualities for customers and merchants alike.
- Security. For one thing, cash is notoriously easy to lose not only due to carelessness but also from theft. By contrast, the data and funds stored in an E-wallet are encrypted. Even if a person’s cellphone is stolen, the information remains safe. During payment transactions, no personal information is leaked to the merchant or to potentially unscrupulous staff members, drastically lowering the chances of theft and fraud.
- Acceptable from a smartphone. These days, most people rarely go anywhere without their cellphones. That makes having an E-wallet particularly convenient and allows people to buy items on impulse even when they don’t have any actual cash on hand.
- Convenience. Many people are recognizing the freedom that comes with having an E-wallet. Gone are the days of cumbersome, heavy wallets stuffed with a disorganized mess of coins, bills and cards. Today’s digital payment mechanisms allow all information to be securely and neatly stored on a device that people are already carrying as a matter of course.
- Streamlining of the purchase process. Today, buying something digitally can be as fast as positioning one’s phone near the merchant’s card reader, placing a finger on the phone for verification, grabbing the product and walking out of the store. Gone are the days of fumbling for exact change, writing checks or even waiting seemingly forever for a credit card to be verified.
- E-wallets are simple to manage. Transferring funds into a digital wallet can be accomplished virtually anywhere. Whether a customer is at home on their PC, at work with their laptop or on the go with just their mobile phone, it’s a breeze to keep track of and modify information.
- Flexibility with currency. Especially for merchants who do business internationally, digital transactions can make everyday commerce much easier. That’s because merchants who accept payments from E-wallets can choose a wide variety of currencies that they can accept.
How Do E-Wallets Work?
1. The initial setup of an E-wallet requires a leap of faith for customers. They must trust that their information will remain secure not only on their smartphone but also in the archives of the E-wallet provider. In order to get started with the technology, customers must input their bank account and credit card information since these are the places from which their funds will be drawn when the time comes to make a payment.
2. The E-wallet does not necessarily contain any funds. It is up to the customer to decide when or if they wish to place monies there.
3. A payment transaction can be described as an encrypted conversation that takes place between two banks: the customer’s and the retailer’s. E-wallet payments are beneficial to buyers and sellers alike because of their heightened security protocols and the fact that a customer’s credit card information never becomes known to a merchant in the same way it once did when people used magnetic stripe cards.
4. The transaction proceeds quickly and securely, with the funds drawn from the customer’s E-wallet or bank balance and sent within seconds to the merchant.
5. Once the process is complete, both parties receive what they expect; the customer gets a product or service, and the merchant is paid appropriately for what has been purchased.
6. Thorough records are kept by the seller’s merchant services provider as well as the sponsor of the customer’s e-wallet, enabling everyone to have accountability should any questions or disputes arise.
In general, an E-wallet is a prepaid account that is used to store money and make online and mobile payment transactions quickly and securely. Before it can be activated, the user must input all of their account information, which is then stored and used when the time comes to make payments. When utilized with a smartphone, an E-wallet can also be the repository for transit and airline tickets, gift cards and customer loyalty rewards. Ultimately, the E-wallet benefits customers by giving them a fast and secure way to pay as well as a convenient place to keep all manner of valuable information. When merchants accept funds from E-wallets, they are more protected against fraud and can process payments seamlessly.
There are three types of E-wallets:
- Open wallets. This type of E-wallet can only be issued by banks or their partner institutions. It can be used to transfer funds from one account to another and to withdraw cash from ATMs. In fact, open wallets work much like credit and debit cards.
- Closed wallets. As the name implies, this type of payment instrument is restricted. It is provided by a specific company such as Amazon, and it can only be used to make purchases to the entity that sponsors it. At any time, the user can transfer any remaining balance in this type of wallet back to their own bank account.
- Semi-closed wallets. As is the case with their closed counterparts, these are sponsored by a particular company. Customers can purchase from several vendors and can also transfer funds to other users in the same network. However, they cannot withdraw cash and place it into their own accounts.
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Anyone who has worked behind a cash register knows that many customers paying by credit card do not give much attention to the signature they write on the screen or receipt slip; sometimes it isn’t even legible. You may have thought that the whole process of signing after a card purchase should be a thing of the past. Finally, all of the major credit card companies agree with you.
It started in October, when MasterCard announced that signatures were no longer required for purchases made with their plastic. After positive feedback from major retailers, Discover and American Express followed suit in December. Not long after in January, Visa became the last of the four major credit card companies to ditch the long-criticized customer signature. Although merchants still have the option to require that customers sign, this is no longer a rule of the credit card companies themselves.
Business owners who have merchant accounts and use point-of-sale systems to complete payment transactions often viewed the signature as a way to maximize customer security. However, the reality was that retailers hardly ever checked the scribbled names against the signature on the back of the customer’s card. Even if they did, they denied the transaction even more rarely.
Fortunately, today’s technology allows for much more advanced security measures. For one thing, modern EMV or chip cards enable each transaction to be encrypted. What’s more, the card never physically leaves the customer’s hand, drastically reducing the likelihood of theft or cloning. In the years to come, the use of fingerprint, voice and facial recognition capabilities will enhance the safety of the payment process even more.
Ultimately, the decision to nix the signature looks to be a win-win for both customers and business owners. For shoppers attempting to make their purchases as quickly and seamlessly as possible, taking away one step in the payment procedure saves time and aggravation. Concurrently, the retailer ends up not only with happy consumers but also does not compromise on payment security. Satisfied customers and entrepreneurs are the end result and are definitely the recipe for success.
Whether you own a business, work at one or simply buy things, you will soon be signing your name a lot less. Never fear though, the transition looks to be a smooth one, and you probably won’t miss the extra step.
In an era when convenience is king, it’s no wonder that third-party delivery services such as Grubhub and UberEats have gained such popularity. For consumers, they provide an ever-broadening range of eating choices delivered right to their door. However, restaurant owners should carefully look at the pros and cons of these services since they can be a mixed blessing.
Third-party services stand out because they are seen by many customers as cool and cutting-edge. Including your eatery on the list of one of these services can make you seem up with the times and the modern trends, particularly with your millennial customers. You don’t even need to employ your point of sale software in order to use one of these services; most do not integrate with POS systems and require you to process the transactions manually.
What’s more, third-party services can actually do some of your marketing for you. Potential customers who may never have heard of you will see your name and menu on the service’s app or website. If the customer has already had a positive experience with the company, they may attach it to your restaurant as well. That adds up to free advertising and quite a few potential loyal customers for you.
Finally, allying yourself with one of these companies can take some of the hassle off your shoulders. While you may have had to hire delivery staff in the past, you can now delegate the job to people whose salaries you don’t even pay. You will also save on gas, insurance and the cost of a vehicle. All you will need to do is to pay the service company a fee for each order they handle for you.
Before you jump on the third-party delivery service bandwagon, however, there are some negative points to consider. First of all, the fees that you will be charged can be quite hefty. Depending on your location, the popularity of your restaurant and whether you pay for a sponsored listing, you might be asked to fork over as much as a whopping 30 percent of the cost of an order.
In addition, you don’t have all that much control over the drivers the company sends to deliver your food. Should the food arrive two hours late or cold, for instance, chances are good that it will not be the third-party meal deliverer that the customer will blame. In the end, your brand might take the hit.
Another consideration is that there is room for a variety of brand-damaging errors when you work with a third-party company. You might not be open or you may have stopped taking delivery orders, yet a customer is still able to order from you on the third-party company’s website or app. Or maybe your menu changed in-house but not on the company’s platform. What do you do then? These difficulties can lead to aggravation for you and disenchantment for your customers.
When faced with the question of whether to pay for a third-party delivery company or not, you should think about your business’s unique features. If you believe that every delivery order will increase your profits and add to your customer base, this may be a terrific option for your establishment. Take the time to select the third-party vendor that best meets your needs. Once you do, you can enhance your customers’ experiences and pad your profit margin in the process.
Often, businesses focus their customer experience to either online or in-store shopping. These days, you can set yourself up for success by giving your customers the ability to get the products they want both at your brick-and-mortar facility and online.
The Advantages of On-Site and Online Shopping
Traditionally, shoppers have enjoyed the experience of seeing and touching a selection of products. Having that direct, personal experience is one of the best ways for an undecided customer to learn exactly what they want.
From a business perspective, interacting face-to-face with potential buyers provides you with the unparalleled ability to establish and cultivate a relationship that could prove to be both profitable and emotionally satisfying.
That being said, the so-called virtual buying experience has its upsides as well. Customers can peruse your website day or night, reading product reviews and looking for bargains at their leisure. Best of all, the items can be delivered right to their door in a matter of days, a convenience that many shoppers value.
From the merchant point of view, website analytics of online shopper behavior allow you to learn a great deal about your customers. The more you know, the better able you are to customize what you sell to meet the needs of the demographic you serve.
Every positive has its drawbacks, and shopping is no different. Taking the time to shop in-store can be impractical in today’s busy world. Worse still, customers can get to your store with a specific product in mind only to find that it isn’t currently in stock. Furthermore, long lines and difficulties during the checkout process can make people irritable and less inclined to come back.
Virtual shopping has its share of negatives as well. Potential buyers lose out on the personal touch. What’s more, they cannot see and touch a product before they buy it. It can also be inconvenient if items need to be returned.
The Evolution of Modern Retail
In recent years, online retail has begun to eclipse its brick-and-mortar counterparts. However, don’t look for physical stores to fade into oblivion. Instead, the path for true success involves integrating both online and in-store strategies to give customers all of the advantages of each method.
The omni-channel retailer of the future will give customers the personalization and convenience of the virtual experience in tandem with the face-to-face benefits of physical stores. How will this happen? A good deal of the solution lies in mobile technology. These days, even smaller retailers are jumping on the mobile app bandwagon. Doing so enables them to set up customer loyalty programs that entice and reward people for shopping in-store.
In addition, location-based technologies can be used to alert customers to sales and other promotions when they get physically close to your store. You can use the tools you have available through your POS gateway to learn what specific items your customer wants. When they are in close proximity to your location, you can send a customized message that invites them to come in and make the purchase.
New innovations are also making it much easier for customers to have the ease of online shopping married to the ability to see, feel and get what they want immediately. One of the most promising of these is digital light fixtures, which act as Bluetooth beacons and pair with the mapping technology and loyalty app in the customer’s phone. Thanks to this invention, potential buyers can be guided effortlessly right to the item they are looking for just as quickly as they would if they were conducting an online search – but with the added benefit of instant gratification. In addition, they have the ability to ask questions and possibly even augment their purchase with accessories. That’s a win-win for retailers and customers alike.
There is another benefit of modern in-store technology. It can actually track how long someone stands in front of a product display. In real time, the retailer can recognize that the customer may have questions and send an associate to assist them. If a patron wants help from you or one of your staff, they can also use their app to summon assistance, thus saving time and improving the overall shopping experience.
What You Can Do to Embrace Multi-Channel Retailing
Does it make sense that integrating your enterprise to incorporate the advantages of both online and in-store shopping is one of the smartest steps you can take to enhance sales and make your customers happy? If so, there are steps you can take today to begin your journey towards more effective sales.
- Make sure your technology is up-to-date. That includes your POS system. Contact your service provider to ensure that your system allows you to do effective inventory and customer care management. If you have fallen behind the times, the moment to upgrade has arrived.
- Make sure your website is easy to navigate and mobile-friendly. If that means contracting with a vendor, the work will probably pay for itself in short order. You can’t afford to miss out on customers’ increasing tendency to shop via their phones.
- Consider adopting modern beacon technologies into your store. They will help to guide buyers to the products they want quickly and efficiently.
Modern technology has expanded horizons in a myriad of ways. For you as an entrepreneur, it can enable you to harness the power of multiple methods of shopping. By doing so, your customers will have a satisfyingly efficient buying experience while still being able to interact with you and your products. In the end, everyone wins.
Pop-up shops: They cost relatively little to start, and they can be the ideal vehicle for spreading the word about your brand. Whether you’re looking for a new revenue stream, want to give your online customers a way to see and touch your wares, or wish to test the viability of a product before you fully invest in it, a pop-up shop is an excellent option.
With the help of a virtual point-of-sale solution, your new endeavor can take your business to a higher level.
Understand the Benefits
As with any new project, getting your pop-up off the ground is a multi-step process. Before you make the commitment, it might help to understand why it may be worthwhile. For one thing, it’s cost-effective. Today’s realtors have come to understand how lucrative these temporary selling spaces can be, and they’re often willing to give you a good deal. What’s more, pop-up stores afford you the perfect, low-commitment way to introduce customers to new items or capitalize on a particular event or time of year.
For instance, many pop-ups focus on holidays such as Halloween and Christmas. Finally, the pop-up is the perfect place to create urgency. When people know that your store will only be there for a limited time, they are often motivated to take advantage of your presence immediately.
Take Advantage of the Low Cost
Your pop-up costs a lot less than a permanent brick-and-mortar location, but that doesn’t mean its benefits don’t shine. Thanks to the flexibility it affords, you can take some added risks. Field-test items to see how well they sell. Get customer feedback face-to-face, all the while using your virtual POS system to sync and track your inventory, monitor and evaluate trends and market to your most loyal customers.
Make the Most of Your Staff
Especially during busy times, it is your employees who will be on the front line with your customers. This is especially true with pop-up stores. Thanks to your virtual POS system, your associates can help people find items quickly and efficiently, whether you currently have them in your pop-up store or in a warehouse. Inventory management and sales trending capabilities in your POS can help you keep the most popular items in stock and on hand. What’s more, you can use your mobile system to take customer payments from anywhere, leading to more sales and happier customers.
Setting up a pop-up shop involves a great deal of time and forethought. Determining your goals, finding and setting up your location, understanding who your customers are as well as the products they want are just the beginning steps. As you customize your space and make it uniquely yours, your virtual POS system can be an invaluable ally, helping you provide the product exposure and customer experience that will lead to your success.
You have probably heard of skimming, a nefarious technology that criminals employed to obtain sensitive credit card information for the purpose of making illegal purchases. Although financial institutions and merchants have found ways to thwart these activities, evil-doers seem to always find another way to wreak havoc. Enter shimming, the new and even more disturbing way to steal users’ information.
How Does Shimming Work?
With old-school skimming, criminals usually affixed a false front to an ATM or a credit card reader commonly attached to a gas pump. This piece contained technology that cloned the magnetic stripe on a credit card without the victim having any knowledge that it had happened. Over time, however, consumers learned to look for loose ATM front plates or any other irregularity that might signal skimming.
Today’s shimming is even more sinister. It uses a paper-thin device inserted into the card reader that intercepts and stores the information embedded in a consumer’s EMV chip card. Although today’s EMV cards should be more secure, they still contain a magnetic stripe that the shimmer can hijack. The card might not be cloned in exactly the same way, but a customer’s data can still be used if a financial institution’s security protocols are lax.
The Added Dangers
Because shimmers are so small, they can be inserted in virtually any terminal or wireless credit card reader. Worse still, criminals can easily remove the device without being detected; the procedure looks no different than it would if the person was making an ordinary payment.
Protect Yourself Against Shimming
In spite of its insidiousness, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your business from shimming.
- Whenever possible, pay using contactless, tap-and-go technology with platforms such as Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. Encourage your customers to do the same.
- Withdraw cash at indoor ATMs. Better still, do so at the teller window with an actual human being.
- If you or a customer experience a feeling of resistance when dipping an EMV card, do not complete the transaction. Have the reader checked and replaced if necessary.
- If you haven’t done so already, upgrade your POS to accept EMV cards. Once you do, your system will be able to detect if a mag stripe card has been counterfeited.
- All consumers should regularly monitor their bank and credit card accounts to ensure that no unauthorized purchases have been made.
It’s inevitable: As soon as one method of fraud or thievery is squashed, criminals will come up with a new and improved scheme. That doesn’t mean you need to be a victim. Whether you’re a consumer or a business owner, understanding what shimming is and how to protect yourself against it can markedly minimize your chances of becoming the prey of a shimmer.
Your business relies on merchant processing services to conduct credit and debit card transactions. Losing your account could mean the end of your business, especially if you make most of your sales online.
How can you ensure your account stays active and viable? Avoid these four common issues, all of which can lead merchant providers to terminate relationships with businesses.
Your Industry Counts as “High Risk”
Your company may count as a high-risk operation if you deal in:
- Gaming or gambling
- Life coaching
- Long-term memberships
- Real estate
- Travel services
- Vitamins and supplements
Certain online stores, such as those operating through Amazon or eBay, are also classified as high-risk businesses. Some providers won’t take on any company with a high level of risk, so you have to find a service willing to give you an account. Some providers, such as Humboldt Merchant Services, specialize in credit card processing for high-risk merchants.
While being in a high-risk industry isn’t something you can control, you can take steps to ensure your business doesn’t attract unwanted attention from your merchant provider.
You Have a High Chargeback Ratio
A chargeback occurs when a customer requests a refund in response to a fraudulent charge. This may occur after unauthorized use of a card or when an unintentional payment is made, such as a teenager using his or her parent’s card without permission. The acceptable maximum ratio for chargebacks in the industry is generally considered to be 1 percent. Too high of a ratio may indicate suspicious activity or poor attention to customer satisfaction. Work to avoid chargebacks by providing ample alternate means for customers to request refunds or settle disputes.
Your Customers Are Victims of Fraud
If you log a high number of fraudulent transactions, your merchant account provider will take notice. The shift to EMV or “chip” cards, the upsurge in use of electronic payment methods, and the continuing popularity of online shopping have all increased the likelihood of credit card fraud, and merchant services providers expect businesses to take every possible precaution against the theft of customer information.
You’re Engaged in Questionable Activities
It’s important to read the terms of service before signing up for a merchant account so that you understand what activities the provider considers to be “suspicious.” For example, most providers don’t want their clients using multiple merchant accounts at the same time or using a single account for multiple businesses. Committing deliberate fraud by misusing customer information, using deceptive advertising, overcharging customers or not making good on sales will also put your account in jeopardy
The closure of your merchant account could land your business in the Terminated Merchant File (TMF), also known as the MATCH list. This makes it next to impossible to open a new merchant account with another provider, so being diligent about activities on your current account is critical.
Take steps to improve security and minimize fraud, and focus on excellent customer service to reduce the number of chargebacks. By maintaining a good track record and keeping lines of communication open between your business and your customers, you can ensure a positive relationship with your merchant account provider.