A merchant account is vital to the success of a business. It gives a professional appearance to your business and studies show that consumers tend to invest more into an order when they can use a credit card over using cash or a check.
There are several ways to get setup to take credit cards through a merchant account. Most people assume you need an expensive card swiper and deal with lots of red tape to accept credit cards. That’s not entirely true. If you would like the convenience of a swiper machine, contact your local bank and ask if they offer a Merchant Services membership. Some banks will give you the swiper free when opening a Business account. There are also several companies who offer “virtual terminals” where you can access a secured website and manually enter the credit card information. They give you immediate confirmation or declined status. Usually there is a monthly fee to use this service, but no extra equipment is needed.
Many business owners are also making use of Paypal or other online payment services to accept payments. Years ago not many photographers were using Paypal because it seemed like a complicated process to invoice customers, wait for them to pay (and hope they would) and sometimes have to wait for the payment to go through. Today however, you can still use the email invoice option, but you can also sign up to get the Paypal swiper that will let you swipe their card immediately using a small swiper that plugs right into your phone.
With each transaction you process you can expect to pay a per transaction fee ranging anywhere from $.10 to $.50 depending on the company you are using. There is also something called a discount fee, which is the percentage of the sale you pay to process that charge. You can expect to pay 2-4% of your transactions plus a per transaction fee to any company.
Photo Credit: Beau Giles on Flickr