It’s no secret that customers want options when it comes to how they pay for their goods and services. New payment methods have exploded beyond cash to mobile wallets -- Venmo, Zelle, Bitcoin, Apple Pay and more. Yet despite this growing list, customers overwhelmingly prefer to pay by debit or credit card. Recent industry research shows that 80% of consumers prefer to pay with cards instead of cash.
These trends have many business owners looking to offer a wider of array of payment options. No matter where or how you run your business, accepting different kinds of payments can be a competitive differentiator. Being a business that’s easy to buy from reduces the chance for customers to postpone their purchases or take their business elsewhere. Longer, slower checkout lines are commonly caused by customers digging around for change in their wallets or purses, or cashiers waiting to get more pennies and nickels.
Credit and debit cards eliminate the some of the unavoidable inconveniences of cash transactions. It takes for less time to process a card payment. But accepting non-cash transactions at your business isn’t as simple as displaying a sign that says you accept debit and credit cards. Processing card payments requires encrypted channels that protect your customers’ sensitive information – and your company’s private data. Before you decide which types of card payments you want to accept at your business, you must first partner with a merchant services provider.
What is a merchant service provider?
Merchant service providers can help your business easily and securely accept card payments (including PIN-based, prepaid debit cards, and other forms of non-cash transactions) from almost any financial institution or credit card issuer, like Visa, MasterCard, Discover or American Express. Merchant services providers supply your business with the right software that’s equipped with extensive security and fraud protections. They also provide payment processing equipment, ranging from check or gift card scanners, credit card processors or Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals. Some merchant services providers offer other capabilities to help business owners better connect with their customers, too. Below is a list of other common merchant services solutions that go beyond debit and credit card transaction processing.
1. Offer gift cards or new customer loyalty programs
Who doesn’t love a gift card to their favorite business? No matter the size of your business, gift cards encourage customers to share your business with their friends, family and coworkers. Another bonus of gift cards? They operate on a secure closed loop payment, which eliminates the potential risks associated with other payment methods like credit cards, debit cards and checks.
Loyalty programs that offer exclusive discounts and rewards are another great way to let your customers know you appreciate their business and encourage repeat purchases. Some merchant service providers can help you create customized, branded loyalty programs to help you show your appreciation and increase your profit margin to boot.
2. Accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards
It’s a common assumption that EBT cards are primarily for food stamps. But did you know these cards can be used for other government benefits? Even if your business doesn’t sell food, you could still profit from accepting EBT cards. Some merchant services providers offer special payment processors which let customers easily scan their EBT cards the same way they would for a debit or credit card. This approach saves time at the register for you and your customers, while protecting customers' privacy.
3. Let your customers pay online
Before the pandemic, some business hesitated to offer online payments due to potential security concerns. But today’s merchant services providers have evolved to offer sophisticated, extensive security and fraud solutions. No matter what the future holds, online payment solutions can help you maintain your business. Online payment solutions let your customers shop at their convenience, regardless of reduced hours, rolling lockdowns or unanticipated closures for deep cleaning. Shoppers can hunt for new living room décor at 2 a.m. or book a hair appointment during their lunch break.
4. Let your customers pay without a card
Although cards are the most popular payment method today, many customers (especially younger generations) prefer mobile payment solutions like Apple Pay, Samsung and Google Pay – or even a mobile wallet.
Mobile wallets exist on a customer’s smart phone. The mobile wallet allows customers to add debit cards, gift cards, and credit cards to their phones. Customers simply wave or scan their phones at checkout, eliminating the need to dig through a physical wallet for the right card. Eliminating the need for using physical cards in crowded checkout lines also reduces the risk of fraud and identity theft.
Payment gateways are another option that eliminates the need for physical cards. A payment gateway transfers data between payment processors and websites or mobile devices. Stripe, Square and PayPal are a few examples of popular, commonly used payment gateways.
Payment gateways go the extra mile to protect your business and reduce the risk of fraud during transactions. These technologies can encrypt transactions, verify addresses or other personal information, and even analyze transaction velocity patterns.
When is the right time for merchant services?
Forward-thinking businesses (both large and small) know they can no longer expect their customers to pay with cash and coins for every purchase (even if your business only accepts cash payments). As your business expands, so should your accepted payment methods. Incorporating merchant services lets your business request and receive card and other forms of payments safely and easily. A merchant services provider can help your business save time and prevent expensive mistakes when it comes to accepting non-cash payments. Every business has different needs, so it’s important find a provider that’s willing to understand your sales and goals. This information is critical to recommending the right solutions and services to support your business.
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