How can my business accept credit cards?

Woman using a tablet in her office to research how to accept credit card paymentsImage: Woman using a tablet in her office to research how to accept credit card payments

In a Nutshell

Accepting credit cards at your small business may provide customers with a safe and convenient payment option and help improve your cash flow. Let’s go over what you need to accept them, what the potential advantages are and what alternative payment methods exist.
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Credit cards can be a safe, secure and convenient way for businesses to accept payments — and they’re an attractive alternative for consumers who don’t want to use cash.

With a variety of plug-and-play solutions that you can integrate into your business operations, you’ll probably find that setting up credit card processing is relatively quick and easy.

Let’s take a look at some key details to help you decide if accepting credit cards is right for your business.

Accepting credit cards at your business: What you need to know

The number of credit card transactions has risen steadily over the last two decades — so if your business doesn’t accept credit cards, you could be missing out on potential sales. Adding credit cards as a payment option could help your business cash in on this growing trend.

There are several ways to take credit card payments

If you’re thinking about accepting credit cards at your business, there are several ways you can take credit cards for payment. You can use a point-of-sale system to accept cards in store if you have a brick-and-mortar shop, or a mobile card reader to take cards in different locations. You can also opt to accept payments by credit card over the phone or let customers cash out on your website with a card.

Consider a credit card payment partner

If you want to accept cards at your business, partnering up with a credit card company or a merchant service provider might make the process easier. There are multiple payment processors to choose from, so be sure to compare the fees, functionality, security and support that each solution offers to find the best fit for your business.

Here’s some info on five popular options.

  • Stripe — Works with many kinds of businesses, including e-commerce shops and subscription businesses
  • Square — Has options for restaurants, retail, service and appointment-based businesses, plus customized solutions for enterprise businesses
  • Clover — Works with food service, retail, e-commerce and service-based businesses
  • PayPal — Ideal for small and medium-size businesses or larger companies
  • Intuit — Flexible solutions for any business that wants to accept credit cards

Advantages and disadvantages of accepting credit cards at your business

If you’re considering accepting credit card payments for your business, here are some of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

May improve cash flow

With credit card usage on the rise, you probably won’t lose out on sales from people who prefer plastic to cash.

Gives your customers a contactless payment option

Some credit cards offer a contactless payment option, so all your customer has to do is hold or tap a card on the merchant’s reader when they check out, just as they would if using a digital wallet to pay.

Secure transactions

When you accept cash, keeping it safe until you can deposit it at the bank is a concern. Credit cards can eliminate that issue, giving you a way to transfer funds from your customers to your business without a trip to the bank.

You might not be able to access money right away

The funds from a credit card transaction may be available as soon as the next day, or it might take several days for the money to clear. Processing times may also vary by credit card payment processor and bank.

Fees might apply

Credit card payment processors typically charge a fee for every credit card transaction they process. Fees vary by payment partner and transaction type (whether it’s in person, online or elsewhere).

Customers may be able to dispute charges

If a consumer is unhappy with a product or service they purchase with their card, they might be able to dispute the charge with the credit card company. If the credit card company reverses the charge, you could be on the hook for the loss.

If accepting credit card payments isn’t right for you, consider these alternatives

If you want to give your customers a non-cash, contactless payment method, credit cards aren’t the only option.

You can also consider accepting payments through Zelle or Venmo instead. Both apps now allow customers make contactless payments since they’ve recently started letting small businesses use them to accept customer payments.

About the author: Jennifer Brozic is a freelance financial services writer with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in communication management from Towson University. She’s committed… Read more.