Information on Merchant Accounts,
Ecommerce and Credit Card Processing

May 14th, 2015 by Jamie Estep

1099 Nightmare

Filed in: Merchant Accounts | Add comment

Are you missing some of your Deposits?

It could be the IRS!

From time to time we hear horror stories from merchants with deposits that seem to be missing money. Several weeks ago we heard from such a merchant with this experience.

He said the scariest part initially is that no one knew where his money went. His processor could see his batches, and his funding reports, and everything added up. But when it came to his bank statements he was missing about 30% from each deposit. He told us he was just sick when he added up all the missing funds and it came out to around $30,000. It took him and his processor more than a week to sort out where the funds had gone, and once found, he learned that he was not going to be able to access those fund until the following year.

Where did his money go you might wonder? This merchant was a victim of the new IRS regulations which allow the IRS to place an account on a mandatory 28% withholding. In 2008, buried in the middle of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act was a provision that had nothing to do with housing but was a new requirement that banks and credit processors must now report payments to the IRS. The rule, which took effect in 2012, was meant to “improve voluntary tax compliance” by business taxpayers to help the IRS determine whether their tax returns are correct and complete. This is where the 1099-k was born.

Merchants are now required to complete a W-9 form for their credit card processor, if in the prior calendar year, they received payments:

  • from payment card transactions (e.g., debit, credit or stored-value cards), and/or
  • in settlement of third-party payment network transactions above the minimum reporting thresholds of –
    • gross payments that exceed $20,000 AND
    • more than 200 such transactions

So now it is required that your merchant account provider collect and verify every merchant TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number). At the end of the year, merchant account providers file 1099-k forms reporting annual gross payments processed by credit or debit cards to the IRS. Not only must the TIN match but the address and name must match exactly to the IRS or there will be what is called a TIN mismatch. If the mismatch is not corrected by the end of the year (starting in 2014) then the processor is required to withhold 28% of the merchant account deposits. In addition some states have jumped on the bandwagon (California for one example) and require the processor to withhold an additional 10%.

The deadline to impose the penalty for most major credit cards was initially required to begin in 2012. However, the IRS postponed the requirement until October 2014. If a merchant’s TIN was not valid by this time, they will start to see revenue withheld. Any merchant who receives a “B” notice initiated by the IRS will have 30 days to respond prior to mandatory IRS-directed withholding of a minimum of 28% of gross sales.

The crux of the whole situation, is that IRS guidelines do not permit the held funds to be immediately returned to the merchant. But rather, the merchant can re-acquire them when they file their tax return. Unfortunately, businesses aren’t going to file their current year tax return until sometime in the following year at the very earliest. Additionally, the way this revenue is treated, it is very possible that the funds being held are simply used to offset any tax owed to the IRS at the time of their filing. To summarize, the way this money is held is an extremely painful burden to a merchant who was anticipating their normal sales revenue to be in their bank account.

Where can a merchant find out if they have a TIN mismatch?

A merchant’s name and TIN should match those used on the tax return in order to match the IRS database. The merchant account provider should have been sending notifications via mail, email, phone, and/or fax, in addition to special statement messages if a merchant is in risk of having their money withheld. Many processors also offer an online merchant portal where merchants can go to verify this information.

If you have any doubt please contact your agent or your processing company. If the IRS begins withholding there is no way to get the funds released until you file your return the following year. You can stop the withholding by becoming compliant but you won’t get the monies that have been held until you file your return.

In the event that your money is held, we strongly suggest speaking to a knowledgeable CPA or tax attorney so that you can fully understand the implication of having money held this way.


April 27th, 2015 by Jamie Estep

Apple Pay, is it worth the bite?

Filed in: Merchant Accounts | Add comment

What is Apple Pay all about, do I need to accept Apple Pay and do I need new equipment?

Apple Pay was rolled out fall of 2014 with headlines blasting out how it was going to change the payment industry. Now that it’s been out for six months and the hype has died down, it’s time to decide to accept Apple Pay or ignore it as a passing fancy.

Apple Pay is another attempt at a mobile wallet payment solutions using Near Field Communication or “NFC”. Earlier attempts at a mobile wallet included Walmart, Chase, PayPal, and Google wallet did not gain widespread acceptance. Apple is now taking a stab at mobile payments with their Apple Pay service, which is designed to allow iPhone users to store their credit cards on a phone app system and use existing NFC technology to process transactions. This can be done through a merchant’s credit card terminal as long as they have the right system in place. NFC technology can also be used on many of the new EMV compatible credit cards currently being rolled out. These cards you may have noticed have a chip embedded in the card itself so the card doesn’t have to be actually swiped on the terminal. It can simply be waved close to the terminal reader around 15 inches and it will be read as if you actually swiped the card. By using the existing credit card networks this has allowed Apple Pay to grow faster and be accepted in more places than any of the other previous attempts at a mobile wallet.

There are a few big box retailers who have tried to develop their own systems to circumvent the credit card networks or have boycotted Apple Pay. Best Buy and Walmart are two examples of companies attempting their own mobile systems and CVS Pharmacy and Rite-Aid have actually turned off all NFC capable payment devices. This effectively stopped Apple Pay from working at their stores. Although Apple certainly isn’t the first company in the digital wallet / mobile payments space, they are thus far the most successful in the least amount of time. The buzz and hype around their service has really helped to increase the number of businesses accepting those payments. If you have an iPhone that supports Apple Pay you can simply add your current credit cards into the device through the Passbook app, and after a quick verification with your card issuer, you are ready to make payments with your phone at more than 700,000 locations.

The other benefit of Apple Pay is if you get the right equipment, it will work perfectly with the new EMV credit cards. By October 1st you must be able to process EMV credit cards so you might as well get the right equipment (EMV newsletter Link) to accept Apple Pay and be EMV compliant at the same time.

The terminals we recommend for EMV and Apple Pay are:
Verifone VX520
Ingenico ICT250
First Data FD130 (FirstData Only)
Clover POS System (FirstData Only)

Which Apple products support Apple Pay?

For In Store purchases your options today are the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, however later this month the Apple Watch will launch enabling users who buy it to take advantage of Apple Pay on an IPhone 5, 5c, or 5s. Keep in mind that the iPad Air 2, and iPad mini 3 also support Apple Pay, but at this time it’s only for Apple app purchases. Going forward we expect almost every new Apple product to have NFC built-in, meaning more devices will support Apple Pay.

How is Apple Pay Secure?

You might be surprised to know that when using Apple Pay, credit card numbers are not stored on the device or on an Apple server. When you add a credit card to Passbook during the registration process the card is issued an unique Device Account Number stored only in the that device’s Secure Element. Since the device doesn’t store the credit card numbers, it and the point of sale hardware use the Device Account Number and a transaction specific security code to seek approval from the card issuer. This means card data is never shared between the cardholder and the merchant, which from a security standpoint is a big deal. If someone, either an employee or a nearby third party is trying to scan card numbers, the only information they could hope to get would be useless.

What if your iPhone is lost or stolen? If your phone does end up in the wrong hands, you no longer need to cancel all those cards. If you have enabled Find My iPhone you have options like locking your phone so it’s unusable, and/or completely wiping all data from the device. Even if someone gains access to your phone they would still need your fingerprint to process the payment.

How do I accept Apple Pay?

Accepting Apple Pay requires that you have an NFC enabled credit card terminal or Point of Sale, and a processor who supports it. If you have recently purchased a terminal there are ways to verify if it has the ability to accept NFC, or Contactless payments. Your processor should be able to assist you in that process. If you have a credit card terminal that’s more than a couple years old it’s likely that you will need a new terminal or NFC peripheral to accept Apple Pay.

The bottom line is it looks likes Apple Pay is here to stay. Apple, by using the existing credit card systems has made it relatively easy for merchants to accept Apple Pay payments. Banks, stores, and companies are jumping on the bandwagon and eagerly pledging their support for Apple Pay.

But more importantly, if you haven’t upgraded your equipment to accept the new EMV cards, you can do so and at the same time enable yourself to accept the Apple Pay transactions.


April 15th, 2015 by Jamie Estep

The End of PC Charge

Filed in: Credit Card Equipment, Data Security, Industry News, Merchant Accounts | Add comment

We just got word that VeriFone is discontinuing their PC Charge software. Apparently due to EMV, PC Charge will discontinue all new support contracts Oct 1st, 2015. We will continue selling and shipping PC Charge software until we are out however, VeriFone will stop shipping new copies in May of 2015. After that, the only PC Charge available will be what vendors have in their stock.

Existing support contracts will be honored but once their time has ended, VeriFone will not allow them to be renewed.

This comes as a bit of a shock to us. There are tens of thousands of businesses using PC charge. There are also many POS systems that use PC Charge in the background to process payments. It’s not clear exactly how many businesses will be affected by this, but many don’t even know their POS system uses PC Charge in the background.

This is a very rapid wind down of PC Charge considering how many merchants are likely using it. If you are currently using PC Charge for your processing or if you know your POS system uses it, we strongly suggest to start looking for another processing method as soon as possible. This is especially important if you manage customers, or use the other PC Charge features, as migrating to another system may be complicated.

For alternative POS Systems, we are offering the Clover POS for merchants processing through First Data and Shopkeep POS for merchants on any platform, both built on tablet operating systems at a significant discount over most traditional PC based POS systems.


March 31st, 2015 by Jamie Estep

EMV

Filed in: Credit Card Equipment, Data Security, Fraud, Merchant Accounts | Add comment

What is all this talk about EMV and Credit Cards?

You’ve probably heard about new changes to the processing industry by now, called EMV.

EMV is the global standard for processing a credit card and stands for Europay, Mastercard, and Visa, but more importantly, EMV is just a more secure method of processing a credit card payment through a credit card reader. Each credit card will have an embedded microchip. These chips will hold all of the card holder information and act as a mini computer. The EMV cards are inserted into a slot instead of swiping through a magnetic card reader. making it extremely difficult to duplicate. The card and the reader securely transfer information back and forth to the card issuer during the sales process which will help increase security and reduce fraud. EMV is also known as chip and PIN and chip and signature.

How does EMV affect my business?

Due to increasing fraud over the past 2 decades, card associations in the US have mandated that EMV be adopted in the US. What EMV does is make it extremely difficult for a retail business to accept a forged credit card. Some business types, such as gas stations and other unattended products, are more likely to be victims of accepting forged credit cards, but fraud is a problem that affects every business and EMV will go a long way to reducing these types of fraud. For online and businesses that accept transactions primarily over the phone, EMV will have very little effect in the short term. However, it is anticipated that in the future, EMV technology will be incorporated to on-line or card not present processing. The bottom line is the more businesses that switch to EMV and the more card holders who have EMV cards, the less likely it will be for any card to be illegally copied. It is very easy to duplicate a payment card with a magnetic stripe but extremely difficult, on the verve of impossible, to duplicate a chip embedded card. The migration to EMV cards is geared specifically towards decreasing chargebacks and fraud in the United States.

On October of 2015, a liability shift will occur, specifically with respect to fraudulent transactions on cards that have been illegally copied. As of now, when a merchant swipes a card which later turns out to have been illegally forged, the bank that issued the card is responsible for reimbursing the card holder for any fraudulent charges to their account. In October, this will change, and a merchant will assume liability if they do not accept EMV transactions. In the interim, US credit cards will be issued with both the chip embedded and the magnetic stripe until EMV or an alternative is created for card not present transactions, and the majority of merchants have adopted EMV.

Am I required to buy a new EMV terminal?

At this time you are not required to support the new EMV technology. But bear in mind that you will be the weakest link in the credit card payment flow and will be increasingly more susceptible to credit card fraud. As the US migrates to this new technology, criminals will inherently target the systems with the most vulnerable security. It is estimated that by October of 2015 70% of all cards will have been replaced with chip enabled cards, and it’s already being reported that fraud is on the rise ahead of US EMV implementation.

Many terminals deployed in the past five years are already chip capable and may only need to be reprogrammed, so not all merchants will need to upgrade their processing equipment. As of now, most point of sale systems are not EMV ready.

What if I don’t upgrade my equipment?

Normally, a card issuer is liable for fraudulent transactions resulting from forged or copied credit cards. After October, 1st 2015 merchants not compliant with the EMV chip card technology will assume this liability.

What are my options for accepting EMV cards?

To find out if your credit card terminal is EMV compatible, check with one of the Merchant Equipment Store experts (888) 528.0058 or contact your current processor.

The Merchant Equipment Store carries several different terminals and Point of Sales systems that are EMV compatible. We recommend the VeriFone VX520 EMV, the FD130, and the First Data Clover POS system . The VeriFone VX520 with EMV capability retails for under $200, The First Data only FD130 retails for around $330 and includes a contactless reader for Apple Pay and other NFC mobile payments. The Clover POS system starts at $1,100 or $49.95 per month to lease.

Additional Resources:

Mastercard EMV

Visa EMV Readiness Guide pdf


February 6th, 2015 by Jamie Estep

First Data Terminals

Filed in: Merchant Accounts |

We are now stocking First Data FD terminals.

For retail, we have the FD130. This terminal does it all, dial, ethernet, wifi, EMV, and NFC. It works with Apple Pay as well. We have a demo unit in our showroom and can personally confirm it will process Apple Pay payments.

For mobile and wireless needs, the FD410 is an EMV enabled wireless option. The 410 does not have NFC or Apple Pay capabilities, but otherwise is a solid wireless terminal, that should fit the majority of mobile businesses.

These terminals are both proprietary and can only be used when processing with First Data or on first data platforms.


October 21st, 2014 by Jamie Estep

Start accepting apple pay

Filed in: Merchant Accounts |

apple-pay-300The Merchant Store is proud to announce the ability to setup and support customers wanting the ability to accept Apple Pay mobile payments. Apple pay enables merchants to accept contactless payment from customers using their Apple iPhone or iWatch.

Not all processing platforms have the ability to support apple pay at this time, but most are actively working on it.

Contact us for more information on accepting apple pay mobile payments.


October 7th, 2014 by Jamie Estep

Credit card logo generator and API – Updated

Filed in: Ecommerce, Merchant Accounts, Tools | 11 comments

Update 10-2014 – Added Apple Pay logo/icon. Next update will include fully dynamic sizing options. Stay tuned.

Update 11-2013 – Added transparency option. Just omit the bgcolor from the url and the background of the logos will be transparent. This allows the logo to match any background color they are placed on without trying to match up HEX colors.

Update 05-2013 – Added Bitcoin and Google Wallet.

Update 03-2013 – Added Skrill, Verified by Visa, and Mastercard Secure Code logos.

Update 08-2011 – Added ebillme and 2checkout.com logos.

We’ve just completed a simple credit card logo generator and have included an API for web designers to use as well.

The API supports different logos for card issuers, paypal, google checkout and a few other. A developer can use the API to specify the size, background color and the order of the logos that they need on their website.

Here’s a quick tutorial and a few examples of how to use the API.

  1. Create an image tag with the root url: https://www.merchantequip.com/image/
  2. Next either leave the parameter bgcolor blank for the logoes to have a transparent background, or add the bgcolor parameter to specify a 3 or 6 character HEX background color for your logo. If you do not know the background color: FFF is white, 000 is black. Here is a full HEX color chart. There are also a variety of browser addons if you need to match the exact colors of your website.
  3. Next specify the actual logos that you would like to add to your site, in the order you would like to display them. Separate the logos with a pipe | character. Example: v|m|a|d for Visa then MasterCard followed by Amex and Discover.All of the available logo codes are:
    • v = Visa
    • m = MasterCard
    • d = Discover
    • a = Amex
    • g = Google Checkout
    • p = Paypal
    • bml = Bill Me Later
    • ec = eCheck
    • jcb = JCB
    • dc = Diners Club
    • s = Solo
    • me = Maestro
    • mb = Moneybookers
    • az = Amazon Payments
    • in = Interac
    • ebm = eBillme
    • 2co = 2checkout.com
    • vbv = Verified by Visa
    • msc = Mastercard Secure Code
    • sk = Skrill
    • bit = Bitcoin
    • gw = Google Wallet
    • apl = Apple Pay
  4. Finally specify the height of the logos. The images currently come in 32px and 64px, so size accordingly allowing for a small margin around the images. We will be allowing for dynamic resizing in the future, but for now the only 2 sizes supported are 32px and 64px. Any additional height will be added as a margin.

The actual image url should look like (these are all generated through this exact API):

https://www.merchantequip.com/image/?bgcolor=FFFFFF&logos=v|m|a|d&height=32

The image HTML will look like:

<img src=”https://www.merchantequip.com/image/?bgcolor=FFFFFF&logos=v|m|a|d&height=32″ />

The logo above will display as:

Card Logos

Here’s the same logo using the larger image sizes:

Card Logos

Here’s all of the currently available logos:

Card Logos
Card Logos 2
Card Logos 3
Card Logos 4

While this tool is free to use we greatly appreciate a backlink or credit if you are using images that are hosted through the API. These images are all served securely over SSL, so they may be used on secure/SSL websites and ecommerce sites without errors.

If you have no idea of what an API is or just need logos for your website, please use the credit card logo generator and ignore this post.

Thanks again.


June 11th, 2014 by Jamie Estep

New Wireless Terminals

Filed in: Credit Card Equipment |

The Verifone (previously Nurit) 8020 is officially at its end of life. The 8020 is by far the most widely used full-featured wireless terminal on the market today. Verifone has produced the 610 and the 670, but for a number of reasons the 8020 has been a superior terminal to both of these for most merchants.

vx675-frontHaving to find a replacement terminal, Verifone has recently introduced the VX675 which we expect to become Verifone’s most popular wireless terminal. It comes in at a great price, is EMV ready, and is more appealing than Verifone’s other wireless terminals. We’ve also been very pleased with 2 other terminals we’ve recently been introduced to, the Pax S90 and the Dejavoo V9. Both are very well designed wireless terminals with a ton of features such as EMV and options such as prepaid data plans. Both are offered in GPRS and CDMA versions which is important as some areas, rural especially, do not have sufficient access to one or the other network.

Although iPhone and Android processing is the current trend, we still think that full featured wireless terminals have a number of benefits in reliability, security, and function over cell phone based solutions. Many merchant’s sales volume or operational procedures quickly outgrow cell phone based solutions and wireless terminals have been time tested to work for a variety of mobile merchants. We anticipate these terminals to be the standard in stand-alone wireless units for the foreseeable future.


April 3rd, 2014 by Jamie Estep

Multiple terminals coming to an end

Filed in: Merchant Accounts |

It looks like almost all current credit card terminals are going to be discontinued by their manufacturers at the end of April 2014.

While it’s not entirely clear if this is due to EMV or PCI changes to credit card terminals, or some other manufacturing or logistical issue, but all current Hypercom / Equinox and most Verifone terminals will be discontinued after April of 2014. By our information this includes Verifone VX510, VX510LE, and VX570 terminals, and includes all current Equinox terminals, the 4205, 4210, and 4220.

After April of 2014 the only of these terminals available will be existing stock or refurbished terminals.

Equinox has the Apollo line of terminals that is set to replace the Optimum 4210 and 4220 series which includes a traditional all in one terminal, and a dual merchant / customer facing setup. As of right now, Apollo terminals are not well supported at most processors so there may be a delay, possibly significant, before these terminals are available with most processors.

Verifone has the VX520 line which is already overpassing VX510 and VX570 terminals. The VX520 comes in several versions including EMV and even a contactless NFC version.

As of right now, we recommend the VX520 with EMV, as many merchants will want to be able to adopt the new EMV standards for processing when they are finally rolled out.

Dejavoo, Ingenico, FirstData also have terminals that appear to be unaffected by the changes.

Existing users of these discontinued terminals should have several years before they need to think about upgrading. As of now, this is strictly a supply issue and shouldn’t affect current operation.


April 1st, 2014 by Jamie Estep

Problems with used credit card terminals on eBay and craigslist

Filed in: Credit Card Equipment, Merchant Accounts |

Many business owners sell their used credit card terminals on ebay to other business owners after they upgrade or no longer need them. These terminals often go for a fraction of the retail price even if they are relatively new.

Buying a used terminal has always been a bit of a gamble since it’s unclear how the terminal was treated and how much life it possibly has in it. Even so many times the price is good enough to take a chance with it.

However, we are increasingly seeing problems with used terminals on ebay and craigslist that prevent them from being used at all by the purchaser. Many, if not most, merchant account providers have free terminal programs for their retail merchants. What merchants may not know is that they do not actually own the terminal that they’re given to use and they’re supposed to return the terminal to their provider if they switch processors or cancel their account.

What’s happening is that many of these terminals are not being returned and instead being sold on ebay or craigslist or other marketplaces. These terminals are usually locked at a hardware level so that they cannot be used with another provider, and the processor will not unlock a terminal that they were supposed to get back as they technically still own it. This is to protect the processor from losing a $200 – $500 terminal every time they lend one out. But, as a purchaser there is virtually no way of knowing if a terminal is locked until your own provider tries to program it. By that time you may not be able to get a refund or even find the seller if it is on craigslist. As far as ebay goes, if they seller states it’s a working terminal, it doesn’t actually have to be usable with your processor, and it is very difficult to win a dispute through paypal’s dispute resolution system in this case.

Unless you are 100% certain that a particular terminal is not locked with any provider, we strongly recommend only buying equipment that is new or manufacturer refurbished and is not proprietary to any particular company. This will save money and a huge amount of wasted time if you accidentally purchase a locked terminal.


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