Information on Merchant Accounts,
Ecommerce and Credit Card Processing

 

September 13th, 2006 by Jamie Estep

Technological Progression of Payment Processing – Not any time soon!!!

Filed in: Credit Card Equipment, Merchant Accounts | 3 comments

Old TechnologyIf you know much about payment processing or have paid attention to the credit card terminals that businesses use where you shop, you would quickly realize that technology in credit cards and processing equipment has barely changed in the last 20 years.

The first Verifone Zon series terminal was introduced by Verifone in 1983. Some of those terminals, manufactured in 1983 are still being used today. Most new terminals still use the same, relatively simple technology found in the original Zon terminals.

In an age where the average person can construct a near-super computer, why have we not adopted better technology into paying for merchandise?

Much like the military, credit card processing relies on reliability and consistency. However, many of the newer technologies that we see are very reliable. The older technologies are also more expensive to manufacture because they are outdated.

With this is mind, the major hold on advancing payment technologies lies in consumers. Payment processing is a 100% consumer driven industry. Merchant account providers, ISO’s, Processing Banks, and Credit Card Companies exist because businesses want an easy way to accept payments, but more importantly and ultimately the deciding factor: consumers want an easy way to pay.

Credit cards offer that simple, cheap, fast, and convenient method of paying for something. The new technologies that exist, smart cards and contact-less payments, which are intended to make paying even quicker and simpler, are great ideas but they share one fatal flaw hindering their widespread adoption.

These technologies are derived from the needs of large corporations and not consumers. How many consumers care if McDonald’s can save thirty million dollars per month if each person they serve can pay for their food 2 seconds quicker?

None…

Eventually these technologies will be pushed on to consumers, but it is definitely going to take time. There is great expense for businesses to adopt new systems and the act replacing a billion credit cards with something that costs 10 times as much is no desirable task for any bank.

Between smart cards and contact-less payments, I would place my bet on contact-less becoming the next thing for payment processing. But, it’s still not going to happen any time soon.

Related Posts:
The history of credit card terminals.

September 7th, 2006 by Jamie Estep

Magazines for small business owners

Filed in: Ecommerce, Guides, Merchant Accounts | 2 comments

I like reading small business magazines. I have a few favorites that I always read, and there are others that are good, but are just not as interesting to me.

Small business magazines can provide some good ideas for business owners, and usually give some good insight to upcoming products, services, and anything of interest to business owners, and entrepreneurs. They can be a good place to advertise, but you can also lose a lot of money buying big ads in these publications.

My Favorites:
Entrepreneur Magazine
Fast Company
Ecommerce Times

General Business Related:
Entrepreneur Magazine
Fast Company
Business 2.0
Fortune
Fortune Small Business
Business Week
Inc Magazine
Red Herring

Ecommerce and Online Related:
Practical Ecommerce (Online and Print)
Internet Week
Cio.com
Ecommerce Times (Online)
eWeek.com
Line56
.NET Magazine (UK Based)

Payment Processing Related:
The Green Sheet
Transaction World

Most of these magazines offer a lot of great content on their websites and you don’t need a subscription for it.

Let me know if I’m missing any good ones.

September 6th, 2006 by Jamie Estep

Mastercard to publish interchange rates

Filed in: Industry News | 3 comments

Mastercard has been going through some internal changes since its IPO a few months ago. Just yesterday they released a press release titled: MasterCard Announces Interchange Initiatives Aimed At Maximizing the Value of MasterCard Card Acceptance.

Purchase, NY, September 05, 2006 – MasterCard Worldwide announced today that it will soon implement significant interchange initiatives aimed at addressing concerns that have been raised by the merchant community, and helping them maximize the benefits and value of accepting MasterCard cards.

Now while this may seem like a genuine act of goodwill to the businesses that accept Mastercard, I can only see a negative affect from this new policy.

Why would publishing interchange be negative?

Essentially what Mastercard is doing by publishing interchange is placing all of the weight of high processing fees on the Merchant Service Providers, or even more appropriately they are attempting to remove the blame from themselves. Even though merchant service providers only take home about 5% of the fees that businesses pay to accept credit cards, it is the common belief that they are getting the whole check. See the post: Merchant Account Fees, Credit Card Interchange – Who are you really paying?, for more information on where the money is going.

Now a business sees the credit card interchange fee schedule for their business type. It states something like: 1.39%, and they think, oh, why am I paying 1.71% if they only have to charge 1.39%? The business doesn’t fully understand the industry and as a result, they think they are being ripped off. The next thing that happens is a huge surge in complaints and negative feedback against the merchant service providers, ISOs, and banks who actually have to charge 1.68% just to break even. Since interchange is the same for everyone, this percentage is pretty much the same across the board. Mastercard has effectively removed their own accountability for high processing fees, and placed it on the businesses that provide services for them. Even though they are the deciding factor in credit card interchange, they place the blame on the companies that are reselling their services. In no way are they fixing any problem. They aren’t going to lower interchange, and as a result, nothing at all is going to change except consumer satisfaction.

Now, I know that this sounds completely biased but the simple fact is, unless Mastercard decides to lower interchange, nothing at all is going to change. I would absolutely love to be able to provide merchant accounts at .1% or lower. But as long as interchange is where it is, businesses will never see prices drop.

The humor that I see in this situation is that Mastercard interchange is about .09 – .1% higher than Visa for just about every business type. They have by far the highest interchange fees, and they are the ones who are going to show everyone. Mastercard is providing a perfect example of what not to do when your company goes public!

Related Posts:
Merchant Account Fees, Credit Card Interchange – Who are you really paying?

Other websites that are talking about this:
Payments News
Reuters
MasterCard Blinks On Interchange Fees

September 1st, 2006 by Jamie Estep

Just Launched – The Ecommerce Blog

Filed in: Industry News | 1 comment

I recently launched the Ecommerce Blog: ecommerce-blog.org. The goal is to provide information and discussion on topics relating to non-payment related ecommerce.

I added a Tab to the top of this blog for easy navigation. Check out The Ecommerce Blog!

August 30th, 2006 by Jamie Estep

Payment Gateways and SSL Certificates (API vs. Simple)

Filed in: Ecommerce | 3 comments

I have been very busy lately, which has resulted in a reduced quantity / quality of posts. The site just got switched to a new server and everything should run much more smoothly now.

I often run into website owners that are confused about the SSL requirements a website must have to process payments. Specifically, why would a SSL certificate be required if a website is using a payment gateway.

The answer to this is simple. Payment gateways are independent of SSL certificates and do nothing themselves to make a website secure. However, some Payment Gateways do not use an API (Application Program Interface) method to integrate with a website. A SSL certificate is normally not required if a website is not using an API method and not processing a customer’s credit card on their own site. Instead, the website’s visitor is redirected to a secure checkout page on the domain of the payment gateway. I think this redirection is where the main confusion is created.

Types of payment gateway integration:
Basic Integration – A website visitor browses and adds products to a shopping cart on a website. When they go to pay for their selected merchandise, they are redirected to a secure web page that is hosted with the payment gateway.

API Integration – This is a more advanced and better integration. The website is connected securely to the payment gateway. The visitors shops on the website, and makes payment on the same website. This is a completely seamless integration, and the website must have the ability to provide a secure connection between the user, in addition to a secure connection between the website and the payment gateway.

API vs Simple Integration Methods

Which method is better:
There are benefits to both integration methods, but I think that the API integration method is much better that the simple method. API integration keeps a visitor on the same website that they are shopping with, it allows for easier visitor and order tracking, and is generally a much better practice for usability concerns. If you look at any major ecommerce website out there, you will find that they use the API version of whichever payment gateway they are using.

The simple method is easier to implement, and doesn’t require a SSL certificate. The drawbacks are mainly the loss of control of website visitors when they go to make a purchase, difficulty in tracking user behavior on a website since they leave it before a conversion is completed, lack of control over the payment abilities of a website, and poor website usability.

Many websites start out using a simple method of integration, but will later want the added capabilities of the API version.

I recommend using the authorize.net payment gateway using the AIM API integration method for any business.

August 29th, 2006 by Jamie Estep

We’re moving!!!

Filed in: Merchant Accounts |

The Merchant Account Blog is moving to a new server. The move should go smoothly, but I am going to refrain from posting until the switch is fully completed. It should be fully switched over tomorrow, and by Friday at the latest.

August 23rd, 2006 by Jamie Estep

How to spot a fake credit card

Filed in: Guides, Merchant Accounts | 5 comments

I recently stumbled upon a great pdf guide on the features of each type of credit card from the four major credit card companies. Each cart type has a very clear diagram outlining the card identification features of that particular card.

Screenshot of the Visa diagram.
Visa Card Diagram
(Mastercard, Amex and Discover are available in the guide)

From what I have been reading, card counterfeiters are getting so good at reproducing cards that it is virtually impossible to distinguish the difference between a well made fake, and a real credit card. Most businesses wont check each card to ensure that it is real. It would take too much time, and it simply isn’t that big of a problem. But, if you ever do have a question, this guide should give you what you need to verify a card is real.

The file is rather large (~1Mb), so you may want to download it instead of opening it in your browser window. Right Click and select “Save Target As” to download the guide.

Credit Card Identifying Features .pdf

This guide is also available in the download area.

August 22nd, 2006 by Jamie Estep

Credit Card Logos for Your Website

Filed in: Merchant Accounts |

I just added a huge credit card logo collection for using on a website. You can place these logo’s on your site to let your visitors know that you accept credit cards.

Credit Card Logos For Your Website

ISO’s and Service Providers – Make sure that you have your financial institution disclaimer on the footer of your website, business cards or any marketing material before you put a Visa or MasterCard logo on them. There are other restrictions for using these logo’s on your media, so check with your sponsor to ensure you don’t break any rules.

August 21st, 2006 by Jamie Estep

Other Ecommerce and Merchant Account Blogs

Filed in: Ecommerce, Guides, Merchant Accounts | 3 comments

I’ve compiled a list of merchant account and ecommerce related blogs that offer good information from knowledgeable, professional people. I’m leaving SEO and online marketing specific blogs off because my list would be far to large for a reasonable post.

It is hard to find merchant account related blogs that offer objective information because most of the blogs out there are run by companies. Although my blog is also company sponsored, I try very hard not to bias my information on anything but my personal opinion and observations.

Merchant-account-services.org run by John Conde is a good merchant account blog. John offers some great articles and information relating to merchant accounts, and his information remains as objective as any out there. John is also responsible for creating the foundation for the merchant account wikipedia article.

An Ecommerce blog that I find interesting is about.com’s Online Business Blog run by Ana Rincon.

The ecommerce times offers a great ecommerce news and articles. While this isn’t a blog by definition, it is updated with great articles daily and the quality of the content at Ecommerce Times is far above most if the internet.

The most comprehensive blog covering payment processing and ecommerce related news is Payments News, operated by Glenbrook Partners LLC. I have had several articles syndicated by Payments News. They are updated many times a day with highly relevant, interesting news covering everything related to payment processing.

The shopping cart Volusion, offers an interesting ecommerce related blog. The blog topics are focused more on the analytics, usability, and SEO sides of online business.

Lastly, practical ecommerce is a ecommerce magazine offering free and paid ecommerce articles and three ecommerce blogs. Practical ecommerce is fairly new, but I think they have a lot of potential in the world of ecommerce.

That’s it for this list. Email me if you own or know of an ecommerce or merchant account related blog that deserves to be on my list.

August 21st, 2006 by Jamie Estep

E-Commerce Times – Factoring: There’s Money in Your Receivables

Filed in: Ecommerce, Merchant Accounts |

Factoring is discussed in this article: Factoring: There’s Money in Your Receivables from the Ecommerce Times.

A business can also factor using their merchant account. By using their credit card processing history, a business can take out an advance backed by their business’s processing volume and history. This works just like the factoring in this article but the lender is basing their funding from a business’s history instead of their accounts receivable.

Business can get cash very quickly, and without strict credit requirements since business history is what a lender is basing the advance from. Factoring from a merchant account will put money paid in processing fees toward paying off the advance, which can also make it much easier to repay.

Many small businesses get stretched thin on their available credit, so factoring against their sales can be a great way to get extra funding, fairly quickly.

What should the money be used for:
Since any money advanced through factoring is backed specifically by the sales of the business, it is important that the money advanced goes back into the business. Whether this be a remodel, increased marketing efforts, opening a new location, or anything else, the money advanced should always go back into the business.

If you are interested in factoring against your sales through your merchant account you can talk to your current provider to see if they offer this service, or contact me. We have several factoring options available for our customers.

Also, don’t confuse this type of lending with the type of merchant account fraud: credit card / merchant account factoring.

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