Information on Merchant Accounts,
Ecommerce and Credit Card Processing

June 8th, 2023 by J B

Can I accept Debit cards?

Filed in: Merchant Accounts |

It’s one of those questions that comes up all the time with businesses, and the answer is generally yes. As consumers, we have an understanding of debit and credit cards. Debit is attached to a bank account while credit is attached to some line of credit.

When it comes to businesses looking to accept debit cards, many times they think they have to be able to accept PIN debit in order to take payments from those cards. The truth is, most, if not all, debit cards can process transactions on either the credit or debit networks.

Credit and debit cards display logos of the networks they work through. For cards that work through a credit network, you will find the Visa, MasterCard, or Discover logo on the card. If a card is also set up to work through a debit network, you will find logos such as Nyce, Star, or Plus.

While basically any business set up to accept credit cards is capable of taking a payment from normal debit cards, not all debit cards are accessible to those businesses. For example, EBT cards require businesses to not only be approved by the state but also require those transactions to operate on the debit networks as they use the PIN number to authenticate the transaction. There are other industry-based payment systems, such as Wright Express (WEX Inc.), which also use the PIN debit network to handle their transactions.

In both of those scenarios, most businesses wouldn’t be able to accept those cards even if they were set up to accept PIN debit transactions as they do not fit into the scope of what those payment types are used for.

Many businesses ask if they should accept PIN debit, and I think that’s more of a decision for the business. If you need to operate through the debit networks to make use of specialty payment systems, then the obvious answer is yes. Assuming your business doesn’t need to use such systems, then it comes down to preference. We believe it’s ideal for businesses to offer as many payment options as possible to their customers, and the cost can be relatively similar to credit transactions. The only real hurdle is that you may need some additional hardware, like a customer-facing PIN pad, which for some businesses seems like a needless expense to accept a payment card that they can already accept.

Some businesses have no need to accept PIN debit transactions, like eCommerce businesses. PIN debit is a card-present transaction, meaning the consumer needs to be physically present at the point of sale. eCommerce and other card-not-present businesses do not meet the requirements to accept that payment type.

The situation is similar for restaurants, many of which do tip adjustments and do not process their payments in front of the customer. Since you cannot tip adjust a PIN debit transaction, any gratuity must be added to the sales total prior to completing the transaction. That prevents restaurants, including counter service in most cases, from having the ability to accept PIN debit. This is particularly true for restaurants where servers take the customer’s card away from the table to process the transaction.

Our thinking is that if you have a business where you can take card-present transactions with the consumer at the point of sale, you should consider accepting PIN debit transactions. Having additional payment options available for your customers doesn’t hurt

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