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Advice on accepting credit cards


#1

Hello Fellow Jewelry Artists and Merchants -

I am hoping to gather some advice from you concerning ‘Merchant
Account Services’, or put more simply: what is the best method/
provider to go with if I want to be able to accept credit cards
while at craft shows/fairs.

I have done a bit of research online - but there are so many options
and choices, it is sure hard to make sense of it all. I am thinking
of going with a cell phone based system that allows you to call in
the card numbers for verification and processing onsite, and also
prints out receipts for you. The per transaction cost is a bit
higher, but the start up costs are low and it is very mobile (i can
use it anywhere i get cell reception).

My need to accept credit cards is not consistent - only a few months
out of the year, of course December, and then for several months in
the summertime. Craft shows are my main selling venue so my monthly
income is not consistent either.

Any or advice on this subject that you might have for me
would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for your help!

Sincerely - Catlin Blair Harvey
Catlin Blair Harvey Designs


#2

From what I’ve seen, the cell phone based option is good. I think
Verizon or Sprint offers that.

They will allow you to discontinue service on and off, I think.

David Geller
JewelerProfit
510 Sutters Point
Sandy Springs, GA. 30328
(404) 255-9565
www.JewelerProfit.com


#3

Personally, I’d recommend getting your merchant account from the bank
you use for your regular business account(s).

As for equipment… several of my friends have and love the new
Nurit machines. They print receipts and store all the transaction
in the machine. Then at the end of the day you plug into
any phone line and it batch-processes all the transactions at once.
It does not get authorizations on each transaction though, so I
think you would have to call to get authorizations on risky sales.

I know two people who have the wireless machines, and they get cell
signals at shows less than 50% of the time. Whatever service those
machines run on seems to have a very weak signal. They usually end up
having to run to the nearest door at indoor shows and stick the
machine outside in order to process transactions. Even with that,
sometimes the machines don’t work. Hardly feasible to be running to
and from the door while selling jewelry especially if you work alone.
And IMO not worth the extra expense if the thing doesn’t work when
you need it to.

Personally, I haul around my CC terminal and hook up to phone lines
if I get the opportunity at indoor shows. Dialing 1-800 numbers
doesn’t cost the venues anything, so most organizers I’ve worked
with don’t mind. The problem arises when the venue doesn’t have phone
lines available. Then I use an old-fashioned knuckle buster, and I
get the customer’s address and phone number when I imprint their
card, Then I process everything when I get home or back to my motel
room. I have been very fortunate, I’ve not had any cards refused
doing it this way. I always have the option to call to get
authorization on large sales if I’m uncomfortable with something
about a transaction.

Kathy Johnson
Feathered Gems Pet Jewelry
http://www.fgemz.com


#4

READ THE CONTRACT CAREFULLY. and the attendant merchant agreement,
terms of service.

If you are leasing the equipment you most likely will have a
contract term for the service as well as the lease itself. It can get
expensive and supremely aggravating if the service is not up to snuff
and you can’t get out. In additon to the contract itself also
scrutinize the merchant terms of service or merchant aggreement. Get
someone to help you interpret these if fine print boggles your mind.

Look at what they call their tier system. Basically a swiped card
carries the lowest discount rate(the amount you pay). keyed in (with
card present, like an unreadable card) pays a little more, a phone
sale pays even more. Cards from other countries and corporate cards
cost you more. They may offer you teaser rates without really telling
you they are temporary. When they say. “rates as low as 1.45%” ask
what their regular rates are.

Since you need this seasonally, see if they offer something to
offset your down months. You still pay monthly fees regardless of if
you run transactions or not. Expect $20-40 a month, plus the lease.

Figure your costs both monthly and annually. That $40 a month may
seem minor until you calculate the annual cost. Add the lease and
you’ve got a significant nut there.

Chargebacks allow a customer to dispute a transaction. The processor
will deduct the disputed amount from your bank account without
question. Then begins the process of you proving the transaction is
legit, in the meantime you are out the money. Making imprints and
getting ink signatures for unreadable cards can help you here. Since
you are traveling and the buyers are probably unkown to you,
additional ID is not a bad idea. This is pretty much standard so you
can’t shop around on this point, but be aware of the existence of
chargebacks.

A good idea would be to check to make sure their cell service does
indeed have coverage in the areas you will make sales at. Get this in
writing.

Some processors deposit the net amount of the sale into your
account. The service I use now posts the entire day’s sales into my
account and then deducts the discount in a seperate transaction. I
like this, so much easier to track.

Ok, enough negativity from me for now… plus side is you will make
more sales and possibly bigger sales, especially if you take Amex.


#5

Hi Catlin,

There are so many credit card choices out there, it does tend to be
mind boggling. I was fortunate to fall into a wonderful new artisan
group within six or seven months of our moving to a new area. At a
time when I was deciding to move from wholesale-only sales to
tradeshows, it was a much needed connection. Our group’s first get
together touched on all the important things I needed to know in a
new area, and in an entirely new arena. But finding a credit card
merchant was one of the most valuable pieces of I took
away from that first meeting.

I haven’t yet used ProPay for a year, but I love it so far. No
clunky machines to lug around and no charge card receipts (you may
opt to use them if you wish). You may process charges via phone,
though I’ve never felt comfortable doing that - I rarely have time
while at a show to use my mobile phone, I think it’s somewhat rude to
process a charge while customers are milling about my inventory and I
should be actively selling, and I’m uncomfortable with the security
of a cell phone call to a credit card merchant. I process all
charges from a show online the evening I return home, or the next day
if it’s late. I use a large 5x7 size receipt book I get at a local
office supply retailer and I put everything on one page: the items
purchased, the card number, exp date and cvv code on the back plus
their billing address and a phone number; I then ask that they sign
below the card number, right on the receipt. Additionally, I put a
bright neon sticker on their copy alerting them to how the
transaction will read on their credit card invoice. I’ve never
gotten any complaints from customers when I ask for all this

  • though a few are concerned about what I do with the
    receipt books after the sale (after the last receipt page is used, I
    keep the receipt book for several months beyond the last charge card
    I processed in case of dispute, then I destroy it). Despite my
    overkill on collection, only the card number and a zip
    code are required to process the card; but it never hurts to have
    more than you need, and ProPay has fields to input that extra
    to remove all doubt of foul play. It takes two or three
    days to process a sale before you have your money, less transaction
    fees, in your ProPay account.

ProPay has four types of accounts… each incurs an annual fee, which
increases as the processing limit increases (and the per transaction
fee decreases). But there is no contractual obligation, and no
monthly minimums; and at the Premium level I am able to process MC,
Visa, Discover and Amex. I, too, have several months (usually Jan -
April or May) when I’m not selling, but creating new things… so “no
monthly minimum” was important to me. There is a small fee (.30) to
transfer your ProPay balance to a checking account. I usually save up
over a couple of shows before transferring the balance. You also
have direct access to your ProPay funds via a debit card they’ll
issue you, if you wish. I have one, though haven’t yet used it.

My only complaint is that I would have preferred to sign on with
their Premium Plus account but was declined for lack of credit card
experience. My artisan friends tell me that it’s easy to move up to
the next level once you’ve proven to them that you’re not an idiot
and can process credit card transactions with no or few disputes or
problems. I have had none so far. But I have had increased sales as
a result of having my little credit card sign out on my checkout
counter. Both in individual transactions and people adding another
item or two once discovering they can charge the sale.

You can get all the you need to make a decision, as well
as go through a tutorial, at www.propay.com.

Good luck!


#6
I think it's somewhat rude to process a charge while customers are
milling about my inventory I process all charges from a show online
the evening I return home 

that sounds like you don’t get an approval code before you hand over
the merchndise. Is that correct?


#7

Hi Catlin,

I also would recommend using the bank you do business with. I’m a
small company (myself) and decided to use Wells Fargo. There are many
different avenues to take. I went with the simplest. I just use my
cell phone to call the credit cards in and get an approval code and
then run a slip manually. That alleviates having to buy or lease a
machine. The info goes directly to the bank, but can be seen on line
or retrieved over the phone if needed. There are different costs for
different systems, so you can determine what works best for you ie.
the more equipment you have (cc machine) the less of a service charge
there is on the sale. That can all be negotiated. I’m sure there are
less expensive ways to go. But, I decided it would be easier to do it
this way. Any questions, let me know,

Good luck,
Scott Verson


#8

Hi there, I have been webmastering for about 6-7 years, and have
come up with a short list of good Merchant bank and gateway systems.

  1. Bank of America Merchant Services and Authorizenet.com This setup
    is the best there is.

  2. US Bank Merchant Services and Authorizenet I used to notice more
    fees from USBANK

  3. And lastly Card Services Intl. and Linkpoint This one doesn’t work
    as good and is a little more expensive, however both “B of A” and
    USbank are rather stringent and don’t accept everyone for thier
    service.

I hope this helps
Thanks
Canyon


#9

Originally I used a bank to get me set up with merchant processing
with a knuckle buster. It is a bad idea for two reasons: the banks
charge extra, a lot extra in my opinion, for the privilege of taking
your money, and with a knucklebuster, you don’t know if your charge
is good.

Today I use a Nurit 8010 wireless encrypted cellular card swiper.
When you buy (don’t rent) it, you have the choice of which cellular
provider you want - usually your merchant processor doesn’t tell you
that you have a choice. I looked at the cellular coverage maps for
the areas in which I do shows and picked the one with the best
coverage. I chose Cingular, I have a friend that uses Verizon, and we
are both happy with the service. Because each charge is verified
before authorization, I have yet to be stung. I have had no
charge-backs.

Eight years ago, to find a merchant processor separate from Wells
Fargo bank, I called my credit union and they referred me to some of
the smaller merchants that use the credit union and take credit
cards - a hair salon was one of them and gave me a good lead. I’ve
looked at Sam’s Club, Costco and others since then and they may be
good options as well. What they don’t give me is someone that
understands my business. I tried using the merchant service that the
credit union offers now, and they use the cell phone thing, but they
have no weekend support and that’s when I sell. If something doesn’t
work on Saturday am, I’m SOL if I have to wait til Monday to fix it.

So here’s my recommendation - absolutely use a realtime online
cellular based service. It’s the only way you will know if the charge
is good before the client walks away with your stuff. If you can
afford to lose a few pieces now and then, do the thing where it is
accumulated and you run it at the end of the day. Find an independent
supplier of Merchant services, or a hungry bank. The discount rate is
only part of what you pay, there is also a per item charge, batch
closing charge, monthly report charge, wireless charge, and now they
even charge extra for cards with rewards. Pay attention to what the
real bill is, and prepare for a serious lesson in bookkeeping - you
have your daily deposit from MC/Visa, Amex is separate and Discover
is also separate, along with checks and cash. Discounts are usually
at the end of the month deducted from your checking account. There
are extra charges if you forget to batch out daily when you have
charges.

And oh by the way, you can only get a merchant services account if
you have decent credit.

If you want to talk to me about who I use or any more stuff, email
me with your phone number and a good time to call, and I’ll respond.

Judy Hoch


#10

I purchased my card machine through our local bank where we have
several accounts. They seemed to want to work with small businesses.
It has a memory so at a busy show I just swipe the card and get one
signed receipt and a customer receipt. No, I don’t get the approval
before the customer leaves with their merchandise. The only
exception would be in the rare case a show gives me access to a phone
line. I check ID and signature before the transaction is finished. I
should probably also get a phone # and even Drivers License # for
added safety but sometimes it is too busy. So far I have had no
trouble, no declines or charge backs. Everything is approved and
batched out when I get to a phone line. It’s certainly not the ideal
situation but I find it works best for me. I have seen many wireless
terminals not getting signal so the vendor runs the transaction
without the approval the same as I do. If you are in an area with
better reception than here, it may well be worth the investment as
one unapproved charge could make up the difference in the cost of the
terminal.

Cande


#11
I think it's somewhat rude to process a charge while customers are
milling about my inventory I process all charges from a show
online the evening I return home 

You let people walk away with your merchandise without getting an
approval on the credit card? That’s just asking for trouble. Also
everyone is used to waiting for someone ahead of them to use a credit
card. That’s all people use anymore. There is nothing rude about it
and you are setting yourself up for some hefty chargebacks one of
these days (especially now that you’ve made this public on the
web–and if you think the criminals don’t monitor stuff like this,
think again).

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers, LLC
1780 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140
www.spirerjewelers.com


#12
that sounds like you don't get an approval code before you hand
over the merchndise. Is that correct? 

I will add what I do, I use common sense and so far in 10 years of
taking credit cards it’s worked out OK. If someone buys my cheapest
item at $38 I almost never call in the card until a slow time or that
evening. I don’t sell jewelry any more so it’s not something they can
take out and resell for a profit. I figure I can afford the risk of a
$38 loss more than I can afford the risk of losing a $300 sale that
might be out in the booth waiting for my help.

If someone “looks” scary and no…it’s not about ethnicity or buys a
high end piece I go ahead and run it while they are there. Sometimes
after I get all the card I can say "are you done
shopping? why don’t I go ahead and wrap this and process the credit
card and you can pick it up on the way out so you don’t have to carry
it.) If they want to wait I typically just tell them I’m sorry it
takes me a few minutes, being rather low-tech and all. I haven’t ever
had anyone act put out. After all, every store they shop in does it.

Karen (who’s CC company suddenly started asking for zip-codes and
security codes of cards this summer without prior notice)


#13

I think it’s somewhat rude to process a charge while customers are
milling about my inventory; I process all charges from a show
online the evening I return home

that sounds like you don't get an approval code before you hand
over the merchndise. Is that correct?

Guilty. Most of the shows I’ve done over the past year have been
within an hour of home… in small, rural shows. Testing the retail
waters. I haven’t yet been given a bad check or had a credit card
charge declined when I was finally able to process it. However, I
haven’t yet sold any really high end piece up here either. If someone
bought the 14k gold and sapphire necklace, I might be inclined to let
the milling customers continue to mill and make the call. Though I’m
often in areas where my phone doesn’t work, so what do you do in that
situation?

In all other respects, ProPay is perfect for me… and easy. An
annual charge, a per transaction charge and a transfer fee to move
funds to my checking acct. are all I have to worry about (I do my own
paperwork… and I really really dislike the bookkeeping aspect of all
this, so simple appeals to me). If I have mobile phone acces at a
show, I can choose to call and authorize the charge if I feel
uncomfortable with the customer… or if the piece they choose
warrants it. And I think I’d be on edge if someone chose an
expensive piece in a cavalier manner, with little thought, and pulled
out a charge card to pay for it. And I also believe that when I start
doing higher end shows in unfamiliar areas I would be more likely to
authorize charges on the spot.

I think the trust thing goes both ways… my customers trust me to
keep their charge card safe, and I trust them to be who
they say they are … and not be over their credit card limit when
they purchase a piece from me. I hope I don’t have to learn to change
my attitude… the hard way. Call me overly trusting… an idealist…
but so far it’s worked for me.