How to set up card payments, the easy way

After a long time in our worst recession, UK businesses are looking to maximise revenue wherever they can. This means increasing the number of payment channels customers have, and yet two-thirds of SMEs do not accept card payments, which have become ubiquitous.

This figure is even more astounding (and costly, Sage estimates lost revenue is as high as ?10bn) when all arrows point to card payments. According to data from Halifax, more than 82% of money spent in the UK is now card, and a third of consumers report they put back items when they discover they can’t pay by card.

It’s enough to make one wonder why people refuse to adopt this technology. According to David Maisey, managing director of card payment specialist Chip and PIN solutions, the answer is business or frightened off by the idea of employing the hefty requirements in setting up card systems.

Setting one up however, is not as difficult as it might appear. It can be broken up into three main challenges: set-up, security and cost.

You need to consider what type of terminal is best for you – mobile, countertop, portable or contactless. Each of these will be specific to your industry. 

For instance, at a restaurant it is illegal to remove someone’s card from their table and therefore you will need to bring the machine to them (portable), while at a supermarket of cafe you frequently pay at the till (countertop). These considerations will maximise ease of accepting payments.

Security is not just important for your business, but losing the cardholder’s details to a third party because of an insecure payment line could be disastrous, both in terms of fiscal security (i.e. you’ll be sued) and reputation. So make sure the business you sign up with and the terminals you start to use are backed up by some qualification like the PCI (Payment Card Industry) DSS approved – a global standard.

And finally, the cost of employing these terminals are variable, but there are some factors you can bear in mind. Price is dependant on contract length as well a small charge per transaction, plus an insurance charge. Hidden charges in this industry do exist, so be ready for them. 

Sure, this will add up, but there’s a trend in small businesses to place a card charge for customers who can’t pay in cash (~50p-?2), which will offset the damage this does to businesses. Some customers might find this a ‘hidden cost’ in itself, however, so be judicious in applying it.

For a retailer just starting out, this can be a hefty and seemingly nonessential task. However don’t be fooled into thinking that consumers will ‘make do’ and use a service which to them might not feel streamlined and efficient; for some people, taking out money is a hassle and makes them feel nervous they’ll lose it. So in preference of a cardless service, they’ll make sure of one where they can use their card.

And with contactless and mobile payment becoming the vogue form of payment, we not be running around with wads of paper money for too long…

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