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payment systemsCompanies are experimenting with new payment systems as part of a push toward the ultimate goal of giving shoppers the ability to purchase items they want on the spot, no matter where they are or what media they use.  A newly announced partnership between MasterCard and magazine publisher Conde Nast will enable digital readers to instantly buy items described in an article or highlighted in an ad by tapping a shopping cart icon on the page. MasterCard’s Garry Lyons says his company designed the click-through shopping technology to be digitally agnostic, enabling access across multiple platforms including video, movies, and TV.

Meanwhile, Peapod, an online grocery store, has enhanced its mobile app with a feature that enables customers to restock household items by scanning barcodes with their smartphones at home. There also is Paydiant’s technology for scanning a quick response code off a TV screen to redeem a coupon or purchase items being shown in a commercial or during a program. In addition, the Google Shopping Express service enables residents in Northern California to have goods ordered via the Google Wallet mobile payment system delivered within hours. Such offerings give the still-fledgling mobile payments industry new business opportunities.

Mobile payments are showing up everywhere.  Retail stores are making moves towards the mobile payment method as well.  Office Depot has recently implemented the use of smartphones to replace their checkout registers.  One can simply choose the item they came in to purchase, meet an employee with a holstered iPhone, have the employee scan the item and swipe the card.  The employee can then email or print a receipt.  No waiting in line or searching for the checkout register.  Other stores like Nordstrom have taken to this new technology as well.  The payments industry is slowly but surely evolving and capitalizing on the opportunities that technology is providing.

The question is: are you taking necessary steps to implement a mobile payment system?  The convenience of mobile apps and payment methods undoubtedly offers an increase of revenue.  Experts predict that mobile payment systems will eventually be the norm, due to its secure and convenient nature.  With the plethora of new payment software companies birthing solutions, it should be easy to find a solution that best fits your business model.

Maintaining this edge is key, so coupling this new technology with a merchant services provider that is up-to-date on all the latest technologies will keep your business running smoothly.  Be sure to check with your merchant provider to ensure they have the capacity to keep pace with your business enhancements.  Happy hunting!

 

tablet pos systemNowadays almost everything can be done from a mobile device.  Whether it’s on a smartphone or tablet, people conduct most of their lives through these ingenious devices.  However, how has the business sector received the introduction of mobile solutions?  Many have probably noticed the benefits of utilizing such devices for mobile payments in the field, menu display and ordering options, and other effective marketing tactics.  With the rapidly diminishing use of cash for transactions, many credit card processing companies and other start-ups have developed Tablet POS software and payment gateways that replace a traditional POS System.

The Strawhecker Group recently released a new report titled Tablet POS: Merchant Insights and Company Research.  The report emphasizes research from the U.S. Small Business marketplace as well as comparisons of current tablet point-of-sale (POS) providers.  The findings of the report gauge the level of interest and values associated with the use of a tablet POS system based upon surveyed individuals.  The findings were quite shocking.

Nearly half, 45 percent, of the respondents reported they would consider using a Tablet POS system to replace their current software, and even more interesting, 41 percent said they would consider using a Tablet POS system to replace their current traditional checkout counter.  Other interesting analytics revealed a desire to use Tablet POS software in the store but away from the checkout, on deliveries, and even as a table service.  These findings signify a significant desire to transfer their POS system over to a mobile platform.  The generally accepted trend is that this desire is anticipated to increase in the coming years.

The findings distinguished that the main hurdle preventing businesses from making the transition to a Tablet POS system was the initial costs.  Closely following that was the lack of need for a new terminal, the disruption/training required to implement the system, and existing contracts binding merchants to the current POS system.  Regardless, with the growing using of tablets and mobile platforms, it would seem that these hurdles will soon diminish, if not completely dissolve.

This survey was conducted with a sample of five different vertical markets including: restaurant, retail sales, retail food, services, and dealers/repair shops.  The strongest interest in the Tablet POS system concept was found in the restaurant and business/personal services firms.  Food retailers expressed the lowest interest in making a transition, more than likely due to the low use of in-person transactions.  This report does not take into consideration the fact that mobile devices could be used for inventory management.

Several other findings in the report cover acceptable price points, top value drivers, and importance ratings on terminal features. Findings and quotes from two focus groups are included in the report and offer insights into user issues and perceptions regarding a Tablet-POS concept and point-of-sale systems in general.

Posted by: In: Uncategorized 07 Oct 2013 0 comments

 what are your rates

The most commonly asked question heard by merchant services companies is, “What are your rates?” The unfortunate misunderstanding is that the prospective merchants think that the rate is the only thing that matters when searching for a new provider.  In fact, 90% of merchants who ask this question do not fully understand how to calculate their effective rate.  So what are these merchants really asking?

A merchant services provider could arbitrarily throw out any percentage that he/she thinks the merchant wants to hear, and if the merchant likes the number, he/she might be won over. The unfortunate truth is that far too many times, merchant services providers offer “teaser rates” to entice uninformed merchants to sign on with their services.  So with so many “scam-artists” out there, what are the important questions we need to be asking in order to choose the company that will benefit me most?

Questioning Rates

The first question isn’t directed towards the merchant processing companies at all; it’s an internal question.  The first question you need to ask is “what is most important for my company specifically”? This question is so important because it is the foundational factor of your company’s production.  If you are a retail company, you need to work with a company that has in-store POS solutions, or online e-commerce solutions.  If you are a manufacturer or wholesaling company, you need to work with a company that has the ability to process cards through your billing software to expedite the payments process.  Your business is not like everybody else’s, so the company you work with shouldn’t have a “one-size-fits-all” solution for every company that approaches them.  If the company you are working with has never asked about your business structure and only discusses rates, that should be your first red flag.

The next question asks about your current fee structure.  In order to compare what other companies have, you need to first understand how often your fees are paid currently, and how much.  You need to know if you have a daily debit, or a monthly debit.  Also, are you on an interchange-plus, tiered, or flat-rate structure?  And finally, what is your current effective rate?  This means you need to understand what your current out-the-door price is for merchant services.

Now that you fully understand what you need, and how you are currently set up, you are well-prepared to discuss services with other merchant providers.  Let’s take a look at an example:

Company XYZ is a manufacturer that bills on net 30 terms.  This company is currently charging cards on over the phone on a stand-alone VeriPhone terminal, while keeping track of their invoices with QuickBooks.  They are paying on a tiered structure of a QUAL 1.89%, MQUAL 2.89%, and NQUAL 3.89% rates.

This company would first need to know that in order to create efficiency; they will want to maximize output with their given input.  In other words, they will want to find ways to use their current tools at their maximum potential.  They would need to realize that their company could process cards right inside QuickBooks and get rid of the double-entry process that they are currently using.  Also, they would have to recognize that all of their cards are qualifying at the Non-Qualified tier due to the fact they sell 100% B2B.  This means that all of the cards that they see are business cards, corporate cards, and purchasing cards.  Setting up a payment structure on a tiered system is not cost efficient.

Knowing this, the company can now ask the pertinent questions without running through the song and dance that most processing companies will work you through.  Bypassing this step leads you to asking the questions that will get you the best product for the best prices, without being fooled by teaser rates.

PCI compliance

As a small business owner, ensuring the protection of your revenue is an essential part of accepting credit cards.  The best way to safeguard these payments is to establish a merchant account with a merchant services provider that is PCI-compliant.  Outsourcing to a PCI-compliant service provider is one of the best ways business owners can help reduce their PCI obligations and risk of a data breach.  As a business owner, it is your responsibility to make sure you are partnering with the right service providers to remain in PCI compliance.  Unfortunately, approaching these third-party relationships is rarely taught, or even discussed.  This blog entry is to advise business owners on how to evaluate a merchant services provider and ensure they are reputable and will dutifully safeguard your customers’ credit card information.
 

PCI Compliance: Asking the Right Questions

 

Who qualifies as a merchant services provider?

 
First and foremost, it is important to know which entities store, process, or transmit cardholder data (CHD) on your behalf or have the potential of impacting the security of your customers’ card data.  Many small business owners are not aware of the players involved and, as a result, have no idea if these providers are taking the right steps to protect their customers’ private information and ultimately their business.  To define a merchant services provider, it is an business entity that is directly involved in the processing, storage, or transmission of cardholder data.  Some common examples of merchant services providers include:

  • Independent Sales Organizations (ISOs)
  • Transaction processors
  • Payment gateways
  • Hosting companies
  • Managed security services providers (MSSP)
  • Third party marketing firms
  • Vendors that perform POS maintenance

 

How do I choose a merchant services provider?

 
Business owners should have a set process for choosing a merchant services provider (for example, verify PCI compliance status, research the company’s track record for any breach events, review documented customer complaints, etc.). You can check on the compliance state of a service provider by accessing the Visa and MasterCard registry lists, or by contacting the service provider directly. If the service provider is not on a registry list and has opted to “self-assess” their compliance, it is important to ask for proof of PCI compliance from provider. If the service provider cannot provide formal documentation proving their compliance, it is recommended that you select a provider that has completed a Level 1, on-site audit conducted by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA).  This is a necessary step in ensuring your merchant services provider is meeting the PCI compliance standards.
 

What questions should I ask potential service providers to validate their PCI-compliance status and procedures?

 

  • What is included in their incidence response plans?
  • Have they experienced any data breaches?
  • How many years have they been in service?
  • Are there available client recommendations?
  • Do they run background checks on employees? (This is required for PCI Compliance.)
  • Are there any complaints found through the Better Business Bureau?

 

Once I identify my service providers, how should I proceed?

 
Next, you should maintain a list of your service providers and check PCI status at least quarterly; and most importantly, ensure that there are written agreements in place acknowledging data security responsibility even down to which PCI requirements they are handling. You should also assure that the liabilities and responsibilities of the service provider are clearly stated and agreed in writing in case of a breach.
 

What if I am an ecommerce merchant?

 
Ecommerce merchants that do not have in-house expertise or resources should consider fully outsourcing their payment-card processing operations to a PCI compliant merchant services provider. By using a fully outsourced service provider, you are not storing, processing or transmitting cardholder data in electronic format on your systems. This option also greatly reduces your PCI DSS validation requirements.
 
 

trade shows

Cut Merchant Fees is always looking for new places to network and promote our friendly, technology-based brand image.  Coming up at the end of this year, Cut Merchant Fees will visit a handful of different trade shows that we regularly attend, and some new ones that we are excited to be at for the first time.  We will be setting up a booth at three (for now) different shows in October and November.  We have not yet decided on a few new shows, but we are always open to meeting new and exciting people to expand our network and develop trusting relationships.  The following three shows are specific to the limousine industry, as this is where we have a significant presence.  We will be there to exhibit our credit card payment solutions and merchant services specific to the industry and meet new and old friends.

The first show on our tour list is the LCT East Show in Atlantic City at the Trump Taj Mahal from October 26th to the 29th.  This next generation LCT East Show will offer the limousine industry a complete marketplace, networking forum, and educational sessions ideal for limousine operators nationwide and based on the east coast.  This is one of those “don’t miss this one” shows that we are ecstatic to attend, yet again.

The next show will also be held at the beautiful Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City on November 3rd through the 6th, but this time Chauffeur Driven will be our host.  Chauffeur Driven is advertising this as the “must-attend event of the fall”.  This will be a similar show to the LCT East Show as it is directed towards the limousine and transportation industry.  This show will feature an innovative educational program packed with real-world take-home value, unparalleled networking opportunities, and ground-breaking sessions.  All of the industry’s top manufacturers, dealers, and suppliers will be in attendance.  This will be an inclusive environment that fosters an overall feeling of industry camaraderie.  Chauffeur Driven always delivers with an excellent show and we are proud to be in attendance for another year.

The third event on our list is the 2013 SEMA Show held in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Las Vegas Convention Center.  This is the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world.  It attracts all of the industry’s brightest minds and hottest products to one place.  This show provides attendees with educational seminars, product demonstrations, special events, networking opportunities, and more.  This is another show that we frequently display our exhibit at.  Needless to say, we are eager to board the plane that takes us to McCarron International Airport for this event.

This is the roundup of the three shows that Cut Merchant Fees will be in attendance at.  Again, we are always in the market for new venues that we can expand and grow our brand awareness.  These three shows are staples to our yearly tour list because we find it to be essential to stay tuned in to what the limousine and transportation industry is dealing with, what changes are coming, and what exciting new developments have impacted our merchants.  Keeping a pulse on the industry is the best way for us to attend to the needs of our clients and partners.  We also enjoy catching up with old friends who attend these shows!

If anyone would like to inform us of any great shows that we need to be a part of, please feel free to send us message at marketing@centurybizsolutions.com with the details of the show.  Again, we are always interested to hear about exciting new ways to connect with our merchants and stay current on the verticals that we are a part of.

transportation industryCut Merchant Fees has taken a leading role as a merchant services provider in the transportation industry.  In fact, we are the preferred merchant services provider for organizations such as the NLA.  For this reason, we find it very important to stay plugged into the current issues and hot topics that our limo and town car merchants are concerned with.  We feel that it is important to get a clear diagnosis on what is affecting reservation-based business owners in order to stay ahead of our competition and provide the service that really delivers on a wide variety of levels.  With that being said, we would like to touch base on a few of the big concerns in the industry and how Cut Merchant Fees is well equipped to help tackle the biggest scares in the industry.

There are a few big changes occurring in the transportation space.  A large contributor to these changes is the introduction of mobile app reservation companies like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar.  These companies have created a business model that has been quite successful since their inception, and have caused some turbulence in the limo/town car/transportation space.  For those of you who are unaware of these companies, they are mobile apps that provide a driver near your area at a low cost.  These companies employ drivers at minimal cost as long as they pass the background checks and have a reliable vehicle.

These companies operate at an extremely low cost in comparison to the traditional ride-reservation company with multiple cars in their fleets.  They don’t have the typical overhead cost associated with maintaining their fleet and managing multiple reservations and drivers.  The lack of high overhead costs have made it possible for them to bring their reservations down to a minimal and highly competitive rate.   So what can you do to compete with companies like this?

Cut Merchant Fees has a great way to keep your payments on track and your merchant fees as low as possible.  We have developed software integrations to platforms like FASTTRAK CLOUD, Limo Anywhere, RBS, and others, that pass important information at the point of sale that qualifies cards at the lowest possible interchange rates.  In other words, we can get you better pricing when it comes to Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express fees.

Not only that, but these integrations store information like the ride, passenger, pick up/drop off, the amount of passengers, driver name, reservation number, etc. in order to help you fight chargebacks.  This method has been remarkably successful in aiding our merchants with the troubles that come along with chargebacks.  Our Chargeback Management Team is with you every step of the way when you need help most.  We will notify you immediately of the chargeback, help you file a rebuttal, and remind you before the expiration date comes to pass.  In the end, we fight to help you keep the money that you earned!

The NLA has trusted Cut Merchant Fees with their merchant account because they know that we really care about our merchants, regardless of the industry.  However, our tenure and involvement with reservation companies makes us a prime asset to the success of your business.