How to accept card payments

Published: 28/02/2020

The ability to accept payment by card is fast becoming a must for businesses. Cash payments are on a downward trajectory and card payments are now the most popular method for consumers. That’s a fact.

So, for anyone wondering where to start, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to accept card payments. Without further ado, let’s get stuck in. 

What you’ll need to get started

Anyone who wants to accept payment by card will need the following three things:

A merchant account

This is essentially a holding pen for funds being sent and received from your customer’s bank account to your business bank account. Merchant accounts aren’t optional, they’re a pre-requisite to accepting card payments - for a more detailed guide head here.

Need help? Our team can get you set up with a merchant account for free as part of your application.

PCI compliance

PCI compliance is a set of standards you must comply with to start taking card payments to ensure you’re doing so in a safe and secure way. The standards relate to the way in which you store, process and transmit details and exist to protect both you and your customers.

Need help? Our dedicated PCI compliance team will hold your hand through the whole process. 

A payments provider 

The last thing you’ll need to have in place before you get cracking is the equipment, and for that, you’ll more than likely want a payments provider.

Good to know: there’s always the option to purchase your card machines outright, but this isn’t usually the most cost-effective route and won’t give you access to the same level of support or maintenance.

Start by looking for a reputable provider who’ll help you work out what equipment is best for your business. At takepayments, we’ll really get to know your business and ensure that your package is tailored to you, and you have access to ongoing help and support.  

Ways you can accept card payments

Now you know what you’ll need to have in place, let’s look at the various ways you can accept payment by card. Every business has different needs, and there’s a method out there to suit all of them. 

Face to face

There are three card machines available for face-to-face card transactions, so let’s take a quick look at each:

Countertop

Countertop card machines allow you to accept card payments from your till point. So, if your business accepts payments from one place, i.e. a sandwich shop or appliance store, this could be the perfect fit. 

They plug directly into your phone line or broadband and accept all the latest payment methods - including contactless and ApplePay. 

Mobile

Need to be able to accept card payments on the go? Then a mobile machine is likely up your street as they allow you to get paid anywhere at any time. 

They work using 3G with a sim card, much like a mobile phone, and are perfect for people like taxi drivers, window cleaners and mobile hairdressers. 

Portable

Portable card machines are designed for businesses who want to take payments to their customers, rather than the other way around. They use wireless Bluetooth technology, so there’ll be no cables in the way, and allow for quick and seamless payments anywhere within a 50-meter range. 

Portable card machines are ideally suited to cafes, bars and restaurants, but can be a great option for anyone who wants to make taking card payments more flexible. 

Top tip: contactless card payments are rapidly gaining momentum, so whichever card machine you decide is the right fit for your business, ensuring it’s set-up to accept contactless transactions is important. 

Online

If your business is geared towards online sales, you’ll need to be set up to accept online card payments. Payment gateways allow you to process card payments through your website, and work like this:

  1. The customer adds items to their cart and proceeds to checkout,
  2. They’re taken to your payment gateway where they enter their card details,
  3. Their payment is processed and they’re returned safely to your website. 

Your payment provider will give you everything you need to get started and if they’re decent (like us), they’ll offer developer support to ensure it’s a smooth process. 

Over the phone

Accepting card payments over the phone is quick and easy thanks to virtual terminals. They allow you to take payments from anywhere in the UK with a simple phone call and this is how they work:

  1. You get on the phone to your customer
  2. You log in to your virtual terminal via any internet-enabled device 
  3. The customer reads you their card details
  4. You enter them into the terminal 
  5. The payment is authenticated, transaction complete. 

Virtual terminals cut out the need for paper invoices and lengthy waits to get paid, plus you don’t need to have a business website to use them, simply a device that’s online. 

Via email

Using pay by link you can send a link in an email and get paid. It really is as simple as that. Pay by link is essentially an electronic invoice and works like this:

  1. Create a personalised invoice
  2. Copy and paste the invoice link into an email
  3. Add a pay now button
  4. Send it to your customer, get paid. 

Again, pay by link cuts out the need for paper invoices and painstaking waits to get paid. It’s a quick and easy method of accepting card payments remotely that offers convenience to the consumer and gets you your money faster.

Which method is right for me?

The answer is entirely dependent on the nature of your business. If you run a customer-facing business ask yourself:

  • Will I only accept payments from one spot? If yes, go for a countertop machine, if no,
  • Do I need to accept payments on the road? If yes, opt for a mobile machine, if no it’s portable.

For online-only sales a payment gateway is likely to be the best fit for your business. 

The main difference between pay by link and phone payments is that with the former, the customer enters their card details and with the latter you do it. 

If your business is set-up in a way that consumers can ring up and order an item, phone payments would work well for you. If you offer a service that needs paying for, like a tradesman, pay by link is probably preferable.

The benefits of accepting card payments

Keep customers happy

We mentioned at the beginning that card payments are on the up, so by allowing customers to pay on their plastic you’ll be offering them what they want and that matters. 

Convenience is super important in today’s competitive market and research shows as many as 43% of consumers would walk away from a purchase if they couldn’t pay by card. 

Faster payments

Switching from paper invoices to electronic card payments means you get paid quicker, there are no two ways about it. But even in-store card payments are typically faster than cash-only transactions too. The faster you can serve a customer, the more customers you can serve in a day, and that can only be good for your bottom lines.

Extra security

Having less cash lying around is one way card payments add to the safety of your hard-earned cash, but there are also loads of added layers of security:

  • 3D secure technology with pay by link,
  • Address verification system (AVS) and card verification value (CVV) with phone payments,
  • Payment gateways are SSL certified,
  • At takepayments, all of our card machines are fully PCI compliant.

Wider customer base

By adding additional ways to pay you can reach a wider audience and offer your products and services to a larger customer base, and with a wider customer base comes the serious potential for greater profits.

Things to remember

Fees

When you accept card payments you get charged fees, so it’s important to bear these in mind from the get-go. The fees you’ll pay will vary depending on the type of transactions you deal with - i.e. online or in-store - so we won’t take a deep dive into all the variances here, but here are a handful of examples to consider:

  • Chargeback fees
  • Interchange fees
  • PCI compliance
  • Merchant service charge
  • Authorisation fees

Head in a spin? Don’t sweat it, before signing up with us we’ll talk you through all the fees you need to be aware of.

Additional costs

The amount you pay out to set up your equipment in the first place can vary massively, so it’s always a good idea to do your homework and compare the market before signing up for any lengthy contracts of hefty joining fees. 

Here at takepayments, we recognise that no two businesses are the same and we don’t think their payment services should be either. We tailor all our packages to meet the needs of the business in question, charge no sign-up fees and offer short 12-month contracts. 

If you’re ready to start accepting card payments or want more help deciding which payment system is right for your business, get in touch with our friendly experts today on 0808 239 3294.

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