November 2015

Top Mistakes Merchants – and Merchant Account Processors – Make

(And how to avoid them)

Every type of business transaction, whether financial or otherwise, requires close attention and awareness of common mistakes. Merchants and merchant account processors deal with a substantial amount of sensitive information every day, the most important being personal credit card information. With so much important information at stake, it is critical for merchants and merchant account providers to avoid making critical mistakes that could put both companies and customers at risk. Here’s what experts suggest you look out for:

  1. Not Getting Everything Down in Writing: This is a common mistake made on both sides of the transaction. It is important for merchants to read any and all contracts thoroughly before signing, and only expect deliverables that are put in writing. Any agreements between the merchant and the merchant account processor should be put in writing with multiple copies, both physical and digital. On the other hand, it is critical for merchant account processors to promise and deliver only things that have been agreed upon in writing.
  2. Trying for a Low Ball Deal: As a merchant, it can seem appealing to try talking a merchant processing company into a better deal. However, it is not uncommon for many merchant account providers to offer a promotional introductory discount, then increase prices and fees once you are locked into a contract. Always look into long-term pricing with potential merchant account providers before any formal commitment has been made.
  3. Not Offering/Accepting Fraud Protection: As a merchant account provider, it is important to consider offering fraud protection services for your merchants. As a merchant, you can avoid major problems by not doing business with merchant account processors who do not offer fraud protection services for your company or your customers. Without fraud protection, you could be looking at serious financial consequences down the road.
  4. Not Watching Out for Early Termination Fees:Some merchant account providers sign merchants for long-term contracts. In the event of an early termination, merchants could be subject to excessive fees. Always make sure that you thoroughly research merchant account processors before committing to any, and understand the terms of any contract you are about to sign.
  5. Not Asking the Right Questions: Merchants and merchant account processors should maintain open communication, especially when it comes to clarifying the details of your contract. When will billing occur? By what means? Is the merchant’s account high-risk?
  6. Customer Support: Experts suggest that 24/7 support is the way to go if you’re interested in keeping customers around. Failing to provide the proper support can decrease merchant satisfaction and prevent easy fixes. For merchants, it is important to seek account providers who offer constant and live customer support, especially in the event of an emergency.

To learn more about merchant accounts and how we can help you get the most out of them, contact us today.

The EMV Smart Card Reader from Vision Payment Solutions

Are the credit card payment terminals in your business EMV-compliant? If you don’t know, or if your machines are more than a few years old, your business may be among the estimated 40% of US retailers who will end 2015 with their businesses exposed to liability for fraudulent credit card purchases. This year, the USA finally began to catch up with the way most other countries around the world combat credit card fraud: EMV technology. This well-tested technology has been available for more than three decades, and EMV-chipped credit cards have been the standard in Europe and around the world for many years. The EMV chip implanted in the credit card generates a unique code for each transaction, making it virtually impossible for criminals to duplicate the card—something that is fairly simple with the magnetic strip cards prevalent in the United States.

How does this change affect merchants? Card issuers are in the process of upgrading over a billion credit cards to EMV smart cards, with debit cards to follow as software changes are implemented by banks. Along with this rollout, a new law took effect in October, shifting the liability for fraudulent credit card transactions from banks to the merchants who process the transaction. This only affects merchants who accept EMV credit cards without using EMV credit card machines, which are essential to ensuring the EMV chip protects the transaction. Don’t leave your business exposed to liability. Vision Payment Solutions has the EMV payment processing equipment you need to meet these new standards for POS sales, and we offer leasing and other funding options to help you upgrade. We also offer secure virtual payment gateways to help protect against card fraud with online sales. Contact us today to protect yourself, and your customers, with up-to-date technology.

Vision Payment Solutions

1. The USA is finally catching up! Europe has used credit card chip technology for over 10 years to combat credit card fraud, along with most of the other countries around the world.
2. The credit card chip is called EMV, an acronym for “Europay, MasterCard, Visa”.
3. As of October 2015, businesses must have payment processing equipment capable of reading EMV credit cards, or they face liability for any fraudulent EMV card transactions they run.
4. Prior to October 2015, fraudulent credit card transactions have been absorbed by banks. The “liability shift” that happens in October means that the liability shifts to businesses if they don’t have EMV card readers.
5. EMV chip cards are no longer swiped like magnetic strip cards. They are inserted into the business’s card reader and stay in place while the chip on the card communicates with the reader, until the transaction is complete.
6. Many credit card issuers haven’t replaced their standard magnetic strip cards with EMV technology yet.
7. Some EMV credit cards also require a signature, others require a PIN. The Chip & PIN version is the most popular type in Europe.
8. Many EMV chip cards have a magnetic strip that can be swiped in older payment systems, but merchants using those systems expose themselves to liability as of October 2015.
9. The EMV chip technology is well tested. It has been available for over 30 years.
10. The USA is the source of 25% of the world’s credit card transactions but nearly half of the credit card fraud.
11. Online retailers will need to step up security measures. Online credit card fraud is expected to surge after EMV credit cards become the US standard.
12. In 2013, global credit card fraud grew to $14 billion. The US portion of that cost had jumped nearly 30%.
13. EMV chip technology not only helps prevent fraud at the point of payment, it helps ensure consumer credit card data is not at risk in the case of a merchant breach.
14. The EMV chip generates a unique code for each transaction that cannot be used again, making it virtually impossible for criminals to duplicate the credit card.
15. Many EMV credit cards also support near field communication, or contactless, card reading, where the card is tapped against the payment reader.
16. Over a billion credit cards in the USA must be upgraded to EMV chip cards.
17. It costs credit card issuers approximately $3.50 to issue an EMV card to replace a magnetic strip card.
18. An estimated 12 million card readers and payment terminals will have to be upgraded to protect US merchants from the liability shift.
19. Over 40% of US retailers are expected to remain noncompliant with the change to EMV card reading technology by the end of 2015, exposing themselves to fraud liability.
20. The required upgrade to EMV payment terminals for automated fuel pumps, and the attached liability shift to the merchant, has been delayed to 2017.
21. Debit cards in the US will also be upgraded to EMV chip technology, but the rollout is expected to take longer due to software changes that must also be implemented by banks.
22. US cardholders may be unpleasantly surprised when traveling abroad with their EMV credit card. Many cards are being issued with the EMV Chip & Signature technology, which won’t work at automated payment kiosks in other countries that require a Chip & PIN card.

Merchant Processing Security Tips

While the rest of the US economy has seen its highs and lows over the past decade, the growth of the ecommerce sector has seen almost nothing but robust growth. According to statistics, more than $300 billion was spent on web sales in the year 2014, up more than 15% from the $264 billion spent in 2013. And it shows no signs of slowing down.

With the growth in credit card use comes the increased threat of identity theft, credit card fraud, and phishing scams. While there is no foolproof method for preventing these attacks, both consumers and credit card merchant services can take calculated measures to prevent the risk of credit card misuse. Here’s what the experts recommend to avoid falling victim to today’s biggest threats:

1. Research

As most security experts point out, knowing about potential security threats is half the battle. By familiarizing themselves with the potential risks when accepting credit cards, especially when it comes to their specific type of credit card merchant account, business owners can take the steps necessary to protect their consumers (and their profits) from the ever-growing threats that surround merchant processing.

2. Communicate

Communication between customers and credit card merchants is key when it comes to security. Keep your customers in the loop about your security methods and ask for their compliance. Emphasizing privacy rules and PCI standards will help to build consumer trust in the long run. Consider beginning a security campaign to educate customers about the measures required to keep their identities safe. Use texts, emails, and phone calls to better facilitate communication.

3. Record

Vigilance is key when trying to counteract security threats to your business. Security threats are constantly evolving, but there are simple methods merchants can used to counteract even the most sophisticated of attacks. By keeping thorough records and securing all of your data with password protection, you can insure your profits against potential threats. While setting up a security system is important, vigilance in maintaining records and updating your security is crucial to your success in protecting your credit card merchant account.

4. Collaborate

One of the easiest ways to ensure you don’t fall victim to credit card fraud and other threats is to work with credit card companies themselves. Many credit card companies offer fraud-protection services, which can go a long way in providing your customers with peace of mind and protecting your business. If you’ve just started accepting credit cards, make sure that your business is certified as PCI compliant, and always maintain your compliance moving forward.

With the advent of digital commerce in full swing, accepting credit cards is a must in terms of company growth. With a few extra precautions, you can protect your business from today’s most common threats and help your business see the growth it deserves.

What to Look for in a Merchant Processor

There are a lot of credit card processing services out there, and they would love to have your business. With thousands of options available, how do you choose the one that’s right for you and your company? It can be difficult, especially for new business owners, to know what to look for when choosing a credit card payment processing provider, but we have some suggestions for narrowing down the candidates.

Price is what most business owners compare first when considering credit card processing systems. The rates and fees can be tricky to compare between providers. You have setup fees, monthly fees, and transaction rates to consider, all of which can vary widely. Unfortunately, one of the most common issues in the payment processing industry is hidden fees, which are typically much higher than the usual rates. These fees are typically applied to “non-qualified” transactions. You need to know what the merchant processor considers “non-qualified” in order to know if this is a rate that will affect your particular business. Also, pay attention to the fine print if you’re offered an outstanding rate, because it may come with restrictions and limitations. Find out how long that rate is good for and if it is limited to certain transactions. What does the rate revert to later? Even a small portion of a percentage point can make a big difference in your bottom line, so be thorough.

When you like a processor’s rates, find out what you get in return for payment. Choosing an ecommerce credit card processing service is about more than simply the cards you can accept. How good is their security? Are they PCI-compliant and can they properly process EMV cards? Will the provider’s internet credit card processing solutions work with your online storefront? Can you get support easily when you need it? This is vital if the provider is located in another part of the country or if you have online sales that may occur on any day, at any hour.

If you choose a merchant processor, are you getting a full-service provider or will you have to use others to create a complete payment solution for your business? Can they handle every type of payment you wish to accept, from credit and debit cards to gift cards and checks? If you have brick-and-mortar and virtual storefronts, do they offer solutions and equipment for point-of-sale transactions as well as online and mobile credit card processing?

Who are their clients? Can you talk to others who use them to get a feel for how they do business? Even with recommendations from other merchants, use due diligence and research processors before signing up. Investigate them through such means as checking reviews and examining their Better Business Bureau data.

Look for a low cost credit card processing provider that is upfront about their fees and rates and who offers a full range of solutions to handle all your payment processing needs. Look for a company that has been in business for at least several years and has a proven track record. Finally, when you are ready to go with a merchant payment processor, start with a short-term contract. This gives you flexibility if you’re not completely satisfied with their service. Once you’ve worked with them and are happy with the results, then go for a longer term relationship.