Article | May 19, 2021
Running a small business requires a tight eye on profits. More than likely, you will face scenarios in which you incur higher transaction fees you didn’t expect and could have avoided in the first place. Knowing how to navigate processing fees is a key part of your success. Whether you run a single location, a multi-location business, or even a mobile business, avoiding unnecessary fees should be part of the game plan.
Unfortunately, less-than-reputable POS providers are out there, and understanding fees associated with taking payment from customers isn’t easy, but knowing what to look for will help. In this article, we cover fees to keep an eye on and how to save more on your processing fees.
How To Avoid Paying Unnecessary Credit Card Processing Fees
Unfortunately, if you want to accept credit and debit cards as a form of payment in your business, you’re going to experience processing fees. The financial benefits outweigh the transaction costs, but you can still save some money on your POS system and credit card processing.
Negotiate Your Processing Fees
The reason it can be so hard to understand the actual cost of processing fees is that many merchant service providers bury fees in the fine print, and these fees can come back to haunt you. In general, the more upfront a company is about all its charges, the more trustworthy and reliable they are because they have nothing to hide, and typically those rates will be fair. But it also helps to keep an eye on certain aspects of a contract. You can then negotiate them or repackage services to boost your profits.
Transaction Fees: Choose The Right Plan
When setting up your contract, you are given the option of a range of credit card pricing plans. Here are three of the most common pricing models.
Interchange Plus Fee Pricing
This option offers different transaction rates for different card types, bank issuers, methods of transactions, and more. By understanding these fees when processing transactions, you can benefit financially by encouraging the usage of certain cards or procedures that are least costly.
In this scenario, you are charged different rates for different tiers created by your provider. It’s important to evaluate this option carefully because most transactions can fall into a less favorable tier rate.
Flat-fee Structure Pricing
This fee allows for one charge for card-present (CP) transactions and another for card-not-present (CNP) transactions, regardless of card type. This predictable, one-rate pricing model is easy to follow, allowing you to encourage a lower cents-per-transaction option and formulate special pricing deals. However flat-rate can sometimes come out as more expensive than interchange-plus pricing.
How To Avoid Monthly PCI Compliance Charges
A semi-regular fee many merchants run into is not falling in line with PCI Compliant in how they handle payment information. Being PCI compliant means maintaining important standards for customer data protection, and it is taken seriously. Compliance is required for major credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard and is becoming more popular as businesses continue to shift to online sales.
Rule enforcement is most often the responsibility of payment processing companies. Your provider will charge you two fees: a PCI compliance fee – which is once a year – and a PCI non-compliance fee – which occurs every month you have not completed your yearly PCI Compliance audit. Providers are free to charge however much they like for each service, and it can range anywhere between $30-$99 a month. Monthly charges are done both directly or indirectly via higher monthly fees, processing rates, or both. In some cases, the charges begin months after originally signing up with the processors hoping you won’t keep a close eye on all your ongoing processing fees.
As a merchant service provider, we at BNG Point-Of-Sale have a long and reliable history in helping our customers practice PCI Compliance within their business and avoid non-compliance fees.
PCI Compliance is necessary and it does require some work by the processors, so the charges aren’t a hoax, but there are some ways to keep costs down:
You can take on the responsibility of PCI Compliance yourself and forgo the processor’s fee; however, you will be on your own if issues arise. In today’s world of increasing e-commerce, it’s not recommended.
You can prevent the risk of non-compliance fees by working with companies that handle compliance internally. If they (not you) are the source of customer purchasing data, they are automatically in charge of it. Square and PayPal are examples of companies that handle all PCI Compliance, and we often account for these services when onboarding our customers and annually remind them to follow PCI Compliance.
At first glance, it may appear you are not charged by these companies for compliance and non-compliance, but in reality, compliance is still built into the standard fee for service; you just won’t see it specified. Still, you won’t be responsible for non-compliance fees since they own the data and are fully responsible for it.
The amount of compliance required of your business depends on how you take in payment and store customer data. Since processors have numerous clients and prefer not to get specific about it, they may charge a basic fee to cover most issues. This means you could be overpaying, so it’s a good area to evaluate this price of the packaged service vs. when it is priced individually.
There may be companies that don’t charge for compliance, but they are rare and may be suspect. In most cases, any free compliance is covered with higher fees in other areas.
How To Avoid Chargeback Fees
Chargeback fees should be avoided since they are more expensive than traditional transaction fees – especially if you are categorized as a “high risk” client. The first step is to avoid chargebacks in the first place.
Chargebacks can be the result of sales errors by you and your team, a misunderstanding by the customer, or the result of identity theft. Here are some ways to combat each.
Reduce Transaction Errors
Know when to stop a transaction. If an error occurs, push the cancel/hold button inside the transaction. If you are unable to do this, the transaction has already been claimed by the processing company.
Accurately process credits as credits and sales as sales.
Receive an Authorization Approval Code (AAC) before running a transaction.
Before batching your credit card processing at the end of the day, review all charges to verify all charges are correct and not duplicated. Keeping this as an active daily routine can prevent costly mistakes.
Ensure shipped items arrive to the customer to avoid disputes. Select the “ship product to billing address” to alleviate data error.
Keep Records Of Voids
Provide records to your customer of any proof of voids and include companion documentation for any disputes showing details of each purchase.
Decrease Risk Of Theft
If your processor charges more for card-not-present transactions, which most do, it’s because the risk of theft is higher. By requiring a driver’s license and signature and doing manually keyed-in card payments in person rather than over the phone, you lower the risk and enjoy lower charges per transaction.
Try to avoid non-qualified processing (when a card isn’t present or keyed or is missing billing information.) This type of processing is considered a high-risk factor, and processors charge accordingly.
When Possible, Run Orders On Debit Cards
Debit cards are considered a lower risk than credit cards and, in turn, the transaction rates are quite a bit less. This has mostly to do with the fact the purchase is a direct bank-to-bank transaction, but other factors make a difference such as PIN verification and signature requirements, bringing these purchases into a lower risk category. And typically the rates hold. You will still experience rate differences among debit cards related to how the purchases are conducted and who the issuing bank is.
Special incentives such as loyalty programs for debit card users help to easily boost profits.
A Final Thought On Keeping Processing Fees Low
As you can see, several variables can affect your processing rates. From fines to the pricing model your merchant service provider recommends, there’s a lot to consider.
As tempting as it can be to just try and find the cheapest option, be careful going with the lowest bidder. Remember, all POS and payment processing providers have to make some money to cover the costs of support their merchants. If you choose a processor with incredibly low fees, you run the risk of getting what you pay for when it comes to supporting your business.
If you’re not sure if you’re overpaying on your processing fees and want a free analysis, let our team review your current monthly statements and we’ll let you know if you’re getting a good deal or not.
Article | April 16, 2020
A retail POS system is a system that includes customer display, barcode scanner, receipt printer, cash drawer, monitor, computer, and debit/credit card reader. POS systems offer the functionalities of CRM to interact with the customers or integration with an existing CRM system, sending of email & text messages, loyalty reward program, updating contact records, and functions for setting an appointment.
Article | April 1, 2020
Reality as we know it has been interrupted. Our entire lives have been put on hold. And it’s not a great feeling. To fight the global coronavirus pandemic, we’re all stepping back from large gatherings even if it disrupts our business goals or denies us the ability to catch up with dear friends. Not only have we postponed Ecommerce Operations Summit 2020 but we are brainstorming other ways to do our part and contribute however we can. Our focus right now is on everyone whose lives have been turned upside down or even put at mortal risk by this invisible enemy. How has this impacted you? While you’re working from home, carve out a quick minute to answer this survey and share the effect COVID-19 has had on your business. Answers will be collected through this Thursday.
Article | October 16, 2020
In 2004, Tobias Lutke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Luke established an online website to sell snowboards. They tried a bunch of online store builders but were not satisfied with the status quo. So, they decided to build a tool that could operate their website. Soon, they realized that the tool was more powerful than the website's business. And hence, Shopify was born.
Eventually, Shopify became one of the largest eCommerce store builders in the world. By 2009, the company had $100 million in sales and decided to launch its own API as well as an app store. More than a decade later, Shopify is now supporting over 800,000 stores globally and is a $125 billion company.
While the company has shown remarkable growth in its business, it would be ignorant to say the market's needs have been fulfilled by the Shopify platform. Shopify's eCommerce platform works for a lot of businesses, but that does not mean it will work for every business.
Here is why Shopify is Not the Right Fit for Every Business:
Shopify's growth over the years shows that the company has taken several steps to address the market's inherent needs. However, the presence of several other companies and the issues still faced by merchants show some significant gaps in Shopify's offerings:
1. Cost of Setting Up: Each price-point offers a fixed set of features and functionalities. If you want anything over and above that, you will have to buy the subsequent package. For instance – something as conventional as a Gift Card is not available in the $29 per month package; to get it activated, pay as much as $299 per month.
2. Cost of Operations: The additional functionalities and features cost extra in your package. Even basic features like transaction or credit card processing attract an additional fee. To add to that, you have to purchase the app to activate the feature from the Shopify app store. Even though some apps are free, the apps that offer maximum value tend to cost north of $39.99 per month.
3. Limited and Expensive Themes: The entire Shopify store has a total of 73 themes, with the prices going as high as $180 a theme. This means that as a merchant, even after paying the high price, you may end up with an eCommerce platform that hardly stands out from the crowd.
In short, while Shopify was started with great intentions, the cost of using it has started outweighing the probable value it has to offer. This issue gets further highlighted when one starts looking at the Shopify alternatives.
Best Alternatives of Shopify
While Shopify suits the needs of a certain set of merchants, here are the alternatives that can suit the merchants looking for more tailored, affordable, or customizable solutions:
1. Quick eSelling
Quick eSelling is one of the most affordable and easy to deploy ecommerce store builder among the Shopify alternatives. It can be deployed in under 10 minutes for the basic variant. Its free variant has some prolific features like a native Android app, responsive website, and a catalog that can support up to 1000 products.
The free package requires a 5% transaction fee, which gets eliminated the moment you upgrade to a paid plan. All the paid plans have a fixed monthly fee and no setup costs. The list of standard features includes a wide set of functionalities like customizable web-store themes, SMS & Email marketing, comprehensive payment gateway integrations, detailed analytics reports, inventory management systems, social media plugins, discount coupon codes, and even live chat.
The premium package which costs around 50% the price of the $299 Shopify package, comes with a dedicated account manager and enterprise-level integrations.
Ideal for: Merchants who are seeking an affordable, easily usable, and quickly deployable solution.
WooCommerce is popularly considered one of the most preferred alternatives for Shopify. It is quite convenient for website owners as it is a plugin for WordPress.
Unlike other tools in the list, WooCommerce is designed to make WordPress sites work as functional eCommerce platforms. And in that particular aspect, it does a great job.
However, if you are not already using an established WordPress site with high traffic, running WooCommerce can become quite expensive. On average, a website owner has to spend as much as $1000 in setting up a WooCommerce store with a moderate degree of customization.
Even if you are not customizing a lot, running a WooCommerce store can cost you as much as $150 in a month. This would cover your hosting, themes, shipping plugins, security, and SEO. You will pay additional 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
Ideal for: Someone who has a successful WordPress website and now wants to convert it into an eCommerce store.
Yo!Kart is a popular self-hosted multi-vendor platform for building online marketplaces. Unlike Shopify, it is a standalone platform that comes with a lifetime license and rich ecommerce features. The platform is fully customizable and scalable.
Yo!Kart packages start from $999 and every package comes with a 1-year free technical support, free installation, and full source code. There are no monthly or yearly recurring fees.
Considering it is a comprehensive platform, you may need some technical training to understand the system.
Ideal for: Business owners who want to start ecommerce websites like Amazon or ebay where multiple sellers are selling under the same roof.
PrestaShop runs on the basic premise that creating an online eCommerce store should be an affordable exercise for any merchant. That is the reason why it is available for free and comes without any additional monthly fees.
Its features include eCommerce functionalities like CRM & Email Marketing, Inventory Management, Multi-Store Management, and SEO Management. You can get a basic eCommerce store running by paying the registration fee for the domain and the hosting fee dues.
While this may seem like a great alternative, given the fact that it is practically free, there is one major caveat – you cannot deploy or personalize your PrestaShop eCommerce store unless you know how to code. The entire platform has been designed, keeping in mind people who can code at professional levels of proficiency. The cost of hiring a developer who can add features to your store or modify the theme can be very costly.
In addition to this, some basic features like promotions & reviews management, data security, and mobile access are not available on the platform.
Ideal for: The merchants who have access to programming talent and don't mind a basic eCommerce store.
Wix became popular as an online website builder. It also offers interesting eCommerce functionalities. For as low as $35 a year, you can have the Business Basic package that comes with a free year of using the domain, analytics reports, and 20 GB of storage.
If you want greater control of your eCommerce platform but are not a professional programmer and are not interested in hiring one, Wix can be a great alternative. Its most expensive package costs about $80 a year. It comes with features like email marketing, SEO management, inventory management, data security, and promotions management.
The challenge is – most of the charges marketed by Wix are very affordable for the first year in operations. After a year, many of these features, like the domain, will become payable elements. This way as soon as the first year of your operations is over, your cost of running the eCommerce platform will dramatically go up.
Ideal for: Merchants who want to have greater control of their website's design without the need for coding skills and those who want the first year of operations to be largely affordable.
Shopify can work for you if you are seeking a limited set of features. However, for lesser price-points, the alternatives for Shopify offer great functionalities. Quick eSelling is good for cost-effective and rapidly deployable eCommerce websites that come loaded with native features. WooCommerce is a viable option if you have a WordPress site and want to convert it into an eCommerce store. Yo!Kart specializes in building multi-vendor marketplaces.
PrestaShop can be handy and very budget-friendly if you have access to coding talent. And Wix is good if you want greater control over what your store looks like, without getting into the programming aspects.