By Laura Wojtkiewicz

It is almost impossible to run even the smallest of businesses without accepting debit or credit cards. Consumers have come to expect payment options that include debit or credit, online, mobile and in person. The responsibility for a merchant when accepting these payments, however, can be complicated and daunting. Choosing the right partner is critical.

“Darnit Jim, I’m A Business Owner Not A Chief Information Security Officer!”

The first major difficulty for small businesses accepting debit and credit cards is managing information and data security. Merchants tend to be focused on their business and the complicated components of a data security program can be a real headache.

“PCI Compliance” is a major challenge for small businesses. PCI is short for PCI-DSS and stands for Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS). To illustrate the challenge for small businesses, SecurityScorecard completed a study in 2018 that found about 91 percent of retailers did not comply with the PCI Data Security Standard, according to pymnts.com.

The consequences for being out of compliance can be dire. The card networks can impose penalty fees for a business that is out of compliance and experiences a data breach. In addition, a breach may result in card-network mandated IT audits, negative publicity and consumer litigation against the business. Ultimately, it could impair the viability of the business itself.

Financial Institutions are well versed in compliance and data security and often assist merchants and small businesses in understanding and adhering to the requirements of PCI-DSS standards.

Fees Are Like Fleas, They Both Make Us Itch.

Another topic that keeps small business owners up at night on the merchant services front is the myriad of credit card processing fees that if not managed, can dig deeply into net earnings. The fee structure is complex when viewed in a pass-through model, but if bundled, the merchant may be paying more than necessary.

There is a statement fee, a payment gateway fee, a transaction fee, an address verification service fee, interchange and discount rate fees, and a monthly minimum fee – to name a few. Merchants and processors have little control over the fees charged by Mastercard and Visa so it’s important to understand the processing procedures and strategies that can be employed to reduce the fees where possible. A good merchant services partner will take time to ensure that you understand the fees and that your monthly statement makes sense.

If You Want More Payments, Go Where The Payments Are.

Darleneziebell.com reported that according to the U.S. Census, eCommerce in the second quarter of 2018 increased by 15.2% over 2017. Consumers are demanding more payment options – options that, in addition to in-person, now include, phone, mobile and online payments. Some people are even ordering coffee and paying with their mobile device while they walk into the store to get their order.

In order for small businesses to succeed, they likely have to accept payments online, on-site and in person. Merchants need multiple technologies to complete transactions – these include point-of-sale or countertop solutions, mobile transactions solutions, and online and phone ordering solutions – and they need to consider all of their payment situations.  A good merchant processor will work with a merchant to devise a comprehensive solution.

The last consideration is consolidation of all the payment data through to the accounting system. Many businesses now tend to go for a “shared commerce” point of sale (POS) to help manage their businesses, which combine credit card sales with accounting, loyalty and customer relationship management (CRM) software for very powerful data gathering.

For all the reasons mentioned above, in the complex world of payments, it is critical to choose a “high-level” merchant services partner to provide processing services that includes education and facilitation as part of the ongoing relationship.

Laura Wojtkiewicz is the Relationship Manager, Business Solutions at Martha’s Vineyard Bank. To contact Laura, visit www.mvbank.com/merchant