A complete guide to accepting card payments simply, securely and affordably

If you’re new to the world of card payment solutions, it can be a confusing place, but it doesn’t have to be that way. This helpful beginner’s guide covers everything you need to know to get started — from which card machine to choose, to why your online business needs a secure payment gateway. It doesn’t hurt to know your stuff, so read on for the basics.

Why accept card payments?

There are lots of reasons why embracing card payments could be great for your business:

1. Make payments simple. With more and more consumers expecting to pay by credit or debit card, it’s important that your business is ready to meet their expectations. Today, more than ¾ of all high street spending is made using credit or debit cards, and that figure is only expected to grow over the next 10 years.

2. The use of cash on the high street has been in steady decline, and with new contactless technologies designed to make smaller purchases easier, it’s predicted that customers will begin to use cards even more.

3. You’ll get paid faster. As the customer will pay in full at the time of the sale, you won’t have to wait for a cheque to clear. Plus, the money will usually be in your bank account in a few working days.

4. Your business will save more. You’ll be holding less physical cash — meaning you need to spend less on security. You’ll also spend less time travelling to the bank to deposit your takings.

5. Your cash flow will improve and you’ll rely less on other financing, such as overdrafts or loans.

6. You’re more likely to make a sale. If a customer doesn’t have enough cash on them, they won’t have to head to a cash point (risking them not returning). If you accept card payments, you give customers more payment options and more reasons to come back.

7.You’ll save time. Accepting card payments is much faster than taking cash or a cheque. There’s no need to count out change or wait for a cheque to clear. With a card machine, your customer simply enters their PIN or taps the terminal with their Contactless card.

8. You’re guaranteed payment. When a customer uses a chip & PIN in a shop, you’re guaranteed to receive payment without any disputes.

9. You can plan ahead. When businesses take card payments, they know exactly how much the transaction will cost to process, which can help with planning for the future.

10. It encourages impulse buying. Customers are likely to spend more money when you have a card machine, and likely to return more often.

11 Less bank fees. Using a card machine means less cash and cheques to deposit, so you’re likely to incur fewer bank fees.

There’s a range of card payment solutions available to you, and you can choose the one that best suits your type of business. That could be a Mobile terminal that works all around the country, a Portable terminal that’ll serve around the premises or a Countertop to sit at the till or desk. Alternatively, you might want to take card payments online or over the phone.

How do I get started with card payments?

Firstly, you’ll need a merchant account, which will enable you to take card payments. If you’re planning to take card payments through your website, you’ll need a payment gateway, which will enable you to process payments securely and swiftly. If you want to take card payments over the phone then you’ll need a virtual terminal to help with that.

What is a Merchant Account?

Merchant accounts are similar to bank accounts. They hold funds that move from a customer’s account before they enter a business bank account, making sure the payment is secure for the customer and the business and that there’s enough money in the customer’s account. The merchant account then authorises payment so that the transaction completes successfully.

Once the transaction has been processed, the money is paid into your merchant account and can be transferred to your business bank account (minus any transaction fees). This usually takes between 2 – 3 days.

How will I know the best way to take cards?

Depending on whether you want to take cards in-store, online, over the phone or even on the move there are different card payment solutions available to you.

Countertop card machines are used by thousands of businesses to process card payments in-store. Most retailers and high street stores use these for their fast processing and fixed position. They’re easy-to-use and sit comfortably beside the merchant’s till or cash register.

Portable Card Machines are another popular option utilising Bluetooth technology to process payments anywhere on the business premises. This is ideal for taking the payment to the customer, rather than the other way around. For these reasons Portable Card Machines are perfect for restaurants, cafes and pubs where customers are situated around the premises.

Meanwhile, Mobile Card Machines are used by businesses that look to accept card payments on the move. Thanks to the cutting-edge GPRS technology of our terminals, they can process transactions from anywhere in the UK with network coverage.

If you have an online business like an eCommerce store or an internet service, you’ll be required to install a Payment Gateway to process payment and protect your customers’ private data.

The Payment Gateway is the final part of the checkout procedure where the user inputs their card details and completes their payment, making it crucial to the user experience in relation to your brand. Fortunately, we provide secure Payment Gateway software that’s compatible with most major shopping carts and can be installed in as little as 24 hours. Finally, if your business tends to take a lot of orders via telephone or mail, our virtual terminal is your best bet.

How do I get paid?

When a customer pays using a debit or credit card, the funds are transferred into your merchant account, after which they’re transferred into your business bank account. The whole process takes two business days, so you’ll have the money in your business bank account shortly after the transaction takes place.