Just How Much In The Event You Purchase Charge Card Processing?

How much should you pay for credit card processing

Retailers, restaurant proprietors, along with other retailers happen to be counting on traditional merchant services for a long time to process debit and credit card transactions. However with the development of Square in ’09 and PayPal Within 2012, pay-as-you-go processing has become the egalitarian means to fix card processing. E-commerce has thrived, and vendors of types — from artists to food trucks — can accept charge cards additionally to cash and appearance. But exactly how much in the event you purchase charge card processing?

Because of so many possibilities, and much more popping up constantly, how can you tell what you need to pay in credit card processing charges? Would be the figures the processing companies quote you accurate, and therefore are they fair?

Regrettably, there&#8217s nobody number we are able to say is a fair processing rate. Charge card processing isn&#8217t complicated, however, many factors modify the charges a merchant pays.

At this time you&#8217re thinking it might be a lesser headache just to setup processing using the first company that&#8217ll have you ever, right? Maybe your bank is providing an offer as a lengthy-time customer, or perhaps a friend of the friend uses Square and loves it.

Sure, you are able to go down that path — however, you could find yourself having to pay hundreds, otherwise thousands, of dollars in extra charges that you simply don&#8217t have to pay. We&#8217re here that will help you navigate charge card processing and help give you the best rate feasible for your company. So hang in there!

Understanding Kinds of Charge Card Processing

When you begin searching into charge card processing, you&#8217ll discover that your choices typically fall under 1 of 3 groups: tiered prices, interchange-plus prices, and flat-rate processing. We&#8217ve already covered the variations, and all sorts of terminology you should know, in several articles (check out The Complete Help guide to Charge Card Processing Rates and Fees and our corresponding infographic), but we&#8217ll just discuss each option again briefly.

Tiered Prices: 

Every card transaction is assigned a code to classify it. There are millions of codes, and a few signal less dangerous transactions than the others. (Coffee at the local cafe is much less of a problem than a sizable acquisition of furniture from your online shop, for instance. Find out more about high-risk payment processing here.) Merchant providers began lumping similar groups into &#8220tiers&#8221 as a means of simplifying statements and rate processing. Typically you will find three tiers: qualified, mid-qualified, and non-qualified. Qualified transactions would be the cheapest risk and then the cheapest cost to process the rates increase with mid- and non-qualified transactions.

The greatest issue is transparency. It&#8217s common for retailers to see downgrades — transactions processed as mid- or non-qualified. Merchant providers don&#8217t always clarify why is a purchase qualified or non-qualified, and each company categorizes differently. You may be quoted exactly the same rate with two processors, but finish up having to pay more with one because fewer of your transactions are qualified for your low rate.

Interchange-Plus Prices:

Interchange-plus is a way to fix the problems with tiered prices models. High-volume companies have lengthy had the ability to make use of this prices model, however it&#8217s only lately been expanded to retailers of any size. For every transaction you have to pay the interchange rate (assigned through the charge card associations) as well as the processor&#8217s markup. This really is frequently a small % along with a per-transaction fee.

It&#8217s important to note that some cards and transactions come with greater interchange rates, so that your processing rate will still vary slightly, but less than you&#8217ll see with tiered prices. The processor&#8217s markup percentage is usually between .20% and .75%, as well as your transaction charges could be everything from $.15 to $.30.

Flat-Rate Processing:

The most recent prices model to interrupt to the scene is flat-rate processing. This is exactly what the thing is with pay-as-you-go processors like PayPal and Square. Regardless of kind of card, you have to pay exactly the same rate again and again (using the periodic exceptions for card-not-present transactions or worldwide cards, that also have set rates). This really is nice since you know whenever you complete the transaction that which you&#8217ll pay for your processor, guaranteed. There&#8217s no messing around with qualified transactions whatsoever.

Some credit card merchant account providers (namely Payment Depot and Fattmerchant) have pioneered another kind of flat-rate processing: subscriptions. Rather than paying a portion markup over interchange, you normally pay a set fee every month along with a per-transaction fee. There&#8217s no percentages to fool around with, only the interchange charges and transaction charges.

Finding Your Effective Rate and efficient Markup

Should you&#8217re already accepting charge card payments, before you go searching for alternatives, you should know your effective rate and effective markup. And even though you aren&#8217t processing payments, understanding how to calculate these numbers is the only method to make accurate comparisons between providers.

Effective Rate:

Your effective rate isn&#8217t the theoretical rate you&#8217re having to pay — it&#8217s the entire number of profits which go toward charges. Also it&#8217s simple to calculate: just divide your overall monthly charges (gateway charges, statement charges, monthly charges, equipment leases, and anything else) through the total amount of your monthly sales.

Let&#8217s say you need to do $20,000 in sales in a single month. You have to pay $1,050 as a whole charges, departing a internet gross of $18,950. The formula for calculating your effective rate appears like this:

  • ( [total charges] / [total sales] ) x 100
  • (1,050 / 20,000) = .0525
  • .0525 x 100 = 5.25%

Read this handy guide to learn more.

Effective Markup:

Your effective markup is really a tool particularly for evaluating processors that provide interchange-plus or subscription plans. It’s calculated similar to the effective rate — however it omits the interchange charges.

Let&#8217s assume your monthly sales total is $35,000. With one processor, you have to pay $1,580 in markup charges (including statement charges and extra monthly services). The formula for calculating your effective markup appears like this:

  • ( [markup charges] / [total sales] ) x 100
  • ( 1,580 / 35,000 ) x 100
  • (.0451) x 100
  • 4.51% 

This really is the easiest method to make apples-to-apples comparisons for the way much the charge card processors are charging you. However, it won&#8217t work with evaluating tiered or pay-as-you-go processors simply because they don&#8217t separate their markup in the interchange.

Factors That May Affect Rate

Now you know your effective rate as well as your effective markup, let&#8217s check out why they might be greater than you&#8217d like.

Kind of Transaction:

One of the leading determinants in charge card processing rates is &#8220card-not-present&#8221 versus. &#8220card-present&#8221 transactions. Card-not-present transactions encompass everything in which the merchant doesn&#8217t swipe a card via a terminal. Every online transaction is basically a card-not-present transaction — and thus is every payment where you type in a card number through PayPal Here or Square. There&#8217s a larger chance of fraud, a minimum of in the outlook during the processor, which means you pay more for implementing their professional services in this manner.

Volume: 

Another figuring out factor is volume. In retail, it will save you money when you purchase in large quantities. Likewise, you reduce processing charges if you have greater monthly sales. Volume discounts change from one processor to another. PayPal provides you with a price reduction beginning at $3,000 monthly. Others won&#8217t give you credit before you obvious $80,000 per month.

Extra Services:

Extra services won&#8217t always affect your processing rates, but they’ll increase your effective markup. Including PCI compliance charges, gateway charges, statement charges, monthly leases, and so forth. Don&#8217t purchase services you don&#8217t need! Should you&#8217re not utilizing a feature your provider offers however, you&#8217re still having to pay for this, it may be time for you to shop elsewhere.

That stated, opt for regardless if you are having to pay another-party service for something a free account could include. This can be website hosting, a shopping cart software, or perhaps a gateway — if they come cheaper using your provider than through commercial alternatives, the greater effective rate could cost it! Just make certain you factor these costs to your estimates when creating a comparisons.

For instance, let&#8217s say you process $35,000 monthly. Your effective rate with one processor (Option A) is 3.5% and also you pay $225 for any shopping cart software.

Another processor (Option B) provides an effective rate of 4% but features a located shopping cart software that’s on-componen together with your current option.

The formulas for calculating the various seem like this:

Option A

  • (Effective Rate x Monthly Sales) + Charges for Third-Party Services
  • (.035 x 35,000) + $225
  • 1225 + $225
  • $1450

Option B

  • (Effective Rate x Monthly Sales)
  • (.04 x 35,000) 
  • $1400

Within this situation, while you pay a greater effective rate, the inclusion from the shopping cart software ultimately helps you save money — $600 annually, actually.

Card Type:

The kind of card you process may also affect your processing rate. For instance, American Express&#8217 interchange minute rates are greater than individuals for Visa and MasterCard. Interchange rates for PIN an atm card are very low, but signature debit, that is processed with the charge card systems, includes greater charges. Rewards cards — for example charge cards that provide users cash return — and worldwide cards are available with greater interchange rates.

Business card printing may also increase your processing costs, so if you’re mainly a Business to business organization, count on paying more for charge card processing than the usual consumer-facing store.

Ticket Size:

With respect to the prices model your processor uses, how big your ticket may also affect just how much you have to pay in charges.

Generally, bigger tickets have a greater risk (which processors don&#8217t like), however they can help you save money for those who have a lesser percentage rate along with a higher per-transaction charges. Say your processor charges a $.20 per-transaction fee.

You need to do $15,000 in monthly sales as well as your average ticket dimensions are $15. That&#8217s a typical 1,000 transactions.

  • 1,000 x $.20 = $200

You need to do $15,000 in monthly sales as well as your average ticket dimensions are $150. That&#8217s a typical 100 transactions.

  • 100 x $.20 = $20 

A lesser average ticket amount means you could be having to pay $180 furthermore monthly. That&#8217s $2,160 each year in charges.

Evaluating Processor Rates

Once you know the standards which will affect your charge card processing rates, how can you start precisely evaluating offers from various processors?

For just one, always perform the math. Have a couple of scenarios — a great month, a poor month, as well as an average month, and run the figures to determine that which you&#8217d pay with every processor. Keep in mind that not every your transactions is going to be qualified, either. Review your existing monthly statements and find out in which you presently fall. That&#8217s not perfect model because every processor differs, however it&#8217s a great beginning point.

Better still is always to compare only interchange-plus quotes, since with interchange-plus you are able to compare just the markup. In contrast to tiered prices, the markup is a continuing. The interchange variable is totally taken off the equation, making the comparisons better.

Running these numbers can assist you to decide whether a regular monthly fee, greater rate, or per-transaction fee is much more pricey than you would expect.

Once we&#8217ve already stated, some merchant providers includes extra services, because of free or at additional cost. Choose which ones you’ll need and don&#8217t spend the money for ones you don&#8217t use! If you presently pay another provider for that services, do a price comparison, features, and reliability to determine in which the less expensive lies.

And try to, always research any processor you&#8217re thinking about. Read testimonials and check out exactly what the experts say. A string of reports claiming a processor is overcharging, complaints about never receiving statements, unauthorized withdrawals, and too little responses to individuals allegations are indicators.

Everything appears pretty apparent, right? Good!

Here are a few other common issues which you may need to wrangle with:

PCI Compliance:

PCI compliance is about protecting your clients&#8217 information. It&#8217s some security standards for card processing. Some credit card merchant account providers will assess a PCI compliance fee — which means you&#8217re meeting the standards for data security. Others charge a non-compliance fee, meaning you&#8217re not meeting individuals standards and also you acknowledge as a result. Should you&#8217re lucky, your processor won&#8217t have PCI charges. Find out more about PCI compliance here.

ETFs:

Early termination charges are ugly. Retailers don&#8217t like them, nor will we (particularly when they sneak into contracts without retailers realizing it!). That stated, sometimes you are able to negotiate lower rates or have an interchange-plus plan in return for saying yes for an ETF.

Should you&#8217ve had a good processor and deal directly with the organization, this isn&#8217t a problem. In case your processor happens to be under trustworthy, or else you undergo a completely independent sales repetition nobody just really wants to close the offer and obtain the commission, you&#8217re in danger.

Other Difficulties:

Some processors ask you for the absolute minimum fee should you don&#8217t meet a particular amount of processing, yet others won&#8217t provide you with volume prices whatsoever. Also important to note is that some processors don&#8217t distinguish between card-present and card-not-present transactions. That&#8217s whether problem (should you mainly process card-present transactions, you&#8217re most likely having to pay greater than you have to) or perhaps a relief (should you handle mostly card-not-present transactions, you&#8217re most likely obtaining a better rate).

What In The Event You Do Now?

There&#8217s nobody fair number with regards to charge card processing rates. Some companies are riskier than the others, and processors will most definitely pass that cost onto you instead of taking it in themselves. The greater money you generate, the greater processors are prepared to decrease your rates, simply because they from the improvement in sheer volume.

Comprehend the interplay between your different prices models and factors for example ticket size and the kind of card. For those who have a little ticket size, per-transaction charges can cost you even more than they perform a business having a bigger ticket size. The kind of cards your clients use can result in you at long last having to pay more, too.

Wherever you are able to, we recommend you may well ask for interchange-plus prices. Even when merchant services don&#8217t advertise diets, they often have them. It&#8217s probably the most transparent payment model.

Read your contract completely through prior to signing and don&#8217t hesitate to inquire about what you would like. After which, continue studying your statements each month and checking your effective rate. If something appears off or perhaps your rates all of a sudden spike, inquire and demand solutions. Should you&#8217re unsatisfied, start searching for any better deal.

Take a look at our top-reviewed merchant account providers here. Should you still feel stuck, call us to obtain help lowering your processing rates or choosing a repayment processor!

The publish Just How Much In The Event You Purchase Charge Card Processing? made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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How you can Negotiate the right Charge Card Processing Deal

negotiating credit card processing fees

Negotiating charge card processing charges is intimidating, and even for good reason. You most likely don&#8217t need to negotiate prices greatly inside your everyday existence, and also you just negotiate a charge card processing deal perhaps a couple of occasions inside your entire existence. Sales representatives at a merchant account providers, however, negotiate these contracts each day. Whenever you cope with these representatives, you’re immediately in a disadvantage, which hurts your general confidence.

Confidence is essential to effective settlement. If you’re able to&#8217t with confidence state that an offer sounds bad or good, all sheds. This quick guide provides you with all the necessary tools to stack the negotiating deck to your benefit and provide you with the arrogance to obtain the merchant processing car loan terms you deserve.

1. Have an interchange-plus quote

If you wish to have concrete, significant bargaining power, it&#8217s interchange-plus or bust. With interchange-plus, the sales rep must separate the markup in the wholesale transaction cost, and therefore offer you two simple figures that you could easily match up against quotes using their company vendors.

The 2 figures are:

  • The proportion markup (e.g., .30%)
  • The transaction fee markup (e.g., $.20)

You’ve still got to cover the interchange fee along with other wholesale costs, obviously, but individuals figures are non-negotiable and for that reason don’t offer you any negotiating power. All processors need to pay exactly the same wholesale interchange costs.

Match it up having a standard tiered quote, containing a minimum of six figures, including:

  • Qualified tier rate and transaction fee (e.g., 1.75% + $.20)
  • Mid-qualified tier rate and transaction fee (e.g., 2.25% + $.25)
  • Non-qualified tier rate and transaction fee (e.g., 2.90% + $.30)

Since it&#8217s impossible to be aware what number of your transactions will fall under each tier, and also the markup and wholesale pricing is not separated, making significant comparisons between tiered prices quotes just isn’t possible more often than not.

Some providers designed for lower volume companies (like Flint or PayPal) do not give interchange-plus quotes. But any traditional credit card merchant account provider can provide cost-plus prices. When the representative will not, it&#8217s most likely time for you to hang up the phone the telephone.

2. Examine charges to calculate the effective rate

Which means you&#8217ve got your interchange-plus quote in hands, plus a complete listing of charges. Ok now what?

Well, it will help for those who have some knowledge of payment processing (we are able to help should you&#8217d like), however a careful newcomer can perform a fairly good job of examining and sorting charges, the initial step while calculating the effective markup rate, the number will make apples-to-apples comparisons across multiple processors.

Read this infographic to learn more of processing charges.

Searching at the fee page, highlight all from the charges which are &#8220scheduled,&#8221 meaning they occur at regular times. Such charges include:

  • Fee every month
  • PCI compliance fee
  • Gateway fee
  • Annual fee
  • Equipment warranty fee
  • Monthly minimum surcharge

These charges figure in to the markup cost.

Incidental charges (or one-time charges), however, are excluded in the markup. Such charges include:

  • Chargeback fee
  • Early termination fee
  • Application fee
  • Setup charges
  • PCI non-action fee

It&#8217s important to concentrate on these charges too whenever you make comparisons, but they don’t count included in the effective markup.

NOTE: Should you process lots of card-not-present transactions, consider an AVS (Address Verification Service) fee. Usually this fee is made to the markup quote for card-not-present companies, however, many providers are sneaky and can include it as being another fee. The AVS fee is billed any time you operate a transaction with no card present (for example via a website or over the telephone). The charge is generally small (maybe $.10), however it accumulates rapidly. Multiply this fee by the amount of card-not-present transactions you&#8217ll have inside a month, and include that number along with other scheduled charges.

3. Calculate the effective markup rate

Together with your charges carefully examined and sorted, you&#8217re prepared to calculate the special moment number. The effective markup provides you with just one number that works as a simple metric to check actual costs, not only quoted rates, across numerous processing quotes. It&#8217s the best number to think about when rate shopping, so give consideration!

You’re given an interest rate and fee quote which includes the next:

  • Interchange-plus: .25% + $.20
  • Fee every month: $15
  • Annual PCI compliance fee: $72
  • Monthly gateway fee: $10

You predict that you’ll process $20,000.00 monthly in card payments, with $100.00 being your average card payment transaction size.

Adopt these measures:

  1. Multiply your markup rate from your monthly volume. (20,000 * .0025 = 50)
  2. Divide your monthly volume from your average transaction size to obtain your average quantity of transactions monthly. (20,000 / 100 = 200 transactions)
  3. Multiply your average quantity of transactions monthly from your per transaction fee. (200 * .20 = 40)
  4. Accumulate all scheduled charges. For charges collected yearly, divide by 12 to obtain the monthly figure. (15 + 6 + 10 = 31)
  5. Add totals from lines 1, 3, and 4 to obtain your total price above wholesale. (50 + 40 + 31 = 121)
  6. Divide total price above wholesale from your total monthly card payment volume to obtain the effective markup rate. (121 / 20,000 = .00605)

So within this example, the effective markup rates are .60%, which is $121 in negotiable charges monthly. This is actually the ultimate test to find out if one provider will really be less costly than another, or maybe it just looks less costly. Believe me, sales people are experts at creating a quote look less costly without really helping you save anything.

4. Measure the overall value

The effective markup is really a effective number, however it&#8217s and not the whole story. Without assessing overall value, you can finish up selecting the least expensive provider although not the cost effective.

For instance, let’s imagine you process $20,000 monthly and also you get three quotes. You need to do the mathematics and obtain the next results:

  • Provider A: .60% effective markup, little else incorporated
  • Provider B: .70% effective markup, includes gateway and virtual terminal
  • Provider C: .90% effective markup, includes gateway, virtual terminal, and shopping cart software integration

Should you don&#8217t require a payment gateway or shopping cart software integration, and all sorts of other activities are equal, then your option is obvious. But let’s imagine you need to do require the gateway and shopping cart software, ok now what?

Well Provider A costs about $120. Provider B costs $20 greater than a. Provider C costs $60 greater than a.

Just how much would be the gateway and shopping cart software integration likely to cost when you get them elsewhere? The gateway could be easily $20 monthly or even more, so option B reaches least just like A. If Provider C is providing a great shopping cart software, that may certainly cost $40 or even more elsewhere. Which means that they all are comparable when it comes to value, despite the effective markup differences. But Provider A provides the best versatility, as you are free to find the gateway and shopping cart software you&#8217d prefer to use.

Other activities that impact value may include quality of customer care, quality of reporting system, deposit occasions, etc. They are harder to evaluate, but should be thought about whenever you make comparisons of worth.

5. Consider contract termination terms

Everybody will explain to see your contract, myself incorporated. But in fact it&#8217s a really lengthy contract, and when you&#8217re unfamiliar with the terminology, standards, and legalese, you likely won&#8217t have the ability to glean much helpful information from nearly all it. And the fact is that most anything is non-negotiable.

I still suggest that you attempt to see it, as it is a legally binding agreement. Should you only read one section, make certain it&#8217s the part that outlines the termination procedures. Ideally your contract may have an earlier termination fee waiver so the contract is evidently month-to-month. (Observe that car loan terms will still outline the termination fee, and that’s why it&#8217s essential to make certain the waiver is incorporated.)

Our featured providers don’t have any early termination charges!

If you’re able to&#8217t obtain the early termination fee waived, a minimum of consider the auto-renewal clause. This clause &#8211 that was contained in literally every contract I&#8217ve ever read &#8211 causes it to be to ensure that after your initial contract term expires (usually 3 years), anything AND early termination fee renew instantly! Which means that even though you fulfill the initial contract, you can still finish up being tied to the first termination fee.

Possibly the most crucial factor to look for within the termination portion of the contract is any language talking about &#8220liquidated damages.&#8221 This kind of early termination fee enables the company to gather 1000s of dollars in &#8220damages&#8221 from forecasted revenue loss according to your early cancellation. Never accept this.

6. Look around

Among the best negotiating tools you are able to gather together is multiple rate and fee quotes. Speaking to a minimum of three different providers prior to making your final decision will not only help you build confidence along the way, it offers a superior real-world specifics of the charges and rates suitable for your company.

Everybody really wants to understand how much she or he should purchase charge card processing. The reply is: The cheapest quote you’ll find. The figures vary too broadly that i can provide a concrete answer, however the simple fact is when one provider can provide you with a minimal quote, every other processor is going to be ready to complement that rate and fee quote to win your company. So even though you have your heart focused on one processor, it doesn&#8217t hurt to obtain another quote or more. If among the other quotes is gloomier, show it towards the provider you&#8217d prefer to utilize and encourage them to match it.

You need to be careful to evaluate the effective rate and overall value here, since one rate and fee quote might look much better than another, although not really be as valuable for you.

7. Never agree immediately

Here&#8217s a guide to reside by: Spend some time. Don&#8217t subscribe to any short time offers or high-pressure sales tactics. Even though you&#8217re confident you need to sign up having a particular provider, have each day to think about it and check out the figures. The salespeople may be inside a hurry to shut the offer, but you shouldn&#8217t be. When the representative is attempting to hurry you into signing, keep in mind that you don&#8217t owe her or him anything. When the pressure escalates, bring your business elsewhere.

Conclusion

By teaching yourself about payment processing, you build the arrogance necessary to cope with professional sales representatives and negotiate the cheapest charge card charges. Leveling the arena in this manner makes sure that both sides get a good deal. But don’t forget that does not every a merchant account provider has gone out to swindle you. Sometimes the outlet offers are really 100% fair and won&#8217t require any settlement. By getting an interchange-plus quote, figuring out your effective markup, assessing overall value, and following a other guidelines in the following paragraphs, you&#8217ll have the ability to determine whether settlement is essential and make sure that you&#8217re obtaining the cost effective feasible for your unique business.

To understand more about just how much you need to purchase charge card processing, read this article. To obtain fair rates and car loan terms when negotiating charge card processing charges with no fretting about getting scammed, check out a lot of our favorite payment processing companies. Tell us the way your negotiations use your comments ought to!

The publish How you can Negotiate the right Charge Card Processing Deal made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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Best PayPal Alternatives

PayPal alternatives for merchants

Thanks to its long-standing relationship with eBay, PayPal has become one of the most recognizable names in payments. And with over 165 million users, it’s got consumer trust. You don’t have to be an eBay seller to accept payments through PayPal — you can set up your own online store, open up a brick-and-mortar location, and even take payments on the go.

But should you? There are several advantage to PayPal, including the ease of setup and its accessibility. Unfortunately, it’s also known for placing holds on accounts if it gets even the slightest suspicion that not everything is hunky-dory. And its rates, while competitive among similar services, are not the lowest in the industry.

Are you a small merchant looking to get started quickly? Are you tired of your current processor and looking to switch to one that has fewer hoops to jump through?

Whether this is your first foray into merchant payments or you’re shopping around for PayPal alternatives, we’ve got you covered. Take a look at how PayPal stacks up against some of our other top-rated payment options, including other pay-as-you-go processors and some traditional merchant accounts, and see which one is best for you.

Don’t forget to check out the full reviews for each of these PayPal alternatives. Need help choosing a payments provider? We can help! Contact us here.

PayPal

Paypal-Logo-2015In our 2015 review of PayPal, we gave it 4 stars. We like PayPal. It’s convenient, trusted, and easy to use. However, we have a hard time endorsing PayPal as anyone’s standalone, sole payment option.

Pricing

There are no monthly charges or hidden fees with PayPal — you pay just 2.9% + $0.30 per swipe. Since there are no contracts, there’s no early termination fees. You also don’t pay any PCI compliance fees. If you use the PayPal Here mobile processor, you pay just 2.7% per swipe (excluding keyed/scanned transactions).

You can get volume discounts, too: At $3,000 per month, rates drop to 2.5% + $0.30; at $10,000 it falls to 2.2% + $0.30. If you process more than $100,000, you get to call 1-855-787-1012 and ask for special pricing.

If you need features beyond credit card processing (such as a virtual terminal to accept mail and fax orders), you can upgrade to a Pro account for $30 a month. However, those orders will process for a higher (and undisclosed) fee.

We like this setup — a lot. However, the flat fee still isn’t as transparent as an interchange-plus setup, nor as low.

Without a doubt, one of the most attractive features of PayPal is how quickly you have access to your money — it’s almost instantaneous. And if you have the PayPal debit card, you can spend that money anywhere you can swipe a card.

Customer Support: Fair

When it comes to any sort of payment processing, you need to know that there’s someone standing by who can help you when trouble arises. PayPal’s customer service can be spotty, but overall, we’d rate it fair.

The problem is in PayPal’s phone support. Sometimes your representative is competent, sometimes…not so much. The good news is that in a lot of cases, PayPal’s other resources, including its Quick Questions, Community Help Forum, and @AskPayPal Twitter account, can get you the answers you need, so you may not ever need to pick up the phone.

Reliability: Fair

PayPal lets just about anyone open up a merchant account and get approval very quickly. That makes it great for new businesses. It’s also a great solution when you don’t have the sort of volume that merits a traditional account. However, this “we welcome anyone” approach results in greater risk, and therefore a very active risk department dedicated to finding and stomping out fraud.

Paypal’s tendency to put holds on accounts or even terminate them isn’t as bad as some of the other pay-as-you-go processors (we’re looking at you, Stripe and Square), but it’s enough to earn just a “Fair” rating in the reliability department.

That said, PayPal is a spectacular backup, especially if you want to take payments on the go and your merchant account’s offering is a bit lacking. No monthly fees mean you aren’t losing money on a service you only use sporadically.

Integration & Implementation Options

With the basic PayPal account, you get your standard payment buttons and a variety of shopping cart integrations, including an in-house solution. However, your site will redirect your visitors to PayPal to complete the transaction. You can upgrade to the Pro account to get a hosted payment page on your own site along with PayPal’s virtual terminal for orders by mail, fax, and phone.

PayPal also offers one-touch checkout for in-app and web purchases.

We like that you can set up secondary accounts and set permissions. PayPal also equips you for recurring billing and handles customer information storage for you.

There’s also a substantial list of partners and integrations for you to choose from. You can check out the full list of PayPal partners here.

Other Features

We’ve already mentioned PayPal’s mobile reader, PayPal Here. You pay just 2.7% per swipe (or 3.5% for keyed-in transactions). The reader is free if you order it from PayPal; you can also buy it at a store and PayPal will reimburse you. We’re still waiting on details about PayPal’s EMV reader, but we’ll keep you updated before the big liability shift on October 1, 2015. We do know it’ll accept chip-and-pin cards as well as contactless payments (such as Apple Pay and Android Pay).

You can send invoices from PayPal — and you don’t pay until you get paid. Invoices run you 2.9% + $0.30. You can even send invoices from within the mobile app.

PayPal also offers special nonprofit pricing, at 2.2% + $0.30 per swipe and no monthly fee.

Payline Data

payline-data-logoPayline Data earned a perfect 5-star rating from us for its fair pricing on merchant accounts, and great  customer service — but on top of all that, we love its commitment to charitable giving. Payline donates 10% of its profits from your account to a nonprofit partner of your choosing.

Pricing

Payline Data uses an interchange-plus format on top of monthly fees. For small-volume processors, there’s the Simple plan; for higher volumes, the Pro plan.

Simple (Under $5,000 per month)

  • $5 monthly fee
  • Interchange + 0.50%
  • $0.10 per transaction

Pro (Over $5,000 per month)

  • $20 monthly fee
  • Interchange + 0.20%
  • $0.10 per transaction

The nice thing is, the $5,000 mark is the break-even point for both plans, so you’d pay exactly the same. If you come in under that $5k mark more often than not, go with the simple plan. If you go beyond the $5k regularly, go with the Pro plan.

We like that Payline makes your funds accessible within 24 hours. Next-day funding is the fastest you’re going to get apart from PayPal, so you really can’t do better if you need a merchant account.

Customer Support: Excellent

You can reach the Payline team by phone and email, but there’s also a substantial knowledge base if you’re more prone to solving the problem yourself. Overall, the team has really great reviews, as befitting a 5-star processor.

Reliability: Excellent

The complaints against Payline Data are virtually nonexistent, which is great to see. We have full confidence in the company’s ability to handle your business fairly, with minimal risk for a potential hold or freeze. (We hope you understand, no processor is immune to risk — and no merchant immune to a hold. However, traditional merchant accounts are less susceptible to risk than pay-as-you-go providers.)

Integration & Implementation Options

Payline makes it very easy for you to set up recurring billing for your clients. We also really like Payline Shop Professional ($79/month), which includes your merchant account, as well as a shopping cart, gateway, web hosting, a domain name and SSL security. As far as comprehensive eCommerce solutions go, this is spot-on. Comparable services through shopping carts will run you the same, or higher, and may not include everything that Payline does.

On its own, the Payline gateway is $10 per month. It supports a customer information vault as well as invoicing. There’s a virtual terminal, too. The virtual terminal allows you to use a USB swiper, although no USB chip card reader is currently available.

In addition, you’ll find payment buttons, tools for recurring billing, customer info storage, and fairly good support for third-party shopping cards as well as Payline’s in-house option. The one thing that’s lacking is a hosted payment page.

Other Features

If you need mobile processing, Payline again has two solutions. If you process less than $5,000 per month on the app, you get a Flint account. Flint uses your device’s camera to scan credit cards rather than swiping — there’s no reader required. Debit rates are just 1.95%; credit cards 2.95%. Above that $5k threshold, you should use the ROAMpay X Mobile app with Payline, which will support EMV when the switchover happens in October.

For retail shops, there’s an iPad POS through Vantiv Mobile Checkout as well, and that will run you $69 per month. You can accept Apple Pay transactions in store with a future-proof terminal (supporting EMV and NFC) and also integrate Apple Pay for in-app payments.

Payline stands out from the rest of the options in this list in part because it also offers high-risk processing. Merchants who operate in an industry that’s deemed high risk (such as antiques, how-to programs, and even selling on eBay), typically make merchant account providers — and pay-as-you-go solutions — skittish. A high-risk account means you pay more, but you’re far less likely to encounter those dreaded holds and freezes…or worse, an account termination.

In addition to allowing merchants to donate to a charitable partner, nonprofit organizations can set up accounts with Payline and get discounted rates. There’s also a Payline Commercial Co-Venture program: In essence, you refer clients to Payline, Payline will create a solution for them, and you get recurring donations to your organization.

CDGCommerce

cdgcommerce-logoWe like CDGCommerce, a traditional merchant account provider, quite a lot — enough to give it a perfect 5-star rating. However, the service is only available in the U.S., for merchants who sell primarily in the U.S.

Pricing

Head to the CDG site and you’ll find an advertised rate of 1.7% + $0.25 for payment processing (1.95% + $0.30 for online processing). However, if you visit the site through this link, you’ll also find a special rate offer for our readers: interchange plus 0.30% + $0.15. There’s no monthly minimum processing, and no ETF. (If you do ever want to cancel, you’ll have to follow the steps to provide proper notice of cancellation).

Beyond that, the only other fee you must pay is the $10 statement fee. There’s no PCI compliance, and the CDGcommerce gateway is free to use.  You can get volume discounts, but they’re not advertised. You’ll have to negotiate with CDG directly if you think you qualify.

Merchants will typically have funds deposited in their account within two days. That’s not as fast as PayPal, and slower than some other merchant account providers, as well.

Customer Support: Excellent

On top of the spectacular rates, CDGcommerce excels in the customer service department. You can get live chat, email, and phone support 24/7. The volume of BBB complaints against CDG is incredibly low, but what really sets this company apart is the fact that the CEO has actually responded to user complaints found on the Internet. The level of dedication to customers is outstanding.

Reliability: Excellent

As we’ve said, complaints against CDG are incredibly low. Every processor will occasionally face a situation where it must put a hold on a company’s account. However, everything we’ve seen indicates that CDG is careful to minimize these instances.

Integration & Implementation Options

CDG offers its customers a USB-based card reader. That means you don’t need a traditional credit card terminal, which is actually quite convenient. The USB readers do not support EMV, but we were told that the upgrade, when available, will be optional. (Go here to learn about EMV and your liability for processing cards when the new rules take effect October 1, 2015.)

And while we have repeatedly and vocally spoken out against terminal leases, here we have probably the best rental terms you can get: just pay $79 annually for insurance and return the device when you no longer need it. The terminal is EMV-ready and compatible with NFC payments, so unless you have a really good reason for sticking with USB, you should consider upgrading.

You can also have the company reprogram your existing terminals…for free.

CDGcommerce offers extensive reporting options, which we like to see. There’s also an optional  security service for $15 monthly, which includes $100,000 of data breach insurance —  a worthwhile investment.

With this provider you also get a virtual terminal to use with the Quantum gateway. There’s no payment buttons or in-house shopping cart. What’s interesting is that Quantum has a feature that lets it emulate an Authorize.net gateway, which ultimately increases your options for third-party shopping carts.

Other Features

For mobile processing, you get a free reader, which runs on CDG’s ProcessNow mobile app (available for Apple devices running iOS 7.0 and higher and Android devices running OS 4.0 and higher). Swipe rates for mobile are 1.70% + $0.25 per transaction (2.9% + $0.30 for keyed and other nonqualified transactions).

There’s no nonprofit pricing here. If you want to accept Apple Pay and other contactless payment methods, you’ll need the future-proof terminal.

We like that CDGcommerce helps merchant reduce the headaches that  come with dealing with chargebacks thanks to its Chargeback Defender, which lets you know about chargebacks pending — even before the fees are debited from your account. The platform also helps you rebut it and has a built-in tool to detect previously issued refunds, so that the funds aren’t deducted twice. It’s not something we see so openly advertised, and it’s a very useful tool.

PayJunction

PayJunction-logo-squarePayJunction is a 5-star processor for its customer service and reliability, but we also really like that it makes it easy for merchants to go paperless. It’s not just environmentally friendly; it’s easier for merchants to securely manage their records.

Pricing

We really like that PayJunction is another month-to-month service provider with interchange plus. There’s no ETF, no PCI compliance fees, and no charges for the gateway. However, if you process under $10,000 monthly, you can expect a $35 monthly fee. The gateway also includes check (ACH) processing at 0.75%.

For new processors, PayJunction offers interchange plus 0.75% — but established merchants may be able to get lower rates, as the company offers match or beat your existing rates. This isn’t uncommon in the industry, but most processors don’t meet our high standards for quality of service, too.

Admittedly, the 0.75% markup is high — but there’s no per-transaction fee, which could be a major benefit to small-ticket merchants.

Something else we definitely like: next-day deposits.

Customer Support: Excellent

You don’t get to be a 5-star processor without great service. PayJunction’s support options include its knowledge base, phone, and email. Something we haven’t seen here before is the option for remote support. Basically, it means that someone at PayJunction will remotely access your computer to either walk you through a process and show you what to do, or handle it for you. It’s actually a really useful tool.

Reliability: Excellent

Complaints about PayJunction are few and far between — and the ones you will find have been thoroughly addressed by a company representative. We like that. We can’t say that you won’t ever have an issue with PayJunction, but if you do, you can expect it to be handled quickly, fairly, and in-house.

Integration & Implementation Options

Among the many features available, PayJunction provides a hosted shopping cart for free, and it has good third-party integrations as well. We’ve already mentioned the free payment gateway/virtual terminal. You can also expect features for recurring billing info storage. Combined with the paperless feature and you really do have everything you need in a single browser-based interface. All that’s missing are payment buttons and a hosted payment page.

Other Features

A couple of noteworthy additional features: PayJunction’s customer management system, which serves as a directory for your clients and their information. It also lets you create groups of clients and account numbers.

PayJunction will also set you up with digital signature collection — by providing a signature capture device, the company really does allow you to go paperless. No reason to bother with signed receipts, ever again. For eCommerce and other card-not-present transactions, there’s email signature capture, where customers sign using their computer cursors.

PayJunction also lets merchants create teams and set permissions, which is always a handy feature to have.

If you need mobile processing, you can opt for PayJunction’s partner company, iPay. You’ll have to set up your gateway, and the app is only available for iOS devices — but it’s better than nothing. The mobile reader doesn’t support EMV.

You can get free equipment if you provide two months of billing statements — so in other words, this offer applies only to established merchants.

For EMV, you’ll need a traditional credit card terminal, but PayJunction stresses that for low-risk merchants, this upgrade is optional. The site actually has a very detailed explanation of EMV and how it affects merchants, which you can find here.

There’s no additional nonprofit pricing, but there is a feature you can set up on your site to accept donations.

Braintree

Braintree-payments-logoBraintree is actually a wholly owned subsidy of PayPal, picked up in 2013. For that reason, you’ll see a couple of similarities, as well as some noteworthy differences. While PayPal hovers at a 4-star rating, we wholeheartedly endorse Braintree with a perfect 5-star rating. This is another option that’s very developer-friendly, with a comprehensive suite of tools that make it easy to get started.

Pricing

This should come as no surprise (it’s a PayPal company), but Braintree’s fees are just 2.9% + $0.30. There are no fees, no contracts, nothing. If you process over $80K per month, you will likely qualify for a discounted rate. While not advertised, Braintree also offers interchange-plus pricing for some high-volume merchants.

Interesting to note, Braintree has an offer of $50k in free payment processing. There’s no contract, no deadlines, no monthly minimums. Seriously. Learn more here.

It bears mentioning that Braintree deposits take 2-4 business days (2 days for most cards; 4 days for American Express). That’s a bit longer than most of the other options here..

Customer Support: Great

Whereas PayPal’s customer service can be spotty, especially over the phone, Braintree has an outstanding reputation. The low volume of complaints against Braintree is astounding considering its size and its parent company. There’s a good knowledge base, but also solid phone support — and even a 24/7 emergency line. However, you won’t get as much personalized attention as the merchant account providers in this list.

Reliability: Excellent

The number of incidents we found of Braintree freezing accounts was exactly zero. The company also has a list of noteworthy clients and some pretty amazing customer case studies.

Integration & Implementation Options

Braintree offers an impressive array of features at no extra cost, including a marketplace solution, and a simple checkout option (PayPal actually built its One Touch feature on Braintree’s original offering).

Something else we really like is the fact that you can take your customer data with you if you ever decide to leave Braintree, which means your recurring billing won’t be interrupted.

What you won’t find are a virtual terminal, an in-house shopping cart, a hosted payment page, or payment buttons. However, Braintree does offer an impressive list of integrations for a variety of services, including shopping carts.

Other Features

Braintree’s v.zero SDK (software development kit) has Bitcoin and Apple Pay integration, both of which we like. You can also incorporate native in-app payments as well as a “check out with PayPal” option. However, Braintree doesn’t offer nonprofit pricing right now.

You’ll also have to look elsewhere for mobile processing — if you’d like to keep all the transactions in a single account, Inner Fence is your best option. Just provide a code to Inner Fence to link it with your Braintree account.

We gave Inner Fence 3.5 stars on our last review, mostly because we felt it under-delivered in some areas while over-delivering in others, creating an interesting dichotomy, to say the least. We also took issue with the pricing model. In addition to the fees you pay to Braintree, Inner Fence charges you a percentage of each transaction plus a monthly fee. A “Professional” account will run you $79 a month with a 0.9% transaction fee. That includes support for up to 10 terminals…but you get only one free card reader. With Braintree’s free $50k in processing we can almost say the cost might be worth it for low-volume merchants, but not really.

If you’re willing to forgo the convenience of all your funds going to the same account for the sake of better rates, here’s a great opportunity to try Braintree’s parent company offering, PayPal Here — or our top-rated mobile processor, Flint.

Stripe

Stripe-logoWe had high hopes for Stripe in our 2015 review update. However, what we found was enough to downgrade Stripe’s rating to 3.5 stars, so please bear that in mind. Whereas PayPal is a good option for anyone, Stripe is particularly suited to developers, with easy implementation for all sorts of eCommerce and Internet operations.

Pricing

Stripe’s pricing is on par with PayPal, at 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. There’s no monthly fees, there’s no ETF, no PCI compliance. The suite of tools Stripe offers — at no additional charge — is actually a huge value, especially for low-volume merchants.

You can get volume discounts (undisclosed rates) but to do so you need to process at least $80,000 per month.

As far as payment schedules are concerned, Stripe takes two days to deposit your funds in your account for US-based merchants. Canadian and Australian merchants have to wait four to seven days, and all other countries will be on a seven-day delay. Still, this is a major improvement over Stripe’s former deposit schedule, which was seven days across the board.

Customer Support: Poor

One of the sources of Stripe’s review score was its poor customer support. There were numerous complaints on our site and elsewhere from customers about their awful experiences. Stripe doesn’t offer any sort of phone support, just a knowledge base and a Freenode-based chat support (#Stripe).

Reliability: Poor

The other reason we downgraded Stripe’s rating was the reliability factor. The number of complaints about held funds (something we admit is common with this type of payment processor) rose dramatically. Access to your money is critical to a business, and nothing to mess around with.

Integration & Implementation Options

Stripe’s poor support is such a letdown because of how many other great features it offers — which we’ve said before are actually a solid value for the cost. Stripe gives you a hosted payment page through Stripe Checkout, as well as payment buttons, in-app payments, the ability to set teams and permissions, and even marketplace solutions. Checkout, as far as industry offerings go, is actually one of the best payment flow options out there.

There’s no virtual terminal, in-house shopping cart or payment buttons, but the third-party shopping cart integrations are great. Get the full list of integrations here.

Other Features

Stripe supports in-app Apple Pay integration, as well as BitCoin, both of which we like. There’s no nonprofit pricing right now, and no mobile processing.

If you want mobile processing, however, you’ll have to look at Inner Fence, and link your Stripe account. If you want to incorporate mobile payments and don’t want to deal with Inner Fence, allow us to point you at Flint, our 5-star rated option for mobile. You can also consider some of our other mobile options.

Quick Comparison

Paypal PaylineData CDGCommerce PayJunction Braintree Stripe
Monthly Fee $0 $20 $10 $0 $0 $0
Pricing 2.9% + $0.30 0.20% + $0.10 + interchange 0.30% + $0.15 + interchange 0.75% + interchange 2.9% + $0.30 2.9% + $0.30
Customer Service Fair Excellent Excellent Excellent Great Poor
Reliability Fair Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent Poor
Gateway Payflow Payline Data Quantum PayJunction Braintree Stripe
Features
Virtual Terminal X X X X
Included Shopping Cart X X X
Hosted Payment Pages X X X X
Payment Buttons X X
Recurring Billing X X X X X X
Info Storage X X X X X X
Shopping Cart Compatibility Excellent Good Good Good Excellent Excellent
Availability
US X X X X X X
Canada X X X X
Mexico X X X
UK X X X
Europe X X X
Other X X X

Want More PayPal Alternatives?

PayPal has such great recognition and a solid suite of tools for newbie merchants that in some cases, it seems the obvious choice. However, if you’re like most merchants, you will eventually reach a point where you experience some major growing pains — or you might encounter the dreaded account hold. At that point, it’s time to start looking for a provider that can deliver what you want, and more importantly, what you need.

The list of PayPal alternatives doesn’t end with those mentioned in this blog post, of course. Even if they aren’t direct PayPal competitors, there are plenty of merchant account providers to choose from when your business is ready to graduate from a third-party payment processor like PayPal. Check out this handy chart of top-rated merchant account providers. Don’t forget to also look at our mobile processing options!

Need help deciding? Want to get the lowest rates? Contact us and we’ll help you sort out your options!

The post Best PayPal Alternatives appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Help guide to Accepting Mobile Payments

This Year, the PewResearch Internet Project discovered that 65 % of respondents in the survey thought that by 2020, mobile payments may have almost entirely replaced the requirement for cash or perhaps charge cards. And if you&#8217re a merchant who&#8217s not accepting mobile payments yet, you&#8217re already behind the bend.

Now is a great time to have a look at why you ought to accept mobile payments, we’ve got the technology in play (and just what&#8217s coming), not to mention, the main players. We&#8217ll also demonstrate how to pull off obtaining the tools you have to accept mobile payments.

Why you ought to Accept Mobile Payments

Accepting mobile payments

Infographic by Jess3. Source: http://visual.ly/global-rise-mobile-payments

The truth is, business proprietors can&#8217t manage to focus on cash-only systems. Even though you&#8217re only a small-time crafts business and attend a couple of shows annually, should you don&#8217t accept card payments, you’re passing up on an enormous quantity of potential earnings.

Based on a 2012 study through the Fed, lots of people carry less than $20 in cash. Even though cash transactions were the most typical kind of transaction, their overall value was under credit, debit, or electronic transactions. By 2017, experts predict cash will take into account just 23 percent of transactions.

In a nutshell: if you would like people a larger investment along with you, you have to accept cards.

Technological progress around the mobile payments front continues to be slow. Square introduced its mobile payment system, enabling smartphone proprietors to show their devices into card readers, in ’09.

Google Wallet debuted this year, turning individuals same phones into digital wallets that replaced cards and funds, supplying, obviously, the business had the required equipment.

PayPal, the darling of e-commerce for a long time, didn&#8217t introduce its very own mobile payment solution until 2012.

However in 2014, Apple finally debuted its very own mobile payment solution, Apple Pay, which utilizes biometric authentication and NFC to create payments through the iPhone and Apple Watch. The adoption rate among Apple Pay is promising, with major retailers reporting massive increases in mobile payments.

In a nutshell: Apple joining the mobile payments field, and getting aboard a large number of major companies along the way, would be a big advance.

And also in 2015, Google made the decision to exchange Google Wallet&#8217s mobile payment abilities with a brand new application known as Android Pay. Google Wallet grew to become a peer-to-peer payments tool, allowing users to transmit money to buddies and family.

A 2015 study through the Given discovered that 22 percent of cell phone users and 28 percent of smartphone users had designed a mobile payment in the past year. That&#8217s up from 16 percent of cell phone users in 2014. And mobile transactions increased with a whopping 118 percent over five years, according to Business Insider.

Comprehending the Consumer Mindset

Researching the market may be the cornerstone associated with a effective strategic business plan. Here is exactly the same: Before you begin adding mobile payments for your business, it&#8217s essential that you understand a bit concerning the consumer mindset regarding them. Knowing your consumer can help you choose which option is the best for both you and your business.

Overall, there&#8217s great news. In america, Europe, and lots of japan, the outlook is usually positive and individuals are receptive. And when people begin using mobile payments, they are more inclined to keep doing so. The rate and ease of mobile are generally big factors within their appeal, so you have to remember this.

Plus, smartphones are starting to saturate the marketplace. An astonishing 82 % of 18-to-25-year-olds had smartphones by Q4 2013. About 60 % of the parents have smartphones, too.

That, however, doesn&#8217t mean there aren&#8217t any barriers to resistance or objections. Actually, a couple of pervasive myths might be keeping consumers from going mobile:

Infographic: Mobile Payment Myths

Infographic by Intuit. Source: http://payments.intuit.com/
mobile-payments-myths/

A 2013 survey by Accenture revealed some surprising insights about consumer sentiment toward mobile payments:

  • Many people understand their phones can complete mobile payments, however the adoption minute rates are low. That stated, once individuals have designed a mobile payment, they’re certainly going to keep doing so.
  • People aren&#8217t prepared to switch banks, upgrade phones, or make other changes just to obtain more support for mobile payments. Quite simply, it&#8217s around the merchant to become as flexible as you possibly can where mobile payments are worried.
  • Most importantly, individuals are concerned about privacy, security, and convenience with regards to mobile payments. Additionally they worry about value. Sixty percent of people that make mobile payments will make much more of them if utilizing their smartphone generated instant coupons. Several-third of mobile payment users are prepared to give private information in return for that convenience. They’re also thinking about value-added tools like receipt tracking.
  • Additionally to coupon incentives, consumers want to see other tools to supplement mobile payments. Which means features like receipt tracking or perhaps balance checkers might make an impact in adoption rate, as would having the ability to make use of a cell phone as evidence of ID.
  • Possibly most surprisingly, consumers AREN&#8217T waiting to determine what technology claims dominance. Which means there&#8217s likely room for a lot of types of mobile payments on the market, and it wouldn’t be impractical to think about finding a method to accept variations.

There&#8217s a little bit of push and pull happening here. There&#8217s a proper segment of shoppers who wish to use mobile payments. You may also lure new users to use mobile payments with the proper incentives.

Also important to note: Millennials, undoubtedly the greatest users of technology, are far interested in financial choices from technology, e-commerce and payment giants like PayPal, Amazon . com, Google, and Apple compared to what they have been in services using their own banks. One-third of them feel they won&#8217t want to use a financial institution whatsoever soon.

That stated, over fifty percent from the commercial banks have some type of mobile banking, and 61 percent of 18-to-25-year-olds who own smartphones use mobile banking. They have a tendency to determine their bank as interchangeable along with other banks, that is most likely one of the reasons for curiosity about alternative payments. The 2008 recession most likely didn&#8217t do much to assist Millennial perceptions of banks, either.

Mobile Payment Technology

At this time, you will find three contenders competing for dominance in mobile payments. They all have its very own advantages and disadvantages:

  • NFC
  • QR Codes
  • iBeacon

Let&#8217s take particular notice each and every to actually know how they might dominate mobile payments.

NFC

NFC, or near-field communication, is really a contactless data transfer system similar to RFID. When two NFC-enabled devices enter into range, you are able to transfer data from together (for example getting a telephone in selection of a charge card terminal). It plays well along with other technology for example Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, that is a huge advantage.

NFC isn&#8217t ubiquitous (yet), however it&#8217s found in many phones, particularly the flagship devices from Samsung, LG, and The new sony. Apple finally leaped in to the NFC game in 2014, and Google relaunched its mobile payments service as Android Pay in 2015. Samsung also launched its very own application, aptly named Samsung Pay, in 2015.

NFC is really a safe way of payments. Sensitive information is kept in a safe and secure element, either included in the Sim of the phone or put into another nick. Generally, retailers never really see your card or banking account data.

For any much deeper take a look at NFC, check out our guide, &#8220What is NFC, and Why Would You Care?&#8221

QR Codes

QR codes, or quick-response codes, have the type of ubiquity that NFC lacks. They work similar to your standard barcode symbols, with the exception that rather of counting on one-dimensional analog checking, they’re digital. This means that having a QR code readers application, your smartphone&#8217s camera could be temporarily converted to a scanner. QR codes can embed far more information than your standard barcode symbols, which provides them the ability to complete such things as open mobile sites, lead you to YouTube Videos, you will find, even allow you to complete mobile payments.

iBeacon

iBeacon is definitely an Apple-developed technology that utilizes Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE, or sometimes also known as Bluetooth Smart). Unlike another two kinds of technology, it&#8217s really still within the developmental stages. While you can use it for mobile payments, right now the greatest application for iBeacon is really as closeness alert or geo-fence that may go where Gps navigation doesn&#8217t.

It really works such as this: iBeacon units are positioned up within a building (like a mall). If somebody by having an iBeacon-enabled device makes selection of individuals beacons, they transmit information. A few of the ways fraxel treatments might be used is always to transmit mobile coupons or any other special deals, to steer customers through the store by department, or perhaps to enable them to find specific products on the grocery list.

A primary reason that NFC had an edge over Bluetooth for any lengthy there was a time the huge quantity of energy that Bluetooth needed. However, BLE uses much less energy than its predecessors, and that’s why it&#8217s now becoming more popular for pairing wireless rodents and keyboards (the batteries can last considerably longer). iBeacons with Bluetooth Smart technology won&#8217t be considered a massive power-suck for consumers. Plus, iBeacons have a further range than NFC: NFC devices have to be within 8 inches (though 2 ” is really most effective). iBeacons, however, have a variety of 50 meters, or about 165 ft.

For payments, iBeacons works as being similar to NFC: the telephone would wirelessly transmit payment information towards the terminal or beacon via Bluetooth.

It&#8217s also important to note that although iBeacons are Apple technology, they aren’t only at iOS devices. The telephone just will need Bluetooth Smart and also the appropriate application. In addition, Samsung announced its own form of the iBeacon, known as Closeness, at its 2014 developer conference in November. it really works exactly the same way as iBeacons, but instead of dealing with an application, Closeness works directly using the phone&#8217s hardware.

Even Facebook features its own Beacon service for companies. The beacons prompt people to the place to love the organization&#8217s Facebook page and offers additional information.

Major Players in Mobile Payments

Let&#8217s begin by analyzing a few of the major players in mobile payments, where they stand, and just how they compare when stacked facing one another. Included in this are:

  • Apple Pay
  • Android Pay
  • CurrentC
  • Flint
  • Square
  • LevelUp
  • PayPal Here
Apple Pay
apple-pay-logo

When Apple announced the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Also in September 2014, additionally, it introduced Apple Pay, which utilizes a mix of biometrics and NFC to accomplish mobile payments. Furthermore, Apple already had major retailers arranged to begin accepting Apple Pay. With this particular mobile payment method, consumers never need to give their names, charge card figures, or security codes to retailers. Rather, Apple utilizes a unique device ID to process the transaction.

Apple Pay works together with debit and credit cards for major US banks, including Visa, MasterCard and American Express from Chase, US Bank, Wells Fargo, PNC, and much more. You should check out the entire listing of banks and retailers here.

&nbsp

Android Pay

Before Apple Pay, there is Google Wallet. It never acquired much traction, however in 2015, Google launched Android Pay, the successor to Google Wallet. (GW continues to be available, but because a mobile wallet and peer-to-peer payments application.) Android Pay also uses NFC. To really make it work, you have to let the lock screen in your device. Unlock the telephone together with your preferred method (fingerprint scanner, PIN, or pattern) and tap it towards the terminal to accomplish the transaction.

There&#8217s also the Google Wallet Card. It&#8217s debit cards from MasterCard, that’s linked straight to your Google Wallet balance. You are able to link your GW account to your Android Pay account as well as withdraw cash from ATMs using the card.

&nbsp

CurrentC
CurrentC_App

Apple Pay encountered some trouble when some major retailers (including CVS and Rite Aid) disabled its NFC terminals to bar Apple Pay. The main reason? Wal-Mart, Best To Buy, Rite Aid, CVS along with other retailers have partnered inside a partnership known as the Merchant Customer Exchange, that is creating a mobile payment option known as CurrentC.

CurrentC uses QR codes instead of NFC. However the CurrentC process is slow, much slower than NFC, and extremely clunky. It&#8217s exactly the same kind of system combined with direct deposits. First, the client must scan the QR code generated by register while using CurrentC application. Then, the cashier scans the QR code generated through the phone.

The main reason people from the MCE are tossing their support behind CurrentC is it could conceivably enable them to sidestep the charges that charge card issuers charge. Most retailers pay between 1 % and three percent from the transaction in charges. CurrentC would sidestep this by utilizing checking accounts, gift certificates, and store-issued an atm card.

Right now, CurrentC hasn’t gone live, however the application will come in iTunes and Google Play. Worth mentioning is the fact that in October 2014, CurrentC was hacked and user emails were stolen. That&#8217s before the woking platform is fully ready to go.

Here&#8217s why that&#8217s so troubling:

CurrentC collects your driver&#8217s license number, your ssn, as well as your birth date to ensure your identity. Additionally, it collects your wellbeing information. Plus, among the key selling options that come with CurrentC may be the coupon-and-rewards feature. While it might be a large draw for purchasers, additionally, it reveals a lot of data about users as well as their shopping habits. Everything information goes directly to retailers, since retailers are the type who developed the platform.

Apple Pay, by comparison, doesn’t collect that data, also it doesn&#8217t share any information with retailers.

Flint
Flint-mobile-logo

Unlike another mobile payment options we&#8217ve discussed to date, Flint doesn&#8217t need any kind of terminal. It&#8217s a really &#8220mobile&#8221 solution because all that you should accept payments is the phone, that makes it well suited for service companies which make house calls along with other vendors who travel. Flint&#8217s mobile application works together with the digital camera to scan cards (note: it never stores the photos it requires of the charge card) and process payments. Which means no fighting with card readers as you’ve to with PayPal and Square. However, you are able to only accept Visa and MasterCard right now, with no pre-compensated cards. (It&#8217s also important to note that in October 2014, Flint guaranteed $9.4 million in funding, with Verizon adding the majority of it).

Flint offers invoicing, support for mobile coupons (via email and Apple Passbook), and digital receipts for money and appearance options. Should you also sell online, you may also setup an e-commerce system for checkout using Flint. For retailers, Flint&#8217s rates rely on regardless if you are charging a debit or credit card: for debit, you have to pay 1.95 % for credit, 2.95 %. Money is deposited straight into your bank account within 2 working days.

Square
Square-POS-Logo

Square really was the very first company to go in the mobile payments space, completely in 2009. Anybody having a cell phone could start swiping cards and accepting payments having a dongle that connects to headphone jack. Square, like other mobile payment services, charges a set rate per transaction.

For card swipes, retailers pay 2.75 %. Should you key the transaction in by hand, that jumps to three.five percent plus $.15. Square&#8217s greatest issue, from the merchant perspective, is its difficulties with holding funds if this suspects fraud. Otherwise, retailers obtain money within 1-2 working days.

Using the EMV liability shift, Square introduced a brand new card readers that is capable of doing studying the nick-and-PIN cards. It provides 2 types of the readers, including one which has NFC support to be able to accept payments via Apple Pay, Android Pay, along with other NFC-based services.

LevelUp
LevelUp-logo

LevelUp is really a mobile payments processor with increased functionality than the other available choices we&#8217ve seen. It really works much like CurrentC for the reason that you scan QR codes. However, instead of linking to some banking account, it enables users to produce a mobile wallet using their debit and credit cards (the website states any U.S. debit or charge card is recognized). Additionally, it integrates with loyalty programs and generates coupons for you personally. LevelUp has greater than 14,000 partners, and you should check out their email list here.

Like Square, LevelUp includes a POS functionality. However, LevelUp also adds its very own terminal devices, that also support NFC and iBeacon. Much more promising, LevelUp&#8217s application for consumers can be obtained not only for Android and iOS, but additionally Home windows Phones.

Another thing that sets LevelUp apart is its open platform, that can be used to integrate to your own systems. You are able to integrate it into greater than 40 other POS systems in addition to e-commerce an internet-based ordering platforms.

Retailers pay just 1.95 % per transaction, without any chargebacks. Money is deposited the following day to your account.

PayPal Here
paypal-here-logo

PayPal is, unquestionably, a huge in e-commerce, as well as in 2012 it finally moved into mobile payments. Like Square, you need to simply swipe the credit card while using free card readers. The funds you collect go straight into your PayPal account are available for you quickly. If you possess the PayPal bank card, the different options are the cash inside your PayPal account when it&#8217s inside at any location that accepts charge cards.

Like Square and LevelUp, retailers are billed flat charges per transaction. There’s additionally a POS system and support for invoicing. You are able to accept checks by snapping photos together with your phone&#8217s camera. PayPal Here charges 2.7 % for card swipes, though manual key-ins are 3.five percent plus $.15.

Something also worth mentioning is PayPal&#8217s One Touch. This mobile solution enables you to definitely stay logged to your PayPal account in your phone and employ that to accomplish any in-application purchases.

Like Square, PayPal also offers an EMV-compliant readers with NFC abilities to be able to accept mobile payments via consumers&#8217 selected apps.

Accepting Mobile Payments with a free account

What must you do in order to start accepting mobile payments? Should you travel for the business, a mobile solution like PayPal Here’s most likely the greater choice for you. However, if you want POS capacity and also have a brick-and-mortar location, you’ll need an NFC-enabled terminal that may accept Android Pay, Apple Pay, yet others.

Credit card merchant account providers can frequently assist you to get yourself a terminal, because of free or at an inexpensive. Let&#8217s check out a few of the top-rated providers, using their charges for their terminal options.

  • Dharma A Merchant Account
  • CDGcommerce
  • Helcim
  • PaylineData
  • PaymentDepot
Dharma A Merchant Account
dharma-merchant-services-logo

Dharma A Merchant Account offers retail and e-commerce solutions alike, if you come with an web store in addition to a physical store you are able to integrate them easily. As opposed to a tiered prices model Dharma charges a $15 fee every month (including PCI compliance) by having an interchange-plus cost model for transactions. Dharma charges .25 % along with an additional $.10 per transaction for in-person transactions, and .35 % plus $.10 for e-commerce.

For small companies (individuals earning under $10,000 per month), Dharma includes a partnership with Flint, so use a smartphone or tablet to process charge cards. However, this doesn&#8217t provide NFC abilities.

Terminals: During the time of penning this, Dharma can re-program your overall equipment to utilize its services for $100. For $299, you can aquire a VeriFone Vx520 terminal, that is NFC enabled in addition to EMV ready.

(EMV is really a global standard that will become a lot more common stateside in 2015 because of the massive liability shift that starts in October 2015. Essentially, this means that debit and credit cards includes a unique nick that gives extra security. Basically we&#8217re more worried about mobile payments here, you need to certainly locate a terminal that’s EMV compatible too.)

Also worth mentioning: Dharma donates 50 % of their profits to charitable organization. It&#8217s additionally a certified eco-friendly business and B-corp. If social or ecological responsibility are part of your company model, this appears such as the apparent fit.

CDGcommerce
cdgcommerce-logo

CDGcommerce also offers retail and e-commerce payment solutions — but additionally, it includes a mobile payment option that Dharma lacks, known as ProcessNow.

Prices wise, CDG charges 1.95 % plus $.30 for online transactions, 1.7 % plus $.25 for swipes, and 1.7 % plus $.25 for mobile transactions. On the top of this, there&#8217s a $10 monthly support package as well as an optional cdg360 package with value-added security measures for $15 per month.

Terminals: For $79 annually, CDG will give you an EMV-ready and NFC-enabled PerkWave terminal along with a customer-facing readers. It&#8217s suitable for Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Softcard, along with the remaining NFC payment services. CDG also promises to replace it all within 24 hrs. The long run-proofing guarantee helps to ensure that if another bit of technology becomes standard (for example iBeacon), it’ll change your terminal. Plus, you receive free terminal reprogramming for just about any existing equipment, a totally free USB card swiper that&#8217ll use most Home windows and Mac devices for those who have existing software, and much more.

Helcim
helcim-logo

Helcim is yet another processor with multiple solutions: it provides an online terminal for implementing computers or running an e-commerce site, retail solutions with terminals, along with a mobile payment solution, all on the monthly subscription plan plus interchange-plus prices (Helcim calls it cost-plus prices).

The virtual terminal package runs $30 per month, the retail package runs $12 per month, and also the mobile package runs $25 per month. CDG charges just .18 percent per transaction for mobile and retail transactions, and .36 percent for virtual/e-commerce transactions.

Your monthly subscription also covers PCI compliance. The mobile package incorporates a totally free card readers and limitless users — but additional card visitors $45 each.

Terminals: With Helcim, you possess an range of terminal choices to accept mobile payments, beginning at $199. Re-programming of terminals is free of charge, and the organization offers exchanges for $45, where it’ll give back a refurbished pre-programmed model.

Payline Data
payline-data-logo

Payline Data again provides retail, e-commerce, and mobile solutions, also it claims to give the cheapest rates, guaranteed. They&#8217ll even provide you with $500 whether they can&#8217t beat your overall prices.

Payline uses interchange-plus prices on the top of the fee every month. Standard plans start at $5 monthly for any subscription, though you will get the professional take into account $20. Using the standard plan, you have to pay .five percent plus $.10, and pro accounts pay .2 percent plus $.10.

Terminals: Once again you can buy multiple terminals from VeriFone and Ingenico, including EMV and NFC devices. Prices start at $195. There is also a number of other retail supplies, including check readers, card readers, PIN pads, as well as receipt paper.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that Payline Data will donate 10 % from the processing revenue from your bank account to some charitable organization of the selecting from Payline&#8217s listing of approved partners.

Payment Depot
payment-depot-logo

Payment Depot operates a little differently compared to other processors we&#8217ve spoken about here. Again you’ve mobile, retail, and e-commerce solutions. You are able to pay a regular monthly fee or perhaps an annual fee that discounts the price by 20 %. But rather of interchange-plus, you have to pay a set rate.

That fee depends upon the package you select, which depends upon your monthly volume.

  • For sales under $10,000: $199 each year ($20 monthly) $.25 per transaction.
  • For sales as much as $40,000: $399 each year (40 monthly) $.15 per transaction.
  • Limitless: $599 each year ($60 monthly) $.10 per transaction.

Using the mid-tier package there is also a totally free virtual terminal so that you can enter payments from the browser or mobile phone. Using the limitless plan, Payment Depot offers an EMV-ready Smart Terminal.

Terminals: Again, you can aquire a free Smart Terminal using the limitless plan. Should you&#8217re not doing quite that volume, Payment Depot can reprogram existing equipment free of charge. Otherwise, you are able to use the organization to obtain a new terminal of the selecting, which will come at wholesale cost (the website states costs start just $49).

Final Ideas

We&#8217re residing in digital age, folks. Consumers have not had a lot of options, approximately much power — and for retailers, that may certainly appear frightening. And when you&#8217re not devotedly following a latest developments in technology, the idea of stepping into the sport can appear overwhelming.

Anything you do, don&#8217t just sit around at nighttime ages.

We&#8217re here to assist. Take a look at our reviews of charge card processors/credit card merchant account providers, in addition to our overview of mobile payment solutions. Need assistance selecting a service provider? Call us for help. We will also help you select a web-based shopping cart software to get involved with e-commerce, and pick a qualified POS software for you personally.

What else would you like to learn about accepting mobile payments? Ask away!

The publish The Best Help guide to Accepting Mobile Payments made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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Merchant Maverick’s Awards for Best Small Business Software

Best small business software

For most small business owners, it’s a jungle out there. Danger lurks around every corner, predators seem to be silently stalking your every movement, and – in the immortal words of Jethro Tull – the rivers are full of crocodile nasties. Let’s face it, when it comes to start-ups and small businesses the statistics are grim. According to one recent study, the failure rate of retail establishments after four years is over 50%, and businesses in the service industry usually meet the same fate. Sadly, restaurants tend to do even worse, and the majority are forced to close their doors before a decade has passed.

There are many reasons why businesses eventually fail – bad locations, limited staff, a poor economic climate, etc. But experts are beginning to agree that most failed businesses (no matter what industry they belong to) have one, very important factor in common: inexperience on the part of the owners/managers. It’s all very well to follow your dreams, but man does not live on dreams alone. For most of us, a little thing called money is required if we want to eat, access our electricity, wash our clothes, keep our children shod, etc. That’s right, money. It’s what you get when you run a business that brings in more revenue than it puts out. That sounds so simple: spend less than you make. But the reality is that pulling in a profit takes knowledge, skill, and access to the proper tools. Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve opened up a cat-grooming boutique or finally launched that grilled-cheese food truck you’ve always wanted – if you don’t know what you’re doing when you set out, and/or don’t bother to learn as you go, you might as well throw your seed money down the storm drain.

Fortunately, at Merchant Maverick (MM), we understand how hard it can be to start a business – let alone to keep one going for more than a year or two. You shouldn’t have to do everything by yourself – keeping up with inventory, payment processing, invoicing, shipping, point of sale, website design and the like is nearly impossible without the right equipment (good ol’ pen and paper just doesn’t cut it anymore). The good news? Advances in software and cloud technology have resulted in some pretty impressive small business tools. Even better news? The writers and reviewers at MM have invested thousands of hours researching, testing, and rating small business services/software. In other words, we know our stuff. Running a business is a tremendous burden, but the heavy lifting has already been done – we’ve done if for you – and all you need do is benefit from our years of experience.

Each company below has undergone a rigorous evaluation by an experienced MM reviewer. We scoured websites, read help articles, and browsed through user forums. We talked to customer service and saw for ourselves how responsive they were. And most importantly, we tested the actual software or service ourselves. The following are our reviewers’ top small business software picks for merchant services/payment processing as well as for mobile payments, shopping carts, point of sale, accounting, inventory management, invoicing, booking, email marketing, CRM, project management, loyalty rewards, and website building.

So, without further ado, let the awards ceremony for the best small business software begin!

Merchant Account Providers

Winner: Dharma Merchant Services

dharma-merchant-services-logo

Dharma Merchant Services is one of our all-time favorite companies, period, here at Merchant Maverick. Defined by exceptional customer support, low-cost hardware, excellent industry connection, and reasonable negotiation-free rates and fees, Dharma is an ideal option for small businesses with in-person sales. It distinguishes itself from the competition by using only interchange-plus pricing and charging no early termination fees or monthly minimums. There are no annual fees, no application fees, and no pesky PCI compliance fees to deal with either. In addition, this company dedicates 50% of its net profits to charity. Dharma is basically a paragon of integrity, honesty, and respect, and it’s worth its weight in gold in this sometimes unscrupulous industry,

There is one small catch: businesses must process at least $10K per month to use Dharma Merchant Services. Businesses with smaller revenue streams are directed instead to Flint Mobile (see review below).

Dharma offers amazing in-house customer support during business hours (8:00am – 5:00pm Pacific Time). If you need support outside this time frame, you will be directed elsewhere, depending on the severity of your issue and what processor you’re using.

To read more about Dharma Merchant Services, see our full review here.

Runner-Up: CDGcommerce

cdgcommerce-logo

Boasting a great reputation and a low monthly base fee (which includes access to Quantum gateway), CDG Commerce is a budget friendly alternative to Dharma Merchant Services, especially for low-volume merchants or web-based businesses. CDG was established in 1998, and has had plenty of time to cultivate a reputation for honesty and excellence. In fact, customer complaints are nearly non-existent, which is a miracle in itself after nearly 20 years in business. Like Dharma, CDG offers interchange-plus pricing, does not charge an early termination fee, and has no gateway setup fees or PCI compliance fees.

CDG Commerce charges only $10 per month in base fees; beyond that, you can pick and choose which additional services you want to pay for. This is a great system, as it ensures that you won’t be stuck buying things you neither want, nor need.

CDG offers live chat, email, and phone support 24/7. In our experience, support staff is helpful, knowledgeable, and scrupulously honest.

Click here to read our full review of CDGcommerce.

Mobile Payments

Winner: Flint Mobile

Flint-mobile-logo

Flint Mobile is our overall top pick for mobile, based primarily on its speed, ease of use, reliability, and price point. To start off, it doesn’t offer a swiper – not a free one, not a paid one, just no reader whatsoever. You can either key in card numbers or simply use your phone’s camera to scan numbers instead. That in and of itself significantly reduces the cost for setting up your account. Flint therefore has the ability to offer lower rates, which is exactly what they do. And with a ridiculously low rate for processing debit alongside a very fair credit rate, they’re nearly impossible to beat.

Flint has only two rates:

  • Debit transactions: 1.95%
  • Credit transactions: 2.95%

Yep, that’s it. It doesn’t get more complicated than that at any point: there are no per transaction fees, no non-qualified fees, and no surcharges of any kind. Flint Mobile runs transactions at a much faster speed than other similar apps, and while it might take a couple tries to get your scanning settings set up the way you like, Flint makes customization an easy and intuitive process. Our one complaint is that they do not provide any means for printing a paper receipt.

One very important thing to mention about Flint Mobile is that, even with the EMV liability shift (effective October 1st, 2015), users have no need to upgrade hardware. The camera scan will continue to work as it always has, with no change to liability. Currently it’s the only mobile processor we’re aware of that will securely process chip cards with no hardware upgrade.

This app can’t replace a full-feature tablet POS, but it comes with a number of amazing features (integrated QR coupons, invoicing, customizable receipts, etc.) and executes service flawlessly. If you’re looking for a sensible, surefire way to accept payments and grow your clientele, you can’t go wrong with Flint Mobile.

If you’d like more information about Flint Mobile, check out our full review.

Runner-Up: Payline Data

payline-data-logo

Payline Data is mostly a standard merchant account provider, but it has a good mobile solution and low-volume fee structure. Extra services are offered as-needed, so you only have to pay for what you need. There are two pricing models (to accommodate both low and high volume merchants):

Simple (Under $5,000 per month)

  • $5 monthly fee
  • Interchange + 0.50%
  • $0.10 per transaction

Pro (Over $5,000 per month)

  • $20 monthly fee
  • Interchange + 0.20%
  • $0.10 per transaction

We really appreciate the number of customer service and support outlets Payline provides, and it has an extensive knowledge base and FAQ for self-service support, which is quite nice.

Payline Data delivers on any businesses essential needs, and has managed to maintain positive reviews and a spotless reputation since 2009 – which is no small task in the credit card processing industry. In general, it’s a great pick for mobile processing for small businesses everywhere.

Find out more about Payline Data by reading our full review here.

Shopping Carts

Winner: Shopify

shopify-banner

Shopify is unique in that it can be used as a physical POS or an online shopping cart or both at once. This inherent flexibility gives it a clear edge over other shopping carts, and its low price point make it well within the reach for small businesses, even those with strained budgets. Shopify is the industry standard for shopping cart software, and for good reason. There are never any limits to the number of products you can sell, which is nice, though there aren’t many limits to the software in general.

All Shopify plans come with a full 14-day (no credit card required) trial. There are no setup or cancellation fees. Plans range from $14/month to $179/month with rates ranging from 2.9% + 30¢ to 2.4% + 30¢. You can pay on a month-to-month basis, but you’ll receive a 10% discount if you choose to pay for one year up front (a 20% discount is offered for those who sign a two-year contract). We’re not terribly fond of Shopify’s transaction fees, unfortunately, although they do get waived if you use Shopify as your credit card processor.

Shopify is eminently user friendly, and the cart is easy to set up and easy to manage. In our experience, the software works flawlessly from the point of view of both the customer and the merchant, and it is one of the most feature-rich carts available. It is accessible for online mavens, but it is also well within the reach of newcomers and amateurs. Shopify offers a number of apps, some of which are free and some of which may cost a small fee. You can check out Shopify’s App Store to browse offerings.

Customer support is available via phone, email, and live chat, but there are other great self-help resources as well, including a support center, Knowledge Base, a discussion forum, and a Shopify “Experts” page where you can find experienced professionals in design, marketing, development, and photography.

For more information, click here to read our full review of Shopify.

Runner-Up: Ecwid

ecwid-logo

Ecwid, the “go anywhere, sell anything, no manual required” shopping cart, is designed for small eCommerce businesses, as well as for individual sellers and start-ups. We’re big fans of Ecwid, and there are two main reasons why. Firstly, it is extremely ubiquitous, and capable of integrating with nearly every existing website, from social media platforms to blogs. Secondly, it is so reasonably priced, compared to its competitors, that you would be foolish not to take it out for spin. Unlike most shopping carts, there is no typical “free trial period” for Ecwid. Instead, you can simply try out the Free Plan (the obvious advantage to doing this is that your services won’t be cancelled after your trial period ends).

Ecwid offers unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, and no transaction fees on every subscription level, even the free plan. Paid plans range from $15/month to $99/month. Personal support by email and online chat are only available at higher subscription levels.

Like Shopify, Ecwid gives you the option to use the software as a physical POS. However, this function is really best suited for online-only business owners who want the option of having a mobile or “pop up shop” operation, but aren’t trying to maintain a physical storefront at all times.

In general, Ecwid is a solid product with great, user-friendly elements. It’s not the best solution for high-volume sales, but most companies out there (especially startups and very small businesses) will be fully satisfied with its features and ease of use.

Read our full review of Ecwid to learn more.

POS Software

Winner: ShopKeep

shopkeep-logo

ShopKeep is one of the best software solutions we’ve ever encountered at Merchant Maverick. This simple, elegant, and visually-appealing cloud-based POS has carved out a solid niche catering to small-business food and beverage sellers. For a very low monthly cost, ShopKeep can help you manage your inventory, customers, employees, as well as record transactions and offer a variety of reporting options (for analyzing all this data).

ShopKeep does not require you to sign a contract. It is a pay-as-you-go, monthly subscription service. There are no extra maintenance fees, and what’s more impressive, tech support is 100% included in the monthly charge. The actual pricing system is beautifully simple as well: $49/month/register.

Other than it’s extremely reasonable price point, ShopKeep’s biggest selling point is its ease-of-use. There is very little learning curve involved, and even the most technologically deficient should have no problem learning the ins and outs of this software in a matter of days (or hours, more likely).

Customer support is fantastic, and unlimited email, live chat, or phone is included in the monthly price. The support page on the company website is also fantastic, and offers comprehensive articles and video tutorials on every aspect of the software.

Read our full review of ShopKeep if you’d like more details.

Runner-Up: SalesVu

salesvu-logo

SalesVu is a perfect POS for the average small business, offering a robust feature set at a competitive price. eCommerce options are built right into the software, so you can design your own site from the back office without ever having to pay for (and integrate) Shopify or hire an expensive third party designer. Integrated eCommerce also ensures that communications between the web store and the brick and mortar store are smooth and seamless.

Prices range from $25/month to $150/month, depending on how many features you need (things like time tracking, accounting, etc. are a bit extra). Basically, SalesVu can be as affordable as you need it to be. Additionally, when you open an account with SalesVu you get a free credit card reader, which is a nice benefit (for some small business owners, an iPad and a credit card reader may be all you need).

Customer service is good, but the primary strengths of this software are found in its intuitive interface and broad flexibility. It is so much more than just a mobile cash register. With SalesVu, you can monitor inventory, create detailed reports, design custom discounts and promotions, maintain an active customer database, and manage employees – and you can do all these things anywhere you have a Wi-Fi connection. Opening an account with SalesVu gets you a free credit card reader, which is a nice benefit. For some business owners, an iPad and a credit card reader may be all you need.

SalesVu integrates with SalesVu Easy Accounting, Quickbooks, Facebook, and Zapper.

You can check out our full review of SalesVu for more information.

Accounting Software

Winner: Xero

best small business accounting software

It’s not hard to see why Xero takes the prize for best small business accounting software. It is mobile, cloud-based, easy-to-use, and extremely comprehensible for the small business owner who is handling finances on his/her own (click here for a full list of features). While it can be more expensive long-term than something like QuickBooks Pro, small business owners – especially those who aren’t accountants by nature or profession – are more likely to enjoy using a simple, intuitive program like Xero.

There are multiple pricing plans available, ranging from $9/month to $70/month (these prices include updates as they are released, usually every 3-6 weeks). Small companies with limited invoicing needs would have to look far and wide for a similarly robust accounting/payroll package that trumps Xero’s $9/month price tag. And happily, you don’t have to sign a contract with Xero; plans are paid by the month and you can basically cancel the service at any time. Xero offers a 25% discount for non-profits and a 15% discount on your total bill if you subscribe for multiple businesses. If you do feel comfortable making a commitment and signing up for a 6 month subscription, you’ll get a 30% discount.

There are only a few minor problems with Xero, one of which is slow customer support response times. Customer service is offered 24/7, year-round, but some customers have complained of long response times, cut-and-paste answers to questions, and reps who don’t seem to actually know how to use the software. This would be a much bigger deal if Xero was complex or had a steep learning, curve, but it’s not as alarming considering the software’s general simplicity and ease of use. Furthermore, many customers praise Xero’s level of customer service, and the wait times are comparable to those of other accounting software programs.

One real perk of using Xero is that it integrates with over 400 other applications which can facilitate nearly every aspect of business operation, including inventory management, CRM, and POS (some of these are only available to certain countries; in the U.S., there are about 350 Xero integrations available). 

Read our full review of Xero here.

Runner-Up: QuickBooks Pro

Best small business accounting software

Intuit’s QuickBooks Pro is a robust, feature-rich accounting solution, perfect in many ways for small business (to see a full list of features, click here). It is locally installed software, which results in lower per-year costs and more features than your typical cloud-based software, so if you’re willing to deal with a pretty steep learning curve at the beginning (especially difficult for people who have no previous accounting background), then QB Pro can be an excellent way to save money in your accounting budget. Though it lacks the convenience of a cloud based solution – you don’t get automatic, routine updates or instant access to new features – it is a very viable accounting solution for companies with complex bookkeeping needs.

QuickBooks Pro’s list price is $299.95. This might seem a bit high compared to something like Xero, but keep in mind that QB Pro requires a one-time purchase and does not use a subscription model — and it is nearly always available at a discount. While there’s no free trial available, Intuit does back QB Pro with a 60-day guarantee; if you return the program for any reason within 60 days, you can get a full refund. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, the purchase price does not include updates, nor do you get full tech support or bank feeds. It’s also worth noting that customer service tends to be slow.

One comment we’ve noticed often on user reviews is that, while people aren’t particularly enthusiastic about QB Pro, it works and does what it’s supposed to do; many claim that it’s the best accounting program available. While that’s far from a resounding recommendation, it’s also true that despite its drawbacks, for many businesses, QB Pro is more than adequate. And whether you love it or hate it, QuickBooks Pro is often the best option for the money.

Read our full review of QB Pro here.

Inventory Management Software

Winner: Stitch Labs

stitch-labs-logo

Stitch, the flagship product of Stitch Labs, is a cloud-based inventory management solution with tons of functionality, myriad useful integrations, and fantastic customer service. Designed to combine inventory, billing, accounting, shipping, and eCommerce features with your choice of 3rd party integrations, Stitch is the do-it-all, full service inventory solution. As the name would suggest, it is intended to be the thread that holds the backend of your company firmly together. Really, its only flaw is that is designed exclusively for American companies. International businesses will have to look elsewhere. 

Price plans range from $29/month to $449/month, not bad considering how many features this software brings to the table. What’s more, Stitch is easy to use, even for the uninitiated. The UI is clean, understated, and intuitive. Within a few minutes of signing up, you should feel like a pro, able to create products and customer contacts and generate sales orders with ease. It’s easy to pick up on your own just by experimentation, but if you’re queasy about finding your own way around, you can reference one of the many tutorials on each page that take you step-by-step through all the basic tasks.

In general, the customer service department is responsive and helpful. Our questions were promptly answered (never longer than 24 hours, even on the weekend), and ticket creation happened immediately, so we always had a case number to reference and never felt lost in the shuffle. Not surprisingly, the Stitch Labs support team is highly praised all over the web.

Stitch integrates with a large number of other programs and applications, including Amazon, eBay, BigCommerce, Magento, Shopify, and Square, to name just a few. And when you combine an excellent selection of integrations with powerful suite of tools,you’ve got inventory management software that is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses.

You can read more about Stitch Labs in our full review.

Runner-Up: TradeGecko

tradegecko-logo

TradeGecko, a cloud-based inventory application for small to medium sized businesses, is comparable to Stitch Labs in functionality and number of integrations, but is more geared toward international companies (it still works well for American companies, if you don’t mind a time difference with the support staff).

The design of this software emphasizes collaboration, group workflows, and activity feeds. This means that you can reference sales information, purchase orders, and stock levels at once, and they will all update in real time. TradeGecko is intuitive and easy to use, and has a clean – if spartan – UI which is perfect for a bookkeeping system.

TradeGecko offers a free 14-day trial, no credit card required. Plans range from $49/month to $399/month, though you can get a monthly discount if you commit to paying for a year up-front. The company provides a detailed knowledge base, with step-by-step instructions for performing many tasks, and it also offers 24 hour customer support. On the whole, our support experience was positive, though a few of our tickets took longer than we would have liked to resolve.

Integrations include Shopify, Salesforce, Xero, Magento, Quickbooks Online, Amazon, and WooCommerce (to name a few). All in all, TradeGecko isn’t the cheapest product on the market (which is why it’s the runner up for this category) but it is so intuitive and feature rich that small to medium-sized businesses with a budget to kick around should give it a look.

For more information about TradeGecko, read our full review here.

Invoicing Software

Winner: Freshbooks

freshbooks-logo

Officially, Freshbooks is a web-based accounting solution, though it is fair to say that it’s best utilized for its incredible invoicing features. This software is tailor made for independent contractors and small, service-based businesses; it is easy to use, has lots of interesting features (including time tracking, reporting, and expenses), and integrates with a huge variety of 3rd party applications.

Pricing, unfortunately, is a bit steep for the target market (small businesses), though there is a free plan which allows you to manage a single client. Paid plan range from $19.95/month to $39.95/month. Customer support is available Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm EST. In our experience, representatives are remarkably quick to respond to emails (usually within 20 minutes during business hours) and are courteous, helpful, and knowledgeable.

As mentioned above, FreshBooks offers more than 60 integrations and add-ons including  PayPal, Shopify, Basecamp, and Stripe. It is as comprehensive an invoicing solution as you could hope for, especially since it does offer other perks, like reporting.

You can read our full review of FreshBooks here.

Runner-Up: Invoiceable

invoiceable-logo

Invoiceable is simple, easy to use software that allows you to create professional looking invoices. It’s actually free to all, with no feature limits, though you can opt to pay a one-time fee to remove the company’s branding from your invoices: this is a perk that no other free invoicing program offers. Additionally, unlike many of the other major free invoicing programs, Invoiceable isn’t just a wimpy, scaled-back version of a paid service. You can have as many clients and send as many invoices as you like.

Of course, with a completely free service you’re going to miss certain features that come with a paid subscription. Support, for example, is unreliable and sporadic. Response times can vary between 1-12 days, and sometimes you may not get any response at all. There is also limited sales tax functionality, which means that the software really only works for businesses that charge a single, across the board tax rate, or don’t charge tax at all.

That said, if you are a freelancer or own a very small business with relatively low sales volume, this may be all you need for now. It’s leaps and bounds better than simply typing out your invoices into MS Word or Excel, and it is one of the best free options out there that both allow you to have unlimited clients and actually works in the United States! The interface is basic and intuitive, and while customer service is slow, you probably won’t need it most of the time. If this sounds like a good match for you, we suggest you try it out. You’ve got nothing to lose – after all, it’s free.

Read our full review of Invoiceable here.

CRM Software

Winner: Zoho CRM

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User-friendly, reasonably-priced, and full of useful features, Zoho CRM is our favorite customer relations management software, hands down. It’s not hard to see why we’re such big fans. The “building blocks” which make up the Zoho CRM logo are not there for design purposes alone; these blocks allude to the fact that the Zoho team has developed many other business applications, all capable of working together seamlessly (much like Google Apps). In addition, Zoho has an well-deserved reputation for integrating nicely with a number of 3rd party add-ons, including MailChimp, Unbounce, Google Apps, MS Office, and Quickbooks (see a full list of add-ons and integrations here). In short, Zoho CRM software can adjust to any size business, be whatever you need it to be, and grow with you as your business expands.

You can try Zoho CRM for free with a 15-day trial of their Professional package. After that, pricing breaks down as follows:

  • Entrepreneur: Free, up to 3 users
  • Standard: $12/user/month
  • Professional: $20/user/month
  • Enterprise: $35/user/month

24-hour Mon-Fri telephone support is available to paying customers, though those using their free edition are limited to email support. However, your email questions can be flagged according to urgency, so that important queries do not fall to the wayside.

You would be hard pressed to find a CRM that provides more functionality at a lower cost. Zoho CRM is, without a doubt, the most bang for your buck.

Read our full review of Zoho CRM here.

Runner-Up: CleverTim

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Clevertim is a cloud-based CRM system with a firm mission: to cater specifically to small businesses. With a surprisingly reasonable price point, a clean, user-friendly UI, and the ability to integrate with 3rd party developers (via an open API), Clevertim may just be as clever as its name suggests. The only chink in Clevertim’s armor is the lack of a mobile app. As it is now, the app functions smoothly on a desktop, but is only so-so on a tablet and virtually nonexistent on a phone.

Clevertim offers a 30 day free trial. After that, plans range from absolutely free to $99/month. You can upgrade, downgrade, or cancel your subscription at any time. Unlike most other CRM systems, Clevertim does not charge on a per-user basis. Instead, each plan has a user limit. There is also  customized pricing available, which allows you to upgrade the number of users allowed in your plan.

Clevertim is relatively new and does not yet have its own dedicated Technical Support team. However, queries can be sent to the company either via web tickets or through the sales email address.

Read our review of Clevertim here.

Booking Software

Winner: BookingBug

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BookingBug can do just about anything you would expect from scheduling software, but still manages to be accessible and intuitive. Many companies claim to be versatile, but this software actually is designed for a wide variety of industries, making it one of the only options out there for B&Bs or bike rental shops, and a better option than most for medium-sized spas and salons. It is a perfect tool for businesses that want to offer combination services while managing limited resources and limited staff (see a full list of features here). It is distinct from other appointment booking software other ways as well: first, it’s designed for serious scalability – which again validates its claim to be “the only real-time distributed booking and reservation system that works for all business types” –  and second, it integrates with a vast number of 3rd-party apps all over the world. This is a company that prides itself on innovation and flexibility.

Plans run from $19.95/month to $69.95/month, or you can scale up to an Enterprise plan, which are priced on an individual basis. Customer service comes free with your account. Like most companies, BookingBug relies heavily on email support, but phone support is available for some of the more expensive plans. We received helpful responses to our email inquiries within hours – always a great sign.

One terrific thing about BookingBug is that it offers your customers the option to make online payments (full or partial, including pre-payment and bulk payments); you can also issue full or partial refunds directly through the site via one of the software’s numerous payment integrations. BookingBug integrates with programs like MailChimp, WordPress, Facebook, and Dropbox as well.

There isn’t much negative feedback about the company online or in user reviews. Granted, some people have complained about issues with their mobile apps, but BookingBug’s receptivity and responsiveness to these issues speaks well about the company’s commitment to customer service.

To read our full review of BookingBug, click here.

Runner Up: Bookeo

bookeo-logo

Bookeo is cloud-based booking software with a lot to offer. Not only does it include important booking features, but it provides a surprising variety of marketing solutions, integrates with many payment platforms and third party applications, and boasts excellent security features. This is innovative software as it is, and Bookeo continues to improve with age; significant new feature releases occur every few months, and updates are frequent. The only consistent complaint disappointed reviewers have is with its lack of phone support. (Bookeo relies on email and a store of 300 tutorials for its customer support.)

Bookeo’s pricing differs by product (in other words, by whether you want to book appointments, classes, or tours), but each version offers a 30-day free trial and a 30-day money back guarantee on the first paid month of subscription. Bookeo accounts do not require set-up or processing fees and you don’t have to sign a contract – always a good sign.

One of the best things about Bookeo is that it is user-friendly. Action items and information are intuitive and clearly distinguishable, and the software in general is organized neatly, in a very manageable way. There isn’t much setup support, unfortunately, but the self-help tutorials available are precise, and sufficient enough to help you circumvent most major problems.

Customer service centers on the Bookeo Help Portal, which consists of 300 tutorials and an email support form. There is no phone support, however, and this is the only consistent complaint from disappointed reviewers. You can receive some support via a live chat option on Bookeo’s promotional website.

Read more about Bookeo here, in our full review.

Email Marketing Software

Winner: MailChimp

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At Merchant Maverick, we’re all in agreement that MailChimp is the boss when it comes to email marketing. It’s a mature, time-tested software with reasonable pricing plans, a great selection of features, and tons of integration, and it scales well to just about any size campaign. Better yet, for users with modest needs, MailChimp offers a robust, flat-out generous free plan which lets you have up to 2,000 subscribers and allows you to send up to 12,000 emails per month. There’s only one real catch: if you do your email marketing with the free plan, there will be a small MailChimp badge at the bottom of every email you send out. 

Paid plans come in two basic varieties: send-based (pay as you go) and list-based (monthly). These plans are fairly specific and complex, so if you’d like more details about pricing you should navigate here.

MailChimp is generally very easy to use, and signing up for a MailChimp account is simple; enter a name and email address and you’re on your way. The customer support system is pretty extensive as well, though it lacks telephone support, which is slightly disappointing. However, our experience with them has been good; representatives were courteous and well-informed, and inquiries were answered in anywhere from 20 minutes to 20 hours, depending on urgency. MailChimp’s biggest selling point, however, is that it offers over 500 integrations and add-ons. (These include Google Analytics, Zendesk, SHopify, Magento, and Salesforce).

Check out our full review of MailChimp here.

Runner-Up: AWeber

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AWeber appeals to a smaller niche than MailChimp, but it’s still incredibly easy to use and quite affordable. It comes with some very nice features, especially for businesses which want to send all new subscribers the same series of messages: the autoresponder setup in particular is easy, intuitive, and well explained within the program, and users have a lot of options. 

AWeber offers a free 30-day trial for lists of up to 500 subscribers. After that first month, there is a single list-based pricing plan available. It’s reasonably priced for the most part, but so robust that very small companies may find they are paying for lots of extra features they may not even require. If you don’t need much from your email marketing tool, you might be better off with MailChimp’s generous free plan.

In general, AWeber finds a healthy balance between ease of use and high functionality. Navigation is remarkably intuitive, considering the number of features available. The WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor has some quite impressive characteristics, and recent updates to the software have have managed to significantly improve the email design experience. Additionally, the analytics and reporting capabilities are well above par for an email marketing tool of this type, as are AWeber’s investment in numerous 3rd-party integrations.

Our experiences with customer support have been positive overall. As a rule, we’ve found AWeber’s representatives to be friendly, helpful, and prompt in responding to queries. Response times to our inquiries varied in time between 20 minutes and 6 business hours.

Read our full review of AWeber here.

Project Management Software

Winner: Trello

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Trello is a visually-oriented, Kanban-based project management tool that works by allowing users to see and manage their tasks and projects via detailed ‘cards’ which are then pinned onto ‘boards.’ At its most basic level, Trello is an ingenious way to create and organize a set of virtual 3×5 cards without the risk of misplacing them, but it also can also work as a simple task management tool, offering features like file storage and automatic email notifications.

The standard, free version of Trello allows for unlimited boards, users, and attachments (with a 10 MB max per file upload). However, for a fee, Trello also offers two upgraded versions of the software: $3.75/user or $5/user

Trello’s simple, visually-appealing UI makes it incredibly easy to use; there is almost no learning curve involved. A mere five minutes after I signed up I was able to navigate the software quickly, creating cards and boards like a pro. It may be integrated with several 3rd party apps, including Zapier, Google Drive, Box. Dropbox, and OneDrive.

Trello provides email support (via support@trello.com) to all users during normal business hours (Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM EST).

Not only is this software reasonably priced, but it is characterized by elegance, simplicity, and user-friendliness. It would be difficult to find a basic project management solution with a more intuitive, visually-appealing design. And in terms of sheer adoptability – of getting your employees to actually use a software-based task management tool – Trello scores extremely high.

You can check out our full review of Trello if you’d like more information.

Runner Up: Basecamp

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With over 9,000,000 current users, Basecamp is considered the most popular cloud-based project management software system of all time. It is, without doubt, one of the most user-friendly project management programs out there. When it comes down to brass tacks, simplicity is an enormously valuable characteristic, and Basecamp is just that – simple. This is project management software at its most basic and effortless level.

This software is celebrated for its no-frills, no-fuss pricing system. There are no hidden fees and no per-user costs. Plans range from $20/month to $150/month. Features include task tracking, a calendar, email notifications and a daily recap of activities, text documents (basically giant legal pads), and very simple reporting.

Basecamp is known for fast, reliable service. While they don’t provide the level of immediate personal support that you can get from other software companies (read: no phone or live chat support), the folks at Basecamp respond quickly to email requests and offer a large variety of ready-made aids and live training tools.

Basecamp itself is a pretty basic program, but there are a huge number of optional 3rd party applications available if you want or need to increase software’s functionality. You can see a complete list of Basecamp integrations on the official product website

If you have plain, bread-and-butter management requirements, we think you’ll find that Basecamp is a suitable, extremely affordable way to go. One of the best things about Basecamp is the fact that it is designed, updated, and supported by an established parent company. It is a sure bet, in other words.

Read more about Basecamp in our full review.

Shipping Software

Winner: ShipStation

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ShipStation is a reasonably-priced, web-based shipping solution for eCommerce retailers. Designed to streamline the fulfillment process as much as possible, this software has invested in a huge number of integrations that make it possible for you to sync up your business with the most popular sales channels, shopping carts, payment gateways, and mail carriers.

Pricing plans range from $25/month to $145/month. There’s a free 30-day trial that includes access to all features, with no credit card required. If you’re not satisfied with the product within 90 days, ShipStation offers a full refund, no questions asked.

The user interface can be a bit overwhelming at first, as there multiple options, menus, and sub-menus displayed on most pages. A bit of patience is definitely required when you start out, though you can take advantage of a number of video tutorials, a large knowledge base, and a pretty robust community forum if you run into trouble. Actually, you can have your own personal account manager if you want, and this person will help guide you through the setup phase of your account. Some of the higher paid plans can receive chat support as well. In general, customer support is slightly disappointing, and the responses we received to queries were somewhat boilerplate and indifferent.

One of ShipStation’s biggest selling points is that it integrates with an enormous number of carriers, marketplaces and shopping carts, especially when compared to the competition, including FedEx, UPS, USPS, and Fulfillment by Amazon, as well as Shopify, Etsy, Magento, Square, eBay, etc. The list goes on.

Check out our full review of ShipStation for more information.

Runner-Up: ShipWorks

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ShipWorks is probably the best shipping software available, though unfortunately it’s a PC-only app (which removes about half of the world’s users) and the learning curve is extremely high. The good news is that this software, which is designed to streamline the order fulfillment process for small to large businesses, has many amazing features you can’t find in other shipping applications. With a few clicks, ShipWorks can download shipping information from an online sales channel, calculate and print postage, generate labels, packing slips, and more. Combine this functionality with integrations for over 40 different mail carriers and eCommerce platforms, and you’ve got a shipping solution that really packs a wallop. Additionally, ShipWorks scales well, in a way that its SaaS competitors don’t.

Cost per month is determined by two different factors: shipment volume and number of licenses. Shipment volume is divided into three tiers:

  • $14.95/month for 0-99 shipments/month
  • $29.95/month for 100-999 shipments/month
  • $49.95/month for 1,000+ shipments/month

The price for shipment volume is then added to your licensing fee to determine the monthly bill. How much you pay for licensing is based on the number of online sales channels you use with ShipWorks.

Our own experiences with ShipWorks support have been positive. Turnaround times on support tickets were 24 hours or less, and we never had trouble reaching anybody on the phone. The Knowledge Base is extensive, and covers everything from setup and configuration to online marketplaces and shipping providers. What’s more, the articles are clearly written and provide plenty of screenshots.

As I mentioned above, ShipWorks integrates with a huge variety of shipping carriers and online marketplaces (including USPS, FedEx, UPS, Magento, Etsy, Shopify, Volusion), but if you happen to use a store that isn’t directly supported by ShipWorks, you can always work with a developer and use the ShipWorks Generic API to create your own integrations.

Click here to read our full review of ShipWorks.

Loyalty Rewards Software

Winner: Sweet Tooth

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Sweet Tooth is a prolific loyalty rewards software that currently works with over 3500 merchants worldwide, including Delta, Universal, and Olympus. Sweet Tooth is dedicated to increasing customer engagement, and case studies from many of the clients mentioned above have demonstrated nearly 20% increases in customer lifetime values, sales and repeat purchases. It is complex software with a high learning curve, but in general, the benefits of using a robust loyalty rewards software outweigh the inconvenience of having to learn how to use it! Sweet Tooth is an ideal solution for both eCommerce merchants and merchants who use combined methods of commerce.

Sweet Tooth works best – and is most full featured – when it’s used through Magento, though you can use a lighter, simpler version of Sweet Tooth on BigCommerce or Shopify (this is free for up to 500 customers). Sweet Tooth subscription plans are offered monthly and automatically renew unless cancelled. Plans begin at $49/month, and are broken down by loyalty point transactions and annual revenue generated on Magento. If your activity exceeds the limitations of your plan you will be required to upgrade to the next available plan. You can view the full pricing details for Shopify, BigCommerce and Magento on the Sweet Tooth website.

Customer service is available Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm EST. Overall, our experience with Sweet Tooth has been positive. Everyone we’ve spoken to at the company has been knowledgeable and friendly, and most reviewers on Magento cite the technical support as an essential part of their loyalty program.

Read our full review of Sweet Tooth if you’re interested in learning more.

Runner-Up: Belly

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Belly provides a more hassle-free loyalty rewards program than Sweet Tooth, and is ideal for smaller businesses with brick and mortar store fronts (such as bakeries, cafes, grocers, bars, spas, fitness clubs and boutiques). What’s really unique about Belly, though, are its customizeable rewards offerings and “all in one box” setup, which includes an iPad (with stand and combination lock), data reports, a personal support representative, social media integrations, and email marketing tools. Even more significantly, Belly customers get a mobile page for their business on the Belly app, where potential customers can look to find Belly-compatible businesses.

Monthly subscription costs range from $99 – $199, and all contracts run for 12 months. The cost of the iPad, iPad stand, application software, and unlimited rewards cards are included in the subscription costs for the highest plan, but an additional $150 installation fee is charged for lower plans.

Right now there are only a few drawbacks to Belly, most important of which is its steep price. Customer service can be a bit spotty as well, and unfortunately, not enough other businesses currently use it, which doesn’t provide much incentive to customers to get in the Belly network. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for an easy, no-worries loyalty program, you can’t go far wrong with Belly.

Read our full review of Belly for more details and information.

Website Building Software

Winner: Wix

 

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Wix is our number one choice for web building software, and it’s not difficult to understand why. With its sleek editing interface and multiple selection of apps and integrations, it is an extremely effective do-it-yourself website designer. In addition to being easy to use, Wix provides a great selection of unique and visually appealing templates (there are hundreds to choose from).

The free version of Wix is provided to anyone who signs up, though any website you create under the free plan will be branded with the Wix logo. Paid plans range from $4.08/month to $24.90/month. Wix’s store offers payment processing through a handful of vendors, including PayPal, WebMoney, Skrill, and PayU.

All in all, Wix is intuitive and user-friendly. Within a few hours, you should be able to take a template, mess around for a bit with the editing tools, and build yourself an incredibly fine looking website.

Because Wix allows developers to create and share their own add-ons, other users are given the opportunity to expand and diversify their websites as well. Some of the most popular integrations available include online shop expansions (like the Etsy app), the Wix Hotels premium booking system, live Instagram feeds, website profile systems, and a variety of other site boosting applications

There is one downside to the software: unlike most other website-building services, Wix does not offer 24/7 live-chat or provide an email response system. There is a toll-free number you can call for help with technical issues, but be aware that you could possibly be put on hold for an unspecified amount of time.

Click here to read our full review of Wix.

Runner-Up: Jimdo

Jimdo-Logo

With its reasonable price points and clever, yet simplistic editor, Jimdo has made a mark on the website building industry. Managing to be both straightforward and comprehensive, Jimdo allows users to make custom, professional looking websites. Templates are provided, of course, but you’re not bound to the confines of the template you choose; you have total freedom to edit and can essentially be as hands-on about the design process as you want.

Jimdo plans range from free to $20/month, and all plans come with an HTML5 WYSIWYG web editor, usage of professional-grade templates, social media tools, a mobile device editing view, blogging tools, photo galleries, Google Maps, contact forms, direct video embedding, widget integration, optimized mobile websites, and unlimited bandwidth.

While the only online payment processor currently supported by Jimdo is PayPal, a selection of various real-world payment methods can be activated in a website’s store, including invoicing, payment-in-advance, collection-upon-delivery, local pickup, and local delivery.

This is an easy-to-use service that somehow still manages to astound with the depth of its overall functionality. Some things may be a bit too simple, and Jimdo isn’t sophisticated enough to work as a tool for a professional web designer, but it is perfectly suited – price-wise and in ease-of-use – for small businesses who would otherwise have to hire out their web design services.

Read our full review of Jimdo here.

The post Merchant Maverick’s Awards for Best Small Business Software appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Square Versus Credit Card Merchant Account

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In 2009, a singular company known as Square introduced around the world pay-as-you-go processing, only using a smartphone along with a card readers connected to the audio jack. By doing this, Square altered the instalments game. Before that, most retailers, restaurants, along with other companies needed to open traditional merchant services. Artists along with other small vendors typically needed to accept cash or check only.

Now, in the tail finish of 2015, everything looks a great deal different. Most credit card merchant account providers did away with multi-year contracts rich in early termination charges and began presenting transparent, highly competitive processing rates.

Should you&#8217re a brand new business trying to determine whether to obtain a credit card merchant account or go for Square, the choice could be a complicated one. While Square is really a standardized service that utilizes a &#8220third-party credit card merchant account&#8221 (a shared credit card merchant account along with other people that use the service), traditional merchant services vary in features, prices, and car loan terms. The best choice really depends upon the character of the business: new companies come with an simpler time establishing a Square account. Small companies will dsicover the streamlined, all-in-one solution that Square purports to become more convenient, too. But medium-sized as well as bigger companies might chafe under Square&#8217s prices structure. Nor will all companies find the key they need with Square, making a free account the greater option for many.

Application &amp Account Stability

With Square, there&#8217s no application fee and anybody is thanks for visiting open a free account. Square asks you a little bit of fundamental details about your company and verify your identity, but there aren’t any credit report checks involved. You&#8217ll be up and processing inside a couple of days.

Acquiring a merchant account is really a more involved process. The applications are frequently quite streamlined, but you may expect the procedure to consider longer. Thing about this happens because the processor&#8217s underwriting department will scrutinize every facet of your company to determine precisely how likely they’re to come across chargebacks, claims of fraud, and anything else that processors hate to cope with. You may have several back-and-forths having a representative before getting a free account.

In this way, Square has got the advantage for any small or start up business. There’s a significant trade-off, though: Square&#8217s &#8220come when you are&#8221 approach implies that its underwriting department won&#8217t hesitate to slap a hang on the first considerably (or suspiciously) large transaction until it decides you&#8217re not really a risk.

Merchant services, because there is a more intensive vetting process, are less inclined to do that for you. That&#8217s not saying they won&#8217t ever hold your funds, but good merchant providers try everything they are able to to reduce the opportunity of this.

If you’re just getting began and want a free account rapidly, Square is perfect for you. For those who have a little more time for you to look around, or else you are actually worried about account stability, you&#8217re best using a credit card merchant account.

Cost

Like a small or perhaps completely new business, every cent matters. Which means obtaining a fair rate for payment processing is important.

Square charges 2.75% per swipe (more for manual or offline transactions). There&#8217s no contract, no hidden charges. You pay for that transactions. There&#8217s no messing around with various rates for various cards or kinds of transactions.

Merchant services vary more within their prices structures. Interchange-plus is easily the most transparent and frequently cheapest-cost model, however, many processors depend on tiered prices. Factors like the chronilogical age of your company, the kind of industry you&#8217re in, as well as the kind of cards you process all factor in to the rates your credit card merchant account provider will give you.

That stated, merchant services typically provide you with better rates than Square will. The larger volume you need to do, the greater rate you&#8217ll get. (Square has volume discounts, however it&#8217s a reasonably recent development and never well marketed whatsoever.)

And when you process lots of an atm card instead of charge cards, a free account is going to be significantly less costly. Square doesn&#8217t separate debit and credit — and that means you don&#8217t take advantage of the low interchange charges on an atm card. However, Square doesn&#8217t charge a per-transaction fee, either. For those who have lots of small tickets, this really calculates to your benefit.

Understanding credit card merchant account prices could be more difficult than Square&#8217s super-simple payment model. And when you pursue a free account, you&#8217re gonna need to compare different plans. Pretty much every credit card merchant account provider charges a fundamental fee every month, too, varying from $5 to $35 monthly generally. For sporadic or low-volume users, this may be an unwelcome expense. However if you simply perform the math, having to pay the fee every month still enables for savings generally in comparison with Square — all aside from the cheapest-volume and tiniest-ticket companies.

A free account might also include additional charges. Included in this are statement charges, gateway charges, PCI compliance, and much more. They change from business to business, so make sure to seek advice from each option you&#8217re thinking about.

If you wish to understand much more about charge card processing rates and the way to draw effective comparisons, take a look at our guide here.

Contracts &amp Easy Switching

Square was the first one to offer pay-as-you decide to go processing, and that is still certainly one of its greatest draws. There&#8217s no fee every month, no application fee, no early termination charges for departing, with no lengthy-term commitments. You are able to stop using Square anytime, and begin up again later if you want.

Merchant services vary a lot more within their contracts. It&#8217s still (regrettably) present with encounter 1- to three-year contracts, most of which auto-renew unless of course you provide proper notification, typically a minimum of 3 several weeks ahead of time as well as in writing. Some have early termination charges, or ETFs, (usually within the $300-400 range) should you cancel your contract before that. Even though you don&#8217t possess a lengthy-term contract or ETF, you’ll probably still need to provide formal notice if you are planning to change.

We are able to&#8217t stress enough how important it’s to see an agreement carefully prior to signing. Inquire before you decide to accept anything, and make certain you receive any statements about waiving the ETF or auto-renewing clause incorporated within the contract. You have negotiating power, even while a brand new business.

Like Square, the most popular MSPs also provide month-to-month contracts without any early termination fee, which means you don’t need to accept Square just to avert being locked right into a contract. But you’ll have to consider the price of getting a regular monthly fee with a free account, which could considerably boost the effective rate for low-volume companies.

Equipment

For small companies, the simplicity Square&#8217s setup is effective. Whatever you really requirement for a barebones setup is Access to the internet, a card readers, along with a compatible smartphone or tablet using the free Square Register application installed.

The issue comes lower to costs. An EMV-compliant nick readers from Square can cost you just $30 you will get NFC abilities and EMV for $49. That doesn&#8217t incorporate a receipt printer (yet another $200-300 expense) a tablet stand (the price varies), or perhaps a cash drawer (cost varies). For reference, Square&#8217s ready-made retail kits will cost you between $400 to $600+, not counting a tablet. However, their email list of supported devices are quite small, especially in comparison with the choices a free account offers. (Browse the lists for Android devices, iPads, and iPhones, correspondingly.)

Credit card merchant account providers for example Helcim can provide you with an EMV-compliant terminal having a built-in receipt printer for less than $200. That again doesn&#8217t cover a money drawer or other equipment, like a scanner — nor will it incorporate a POS. But it can save you some cash by choosing a free account which has a good deal with an EMV terminal/receipt printer.

Merchant services offer a benefit for the reason that most enables you to bring any existing equipment you’ve along with you, plus they&#8217ll reprogram results using their system. A lot of Square&#8217s equipment — the readers and also the Square Stand it particular — work just with Square, so if you choose to switch, you&#8217ll need to buy new equipment. For those who have multiple registers or perhaps multiple locations, the expense start accumulated.

Just watch out for merchant services that provide terminal leases: These more often than not set you back more over time. You&#8217re best just purchasing a terminal outright, particularly if you choose a “future-proof” one outfitted with EMV and NFC, since it should last for quite some time.

Your final note about equipment: Square is super convenient for mobile setups, if you have employees who’re on the run or vend at occasions, you’ve all you need to operate. Credit card merchant account providers vary a lot more broadly within their mobile choices. Many are great many are perfectly sufficient but still some don&#8217t have mobile support whatsoever.

In individuals cases, you&#8217ll need to select a processor like Square like a backup whenever you&#8217re on the go. Or, you are able to opt for Inner Fence and pay your merchant&#8217s charges on the top of Inner Fence&#8217s rather exorbitant costs. For apparent reasons, we don&#8217t suggest that route. Given there&#8217s no contract or lengthy-term contract or monthly charges, it&#8217s not to recommend Square like a mobile solution if you want one.

Versatility

With Square, you&#8217re locked into while using Square Register application and Square-supported integrations. There&#8217s some big names among the list of available apps, however the selection continues to be limited. Credit card merchant account providers provide you with much more versatility with what equipment and software you select.

However, that versatility has a trade-off: value. The help Square offers free of charge, or in a minimal cost, really are a spectacular value&#8230if you intend for their services. Let&#8217s check out the entire suite:

  • Square Register (POS): Free
  • Analytics Dashboard: Free
  • Inventory Management: Free
  • Worker Management/Time keeping: $5 per worker monthly
  • Square Payroll (California only): $20 monthly + $5 per worker compensated
  • E-mail Marketing: $.10 per email OR $15 monthly for 500 contacts
  • Appointment Booking: Beginning at $30 monthly
  • Online Shop: Free

In comparison, opening a conventional credit card merchant account enables you to employ almost any POS, inventory management, accounting, loyalty, booking, or customer keeper you’d like, including software that is much more effective and advanced than anything provided by Square. While there are several compatibility limitations despite merchant services, you’ll have much more choices for integration than Square provides. Some software might be incorporated free of charge with a free account, but typically you’ll have to purchase it individually.

So far as eCommerce goes, Square&#8217s offering sounds great. There&#8217s only one little niggling detail: it&#8217s not your personal website or domain — your shop is located on Square&#8217s domain, that makes it more similar to selling on Etsy or eBay. If you like, you are able to construct your website with your personal domain one of Square&#8217s a couple: Weebly or Bigcommerce.

Should you&#8217ve already built your website elsewhere, you&#8217ll need to either switch hosting providers/shopping cart software software or find another payments processor. Given just how much work will go into listing products online, switching providers or software could be a massive inconvenience. Some sites provide an &#8220import listings&#8221 feature, though, which could pull data from marketplaces for example eBay or Amazon . com.

However, if you go searching for a free account, you normally obtain access to a totally free gateway that you could connect to whatever eCommerce software you select. Then you definitely make use of well-done Search engine optimization and proper compensated advertising and may create a lengthy-term presence. Should you choose switch lower the road, it&#8217s simply dependent on connecting the brand new gateway. There&#8217s no guarantee of 100% compatibility, but you will have a greater quantity of options.

For small startups that don’t require the more complex software, and first-time spent online sellers who would like to test the waters, Square frequently offers the less expensive. However for companies that require an element-wealthy POS, comprehensive customer management, and extensive eCommerce choices, a free account is the only method to integrate using the necessary software. So if you’re just beginning out, you may still find great, feature-wealthy choices for little if any cost. MailChimp, for instance, provides a free email arrange for entrepreneurs with less than 2,000 subscribers. Appointy includes a fundamental free service, in addition to a Pro Plan that starts at $19.99/month (billed yearly).

For companies that don’t mind being locked into Square’s software ecosystem or even the small group of integrations, it’s difficult to beat Square on value with the much offered for little or very little. When it comes to versatility, however, a free account provides much more choices for system personalization.

Customer Support

You won’t ever obtain the same degree of service from the company like Square because you will having a traditional credit card merchant account. Credit card merchant account providers typically provide you with a dedicated account manager who are able to address problems you&#8217re getting and supply support when needed. Square&#8217s customer support has improved considerably in the last couple of years (initially the organization didn&#8217t even offer phone support), however it still can&#8217t come near to the type of care and concern you&#8217ll achieve with a home online merchant account providers providers.

That stated, not every merchant services stand out within the customer support department. Seek information to check out warning flags. Watch out for independent sales people and deal directly using the corporate offices whenever feasible.

The caliber of services are a vital factor out of all companies we review, and if you&#8217re unsure, take a look at our top-rated processors.

Conclusion

Will we recommend Square for retailers? Yes. Will we recommend traditional merchant services? Absolutely. So which is much better? That&#8217s difficult to say.

With regards to payments and payment processing, there’s nobody-size-fits-all solution.Age your company, its size, your industry, as well as the way you operate every day all factor into selecting a repayment processor. There are several apparent details: Obtaining a Square &#8220merchant account&#8221 takes much less time — however, you sacrifice stability. Customer support will be better having a highly regarded payments processor. With Square, you don&#8217t obtain a choice with what software or hardware you utilize merchant services provide you with many selections.

Of course, the choice comes lower as to the&#8217s vital that you both you and your business. Weigh the benefits and drawbacks. Should you&#8217re still unsure what&#8217s the best choice, achieve to we and us can point you within the right direction!

Have questions? What happen to be your encounters with Square or perhaps your credit card merchant account provider? Leave us a comment — we&#8217re always pleased to listen to our readers!

The publish Square Versus Credit Card Merchant Account made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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Everything You Need to Know About Alternative Payment Methods

Alternative Payment MethodsBeing able to accept credit and debit cards is the lifeblood of any business. For brick-and-mortar locations, it’s worth knowing this: About half of all Americans carry just $20 in cash with them on a daily basis, and about 80% of Americans carry less than $50 daily. This means if you don’t accept credit cards, you could be missing out on sales.

If you sell online, you have to have a way to accept credit and debit cards, period. And it’s crucial that you have a professional system that shoppers will trust with their payment details. For most people that means a merchant account with an established payment gateway.

But are cards and cash — and all the traditional ways of doing business — the only options?

Of course not. There’s no shortage of companies devoted to changing the way we think about paying for things. New technology is bringing concepts like using phones to make payments into the mainstream. Having multiple ways for customers to pay is a good thing, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of convenience to you — or higher fees!

Let’s take a look at some alternative payment methods that you can integrate into your business now, what it’ll take to do so, how secure they are, and how popular they are.

1. Apple Pay

apple-pay-logoApple Pay was not the first company to offer contactless mobile payments, but it was the first to make them popular. Apple Pay uses NFC (learn more about this technology here) and the TouchID fingerprint reader to enable contactless in-store payments, as well as in-app purchases. With iOS 9, it also supports loyalty cards and rewards programs.

Compatible devices:

  • iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and later models
  • Apple Watch (with iPhone 5 and later models)
  • iPad Pro, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 4, iPad mini 3

Apple claims to support credit and debit cards from most major banks in the U.S. and the U.K. (A press release from Apple says that with support for Discover added this fall, the app supports 98% of credit card purchase volume.) That’s good news. The launch of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is also good, because it means consumers with older iPhones will likely start upgrading their older devices, expanding the potential user base.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t actually publish usage statistics. A survey done in June 2015 found that 13 percent of users with an Apple Pay-capable phone had used the feature; another 11 percent had plans to do so. We know that Apple sold 74.5 million iPhones in the first quarter of its 2015 fiscal year (the first quarter Apple Pay was available) — but not all of those were necessarily the 6 or 6 Plus. Still, it’s safe to say there are likely several million Apple Pay users across the country, even if some studies suggest that Apple Pay adoption rates are decreasing.

You’re still going to have to have a way to process credit cards to accept Apple Pay, so you’ll need a merchant account, a functioning POS, and an NFC-enabled terminal. The good news is Apple doesn’t charge any fees for Apple Pay transactions, so you only pay the standard credit and debit card processing fees.

Mobile payments like this have several measures for security. First, merchants never actually handle buyers’ credit card numbers. Instead, Apple Pay generates a single-use code (this is called tokenization). Even if a hacker gets the information, it’s useless because the number is good for one time only. Second, when consumers tap their phones to the terminal, they have to confirm the purchase with the TouchID fingerprint sensor.

Finally, the phone itself provides some security. The card numbers aren’t stored on the device — they’re kept in the cloud and the device can be locked remotely if it’s ever stolen. The CPU never handles the processing of the NFC transaction, either. A secure element or a separate chip bypass the rest of the system to communicate directly with the NFC-capable unit.

2. Samsung Pay

samsung-pay-logo-2015Samsung Pay is (you guessed it!) the Korean company’s response to Apply Pay. It is also an NFC-powered contactless payments app. It works on a handful of Samsung Galaxy devices:

  • Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+, and later models.
  • Galaxy Note 5 and later models.

Samsung Pay just launched in September of 2015, which means it’s quite new. We’ll update you with usage numbers when we have something reliable and representative to report. But we do know that Samsung had sold an estimated 45 million Galaxy S6 phones (including the Edge and Edge+ variants), plus the Note 5 (for which sales numbers aren’t available right now). The potential user base is very large, but we’ll see how it pans out.

At this point it’s worth noting that the app requires consumers to be on one of five networks (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or U.S. Cellular) and have a Visa, MasterCard, or American Express card issued by Bank of America, U.S. Bank, or Citi. The app also accepts merchant credit cards issued by Synchrony Financial. You still earn any rewards or points linked to those cards, but specific loyalty cards and coupons aren’t supported. There’s no in-app payments feature either, though Samsung hasn’t ruled it out.

Again, you need an established way to process credit cards and a compatible POS, and you won’t pay any additional fees for Samsung Pay transactions. But your existing credit card terminal might already accept this particular type of payment. That’s because Samsung Pay uses both NFC and something called magnetic secure transmission (MST). Basically, it allows the phone to emulate a traditional card with a magnetic stripe. That means you don’t need an NFC-capable terminal — but if you don’t have NFC, you can’t accept Apple Pay or Android Pay (next on this list), which limits your options.

Most EMV terminals are also equipped for NFC, so the machine you just got as a result of the liability shift most likely supports these contactless payments. But if your terminal isn’t EMV capable, that’s another issue entirely.

Samsung Pay relies on a fingerprint scanner as well. Users need to launch the app, swipe their fingerprint, and then pass their devices close to the terminal. That’s not quite as intuitive as Apple Pay from a user-friendliness standpoint, but apps evolve and change. At this point it’s just too early to say anything definitively.

3. Android Pay / Google Wallet

android-pay-logoAndroid Pay, like Samsung Pay, is very new, launching in September 2015. At the same time, it’s much older than that: Android Pay is the successor to Google Wallet, Google’s contactless payment solution/mobile wallet, which launched in 2011.

Android Pay works on any Android smartphone (Samsung, HTC, LG, and Motorola, just to name a few) running the KitKat OS (Android 4.4) or higher. It’s NFC-powered, with support for debit and credit cards as well as loyalty/rewards programs. An in-app payments feature is set to launch later.

These days, Google Wallet has become a P2P payments app — an easy way to send money to friends and family for free.

The wallet supports Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover cards from a handful of banks, including Bank of America, U.S. Bank, Citi, PNC, Wells Fargo, and USAA (check out the full list here; more banks will be added as time goes on).

By now, you should have a good idea of what to expect as a merchant: You need a way to process credit cards, a compatible POS, and of course, an NFC-capable terminal. Payments are kept secure with tokenization. Users also need to enable the lock screens on their phones — which can then be unlocked using fingerprint readers, PINs, swipe patterns, and more.

4. LevelUp

LevelUp-logoThe alternative mobile payments technique to NFC is the QR code. QR codes work a lot like traditional barcodes, but they can hold a lot more information — like payment data. The biggest difference is that instead of an NFC-enabled terminal, you need a barcode reader.

LevelUp is the leader in QR code-based mobile payments with its app, but it also builds custom white-label apps for businesses. In addition to the QR codes, LevelUp works with NFC and iBeacon. The LevelUp app works for both iOS and Android. In addition to phone-based payments, LevelUp also supports loyalty programs. You can even link any loyalty programs you have set up through Apple Pay into LevelUp (there’s also support for one-touch signups using TouchID).

Despite having been around for a while (it launched in 2011), LevelUp is admittedly a small player. It has some 14,000 partner businesses, including some major names. The app has over 100,000 downloads in Google Play, which isn’t much compared to a lot of other apps. But the company does have white-label solutions, so it’s difficult to accurately gauge numbers.

LevelUp is a little bit vague on pricing, but if you dig around, you’ll find that payments are processed for a flat 2% fee. That’s good, considering Square charges 2.75% and PayPal 2.7% per swipe. It’s not necessarily as low as you’ll get with merchant accounts, but rates vary a lot based on the type of business you run and what kind of cards you process. A flat 2% should be convenient for most people. LevelUp will also charge a 25% cut of any incentives you offer through its campaigns feature.

To accept payments, you need a compatible POS and LevelUp’s proprietary scanner ($50 each). If your POS isn’t compatible, you can get the LevelUp tablet for $100 according to the pricing page on the website.

As far as security goes, LevelUp offers PCI compliance and encryption, as well as tokenization. In fact, LevelUp uses a triple token system: the token your phone generates goes to a token on the LevelUp servers, which in turn routes to a token on the Braintree servers, which is the payments service LevelUp uses to store credit card data.

5. CurrentC

CurrentCCurrentC_App is another QR code-based payments method. It’s developed by the Consumer Merchant Exchange, led by Walmart and some other heavy-hitters in the retail business. Unlike LevelUp, users can pay using either their bank accounts, store cards, or gift cards. For merchants, that means significantly lower fees. (It’s not well advertised, but you can also add merchant credit and debit cards.) CurrentC also links up with loyalty cards and lets you redeem coupons and discounts in the app.

CurrentC is still in test mode, but the website promises it’ll be ready to roll out across the country soon. One advantage for CurrentC is that it’s widely available for consumers — whereas Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are only available for the most recent smartphone models, and Android Pay requires a recent version of Android (which not all smartphones get), CurrentC should be available for download even on budget smartphones.

In terms of user experience, CurrentC is a bit clunky. Depending on the location, users have to scan a QR code generated by the register, or the cashier has to scan one generated by the user’s phone. If that doesn’t work, then you’ll have to enter a code. With some retailers, you can use Bluetooth Beacons instead of QR codes.

As far as security goes, CurrentC requires you to put in a PIN every time you open the app or switch between apps. You can also lock the device remotely if it ever goes missing. Like the other services we’ve discussed here, the app uses tokenization — it generates a random one-time use transaction ID and doesn’t pass personal data onto the merchants.

CurrentC is odd in that it also collects some personal health information — it’s disclosed in the privacy policy, which you can read here. While it seems fairly innocuous, I highly recommend that you understand what data is collected and how it’s used.

As far as requirements to accept CurrentC go, you’re really just going to need a POS and barcode scanner capable of reading QR codes. CurrentC also has a way to allow gas stations to accept payments at the pump by inputting a code. Restaurants can use the app too, with a feature that enables consumers to leave a tip.

I’m hoping when CurrentC gets a broader release that the MCX will be a bit more forthcoming about information. There’s no disclosure of processing fees, for example. The support website, which is hidden from the main site, has much more information about how the app works, which I find a bit frustrating because it took some digging to uncover it.

6. PayPal

Paypal-Logo-2015As a retailer, accepting PayPal has a huge advantage for you. It’s widely recognized by consumers, so they feel secure paying with it. In fact, PayPal has more than 170 million users worldwide, and it’s the payment method of choice on eBay. PayPal lets users link credit cards, debit cards, or bank accounts to make their payments. There’s also a free P2P payments tool, so consumers can send money to friends and family for free.

Merchants can use PayPal to accept payments on a website and through a smartphone or tablet when they’re on the go or in stores.

For retailers, PayPal doesn’t offer a full POS in its own right — it has a decent set of features, but if you need more capabilities, you can always turn to one of PayPal’s partner POS systems, which you can learn more about here. You can build a register out of a tablet, a cash drawer, and a receipt printer, if you want one. You’ll pay just 2.7% per swipe.

For online retail, PayPal integrates with a lot of shopping carts. For most online transactions, the company charges 2.9% + $0.30. That’s higher than you’ll pay with a solid deal from a merchant account provider in most circumstances, but it comes with a super easy setup. (Just beware that you’re at a higher risk of potential holds or freezes on your account given the nature of PayPal’s business — no contracts, available to everyone, pay as you go.

You can also build a “Pay with PayPal” feature into apps, with PayPal’s One Touch Feature included so that users don’t have to re-enter their usernames and passwords, which adds to the convenience of using PayPal.

However, if you want a hosted payment page, you’re going to have to shell out $30 a month for the PayPal Payments Pro plan. You’ll also get a virtual terminal for that cost. If you have the standard PayPal plan (which has no monthly fees), your customers will be directed to the PayPal page to complete the payment, then back to your site.

If you’re using PayPal Here, the company’s mobile solution, you should know that PayPal does offer an EMV reader that also supports NFC payments. It’s $150, but you can get $100 in rebates when you process $3,000 in 3 months. That’s not the best deal — Square is able to offer an EMV capable reader for $30, or an EMV/NFC-capable reader for $49, with a rebate available for select retailers. Even if you don’t qualify for Square’s rebates, Square’s EMV/NFC reader at full price is the same as PayPal’s reader when it’s discounted.

Like PayPal, Square lets merchants accept credit card payments on the go and in stores. You can also accept Square online, provided you use either the Square marketplace or build a site using one of Square’s 2 (yup, that’s right, 2) partners. Square’s rates are comparable to PayPal — just a flat 2.75%, no per-transaction fees.

7. Pay with Amazon

Pay with AmazonLike PayPal, Pay with Amazon (also known as the bulkier “Login and Pay with Amazon”) lets users pay on your site using their login credentials for another site — in this case, Amazon. They can use whatever payment methods they have stored on their Amazon accounts.

While PayPal is universally known, Pay with Amazon seems to be less common — but that doesn’t mean you should discount it. Amazon had 244 million active users in 2014. That’s roughly 70 million MORE users than PayPal. You won’t be limiting your audience if you choose Pay with Amazon over PayPal.

Pay with Amazon charges you 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction. That’s identical to PayPal’s rates for online transactions. You can even do recurring billing for subscription packages. Plus, Pay with Amazon is entirely pay-as-you-go: no contract, no early termination fee, no monthly fees.

However, it’s worth mentioning that there’s no mobile support, so if you also sell in person, either at events or in a store, you’re going to have to look elsewhere for a solution. To accept Login and Pay with Amazon, you just need a compatible shopping cart. Fortunately, you have several great options: You can choose from Xcart, Magento, and Shopify, among others. Check out the full list here.

There are some other advantages here. First, Amazon offers a growth guarantee: If you sign up for the service, and you don’t see an increase in sales over the course of 30 days, the company will refund your processing fees up to $100,000. That’s a nice option if you’re really not sure about switching.

Plus, the Login and Pay with Amazon feature gives you a hosted payment page for free. More good news: You get the same fraud protection used by the Amazon.com site, so you’re not liable for any fraud-related chargebacks. (However, that’s not to say you’re protected against everything; you can still expect a $20 fee for any service-related chargebacks.)

One downside is the time it takes to get your money, which has been a pain point for a long time for sellers on the Amazon marketplace. First, there’s an initial 2-week holding period. After that, Amazon will settle your account daily — but it still takes 3-5 days to transfer funds from your account to your bank. With PayPal, your money is available pretty much immediately…and if you have the PayPal debit card, you can spend it anywhere at any time, not just online.

8. Bitcoin

bitcoinOut of all the alternative payments here, Bitcoin is most definitely the most “alternative” option. Unlike cash or credit, Bitcoins don’t have any physical form. No coins, no paper money. Bitcoin exists solely on the web. Unlike other currencies,which are centralized and controlled by governments, it is entirely self regulated. A network of computers handles the processing and records the transactions in a public register (more on that in a moment).

There’s a lot of info available about what Bitcoin is and how it works. You can start here to learn more. In the meantime, here’s what you need to know to accept Bitcoin.

First, not accepting Bitcoin certainly won’t cost you any business. The estimated userbase is 5-10 million people worldwide, with an estimated 110,000 daily Bitcoin transactions as of June 2015 (nearly double the approximate 60,600 daily transactions in June of 2014). However, if your target demographic is young and hip to the digital scene, that’s certainly a reason for you to consider accepting Bitcoin.

One nice advantage to accepting Bitcoin is that generally speaking, the fees are incredibly low, especially compared to PayPal or credit card processing rates. Some processors can even take Bitcoin and convert it into US dollars and deposit it in your bank account. However, the fees also vary, and the value of Bitcoin fluctuates. From October 2014 to October 2015, the value of 1 Bitcoin has hit as low as $177.28 USD and spiked as high as $427.24.

Security works much differently with Bitcoin, too. Every transaction is kept as part of a public ledger, but the users’ personal details are anonymous, which makes it harder to steal someone’s identity. No PCI compliance is required. There’s no opportunity for chargebacks, but at the same time merchants can’t alter charges, either. And you can encrypt and secure your Bitcoin wallet in other ways as well.

To accept Bitcoin, you just need to find a processor. Good news is, there are a lot of them. Even PayPal has a way to accept Bitcoin, through the PayPal Payments Hub. Braintree, a PayPal-owned company, also accepts Bitcoin via a partnership with Coinbase.

9. E-Check/ACH

Cash, debit, and credit are the most popular kids on the block when it comes to payments. Checks lag far behind other options — an April 2014 report by the Fed found that just 3% of people prefer to pay primarily with check, compared to 43% of people who favor debit cards.

That’s not to say checks are totally irrelevant. Some people don’t have debit cards. Or sometimes your debit card gets cancelled and you’re stuck waiting for the new one to arrive, but you need to make a purchase. And you can (sort of) use checks to pay online, thanks to e-checks. Those type of transactions are also called ACH transactions because they’re routed through the Automated Clearing House, which is an electronic network of banks that also handles direct deposit and electronic bill payments. You don’t have an explicit check number with e-checks, but you still have to provide your routing and account numbers, much like the old-fashioned bit of paper.

The numbers on the popularity of ACH are a bit sketchy. In 2014, the ACH handled more than 23 billion electronic payments totaling more than $40 trillion. The problem with that number is that it includes all those direct deposits and bill payments — mortgages and utilities, especially. It’s not a completely accurate depiction of the eCommerce scene.

One of the big advantages to this payment method is how much more affordable it is compared to standard credit card processing rates. ACH fees, depending on who processes them, might be a percentage of 0.5% or 1%, or a flat fee, which is typically in the range of $0.25 to $0.75. That’s not bad at all, especially if you get the flat fee. Assuming a 1.85% rate on credit card processing fees for a $250 transaction, that’s $4.63 in fees compared to a maximum of $2.50 with a 1% rate for ACH.

There are a lot of ways to accept ACH. For one, both Amazon and PayPal allow customers to link and pay with their bank accounts, though you, as the merchant, will end up paying the standard 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction (for a $250 transaction, that means $7.55).

If you have a virtual terminal, you should be able to enable this feature, but fees will vary based on your provider. Some of the services that we’ve reviewed that support ACH/e-checks include:

  • PayJunction
  • PaySimple
  • Forte Payment Systems

Another merchant account provider that supports e-checks is PayStand. We haven’t reviewed PayStand in depth (partly because it just launched publicly in 2014), but right off the bat we’re impressed by the level of transparency on the site and the depth of information available. We’re less impressed by the claim that its credit card rates — 2.49% + $0.30 — are wholesale, especially given the additional $99 monthly fee for the basic plan. However, PayStand also gives you very low-cost ACH transactions and free Bitcoin processing, as well as mobile processing. The service is promising and some merchants are sure to find value in Paystand’s offerings.

You also don’t need to sell exclusively online to accept ACH. If you have a retail setup, you can get a scanner to convert checks into e-checks. That means transactions will be a bit easier — there’s no forwarding checks to banks and waiting to find out if they clear.

ACH is definitely a great backup option to have, but probably not the best choice for a sole payment option. There are a couple of reasons not everyone will want to use ACH payments:

  • One, ACH takes a bit longer to process than debit or credit. So it takes longer for you to get your money and consumers have to wait longer for the transaction to process.
  • Two, it’s not the most secure for consumers, because they have to provide both their account numbers and routing numbers. While the rate of fraudulent transactions is low — just 3 of every 10,000 ACH transactions are rejected for being unauthorized — online payments are the least secure form of ACH transfers (compared with direct deposits, P2P transfers, and online bill pay).

And frankly it’s easier for a lot of people to plug in a card number and a 3-digit security code than it is to root around for your checkbook to get the account and routing numbers.

10. Dwolla

dwolla-accepted-here-logoDwolla is technically a third-party ACH service, but it’s a standout in the field for a few reasons. One, Dwolla’s basic features are entirely free to use. That means ACH payments, recurring payments, and the ability to distribute large numbers of payments (e.g., employee paychecks). And there’s an option of sending money to family or friends, as well, so there’s definitely a consumer base.

Two, with the tiered service plans (starting at $25/month and going up to $1500/month) you get a range of extra features that make Dwolla even more attractive. That includes next-day transfers (a big plus) and the option for white-label payments. That means, basically, you’ll get a hosted payment page. Customers don’t leave your site and don’t get any indication that they’re using Dwolla.

Paying $1,500 per month for the service sounds outrageous, until you consider that you’re not paying any transaction fees. If you’re doing substantial business with ACH payments, you could easily wind up saving money in the long run. And having a hosted payment page is nothing to sneeze at — or the next-day transfers, the higher limits, payment profiles, etc. (There’s also a $250/month option that gives you more than the basic package but not quite as many perks. That’s good if your business isn’t quite enterprise-scale.)

Now, if you don’t want to shell out $250 or $1,500 monthly for all the fancy tools, or don’t care about a hosted payment page, the basic $25/month plan still gives you next-day transfers. If you want to keep your fees even lower, you can forgo the next-day payments all together.

Customers have the option to create a full-fledged Dwolla account or use the simpler Dwolla Direct. The Direct account is a lot less involved compared to Dwolla’s original setup. Customers can get themselves set up in under a minute and they can link their online banking credentials to pay instead of linking their accounts directly.

As far as security goes, Dwolla uses tokenization and TLS 128-bit encryption. There’s also two-factor authentication — and you’ll have to enter your PIN whenever you move money or make a change to an account.

Adding Dwolla to your options for online payments is easy with the custom API, and creating an account is free, so you can give it a try and get a feel for it before you even set up Dwolla for your business.

Alternative Payment Methods: So Where to Now?

If you are looking for alternatives to credit cards and traditional merchant accounts, there’s no better time to get started. Technology is changing the way we think about payments and how we handle money in general: everything from mobile wallets that replace credit cards to decentralized digital currency. There are alternative payment methods to appeal to every market segment, and options to appeal to every sort of business. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you and your customers.

Have questions about your options for payment processing? Leave a comment and let us know. We’re always happy to hear from you! We can also help you lower your processing fees or even choose a processor.

The post Everything You Need to Know About Alternative Payment Methods appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Buying and selling Ease For Transparency With Interchange-Plus

man-cleaning window

Accepting charge cards in your company is something of the two-edged sword. On a single hands, they’re very convenient for the customers, which usually means more sales. Simultaneously, processing a charge card transaction is expensive, and also the charges connected with maintaining a free account cost much more money. These expenses eat to your profits while increasing your general price of conducting business. Nevertheless, as customers more and more turn from having to pay with cash and employ debit or credit cards whenever you can, most companies will have to simply accept charge cards to be able to remain competitive.

Figuring out ahead of time just how much a free account will set you back with any amount of certainty is really a extremely difficult task. You will find many competing processors available, each charging different charges and rates. Processing rates themselves are influenced by a bewildering quantity of variables, such as the prices model provided by your credit card merchant account provider.

The total cost of the credit card merchant account will probably be a mix of the rates you spend your processor for every credit/bank card transaction and also the charges that you might also need to pay for, usually on the monthly or yearly basis. While we’re going to pay attention to processing rates with this article, be familiar with this: Charges are usually exactly the same for any given credit card merchant account provider, whatever the size your company. In case your provider charges $99 annually for PCI compliance, you’ll pay that fee regardless of whether you have $100,000 in annual sales, or $a million. So, for small or micro-sized companies (or new companies just beginning up), charges are most likely the greatest expense you incur by getting a free account. For bigger companies with greater sales volumes, processing rates will often become your greatest expense.

What kinds of Prices Models Exist?

Clearly, you’ll would like to get the cheapest processing rates you will get, right? Theoretically, lower processing rates should result in a smaller amount of the cash out of your sales visiting your processor and much more from it remaining along with you. In actual practice, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Let’s begin by searching in the general kinds of prices models for setting processing rates. You will find four of these: 1) tiered prices, 2) interchange-plus prices, 3) subscription/membership prices, and 4) blended prices.

Tiered prices is, regrettably, still the most typical prices model available, and also the one most processors offer for their retailers. We don’t enjoy it. Tiered prices simplifies a large number of processing rates into three fundamental tiers: qualified, mid-qualified, and non-qualified. Which tier a specific transaction will fall under depends upon numerous criteria, that are set through the processor. These criteria include items like card-present versus card-not-present transactions, if the transaction was processed on the day that it happened, and which of a number of possible groups the products purchased fall under. Tiered prices may appear tempting, since it simplifies lots of variables into just three tiers, making your monthly statement much simpler to decipher. Regrettably, as the figures might be simpler to know, they’ll frequently be considered a lot greater than you had been expecting. Tiered prices models allow it to be impossible to inform the amount of a processing charge will the issuing bank, the charge card associations (i.e., Visa, MasterCard, etc.), and just how much will your credit card merchant account provider. Tiered prices also results in a very deceitful marketing gimmick: the company will advertise the cheapest possible (i.e., qualified) rate, but many transactions won’t really be qualified, and can process in a much greater rate.

Interchange-plus prices, however, breaks lower the costs visiting the issuing bank and charge card associations, enabling you to begin to see the markup they’re charging you for processing your transaction. This can be a a lot more transparent prices model, it makes your statements harder to see. Generally, that’ll be a little cost to pay for, as interchange-plus prices minute rates are usually lower overall than tiered rates.

Subscription/membership prices is a touch different. You’ll still spend the money for interchange rates that visit the issuing banks and charge card associations, but rather of having to pay a portion markup for your processor, you’ll pay a regular monthly membership fee along with a fixed per-transaction charge. With respect to the nature and size your company, this prices model could possibly lead to even lower immediate and ongoing expenses than interchange-plus prices. However, very couple of processors presently offer it. For a good example of subscription prices, see our overview of Payment Depot.

Flat/blended prices is comparable to tiered prices, however the three tiers are blended into just one predetermined fee for those transactions. This rates are, naturally, a great deal greater than you’d pay within tiered plan. However, the possible lack of a regular monthly fee makes it less expensive overall for small or periodic companies. Square and PayPal use blended prices.

For any more thorough discussion of those prices models, please visit our Complete Help guide to Charge Card Processing Rates and Charges.

What’s Interchange-Plus Prices?

As the actual figures could possibly get pretty complex, at its core interchange-plus prices is very simple. The prices model includes two elements: an “interchange” along with a “plus.” The interchange may be the number of the transaction that must definitely be compensated to both issuing bank and also the charge card association. Since your processor needs to pay this charge, they’ll give it to you. The plus may be the amount in addition to the interchange costs that you’ll also need to pay for your processor. It’s their markup for processing your transaction, and it’s made to cover their costs to do business – also to produce a profit.

Interchange-plus prices may also be known by alternate names, for example interchange go through prices or cost-plus prices. These different terms all make reference to exactly the same factor. Helcim, our favorite processors, uses the word cost-plus prices. Additionally they give a very handy explainer of methods their prices plan works online.

Interchange-plus prices minute rates are usually expressed because the interchange rate along with a markup, which may be a portion, a set, per-transaction fee, or both. Helcim, for instance, presently charges interchange + .18% + $.08 per transaction for any retail transaction.

So, just how much will the interchange set you back? These charges are positioned directly through the charge card associations, plus they could possibly get pretty complicated. There are various rates for debit and charge cards, for instance, in addition to different rates for various kinds of charge cards. Card-present and card-not-present transactions also provide different rates, because they reflect the amount of risk the issuing bank takes in extending credit for any given transaction. Fortunately, Helcim supplies a handy review of Visa and MasterCard interchange rates online. In case you really wish to dig much deeper in to the subject, official rate information from Visa and MasterCard can also be available on the web.

Here’s a good example of how all of this works used:

You have a store and also have a credit card merchant account with Helcim. A person is available in and purchases a product for $100.00 (including tax). He pays having a MasterCard Consumer charge card. The interchange price is 1.580% + $.10, or $1.68. Helcim passes this cost for you, and so they charge a markup of .18% + $.08, or $.26. Your overall cost to take the charge card is $1.94, or 1.94%.

How Can Interchange-Plus Prices Save Me Money?

The essential flaw using the traditional tiered-prices model is it hides the interchange costs and enables processing companies to charge much more of a markup. By consolidating a multitude of rates right into a smaller sized quantity of tiers, processors can basically “round up” towards the greatest rate in every tier. Although this could make your monthly statement a great deal simpler to see, additionally, it means you’ll be having to pay greater rates for several transactions – and also you most likely won’t have the ability to tell which transactions are now being billed abnormally high rates.

By demonstrating the particular interchange costs, interchange-plus prices enables you to definitely easier see exactly what the markup is. Therefore encourages processors to create more modest markups. The charge card processing market is highly competitive, and processors realize that many retailers will join the organization that provides them the cheapest rates. This transparency in separating out interchange and markup costs generally leads to lower overall rates, and many interchange-plus prices plans can cost you less cash than the usual tiered-prices plan. However, you should know that there’s nothing stopping a processor from charging an unreasonably high markup. The main difference is it will always be simpler to place, particularly if you look around.

How About American Express?

American Express differs! Unlike Visa and MasterCard, American Express charge cards are issued directly by American Express – an economic services company. Thus, American Express can serve as both issuing bank and also the charge card association. This will result in lower rates, right? Wrong! Keep in mind that American Express requires its cardholders to repay their balance entirely each month. Although this is a seem financial practice for consumers, additionally, it deprives American stock exchange from the chance to charge interest around the delinquent charge card balances. They compensate for this by charging considerably greater processing rates than Mastercard or visa.

Until very lately, accepting American Express cards would be a real hassle, requiring retailers to register directly with American Express. In 2014, however, American Express introduced their OptBlue Prices plan, which enables retailers to simply accept American stock exchange cards through your regular credit card merchant account provider. Processing minute rates are still greater than Mastercard or visa, but it’s an absolute improvement within the older arrangement. Whilst not all credit card merchant account providers support OptBlue Prices, the majority of our preferred providers include it in their accounts.

Final Ideas

Generally, we really like interchange-plus prices. It can help you save lots of money, and it’s certainly a lot more transparent than traditional tiered-prices plans. The majority of our preferred providers offer it. Actually, most of the best and many innovative processors in the market (for example Dharma and Helcim) offer it solely.

Regrettably, that’s not necessarily the situation. Until fairly lately, interchange-plus prices was just open to bigger, more-established companies. Processors felt they could make amends for offering lower rates by only which makes it open to retailers who’d a really high monthly product sales. Traditional small companies were tied to tiered prices plans, and compelled to pay for reasonably limited for being small companies.

Today, getting interchange-plus prices is simpler than it’s have you been. However, it’s not really a guaranteed factor. Some processors still don’t offer it whatsoever. A number of other processors offer both tiered and interchange prices, plus they usually don’t disclose this fact within their advertising. Many of these processors also depend on independent sales people, who’ll – naturally – attempt to sign you track of a far more costly tiered prices plan. If you would like interchange-plus prices, you’ll have to inquire about it.

It’s also important to note that interchange-plus prices is not one hundredPercent guarantee of lower rates. Processors continue to be capable of making money at the expense by charging above-industry-average markups in their prices plan. The main difference is the fact that it’s much simpler to determine that they’re doing the work, a minimum of should you look around before joining a processor.

You should also consider the total cost of the credit card merchant account, particularly if you’re a smaller sized business. As we’ve noted above, your rate plan is just one part of the process. While it may be the biggest a part of that equation, you should also look carefully at monthly and annual charges before joining any processor. The supply of interchange-plus prices is not an assurance that you’ll receive the very best overall deal.

Our very best advice would be to look around before buying a specific provider. If you wish to save considerable time and aggravation by doing this, take a look at exactly what the best providers in the market have to give you first.

The publish Buying and selling Ease For Transparency With Interchange-Plus made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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How EMV Affects eCommerce

How EMV affects eCommerceEvery sector features its own language. The federal government, the military, and also the healthcare industry aren’t the only real ones that appear to possess more acronyms than actual words now, the non-public sector will get to participate in the esoteric fun. In the following paragraphs, I’ll reveal the most recent acronym that retailers have to know &#8211 EMV.

What It’s

Acronyms should make complex phrases simpler to speak, however the irony is the fact that some, like EMV, don’t communicate any helpful information.

What’s EMV?

EMV may be the standard which governs the brand new charge cards which use chips to keep consumer data additionally, it governs the POS hardware that recognizes individuals cards. The acronym means EuroPay, MasterCard, and Visa, that have been the banking institutions to initially get the standard. The EMV standard has become controlled by a consortium, with control split one of the global banking institutions of Visa, Mastercard, JCB, American Express, China UnionPay, and Uncover. As a result, you might even see EMVco in communication out of your a merchant account, but don’t worry &#8211 it’s exactly the same factor.

When the acronym were SCC (for Secure Nick Card) its common usage would stimulate significant words for that hearer. But apparently the PCI is vainglorious.

What’s different about EMV cards?

EMV cards, more in modern language referred to as Nick Cards, vary from the ever-present Magnetic Strip Cards in the way they keep card owner&#8217s data (namely, the charge card number, expiration date, and security codes). The chips also store apps. But don’t get too excited &#8211 you won’t be playing Angry Wild birds in your charge card in the near future. These apps are pretty straight forward programs which help result in the card so secure. They operate entirely without anyone’s knowledge, offering the best information within the exchange using the card readers, and they may also instantly generate special per-transaction “passwords” that stop your card from being duplicated in almost any significant way. This is actually the primary method in which they cut lower on charge card fraud.

Prepaid credit cards should be &#8220dipped&#8221 or placed right into a special card readers, instead of &#8220swiped&#8221 with the common magnetic strip readers. It has posed a bit of an issue, since while dipping the credit card isn’t a complex operation to understand, we’ve the “swipe” completely ingrained within our muscle memory. Employees may need extra training, and consumers may require time for you to overcome trepidation within the change. And I’m unsure what’s going to take place in American Sign Language, which still utilizes a sign for “credit card” which resembles the act of while using carbon-copy charge card machines from the 1970’s. However I digress.

What It Really Method For Retailers

What’s Promising

The good thing is these nick cards tend to be safer in card-present transactions, for example in-person swipes in a physical check out. Transactions using traditional cards are inclined to several ways of fraud, and issuing banks are only able to verify the identity from the user through the signature around the paper receipt. Considering that retailers need unreadable scribbles or perhaps smiley faces as signatures, anybody owning your card might make purchases without your consent. Most EMV-capable terminals make use of a PIN to ensure the identity from the cardholder. The attempted-and-true approach to securing your bank card in the ATM will be employed to secure your EMV card at each physical reason for purchase.

Unhealthy News

Unhealthy news is the fact that purchases made over the telephone or Internet (known as card-not-present, or CNP transactions) are simply as prone to fraudulent transactions because the magnetic strip cards are. Each issuing bank is attempting out its very own means of improving CNP security, but there’s presently no sufficiently elegant or efficient solution.

Another not so good news is the fact that, with all this elevated fraud protection in card-present transactions, the credit card-issuing banks have had the ability to effectively implement a &#8220liability shift&#8221. Which means that retailers will result in any fraud occurring because of non-approved hardware and operations.

To make use of Visa&#8217s vernacular, &#8220The party which has made purchase of EMV deployment is protected against financial liability for card-present counterfeit fraud losses about this date [March 1, 2015, within the U.S.]. If neither or both sides are EMV compliant, the fraud liability remains just like it’s today.&#8221 In a nutshell, which means that if you’ve updated your POS hardware and trained the employees, the issuing bank it’s still responsible to compensate fraud victims. But individuals retailers that aren’t compliant (by October 1, 2015) is going to be responsible to pay back fraud victims for his or her losses.

A couple of kinds of companies take presctiption another compliance schedule. Gasoline stations, for example, have to be compliant between 2017.

This liability shift doesn’t apply in CNP transactions, for example online, mobile, and also over-the-phone purchases.

What It Really Method For Customers

Apart from elevated fraud protection, hardly any can change for purchasers utilizing their new nick cards. Actually, current nick cards likewise incorporate that old familiar magnetic strip, to make sure backwards compatibility. Consumers can pay safely utilizing their nick with retailers who’ve updated terminals, and taking advantage of their magnetic strip for that &#8220late adopter” retailers available. This migration towards the EMV technology will probably take many years to end up being the new norm according to observations within the United kingdom, which began applying we’ve got the technology a couple of years back, Visa and MasterCard project that it could take before the year 2022 to achieve 90% saturation.

Having a change this gradual, most consumers is going to be comfortable and acquainted with the brand new cards lengthy before magnetic stripes die away entirely.

Before the market is able to completely eliminate the magnetic strip, consumers using the &#8220dip&#8221 method can experience slightly longer wait occasions in the register. This delay, merely a couple of seconds more than the &#8220swipe&#8221 method, is a result of processing the additional steps which will make the chips so secure. As technology progresses and also the EMV standard is improved upon, the additional transaction time will progressively disappear.

What Retailers Have To Do About This

There’s two ways of thinking.

Some retailers are ready as lengthy as they possibly can. They’re waiting to help make the shift to EMV compliance until there’s an extensive, unified solution that covers both POS and CNP transactions. They already know prototype and Version 1. technologies are inelegant, buggy, and liable is the most rapidly outdated, so that they watch for Consumer Reports to vet their cars, phones, and toaster ovens. And today, their POS too.

Other retailers see the opportunity to plug an opening within the financial boat, and invest immediately.

Both ways of thinking possess some knowledge, so it’s your choice. Personally, I believe when a couple of dollars spent can now save me potentially thousands later, it’s a no-brainer. Even when a more recent, better POS is released six several weeks from now, this is actually the price of conducting business.

Just how will the EMV shift affect eCommerce? Well, if you’re conducting business solely online, there’s very little you can do at this time. MasterCard is attempting out its Nick Authentication Program, and Visa includes a near-identical Dynamic Passcode Authentication program. These two solutions are actually placed at the disposal of the customer (and never the merchant) through personal handheld card readers. These visitors mainly for that reassurance from the consumer, nor benefit nor harm the merchant by any means.

Should you&#8217re doing any company in a physical reason for purchase, there&#8217s very little need to delay switching. Obtain the new card readers installed, get the employees acquainted with their use, and obtain busy experiencing the same-or-better fraud protection you&#8217ve always had. And you never know? You may also encourage customer loyalty for that mere appearance more secure and tech-savvy transaction processing.

The publish How EMV Affects eCommerce made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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Shopify vs Square

shopify-vs-square
Square is probably the most comprehensive free mPOS app out there. It was really the first company to make card processing widely available to everyone using just a free card reader and a smartphone.

Shopify launched in 2006 as e-commerce software. Like Square and mobile payments, Shopify has made selling online much easier for merchants, especially those who are just starting out with their business.

Not only that, both companies have since branched out considerably. Square now offers a comprehensive suite of business products for merchants who want to sell in store, online, and on-the-go. And Shopify has branched out from e-commerce with a powerful POS system and its own payments service, so merchants don’t need to have a merchant account.

The result is that two services that started off catering to very different audiences now have very similar offerings. Square and Shopify both have powerful POS apps targeted for iPads, a mobile solution, and multiple e-commerce options. Both give you tools you need to run a brick-and-mortar shop beyond just a POS app. 

Their card processing rates are also identical, with a couple of important caveats. The first of these is that Square and its POS app, Square Register, are completely free, while Shopify will charge you a baseline monthly fee, plus the credit card fees, plus additional fees for add-ons. The second of these caveats is that if you opt for higher-priced packages, you can also get lower processing rates.

Square is still the better option for merchants who only process credit card payments sporadically (such as artists who vend at conventions and art shows), because there’s no monthly fee. If your e-commerce site only gets a little traffic and your sales are infrequent, you’re better off using Square as well. But if your online sales are good enough to justify the added cost, Shopify has some very nice features and stunning themes for your store.

So what if you sell online and in-store, or on the go? The answer isn’t quite as clear-cut.

As a merchant, which one should you choose? Which service is the better value? Which has the best features? That depends largely on your own particular situation. Read on for a detailed comparison and find out which service comes out on top in the Shopify vs. Square debate.

Products and Services:

Winner: Shopify

Bear with me, but there’s a LOT to discuss here. Let’s look at each of the core offerings — POS app, payment processing, and e-Commerce, and see how they stack up individually.

POS App

Shopify’s POS used to be strictly for iOS, but as of January 2016, the app is now available for Android smartphones and tablets, too. Square, too, supports your choice of Android and iOS devices. However, to make the best use of either app, you need an iPad, as many of the best features are only available there. You’ll also find that you can use the app on any number of devices without needing to pay for additional license fees (but you won’t be able to differentiate among employees without paying for that feature).

Shopify POS Features:

  • Accept all forms of payment: Credit card, debit card, cash, check, and other customized payment methods — even Bitcoin.*
  • Split tender: This is useful and you can actually accept more than just 2 payment forms on a transaction.
  • Discounts: Apply discounts on individual items or on the whole order, by percentage or dollar amount.
  • Store credit: The only fault with the store credit option is that there’s really no accountability in it. You can simply mark a payment as paid via store credit, with no need for proof of it at all. Still, this is a useful feature.
  • Reporting: Track sales, compare how products are selling, monitor traffic to your store, customer data, and more. With the higher-tiered plans you can even built custom reports. Data can be exported to CSV, as well.
  • Item limits: The limit on the number of items you can include in Shopify POS depends on which device you’re running the app from. Also note that you can choose to hide or delete items depending on what you need. However, your Shopify store can have unlimited items and you don’t need to sync them all with your POS unless you want to. (It’s worth noting that you can’t actually make updates to items in Shopify POS, only through the browser interface.)
  • Item variants: Set different colors/styles/pricing for your various items.
  • Syncing: Shopify automatically syncs inventory and product information across all your sales channels.
  • Email/print receipts: Send digital receipts, or if you have an iPad and Shopify’s retail package, print them out.
  • Inventory: Shopify’s inventory features are pretty impressive. In addition to tracking your stock levels across every channel where you sell, you can print barcodes, manage products you order from suppliers and automatically update inventory counts, and more. You won’t get low-stock alerts without an add-on, though.
  • Employee accounts: In a retail setup, knowing who is ringing up sales is especially important. With Shopify’s retail package, you can assign individual staff PINs, track register shifts and sales, and more.
  • Invoicing: Shopify actually has a simple form you can fill out to auto-generate an invoice. You can email it to customers, save it, or print it out.
  • Full/partial refunds: Issue a refund or issue store credit.
  • Gift cards (iPad only): You can only get gift cards if you opt for the Standard plan or higher. However, you can sell physical and digital gift cards.
  • Offline capabilities: You can’t log in during an outage, but if you are already logged in you can still accept payments other than credit cards. This is very limited functionality, but it could get you through an outage mostly fine.
  • Auth-capture: You can pre-authorize a transaction for 7 days in Shopify, which isn’t the longest period of time we’ve seen, but absolutely workable if you need this feature.
  • Tax rate calculation: Shopify will auto-detect your tax rate based on your store’s location (if using the POS), or based on your shipping zones for eCommerce. Shopify doesn’t calculate tax for international orders. However, Shopify does generate tax reports for you if you have Shopify Standard or higher. You can also set up tax overrides for entire collections of products or individual products (or product variants, such as digital books vs print editions). Just remember to confirm that Shopify’s tax rate is correct when you get started.
  • Loyalty programs: This is not a native feature to Shopify. If you want a loyalty program, you’ll have to start looking at apps in the Shopify ecosystem and find one that works for you. There’s at least 1 free program, but the more advanced systems will cost you more.

*Shopify POS lets you connect external terminals and third-party payment providers, which may cost you more. 

Square Register Features: 

  • Accept credit card payments: You can also log cash and check transactions, but this feature isn’t nearly as robust as Shopify’s.
  • Split Tender: Accept cash and card, or cash and check, or check and card.
  • Discounts: Apply discounts on individual items or on the whole order, by percentage or dollar amount.
  • Reporting: Square’s reporting features are pretty solid, but they’re not quite on the same level as Shopify’s. Still, Square’s reporting will cover all the basics and does have some advanced filters so you can customize the data.
  • Item variants: Set different colors/styles/pricing for your various items.Square prefers to call these “price points” and you can track them in inventory. You can also add item modifiers, which are add-ons that don’t affect your inventory counts, though restaurants are far more likely to use this feature than retail shops.
  • Syncing: Square’s inventory feature will automatically sync across your online store and Square Register, and you can view it in the online dashboard.
  • Low-stock alerts: Square will send you daily email alerts for low- or out-of-stock products. Being able to get a daily alert is very useful for busy merchants, especially because Square lets you set the threshold for low-stock alerts.
  • Email/SMS/print receipts: Send digital receipts via email or SMS, or if you have an iPad, print them.
  • Inventory: Square has a solid free inventory management system, but you can also integrate with Stitch Labs and other inventory services.
  • Employee accounts:You can use Square on any number of devices, but if you want employee accounts, multiple permissions, and timekeeping, you’ll need to sign up for Square’s employee management ($5 per employee per month)
  • Invoicing: Send invoices from within Square Register or online.
  • Full/partial refunds: Pretty self explanatory here.
  • Gift cards: No subscription required, no redemption fees. Just pay the cost of the cards themselves, and load them up on demand. Note these are physical cards only, but you can use them online.
  • Offline capabilities: Square’s Offline Mode is actually one of the most powerful I’ve seen. You can still process credit cards during an outage, and they’ll go through so long as you connect to the Internet within 72 hours. The caveat, of course, is that you’re assuming responsibility for any transactions that don’t go through.
  • Tax features: You can disable or enable tax collection with Square, and set price to include tax, or have it added on separately. As with Shopify, you can enable or disable tax on specific items. However, there’s no auto-detect feature, so you need to manually look up your applicable tax rates.
  • Loyalty programs: For $25/month you can add a punch-based customer loyalty program. All consumers have to do is opt for a digital receipt. You can set the purchase requirements to earn a reward (Which could be a free item or a discount). It’s not the most advanced system, but it’s still pretty flexible.

Square also has a host of features/subscription services targeting restaurants and other service-based companies, none of which you’ll find in Shopify. This includes kitchen ticket printing, adding tip (by percentage or dollar amount), appointment booking, delivery services, and much more.

All in all, though, the two POS systems are about evenly matched. Shopify is more robust in most areas, such as its support for many payment methods and store credit, whereas Square shines with the simple things, like supporting SMS receipts as well as email, low-stock alerts, and its offline mode.

Card Processing

Shopify and Square are both aggregators — that means, when you sign up to process payments through either of them, you don’t get your own merchant account; your transactions are simply lumped in with everyone else’s. Shopify actually processes through Stripe Payments.

Aggregating is what has lead to the common complaints you get about Square holding funds or terminating accounts at random. Shopify generally appears to be more stable, which is good given that Stripe also has a reputation for funding holds and account terminations. However, I was still able to find a few complaints about account holds — I wouldn’t say Shopify is immune, but it does a lot better on the stability front. Most of those holds happen when merchants suddenly fall within Shopify’s requirements for 1099-K reporting.

We’ll look at specific processing rates later on, but for now, here’s what you need to know:

Shopify will let you use its Payments service at no extra charge beyond your swipe fees and monthly service charges. If you choose to use a third-party gateway (PayPal, Braintree, your own merchant account, etc.), you’ll be charged an extra 0.5-2% transaction fee. Note that you get a choice of more than 70 gateways, which is quite impressive. There’s no charge at all for accepting cash, check, or alternative payment methods (such as Bitcoin) using the POS app.

Square will lock you into using its service for payments. You’ll pay standard rates for credit card processing, and nothing for accepting cash and check. However, you can’t set up any other alternative payment methods and log them using Square (unless you want to mark them as cash/check).

Shopify has the advantage in terms of sheer versatility. I like that you can process through a third party and even connect terminals and PIN pads (allowing you to get interchange rates for debit, if your processor offers them), but a 2% transaction fee is high, especially for a small merchant. However, if you don’t need all the bells and whistles, Square is a solid option for payments. You’re covered for all the basics and you know exactly what you’re going to pay for each transaction, every time.

Both Shopify and Square now have APIs that allow you to build payment processing into your own apps as well.

eCommerce

Shopify started as an eCommerce product, and it’s stayed true to that idea with robust shopping cart software and an easy-to-use design that even newbies to selling online can handle. Features include:

  • Hosted site: Shopify provides hosting for your site with unlimited bandwidth and unlimited products.
  • Domains: Use your shopify hosted domain only, purchase a domain through Shopify and set up a redirect, use an existing domain with a redirect, or buy your own domain and set up the redirect. There are a lot of options.
  • Buy buttons: Even if you don’t have shopping cart software set up on a site, you can use Shopify’s buy buttons to enable purchases on the web, or in an app, or via email with the Buy Button feature.
  • Sell on social media: With Shopify you can set up a store directly on Facebook, and also sell on Twitter and Pinterest.
  • Abandoned cart recovery: Millennials are especially guilty of cart abandonment but with this feature, you can win them back. Only available for Shopify Standard and up.
  • Store migration: Making a switch? Use one of Shopify’s third-party add-ons to migrate your store from eBay, Amazon, and Magento without having to manually upload all of your products.
  • Import/export via CSV: Add your products to your store using Shopify’s CSV template.
  • Automatic data sync: Inventory is automatically updated and synced across all your sales channels, including your POS and social media.
  • Reporting: We’ve mentioned this already, but it bears repeating that you get some solid reporting features and can separate data by sales channel.
  • Order management: Shopify has some comprehensive order management tools that work in the app as well as through the dashboard. You can also get integrations to help with it.
  • Third-party integrations: There are a LOT of integrations out there for Shopify (just check out the app store). Some are free, some will cost you. But in addition to your standard accounting, inventory, and order management integrations, you can opt for a Fulfillment by Amazon integration and recurring billing/layaway services.
  • Discounted postage rates: Postage can be one of the biggest expenses for online shop owners, but if you print your postage through Shopify, you can get a discount. The higher-tiered packages give bigger discounts.
  • Many themes: Design-wise, Shopify gives you a huge selection of store themes and you can even customize them further if you have programming knowledge.

Square’s eCommerce support initially felt more like an after-thought. It was very limited, but lately the company has really expanded its offerings, which makes me happy.

  • Hosted site: Square will give you a webstore on its own domain. This feature is pretty limited, but it’s a great starter site and there’s no monthly cost.
  • Domains: You can also integrate your store with Weebly, Bigcommerce, or Ecwid. 
  • Import/export via CSV: Get your online store loaded up quickly, or update your inventory counts en masse. Also helpful for migrating stores.
  • Automatic data sync: Inventory is automatically updated and synced across your online store and the Register POS.
  • Reporting: All of your data is available and can be downloaded from the Square dashboard.
  • Third-party integrations: Square’s list of integrations includes some robust inventory and order management tools. There’s a custom API you can use to create your own.
  • Order management: You can manage your orders through Square’s online dashboard, but not in the app. Integrations can extend the functionality.

Shopify offers far more eCommerce features, but it’ll be interesting to see what Square does in the future. It’s also worth mentioning that if you opt to integrate your existing site with Square, you’re going to get the benefits of whatever shopping cart software you choose, so even if Square lacks a feature you need, you might be able to get it another way.

Compatible Hardware:

Winner: Shopify

Both Square and Shopify offer a range of hardware options, from free credit card readers to full-fledged retail kits with everything you need for a conventional register setup.

At the very least, you’re going to need a card reader to use with your smartphone or tablet. You have a couple different options there:

Shopify Card Reader Options:

  • Magstripe reader: Free
  • EMV/NFC reader: $129 (retail: $149)
  • Lightning magstripe reader: $99 (includes charging capabilities)
  • Third party terminals and PIN pads: $199 and up

Square Card Reader Options: 

  • Magstripe reader: Free
  • EMV/Magstripe reader: $29
  • EMV/NFC reader: $49 (includes free magstripe reader)
  • EMV/NFC reader with PIN pad: $129 (iOS only)

That’s just for the basic setup for smartphones or tablet. If you happen to have an iPad, you can take advantage of both services’ more advanced features (such as receipt printing), but you’ll need more hardware. Both provide ready-to-go retail bundles that you can use to set up your register.

Shopify Retail Kit

A bundled, ready-to-go retail kit from (excluding your tablet) costs $779. That includes:

  • iPad stand (retail price $129)
  • Bluetooth receipt printer ($399)
  • 16-inch cash drawer ($139)
  • EMV/NFC card reader ($139).

You can also purchase each piece of hard hardware separately, but buying the bundle will save you about $25. Other available hardware includes:

  • Barcode reader ($229/$399)
  • Barcode dock ($79)
  • Barcode printer ($119)
  • EMV/NFC reader dock ($39)
  • Cash drawers ($139-$349)

Square Retail Kit 

Square offers a few options for retail kits that range from $486 to $659, depending on your tablet (it even offers kits for select Android tablets. The iPad Air kit, which is $659, includes the following:

  • Square stand ($99)
  • USB receipt printer ($299)
  • Bundle of receipt paper ($49)
  • 16-inch cash drawer ($229).

Note that doesn’t include an EMV-compliant card reader (the Square Stand has a basic built-in magstripe reader), which will add $29 to $129 to the cost, depending on which EMV reader you want. You can add an iPad Air for $399, as well.

Something worth noting is that Square does not officially support bar code printers, whereas Shopify does. Some Square users have had luck with a Dymo printer, but there’s absolutely no guarantee.

Other available hardware includes:

  • Barcode scanner ($199)
  • EMV/NFC reader dock ($29)

Square actually offers a selection of both wireless and Ethernet-based receipt printers, as well as a kitchen receipt printer, and multiple cash drawers. With Shopify, there’s only one receipt printer but you do get multiple cash drawers.

It really comes down to your person needs. I like that Shopify’s kit includes an EMV card reader by default, because it is very important for businesses to transition over to accepting the new chip cards. It’s a nice thought that Square includes receipt paper, but I think an EMV reader is a lot more important.

Fees and Rates:

Winner: Square

At first glance, Shopify and Square appear to have identical pricing: 2.7% for swiped transactions and 2.9% + $0.15 for online transactions. Simple, right?

However, that doesn’t account for Shopify’s monthly fee or its retail add-on package, or the transaction fees if you choose another payment processor. Depending on which features you need, the cost of Shopify can really start to add up over time, especially with add-ons. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you should look closely at your budget and projected sales to see if you can justify the expense.

Square Fees

Square will charge you $0 in monthly fees, PCI compliance, etc. You will pay nothing beyond the credit card transaction fees unless you opt for one of the add-on services (appointment booking, email marketing, employee time management/payroll). It really, really is that simple.

  • Credit card fees: 2.7% swiped, 3.5% + $0.15?? keyed, 2.9% + $0.30 eCommerce.

Shopify Fees

There are four Shopify plans. As you can expect, with higher-tiered plans, you get a greater number of features. Check out the Shopify pricing page for a full breakdown of features:

Shopify Lite ($9/month) 

  • Facebook store
  • Buy buttons
  • Shopify POS
  • Invoicing
  • 24/7 support
  • Credit card rates: 2..7% swiped, 2.9% + $0.30 eCommerce

Shopify Basic ($29/month)

  • 2 staff accounts
  • 24/7 support
  • Online store + blog
  • Discount codes
  • Fraud analysis
  • Sell on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest
  • Credit card rates: 2..7% swiped, 2.9% + $0.30 eCommerce

Shopify Standard ($79/month)

  • Everything in Shopify Basic
  • 5 staff accounts
  • Professional reports
  • Gift cards
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Credit card rates: 2.6% + $0.30 per online and 2.4% for swiped transactions,

Shopify Advanced: $299/month

  • Everything in Shopify Standard
  • 15 staff accounts
  • Advanced report builder
  • Real-time carrier shipping
  • Credit card rates: 2.4% + $0.30 for online/2.2% swiped.

The plan I really want to draw your attention to is Shopify Lite. If you are just starting out, this is the most affordable option, and you can still sell online via Facebook or your own site (or even Tumblr). If you find that Shopify is right for you, you can upgrade to the Basic or Standard plans. If that’s still too much of an expense, or you want a hosted eCommerce site without paying for it, you’re better off with Square.

For large businesses, there’s Shopify Plus, which is the company’s enterprise solution with custom pricing based on your volume and features.

Shopify Retail Package 

If you want to track staff shifts and run a proper register setup with receipt printers and other hardware on your Shopify POS, it won’t come cheap. You need the Retail Package, which will give you individual PINs for your staffers and allow you to use hardware and integrations for $40/month.

This is where it’s worth doing the math. Square doesn’t charge you for using add-on hardware. But it will charge you for employee management (timekeeping and staff IDs). That’s $5/employee monthly, so if you have more than 8 employees, Shopify winds up being the better value, if we’re just counting the retail package, not the monthly fee.

Shopify Transaction Fees

We’ve already covered what you’ll pay if you use Shopify payments to process credit cards. (Note: there’s no fee at all for cash, check, or alternative payment methods). But what if you already have a credit card processor and just need an eCommerce solution and mobile processing? Shopify will let you do that!

It’ll just cost you.

Let’s say you’ve got a great interchange-plus plan where you’re actually getting the very low debit interchange rates. You’ve got a PIN pad so your customers can process cards as debit.

First of all, you need to have the Retail package — so that’s $40 plus whatever Shopify plan you have. You’ll pay your credit card processor whatever they normally charge, and then an additional percentage to Shopify.

  • Shopify Basic: 2%
  • Shopify Standard: 1%
  • Shopify Advanced: 0.5%

So that’s a lot to consider. I highly encourage you to do the math and figure out where the best deal lies for you!

Contract Length and Early Termination Fee:

Winner: Tie

Square has no contracts what so ever. Everything is pay-as-you-go, with all of its add-ons on a monthly subscription. You can even try each service out for 30 days, no charge.

Shopify is a monthly service. You can pay for an annual package and save some money per-month, but otherwise there are no contracts or obligations. You can get a 14-day trial, no credit card required.

Either way, there’s no long-term commitment, which is a serious advantage.

Sales and Advertising Transparency:

Winner: Tie

Overall, Square and Shopify are both very transparent as far as their sales and advertising go. There’s no hidden fees, no contracts, no sneaky auto-renewal clauses. I like the resources that both companies put out — blog posts on topics that merchants should be aware of, and tips for helping their businesses thrive. This is important, especially when serving small businesses. We live in the information age, and yes, content is king. You should absolutely expect this out of any service you use — especially in the payments space. Educated merchants make for better customers.

Both are doing very well on the social media front as well, with active Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages, as well as dedicated Twitter support channels (@SqSupport and @ShopifySupport, respectively).

This is exactly what we like to see. You know exactly what you’re paying for, you know all of the terms, and you know what you’re getting. Best of all, you can move on whenever you’re ready.

Customer Service and Technical Support:

Winner: Shopify

Shopify is the clear winner in this category. No matter what Shopify plan you have, you get 24/7 access to the support team, which is astounding. Not only that, but the support team’s overall reputation is quite good, with timely responses and helpful answers. I also like that Shopify’s knowledge base is incredibly detailed. You should be able to get answers to a lot of the questions you’ll have without having to get anyone on the line. You can also get email, live chat, and phone support. There’s a community forum, and Shopify will even help pair you with experts who will help you complete your project. This is a convenient way to get up and running if you have more capital but not a lot of time or know-how — expect to pay for these experts’ time and insights.

Square…well, if you check out our Square review, you’ll see what others have said. While the company has made major strides to improve, it’s far from perfect. That said, Square’s knowledgebase is astounding. As with Shopify, unless you’re dealing with a complex, account-specific problem, you’ll be able to find an answer without having to contact one. You can get phone support, but you’ll have to get a code first. Otherwise, it’s email only to contact Square directly. It’s also interesting to note that Square just added a user forum where merchants can connect. I expect to see this feature take off soon.

Negative Reviews and Complaints:

Winner: Shopify

Square’s complaints fall into two categories, mostly: account holds/terminations and bad customer support. The issues are related, too: merchants find out their accounts have been shut down or funds are being held until additional verification is required, and run into a brick wall when it comes to support and getting the matter resolved. We’ve seen an overall improvement on this front, but these are no minor concerns. (Another concern we’ve seen a lot of recently is faulty EMV hardware, but Square is generally good about replacing it.)

The complaints about Shopify are far different. One of the biggest complaints is that you can’t get a hosted payment page — any time customers complete a purchase they’re directed to checkout.shopify.com, which may drive off some potential buyers, who are understandably wary. Another common complaint is the difficulty of learning Shopify’s programming language, Liquid. If you want to make code-level tweaks to your site you are much better off hiring a Shopify expert. Something else that comes up quite often is that many of the apps and integrations available through Shopify aren’t free. This isn’t surprising, but it can be understandably frustrating for merchants, especially those who are just starting out.

We have found a few complaints about Shopify holding merchants funds, but nowhere near on the scale of Square or even Stripe, through which Shopify processes payments.

Positive Reviews and Testimonials:

Winner: Shopify

Most of the positive chatter you will find about Square comes from the Reviews page, or big news publications (linked to on said page). From general user chatter, merchants love how easy it is to get started, the fact that all of the core features are free, and the overall ease of use. The fact that it offers an EMV reader for just $29 is amazing when most hardware runs upward of $100 is nice, especially for merchants who are just starting out, and the offline mode can be very useful.

With Shopify, people also rave about the ease of use. The fact that you have so many gorgeous themes to choose from with your online store is a major advantage. The rates are competitive (especially if you use Shopify Payments), and with the higher-tiered plans you get some really great features especially. But even the basic plans have everything you need.

Final Verdict:

Winner: Shopify

It’s difficult to say unequivocally that Shopify or Square is better than the other. Shopify does have many more advantages than Square — more robust POS app and eCommerce features, round-the-clock customer service, and less of a reputation for holds. But that doesn’t mean that Square isn’t a good choice for some merchants. Especially for new merchants, Square makes a LOT of sense.

Let’s look at a few key factors that will influence your decision:

Cost: Square is by far the less expensive service, especially if you are just starting out. If your online sales or in-person credit card payments are infrequent, Square’s pay-as-you-go plan with no monthly fee is ideal. As your cash flow improves, and business steadies, it makes more sense to invest the cash in tools that will make managing your business easier (and less time-consuming!).

Features: Square Register is easily the most robust free mPOS app out there. But that’s among free apps. Shopify isn’t free, and when you look at the feature sets, it’s pretty clear why. You’ll get more features suited to growing eCommerce and retail businesses than you would with Square. If you are doing steady business, you should absolutely consider upgrading if the features work for you.

Add-Ons and Integrations: How do you run your business? Do you print barcodes for every product? If not, the fact that Shopify supports barcode printers and scanners is probably irrelevant to you. But what other services do you use for your business? Both Shopify and Square offer a custom API that you can use to integrate if you have the technical know-how, but if you don’t, which one has a greater selection of ready-to-go integrations that suit your business? Keep in mind that Shopify’s app store is full of a huge selection of free and paid integrations that can do everything from help you migrate your inventory from eBay to Shopify to setting up layaway plans.

Level of Support: Hands-down, you will get better customer support from Shopify than Square. You can contact them 24/7 by email, phone, and live chat, whereas Square only offers email and phone (during limited hours and only with a code). Both have community forums and pretty respectable knowledge bases, so most of the basic technical questions may not ever require contacting a support person. It also bears mentioning that Shopify allows you to connect with experts who can get you set up, or take your business to the next level. If having someone you can reach at any time with questions is of the utmost importance to you, then Shopify is the obvious solution. If you’re the go-it-alone type, Square should do you just fine.

I hope this has helped you understand some of the big differences between Shopify and Square! They look quite similar at first glance, but when you scratch beneath the surface you’ll find they both have so much to offer. You absolutely need to consider costs when making the choice, but keep in mind your long-term goals and the features you are most interested in pursuing.

Have experience with either or both of these services? We’d love to hear from you, too! Leave a comment! And as always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us!

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