What Is Payment Processing?

What Is Payment Processing?

Running your own business always works much better when your customers actually pay you for the products and services you provide for them. Paying for purchases has become a lot more complicated in the modern world than it used to be. It wasn’t all that long ago that cash and paper checks were the preferred payment methods, but now consumers increasingly prefer credit or debit cards. Online payments, while commonplace today, have only been available for a little over twenty years. The recent introduction of NFC-based payments, which allow a consumer to make a payment with their smartphone (or smartwatch), adds yet another way for your customers to complete a purchase.

Each of these payment methods requires specific hardware (and, in some cases, software) that you’ll need if you want to support them. The days of just having a cash drawer in your shop are long gone. In this article, we’ll review the various payment methods you’ll want to be able to accept, as well as explain how those payment methods are processed so you can receive your money.

Payment Methods

Customers have a lot more options for paying for purchases today than they did just a few years ago. While cash is still the simplest payment method, it’s fallen out of favor as the use of credit and debit cards has risen. Merchants, of course, prefer to be paid in cash because they don’t need a merchant account to process these transactions, and they receive 100% of the sale price immediately. Paper checks are almost as good, although they require a trip to the bank and there is a significant risk of fraud or having the check “bounce” due to insufficient funds. While some customers prefer to pay in cash or by paper check, they’re a dwindling minority. Most customers today will want to use a credit or debit card, which requires a merchant account and a processor to ensure you receive your payment.

Credit Card Processing

While credit cards have been around for over 100 years, their use has skyrocketed within the past few decades. Although this has also led to a nationwide crisis in consumer credit card debt, it’s also created headaches for merchants who have to set up a merchant account and pay for processing costs. Nonetheless, credit card use has become so prevalent that for most merchants, the additional sales more than make up for the cost of maintaining a merchant account.

While most credit cards are issued by banks, they’re also sponsored by a small number of credit card associations, such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. These entities charge a variety of fees whenever a purchase is made with one of their cards. These fees are collectively known as interchange. When a transaction is processed, the processor will charge you both the interchange and a markup in exchange for its processing service. Unfortunately, interchange rates vary widely based on the type of card used and other factors, and this has made it easier for processors to rake in higher profits by offering merchants “simplified” processing rate plans such as flat-rate or tiered pricing. For this reason, we recommend interchange-plus pricing for most established businesses. This pricing method adds a fixed markup to each transaction, regardless of types. Example: interchange + 0.30% + $0.15 per transaction. While the interchange variable will vary widely with each transaction, the markup that you pay to your processor will always be the same.

In addition to paying processing rates for each transaction, maintaining a merchant account also usually requires the payment of a variety of account fees. These fees are different for every processor, and sometimes even among merchants using the same processor. For a more in-depth discussion of merchant account fees, please see our Complete Guide to Credit Card Processing Rates and Fees.

The advent of interconnected banking and credit card processing networks has drastically sped up the process of purchasing with a credit card. While the transaction approval process is rather complicated, it can be completed within just a few seconds in most cases. Here’s a very simplified explanation: The consumer’s credit card data is submitted to the processing network, which contacts the issuing bank to ensure that sufficient credit is available on the consumer’s account to cover the cost of the purchase. Several anti-fraud checks are also completed, and if no red flags are raised, the transaction is approved. The processor then processes the transaction, paying the interchange to the issuing bank and credit card associations, and keeping the remainder of the processing charge. Only then are funds released to the business owner’s merchant account. Unfortunately, this part of the process takes much longer, as most merchants submit their transactions in a batch at the end of the day. It can take up to several days before funds are deposited into your account.

Debit Card Processing

Paying with a debit card is also increasingly popular with consumers, particularly for small, day-to-day purchases such as groceries and automobile fuel. These transactions are also much easier to process, as the issuing bank doesn’t have to decide as to whether to issue a credit to the consumer to cover the cost of the purchase. As long as there are sufficient funds in the consumer’s bank account, the transaction will usually be approved.

Because there is no need to issue a credit, the overall risk associated with debit card use is significantly lower than it is with credit cards. For this reason, the interchange rates for debit card use are substantially lower as well. One of the reasons we encourage you to avoid tiered pricing plans is that many of the processors that offer these plans charge the same rates for debit card use as they do for credit cards. This can result in you paying significantly more for debit card processing than you should. This issue is also a shortcoming with flat-rate pricing plans offered by providers like Square (see our review). However, the lack of account fees usually associated with these types of processors often outweighs this consideration, especially for small or seasonal businesses.

eCheck (ACH) Payment Processing

Although it’s becoming less common, some consumers still prefer to pay by check whenever possible. Merchants can accept paper checks without the need for an eCheck processing service, and you’ll receive 100% of the sale price. However, you’ll have to make a trip to the bank to cash the check, and it might be rejected due to insufficient funds. There’s also the possibility of losing a paper check.

eCheck processing services eliminate all these problems, but they’re not free. Because not all merchants need them, most providers offer eCheck processing as an optional service, and charge a monthly fee for it (usually $20.00 – $30.00). You’ll also have to pay a small transaction fee for each processed check, but it’s much less than most credit or debit card transactions.

Most eCheck processing services require the use of a check scanner, which scans an electronic copy of the check and submits it to the customer’s bank to confirm the availability of funds. As long as the check won’t bounce, the transaction is approved immediately. Because of the monthly fees associated with most eCheck processing services, we recommend them only to businesses that accept a high volume of paper checks from their customers.

Digital Wallet Acceptance

We’re using the term “digital wallet” here to include payment methods that rely on near-field communication (NFC) technology. NFC-based payment methods utilize small, very short-range radios in both the consumer’s payment device (typically a smartphone or smartwatch) and the merchant’s credit card terminal. Apple Pay and Google Pay are currently the most popular forms of NFC-based payments. This technology has only been on the market for a few years and acceptance has been slow. The use of this payment method is growing, however, and merchants should consider adding it to meet the increasing demand. NFC payment methods are, of course, ultimately tied to the user’s credit or debit card, and these transactions are processed as a regular card transaction without any additional fees or markup. While they’re generally not available to independent merchants, other forms of digital wallet payment, such as Walmart’s proprietary Walmart Pay, use the smartphone’s camera and a QR code scanner to accept payments.

Payment Processing Methods

Credit and debit card transactions will be processed either through a traditional, full-service merchant account or a third-party payment processor like Square (see our review). While eCheck payments also go through your merchant account, they are processed under an Automated Clearing House (ACH) system that’s separate from the one used to process credit/debit cards.

Merchant Account and Payment Gateway

Merchant accounts can be used to accept both card-present and card-not-present transactions. Processing rates for card-not-present transactions are usually higher due to the higher level of risk associated with not having the cardholder’s magstripe or EMV data available. While card-present transactions require a magstripe or EMV terminal, card-not-present transactions can be keyed in manually or processed online using a payment gateway. While eCommerce-only merchants require a gateway to accept payments, retailers don’t need them. However, they’re becoming increasingly popular with retail merchants who want to add an online sales channel or take advantage of their integration with cloud-based reporting or inventory management applications.

Third-Party Payment Processor

Third-party payment processors (also known as payment service providers (PSPs)) offer credit/debit card processing services without a full-service merchant account. These types of payment processors are also known as aggregators, as they combine their merchant’s accounts rather than issue each business a unique merchant identification number. This arrangement eliminates most of the account fees associated with traditional merchant accounts, but also results in an increased risk of account freezes or terminations. Third-party processors generally charge using a simplified flat-rate pricing plan with rates that are higher than those available under interchange-plus pricing. The most well-known PSPs include Square (see our review) and PayPal (see our review).

ACH Payment Processor

As we’ve noted above, eCheck payments go through a separate processing method than credit/debit cards. While it’s possible to have an eCheck-only service without the need for a merchant account, this arrangement won’t be practical for most businesses. eCheck processing is usually offered as an optional service (at additional cost) due to the decreasing use of paper checks by consumers.

Final Thoughts

With so many payment methods to choose from, you’ll have to decide which ones are important to your business. While there are still a handful of cash-only businesses out there, today most retail merchants accept credit and debit cards due to the increased sales generated by offering this payment option. Whether you need a full-service merchant account or a third-party payment processor will depend on the size and nature of your business. Merchants operating seasonally or processing only a few thousand dollars per month can usually save money by signing up with a third-party payment processor. Most other businesses will require a full-service merchant account due to the lower processing costs and increased account security. For a brief overview of our highest-rated merchant account providers, check out our Merchant Account Comparison Chart.

The post What Is Payment Processing? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Enter Credit Card Payments In QuickBooks Pro

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Entering credit card payments into QuickBooks doesn’t have to be confusing. If you’re not sure how to enter credit card payments or partial payments, don’t worry.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about entering credit card payments in QuickBooks Pro in 10 simple steps.

Reconcile Your Credit Card

You may not have known this, but before you enter credit card payments, you need to reconcile your credit card. This safeguards against any errors and makes entering payments easier (just watch and see).

To begin, go to Banking>Reconcile Credit Card. Be sure to have your credit card statement handy.

Step 1: Select Your Credit Card

Select the credit card account you wish to reconcile.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 2: Choose Statement Date

Use the drop-down calendar to enter the statement date on your credit card statement.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 3: Enter Your Ending Balance

Enter the ending balance exactly as it appears on your credit card statement.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 4: Enter Any Finance Charges

Use the “Finance Charge” box to enter any finance fees (or interest fees). Enter the date the finance fee was charged and select an account like “Interest Expense” to categorize your finance charge.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Then click the blue “Continue” button.

Step 5: Reconcile Your Account

Once you click “Continue,” you’ll be taken to a bank reconciliation screen that looks something like this. The charges and cash advances associated with your credit card will appear on the left, while your payments and credits will appear on the right.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Go through your credit card statement line by line. For each individual transaction on your credit card statement, find the matching transaction in QuickBooks and click it. Continue until all the transactions on your credit card statement are selected.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Once all of the transactions are selected, go to the bottom right-hand side of your QuickBooks screen. The difference should be zero. If not, something’s gone wrong and you’ll need to pinpoint the mistake (you could be missing a transaction, have been charged twice by the credit card company, or have entered the wrong ending balance).

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 6: Save

When the difference is 0.00, your credit card account is balanced! Now click the blue “Reconcile Now” button.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 7: Write A Check

QuickBooks will take you to this screen:

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

The “Write a check for payment now” option makes entering a credit card payment easy. You can select that option right away and click “OK,” or you can go in and write a check at a later time.

After you click “OK,” you may receive this popup notification about your reconciliation report. You can view or print a summary reconciliation report or a more detailed reconciliation report.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Enter A Credit Card Payment

You can either enter a credit card payment by following the reconciliation step above and clicking the “Write a check for payment now” option at the end, or you can go straight to the “Write Checks” icon on the Home page.

Step 1: Select Payment Account

Select the account you will be using to pay for your credit card charges (not the credit card account you are paying).

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 2: Select Credit Card Account

Now, skip down to where it says “Account.” Here is where you will select the actual credit card account you are paying. If you come straight from the reconciliation screen, this information will be automatically filled in.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 3: Choose Your Vendor

Go back to the top and use the drop-down menu to select the vendor you are making the payment to.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 4: Enter Check Number

Enter a check number (or adjust the existing check number if needed).

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 5: Enter Date

Use the drop-down calendar to make sure the proper payment date is selected.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 6: Enter Payment Amount

If you came straight from the reconciliation screen, QuickBooks will automatically fill in the total outstanding balance on your card. However, you may want to adjust this total or make a partial payment. If that’s the case, enter the custom payment amount.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 7: Write a Memo

You can include a menu to describe this payment if you’d like.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 8: Add Additional Information

At this time, verify that the account name and amount appear correctly and add any additional information (such as another memo).

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 9: Save Your Payment

Once your payment looks correct, click the “Save & Close” button. Hit the “Save & New” button if you’re planning on writing more checks.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Step 10: Check Your Payment

Lastly, go to Lists>Chart of Accounts and select your credit card. You’ll see a screen with all of the recorded charges and payments. Double check that your payment has been properly recorded and that the outstanding balance looks right.

How To Enter A Credit Card Payment In QuickBooks Pro

Once you’ve done this, you’ve successfully recorded your credit card payments in QuickBooks! For more credit card help, check out the other posts in our QuickBooks Pro 101 Series.

For troubleshooting issues, check out the QuickBooks Community or call QuickBooks directly. If you have any further questions, leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to help you.

How To Reconcile A Bank Account

How To Enable Live Bank Feeds

How To Enter A Bill

The post How To Enter Credit Card Payments In QuickBooks Pro appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

QuickBooks Desktop Pro 101 Series

If you have a business credit card, you probably make charges all the time. But how do you enter a credit card charge into QuickBooks Pro?

In this post, we’ll cover the two different ways to enter credit card charges in QuickBooks Desktop Pro so that you can properly manage your business’s finances.

Create A Credit Card Account

Before you can enter credit card charges, you need to make sure that there is an account for your credit card in your chart of accounts. If you’ve read How To Set Up Your QuickBooks Account, you may have already done this. But we’ll go over the process again briefly below.

Begin by going to Lists>Chart of Accounts>Account>New.

Step 1: Select Credit Card

Choose the “Credit Card” option; then click the blue “Continue” button.

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Step 2: Enter The Account Name

Enter the name you want associated with your credit card account (i.e. Business Credit Card, Capital One Card, Bank Of America 1234, etc.).

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Step 3: Write A Description (Optional)

If you’d like, you can add a description to your credit card account.

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Step 4: Enter Your Credit Card Number (Optional)

Type in your credit card number if you want QuickBooks to remember this information.

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Step 5: Attach A Tax Line (Optional)

You can attach a tax line to your credit card if you’d like. However, Quickbooks recommends that you leave this field blank unless you are a CPA or tax professional. Read more about tax lines by clicking the blue “How do I choose the right tax line?” link.

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Step 6: Input Your Opening Balance (Optional)

You can add an opening balance for your account. You can also select the date of your opening balance using the drop-down calendar.

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Step 7: Save Credit Card Account

Click the blue “Save & Close” button to save your credit card account.

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Manually Enter Credit Card Charges

To manually enter your credit card charges, go to Banking>Enter Credit Card Charges, or find the “Enter Credit Card Charges” icon on the QuickBooks Pro home screen.

Step 1: Select Your Credit Card

Select the proper credit card for the credit card charge you want to enter (if you only have one credit card, QuickBooks will automatically select that credit card account).

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Step 2: Verify Type Of Credit Card Transaction

Take a moment to make sure that “Purchase/Charge” is selected so that your credit card charge is properly recorded.

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Step 3: Choose Your Vendor

Select the vendor associated with the credit card charge. You may need to create a new vendor. See our How To Add Vendors In QuickBooks Pro post for assistance.

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Step 4: Select The Date

Use the calendar to record the date that the credit card was charged.

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Step 5: Add A Reference Number (Optional)

If you have a reference number for the credit card charge, you can enter it now if you’d like.

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Step 6: Enter Amount

Enter the credit card charge amount.

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Step 7: Add

Include a memo to help you remember what the credit card charge was for.

Step 8: Add Additional Information

Here you can add as much or as little information as you’d like. QuickBooks will automatically put the total amount you entered into the first line. But let’s say, for example, that part of your purchase was office supplies, while part was postage. You could record the information like this:

How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro

Or, if you want even more detail, you can enter each item by clicking the “Items” option.

Step 9: Select An Account

No matter how you break up your credit card charge, make sure to use the drop-down menu to select the account in which you want each expense to be categorized.

This will help later when you view your Profit & Loss Statement and when you need to see your tax deductions for the year before filing taxes.

Step 10: Save

Click the “Save & Close” button to record your credit card charge, or click the “Save & New” button if you have more charges to add.

How To Enter Credit Card Charges Into QuickBooks Pro

Import Credit Card Charges Using Bank Feeds

If you don’t want to manually enter every credit card charge, you can import your credit card statements. To do this, follow the steps in our How To Enable Live Bank Feeds In QuickBooks Pro post, entering your credit card account rather than your bank account.

If you choose this option, you will still need to manually enter a vendor and select an expense category for each transaction before you reconcile your credit card account.

Whichever method you choose, always be sure to reconcile your credit card account regularly and stay on top of categorizing your credit charge expenses. This makes your life much easier come tax time and allows you to catch any discrepancies before it’s too late.

For troubleshooting issues, check out the QuickBooks Community or call QuickBooks directly. If you have any further questions, leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to help you.

How To Reconcile A Bank Account

How To Enable Live Bank Feeds

How To Enter A Bill

The post How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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What Is A Merchant Services Provider?

What is a merchant services provider?

If you’ve just started your own business or you’re looking to add credit and debit cards as payment methods, you’re going to be bombarded by a bewildering variety of new terms and concepts that you’ve never encountered before. One very basic term you’ll want to familiarize yourself with is the type of business entity known as a merchant services provider.

To understand what a merchant services provider is and what it can do for your business, you’ll first need to understand the concept of merchant services. This term describes the range of services and hardware and software products that allow merchants to accept and process credit or debit card transactions. Before the internet came along, things were pretty simple. Merchant services consisted of countertop terminals to input card payments, processing services to approve the transaction, and merchant accounts to deposit the money in after the sale. Today, it’s a much more complicated landscape, with eCommerce opening up far more opportunities for selling products remotely than just mail and telephone ordering. Software products such as payment gateways allow customers to pay for purchases directly over the internet, while inventory management and online reporting services give you the power to track virtually every aspect of your business on your computer.

Merchant services providers are sometimes also referred to as acquirers, processors, or merchant account providers. Here at Merchant Maverick, we use the term merchant services providers as a catch-all to cover entities such as merchant account providers, payment services providers (PSPs), payment gateway providers, and any other type of business that allows you to accept payment methods other than cash or paper checks.

Types of Merchant Services Providers

Not all merchant services providers offer the same features, but most fall into one of several categories that help to differentiate them a little from their competitors. The most common types of merchant services providers include the following:

Merchant Account Providers

These entities are the most commonly encountered merchant services providers. A merchant account provider can, at a minimum, provide you with a merchant account and processing services to ensure that you receive your money when a customer pays by credit or debit card. While all merchant account providers can set you up with a merchant account, only a few of the largest companies can also offer processing services to process your transactions. These companies are called direct processors, and include industry leaders such as First Data (see our review), Elavon (see our review), and TSYS Merchant Solutions (see our review). Most other merchant account providers rely on one of these direct processors to process their merchants’ transactions.

Payment Services Providers (PSPs)

While having a merchant account is a good idea for all but the smallest of businesses, you don’t absolutely need one to accept credit or debit card payments. A payment services provider (PSP), such as Square (see our review) or PayPal (see our review) can give your business the ability to accept these kinds of payment methods without a dedicated merchant account. Instead, your account will be aggregated with those of other merchants, and you won’t have a unique merchant ID number. This arrangement has the advantage of virtually eliminating the account fees and lengthy contract terms that often come with a traditional merchant account. However, these accounts are more prone to being frozen or terminated without notice, and customer service options aren’t as robust as they are with a full-service merchant account. PSPs are an excellent choice for businesses that only process a few thousand dollars a month in credit/debit card transactions or only operate on a seasonal basis.

Payment Gateway Providers

With the advent of eCommerce, a new kind of provider has come on the scene: the payment gateway provider. These companies can offer you a payment gateway, which you’ll need to accept online payments. However, they may or may not also offer you a merchant account to go with it. Authorize.Net (see our review), one of the largest and oldest gateway providers, gives you a choice between one of their merchant accounts or using their gateway with your existing merchant account. Other providers, such as PayTrace (see our review), offer a gateway-only service. You’ll have to get your own merchant account from a third-party provider.

Types of Merchant Services

Most merchant services providers offer a wide variety of products and services to allow merchants to accept credit and debit card payments, as well as manage their inventory and track other aspects of their business. Your needs as a merchant will depend on the nature and type of your business. While all businesses will need either a merchant account or a payment service account (if you’re signed up with a PSP), other features will only be useful for certain types of businesses. For example, if your business doesn’t sell anything online, you won’t need a payment gateway. Here’s a brief overview of the most common types of merchant services:

Merchant Accounts

Every business that wants to accept credit or debit cards as a form of payment will need a merchant account. While most merchant account providers offer full-service merchant accounts, those from PSPs like Square (see our review) lack a unique merchant ID number. Merchant ID numbers make your business easier to properly identify to payment processing systems, giving you some protection from fraud and adding stability to your account. A merchant account is simply an account where funds from processed transactions are deposited. Those funds are then transferred by your provider into a business account that you specify, such as a business checking account.

Credit Card Terminals

Retail merchants will also need a hardware product that can read your customers’ credit and debit cards and then transmit that information to your provider’s processing network. Traditional countertop terminals such as the Verifone Vx520 can connect to processing networks via either an Ethernet connection or a landline. Wireless models are also available, but they tend to be bulkier and more expensive than wired models, and require a wireless data plan (usually around $20.00 per month) to operate.

Terminals may be purchased outright or leased from your merchant services provider. Because most providers support the same terminals, we recommend either buying your terminal directly from your provider or purchasing it from a third-party supplier. Terminals require a software load which must be installed before they can accept transactions. If you buy your terminal from a third-party source, you’ll need to have it re-programmed to install this software. We strongly discourage terminal leasing due to the noncancelable nature of the leases and the fact that you’ll pay several times more than the value of the terminal over the lifetime of the lease.

In shopping for a terminal, you should select an EMV-compliant model as a minimum. Support for NFC-based payment methods (such as Apple Pay and Google Pay) is also a good choice as these methods are becoming more popular among customers.

Point of Sale (POS) Systems

POS systems combine the functions of a credit card terminal with a large computer display, enabling you to manage inventory and monitor your sales through a single piece of equipment. These systems include fully-featured, dedicated terminals and tablet-based software options that can run on an iPad or Android tablet. Many providers offer optional accessories such as tablet mounts, cash drawers, and check scanners, allowing you to accept any form of payment through a single device.

Mobile Payment (mPOS) Systems

These systems allow you to use your smartphone or tablet as a credit card terminal. mPOS systems consist of a mobile card reader that connects to your mobile device and an app to communicate with your provider’s processing network. While Square (see our review) was the first provider to offer a simple mPOS system, most providers now offer similar products. Although they’re difficult to find and cost more than simple magstripe-only readers, we recommend selecting a card reader with EMV compatibility and a Bluetooth connection (rather than the traditional headphone jack plug) to future-proof your system.

Payment Gateway

A payment gateway is simply software that communicates between your website and your provider’s processing networks, allowing you to accept payments over the internet. Because not all merchants need a gateway, providers usually charge a monthly gateway fee (around $25.00) to access this feature. Most gateways include support for recurring billing, a customer information management database, and security features such as encryption or tokenization to protect your customers’ data.

Virtual Terminal

A virtual terminal is another software product that turns your computer into a credit card terminal. Transactions can be entered manually or swiped using an optional USB-connected card reader. Virtual terminals are most commonly used by mail order/telephone order businesses that don’t have an eCommerce website.

Online Shopping Carts

Shopping cart software is designed for eCommerce merchants who need a more specialized shopping experience or want to customize the features of their website. Shopify (see our review) is one of the most popular online shopping carts. Check compatibility with your merchant services provider before selecting an online cart.

eCheck (ACH) Processing

eCheck processing is an optional feature offered by most merchant service providers. It allows you to scan paper checks and instantly confirm that funds are available to cover the purchase. This service protects you from fraud and saves you a trip to the bank.

Merchant Cash Advances and Small Business Loans

Merchant cash advances and small business loans provide another way for your business to receive funds when you need them, and most merchant services providers offer them. Check out our Merchant’s Guide to Short-Term Loans for more information.

Final Thoughts

Which specific merchant services you need will depend on the nature of your business. Retail-only businesses won’t need a payment gateway, but they will need reliable credit card terminals. eCommerce businesses can’t function without a payment gateway, but do not require terminals. Of course, if your business operates in both the retail and eCommerce sector (which is becoming more common), you’ll need just about every service your provider has to offer.

Every merchant service provider has their own unique combination of products and services, so you’ll want to ensure that a provider offers the features that you need before you sign up. Many of these services are proprietary, meaning they’ll only work with the provider that offers them. While this helps to ensure compatibility between different products, it also means you won’t be able to take your favorite product with you if you switch providers. This is more of a factor in the eCommerce sector, where payment gateways are often proprietary products. For an overview of our highest-rated merchant services providers, check out our Merchant Account Comparison Chart.

The post What Is A Merchant Services Provider? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

If you accept payments from your customers, whether you’re using PayPal, Stripe, Square, or some other payment processor, you most likely are paying merchant fees. But how do you properly enter merchant fees into QuickBooks?

In this post, we’ll cover how two different ways to enter merchant fees. We’ll explain what to do if your merchant account provider charges you per transaction or via a lump sum at the end of each month. This way, you can know how much money your business actually has, and you can be certain all of your information is correct for year-end taxes.

If you don’t have a payment processor yet but want to be able to accept online payments from your customers, visit our comprehensive merchant account reviews to find the best payment processor for your business.

How To Enter Merchant Fees Per Transaction

If you use PayPal, Square, or a similar payment processor, you are charged a certain percentage for each transaction you process. For example, PayPal charges 2.9% +$0.30/per transaction. Believe it or not, entering this information into QuickBooks Pro is actually fairly simple.

Before you begin, make sure you have created a designated expense account called “Merchant Fees.” If you’re not sure how to do this, follow the steps in our How To Enter Credit Card Charges In QuickBooks Pro post (only select “expense” rather than “credit card”).

Then, go to Customers>Receive Payments or find the “Receive Payments” icon on the home screen.

Step 1: Select Your Customer

Use the drop-down menu to select the customer whose payment you are recording. QuickBooks will pull up all outstanding invoices attached to that customer and autofill information accordingly.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 2: Enter Payment Amount

Type in the exact amount the customer is paying.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 3: Select Payment Option

Choose how the customer is paying.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Clicking “More” will take you to payment methods like PayPal and Stripe (Note: if this is your first time recording merchant fees, click the “Add New” button to add whatever processor you use.)

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 4: Edit The Date

Make sure the correct date is chosen using the drop-down calendar.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 5: Enter A Reference Number (Optional)

If you have a reference number, you can enter it now.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 6: Add Any Additional Info

Now you can add any extra info, like the original amount, amount due, and a memo.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

 

Step 7: Go To Record Deposit

Now return to your home screen. You should see a red notification on the “Record Deposit” icon. Click on it.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 8: Select The Transaction

Click next to the payment we just recorded. Once you see the check mark, click okay.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 9: Select Your Merchant Fees Account

On the line directly underneath the payment you recorded, select your merchant account.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 10: Enter Merchant Fee

Enter your merchant fee using a negative number. QuickBooks will automatically deduct the merchant fee from the total payment.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 11: Record Your Deposit

Double check that your screen looks correct and that the total on the bottom right-hand corner appears correct. Then click “Save & Close.”

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Repeat this process as many times as needed until all of the merchant fees for each payment are properly recorded.

How To Enter Merchant Fees As A Lump Sum

It’s rare, but some processors, like Fattmerchant, charge a monthly merchant fee. If this is the case for your processor, go to the “Check Register” icon on the home page or go to Banking>Use Register and then select the account you use to pay merchant fees.

Step 1: Edit The Date

Make sure the correct date is chosen using the drop-down calendar.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 2: Choose Your Vendor

Where it says “Payee,” use the drop-down menu to select the vendor you are paying.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 3: Select Your Merchant Fees Account

Where it says “Account,” use the drop-down menu to select your merchant fees account.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 4: Add A Memo (Optional)

You can add a memo to describe the payment if you’d like.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 5: Enter Merchant Fee

Where it says “Payment,” enter your merchant fee payment.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Step 6: Save

Click “Record” to save your entry.

How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro

Now your merchant fee is recorded correctly. You can rest easy knowing that your QuickBooks information is correct.

For troubleshooting issues, check out the QuickBooks Community or call QuickBooks directly. If you have any further questions, leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to help you.

How To Enter Credit Card Charges

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How To Enter A Bill

The post How To Handle Merchant Fees In QuickBooks Pro appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Complete Quickbooks Product Comparison Guide

Complete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

Not sure which version of QuickBooks you should choose? Can’t decide if QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop or some other version of QuickBooks is right for your business?

With five different products to choose from, deciding on the best QuickBooks software can be intimidating. Not to mention the fact that QuickBooks isn’t always the most forthcoming with information about their products!

In this complete QuickBooks Comparison, we’ll explain what each software is capable of, what type of business is best for each version of QuickBooks, and the main differences between each product. We’ll also walk you through what questions to ask so you can pinpoint the perfect QuickBooks software for your business and choose the right QuickBooks accounting solution with confidence.

Don’t have time to read our full comparison post? The following chart breaks down the main differences between QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Pro, QuickBooks Premier, QuickBooks Enterprise, and QuickBooks Self-Employed.

QuickBooks Online QuickBooks Pro QuickBooks Premier QuickBooks Enterprise QuickBooks Self-Employed
Not Yet Rated
Read Review Read Review Read Review Read Review
Visit Site Visit Site Visit Site Visit Site Visit Site
Pricing $15 – $50/mo $299.95 $499.95 $1,100+ $10 – $17/mo
Customer Support Good Poor Poor Good Poor
Ease of Use Easy Difficult Difficult Difficult Very Easy
Size of Business Small Small – Medium Medium Large Freelancers
Number of Users 1 – 25 1 – 3 1 – 5 1 – 30 1
Web-Based or Installed Web-Based Installed Installed Installed Web-Based
Mobile Apps Yes No No No Yes

Overview of QuickBooks Products

QuickBooks OnlineComplete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

Launched in 2004, QuickBooks Online (see our review) is a cloud-based accounting software that is used by over 2 million people. With strong accounting capabilities, impressive features, and fully-featured mobile apps, it’s no wonder this is one of our top 5/5 star accounting recommendations.

Best For…

Small businesses with no more than 25 users looking for easy to use, cloud-based accounting software and strong mobile apps.

Pricing

QuickBooks Online (QBO) offers three pricing plans ranging from $15/mo-$50/mo. The larger the plan, the more features you have access to and the more users are allowed. The largest plan includes only five users, though you can though you can add up to 25 users for an additional cost.

Payroll costs an additional $39/mo-$99/mo (plus $2/mo per employee). Luckily, Intuit is almost always running a sales promotion. Read our complete QuickBooks Online review for all the pricing details.

Features

QuickBooks Online offers an incredible number of features and automations. The software covers all the accounting bases as well as invoicing, expense tracking, accounts payable, contact management, project management, and more. Though there are occasional navigation difficulties, QBO is incredibly easy to use overall.

Complete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

One of the things that really sets QuickBooks apart from other accounting products is its new lending feature — QuickBooks Capital (see our review). QuickBooks Capital uses the information already in QuickBooks Online to determine if a small business owner is eligible for a loan.

Some of our other favorite features include:

  • Invoice scheduling
  • Class tracking
  • Inventory
  • Time tracking
  • Print checks

QBO offers over 250 integrations, which is the most of any QuickBooks product.

QuickBooks is generally known for poor customer support, but QuickBooks Online has worked hard lately to revive their reputation by eliminating long wait times and redesigning their help center.

If integrations, ease of use, and mobility are important to you, QuickBooks Online is your best bet. If you want to see how QuickBooks Online stacks up against other QuickBooks products, continue reading.

View our comprehensive QuickBooks Online review for more information on this small business accounting software or sign up for a free trial if you think this version of QuickBooks is right for you.

Read our full QuickBooks Online review

Visit the QuickBooks Online website

QuickBooks ProComplete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

Launched back in 1992, QuickBooks Desktop Pro (see our review) is the software that put QuickBooks on the map. This 5/5 star software is locally-installed and offers highly developed features.

Best For…

Small to medium-sized business with three users or fewer looking for strong accounting or a locally-installed software.

Pricing

There are two pricing options for Quickbooks Desktop Pro. You can either purchase a QuickBooks Pro license for $299.95 or purchase a yearly subscription of Quickbooks Pro Plus for $299.95/yr.

If you go with the QuickBooks Pro license, it should last you three years, after which Intuit drops support for the software. Phone support costs extra. If you go with QuickBooks Pro Plus, updates and phone support are included. Additional users cost extra. For the full scoop on QuickBooks Pro’s pricing, check out our review.

Features

As we mentioned earlier, QuickBooks Pro has an unbelievable number of features. In terms of accounting, QuickBooks Pro is one of the most developed solutions, boasting a chart of accounts, journal entries, bank reconciliation, 200+ reports, and more. These highly developed features do have a steep learning curve, but for accountants, those with accounting experience, or the business owner who just wants to get their accounting right, taking the time to learn the software can pay off.

Complete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

The best part is that QuickBooks Pro not only offers a lot of features, but each feature is highly developed. Intuit truly thought of everything with this one — even spell check.

Some of our other favorite QuickBooks Desktop Pro features include:

  • Invoicing
  • Project management
  • Job costing
  • Calendar and to-do lists
  • Accounts payable
  • Budgeting
  • Tax support

QuickBooks Pro offers over 175 integrations, which is an impressive number for a locally-installed software. Unlike QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Pro still suffers from poor customer support.

QuickBooks Pro can be a great option for businesses looking for strong accounting or in need of locally-installed software. The learning curve makes this software ideal for people who have previous accounting experience.

If you want to learn more about how QuickBooks Pro stacks up to other desktop selections keep reading. You can also read our complete QuickBooks Pro review for more details on this software option.

Read our full QuickBooks Desktop Pro review

Visit the OnDeck website

QuickBooks PremierComplete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

QuickBooks Desktop Premier is the next step for medium-sized businesses looking for the same strong accounting as QuickBooks Pro, but with more users and industry-specific features (and a lower cost than QuickBooks Enterprise). Desktop Premier is a robust, locally-installed software with plenty of features and a good number of integrations.

Best For…

Small to medium-sized businesses with 5 users or fewer in need of the strong accounting and industry-specific accounting features.

Pricing

QuickBooks Desktop Premier’s pricing structure is nigh identical to QuickBooks Pro’s. There are two pricing options for Quickbooks Premier. You can either purchase a QuickBooks Premier license for $499.95 or purchase a yearly subscription of Quickbooks Premier Plus for $499.95/yr.

If you go with the QuickBooks Premier license, phone support costs extra. If you go with QuickBooks Pro Plus, updates and phone support are included. For the full scoop, visit QuickBooks Premier’s pricing page.

Features

QuickBooks Premier is optimized for strong accounting. Like QuickBooks Pro, there is a steep learning curve here, but the software includes certain features Pro lacks, including business plans, inventory assemblies, and sales forecasting.

Complete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

The real thing that sets QuickBooks Premier apart from QuickBooks Pro is the industry-specific features. You can choose the standard edition of QuickBooks Premier or you can choose one of five specialized editions: Contractor, Manufacturing & Wholesale, Nonprofit, Professional Services, and Retail.

Here are some other features to expect with QuickBooks Desktop Premier:

  • Industry-specific reports
  • Sales orders
  • Print shipping labels

QuickBooks Premier offers 173 integrations, and customer support is similar to that of QuickBooks Pro.

Before deciding on QuickBooks Premier, continue reading for more information. You don’t want to spend extra money if the features aren’t worth it.

If you want to learn more about QuickBooks Premier or are certain that your business does need industry-specific features, check out QuickBooks Premier’s website. QuickBooks doesn’t readily advertise a QuickBooks Premier free trial, but there is one available in the QuickBooks Community.

Visit the QuickBooks Premier website

QuickBooks EnterpriseComplete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise (see our review) has the same great accounting capabilities of Pro and Premier but allows access for up to 30 users and much more storage space. With six industry-specific versions, QuickBooks Enterprise has highly developed features to meet the needs of nearly any large business.

Best For…

Large businesses with 30 users or fewer looking for industry-specific accounting and advanced accounting.

Pricing

QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise features three annual subscriptions: Silver (starts at $1,100/yr), Gold (starts at $1430/yr), and Platinum (starts at $1,760).

Price is determined by the plan you select and the number of users you have. You can purchase Intuit Field Service Management at an additional cost. For the full scoop on pricing, read our complete QuickBooks Enterprise review.

Features

In terms of features, QuickBooks Enterprise is about as close as you can get to an ERP without making the switch to full-on business management software. In addition to the strong accounting you’d expect with a QuickBooks desktop product, QuickBooks Enterprise provides invoicing, expense tracking, contact management, project management, job costing, and more.

Complete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

You can opt for the normal version of QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise, or you can choose one of the six industry-specific editions for added features: Contractor, Manufacturing & Wholesale, Nonprofit, Retail, Professional Services, and Accountant. Read our post A Quick Guide To The 6 Industry Specific Editions Of QuickBooks Enterprise for a peek at what each edition has to offer.

Some other notable features include:

  • Lead management
  • Accounts payable
  • Inventory
  • Business plans
  • Loan manager
  • Tax support

Like QuickBooks Pro, QuickBooks Enterprise also integrates with over 160 third-party apps.

QuickBooks support puts its best foot forward for QuickBooks Enterprise customers. Representatives are responsive and friendly, and there are tons of support resources to choose from.

That being said, QuickBooks Enterprise does have its drawbacks. The software is incredibly expensive, and for the price you’re paying, certain features — like invoicing, project management, time tracking, and importing — are fairly limited. Additionally, the software is more suited for large businesses rather than enterprises, making its name slightly misleading.

If this software still sounds like it might be the right choice for your business, read on to see how it compares to other QuickBooks products or check out our complete QuickBooks Enterprise review. You can also sign up for a free trial of any edition of QuickBooks Enterprise.

Read our full QuickBooks Enterprise review

Visit the QuickBooks Enterprise website

QuickBooks Self-EmployedComplete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

QuickBooks Self-Employed (see our review) is different from the other QuickBooks Products in that it isn’t quite accounting software. QuickBooks Self-Employed is a tax software created to help freelancers manage their finances, handle estimated quarterly taxes, and calculate deductions.

Best For…

Freelancers, contractors, and other self-employed individuals in need of basic bookkeeping and tax support.

Pricing

There are two pricing options for QuickBooks Self-Employed. You can either pay $10/mo for all of the features QuickBooks Self-Employed has to offer, or you can pay $17/mo, which will add a Turbo Tax integration to your plan.

Intuit is almost always running a sales promotion, so be sure to check any possible discounts before purchasing. To learn more, read our complete QuickBooks Self-Employed review.

Features

Like QuickBooks Online, Quickbooks Self-Employed is an easy to use, cloud-based software with strong mobile apps. The features are designed specifically for freelancers and address needs like tax support and deductions. You can easily separate personal and business expenses, which is ideal for freelancers who don’t have a separate business bank account.

Complete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

Not only does Quickbooks Self-Employed help freelancers navigate the scary waters of estimated quarterly taxes, it also gives them basic bookkeeping tools to track income and expenses.

Here are some other features you can expect with QuickBooks Self-Employed:

  • Invoicing
  • Fixed asset depreciation
  • Schedule Cs
  • Tax checklist

Quickbooks Self-Employed has very limited integrations, but the Turbo Tax integration is one the greatest parts of the software. When you’re ready to file taxes, you can pull all of your QuickBooks Self-Employed data directly into Turbo Tax to make filing easy.

Unfortunately, QuickBooks Self-Employed’s customer support is even worse than QuickBooks Pro’s. There is no phone support and additional support resources are limited. There is a live chat feature and help center if you need assistance.

There’s one other drawback users should be aware of: QuickBooks Self-Employed only offers federal tax support, so you’ll have to handle your state taxes another way.

That being said, QuickBooks Self-Employed is a great option for freelancers, contractors, or other self-employed individuals. If that’s you, you won’t find any other QuickBooks product that is more tailored to your specific tax needs.

If you want to learn more, read our complete QuickBooks Self-Employed review. If you’re already sold on QuickBooks Self-Employed, sign up for a free trial.

Read our full QuickBooks Self-Employed review

Visit the QuickBooks Self-Employed website

How To Choose The Right Version Of QuickBooks For Your Business

If you read the overview of each QuickBooks product, you may already have an idea of which version of QuickBooks is best for your small business. If not, don’t worry. These five questions will help you narrow down your search and find what you’re looking for.

Do You Want Cloud-Based Or Locally-Installed Software?

The first major deciding factor is whether or not you want cloud-based or locally-installed software.

Cloud-based software operates entirely in the cloud (on the internet). Some perks of cloud-based software include:

  • Mobility
  • Access for multiple users in different locations
  • SaaS subscription-based pricing model
  • Security is handled by the software provider
  • Usually comes with mobile apps

Locally-installed software is downloaded and installed on a single, on-premise computer. Some perks of locally-installed software include:

  • No internet access required
  • More complex and feature-rich
  • Potentially more secure (you are responsible for security)

Most small businesses prefer cloud-based software as it is often more affordable, easier to use, and keeps up with our society’s mobile lifestyle. However, locally-installed software can be more secure and offers a level of feature depth that the cloud often can’t touch.

Deciding which type of software works best for your business model can make your QuickBooks choice a whole lot easier. If you want cloud-based software, there’s QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Self-Employed. If you want locally-installed software, you can take your pick from QuickBooks Pro, QuickBooks Premier, or QuickBooks Enterprise.

Are You A Mac Or Windows User?

QuickBooks Pro, Premier, and Enterprise are all designed for Windows. So if you’re a Mac user, you’re down to two options: QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise.

What Type Of Business Do You Run?

The type of business you run has a huge influence on which QuickBooks product is right for you. If you’re a freelancer, QuickBooks Self-Employed is the obvious choice. If you’re running a small business, you’ll be comparing QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Pro.

Larger businesses will be looking at QuickBooks Premier or QuickBooks Enterprise, depending on the number of users they need.

How Many Users Do You Need?

The number of users you need will also help determine which software is best for your business. Take a look at this chart to see which product suits your business’s size.

QuickBooks Self-Employed: 1 user
QuickBooks Pro: 1 – 3 users
QuickBooks Premier: 1 – 5 users
QuickBooks Online: 1 – 25 users
QuickBooks Enterprise: 1 – 30 users

Note: This chart shows the maximum number of users available with each version of QuickBooks, which may cost extra.

How Much Accounting Experience Do You Have?

If you don’t know much about accounting, you’ll want to shy away from QuickBooks Pro, Premier, or Enterprise, unless you’re willing to put in the time to learn.

QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Self-Employed are much easier options to grasp if you don’t have much experience or just want to keep balancing the books simple.

On the other hand, if you’re an accountant or someone with a great deal of accounting experience, you may like the complexity of the QuickBooks desktop options as they stick to more traditional accounting.

QuickBooks Product Comparison

Here is a more detailed QuickBooks comparison so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting with each software and can easily tell the differences between each version of QuickBooks.

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Pricing $15-$50/mo $299.95 $499.95 $1,100/yr+ $10-$17/mo
Extra Cost for Phone Support None $249.95/yr or $89.95/three months $89/three months None None
Web-hosted or Locally-installed Web-hosted Locally-installed Locally-installed Locally-installed Web-hosted
Number of Users 1-25 1-3 1-5 1-30 1
User Permissions ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ N/A
Support for Multiple Companies ✘ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Size of Business Small Small to medium Medium Large Freelancers
Ease of Use Easy Difficult Difficult Difficult Very easy
Learning Curve Small learning curve Steep learning curve Steep learning curve Steep learning curve No learning curve
Customer Support Good Poor Poor Good Poor
Numbers of Integrations 250 160 160 160 4
Number of Payments Gateways 16 13 13 13 1
Invoices ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Number of Templates 5 9 8 5 1
Customizable Templates ✔ ✔ ✘ ✘ ✘
Invoice Customizations ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Recurring Invoices ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘ ✘
Autoschedule Invoices ✔ ✘ ✘ ✘ ✘
Batch Invoices ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Invoice Reminders ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Invoice Discounts ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Online Payments ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Snail Mail Option ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Invoice Receipts ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Default Email Messages ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Default Invoice Notes ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Default Terms and Conditions ✔ ✘ ✘ ✘ ✔
Packing Slips ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Purchase Orders ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Estimates ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Convert Estimates to Invoices ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Accept Quotes Online ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Contact Management ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Lead Management ✘ ✘ ✘ ✔ ✘
Customer Credit Memo ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Refunds ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Map & Directions ✘ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Expense Tracking ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Chart of Accounts ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Sales Orders ✘ ✘ ✔ ✔ ✘
Sales Receipts ✘ ✘ ✔ ✔ ✘
Accounts Payable ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Recurring Bills ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Automatic Bill Reminders ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Bank Reconciliation ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Automatic Categorization ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Custom Bank Rules ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Live Bank Feeds ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Manual Bank Statement Import ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Project Management ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Tasks ✘ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Assign Tasks to Employees ✘ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Job Costing ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Time Management ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Manually Enter Time ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Built-in Timer ✘ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Bill Time to Customer as Invoice ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Payroll ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Direct Deposit ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Inventory ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Low Stock Reminders ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Inventory Bundles ✔ ✘ ✘ ✘ ✘
Number of Reports 27-75 200+ 135 140 3
Budgeting ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Journal Entries ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Class Tracking ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Letter Templates ✘ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Thank You Notes ✘ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
To-Do-Lists ✘ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Print Checks ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Calendar ✘ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Mileage Deductions ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Home Office Deduction ✘ ✘ ✘ ✘ ✔
Tax Checklist ✘ ✘ ✘ ✘ ✔
1099-MISC’s ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
W-2’s ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
W-3’s ✘ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
1096’s ✘ ✔ ✔  ✔ ✘
940’s ✘ ✔ ✔ ✘ ✘
941’s ✘ ✔ ✔ ✘ ✘
944’s ✘ ✔ ✔ ✘ ✘
Schedule C’s ✘ ✘ ✘ ✘ ✔
E-file Tax Forms ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Sales Tax ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Multi-Currency Support ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
API ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘
Import ✔ ✘ ✘ ✘ ✘
Export ✘ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✔
Upload and Save Documents ✘ ✔ ✔ ✔ ✘

Final Thoughts

Now you know exactly what to expect from each version of QuickBooks in terms of features, pricing, and usability. While the numerous options seem intimidating at first, each version of QuickBooks is designed to reach a certain business size and type.

If a specific version of QuickBooks stood out to you, we recommend taking the software for a test run to make sure you love using it.

If after reading this post, you aren’t convinced that any version of QuickBooks is right for you, or if you just want to consider all of your options, our comprehensive accounting reviews can help you find the perfect accounting software for your business. Take a look at these additional resources for more QuickBooks alternatives.

The Best QuickBooks Online Alternatives

The Best Alternatives to QuickBooks Pro

The post The Complete Quickbooks Product Comparison Guide appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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10 Great Real Estate Crowdfunding Platforms For Businesses

real estate crowdfunding platforms

When crowdfunding rose on its initial wave of popularity, it was strictly a means of raising money for personal causes and makers of board games and household gadgets and whatnot. That all changed with the passage of the JOBS Act of 2012. The JOBS Act was sold as a response to the lack of capital available to startups in the wake of the Great Recession. It legalized the crowdfunding of securities so that campaigners could raise money from investors in a public campaign.

From there, it was natural that real estate developers would turn to crowdfunding as a new way of attracting investment. Six years after the passage of the JOBS Act, crowdfunding real estate has become quite the growth industry, with countless real estate crowdfunding sites popping up, offering equity and/or debt crowdfunding deals to accredited investors, and, in many cases, non-accredited investors as well.

With the crowdfunding industry projected to be worth in excess of $300 billion by the year 2025, there’s never been a better time for those in the real estate business to consider crowdfunding as a means of reaching investors who would otherwise be inaccessible. Here are 10 of the most popular and well-regarded real estate crowdfunding platforms out there.

1) PeerStreetcrowdfunding real estate

Self-described as a “marketplace lending platform for real estate debt,” PeerStreet was founded in 2013 by real estate attorney Brew Johnson and former Google executive Brett Crosby as a means of giving accredited investors access to real estate investment opportunities. PeerStreet has originated over $500 million in real estate loans as of October 2017. Most remarkably, PeerStreet claims to have not lost a single dollar in investor principal throughout its entire existence.

Let’s get the skinny on PeerStreet’s real estate crowdfunding marketplace.

Best For…

Real estate companies seeking to connect to investors online.

How Does PeerStreet Work?

PeerStreet states the following regarding their loans:

PeerStreet loans are generally secured by first liens on real estate. PeerStreet partners with top-tier originators across the country and carefully vets their loans before making them available to our investors. Most of our loans are short in duration (6-24 months) with LTVs typically below 75%.

PeerStreet applies a servicing fee of between 0.25%-1.00% on each loan offered. Their loans offer, on average, 6-12% annualized returns.

PeerStreet Rules

PeerStreet runs extensive due diligence on both the loans advertised on its site and on its loan origination partners. Before a loan can be featured on PeerStreet, the company does the following:

  • Performs independent underwriting of all loans using both manual processes and big data analytics
  • Reviews an independent valuation (BPO/Appraisal)
  • Ensures each loan complies with PeerStreet’s underwriting guidelines
  • Reviews legal documentation

For loan origination partners, PeerStreet performs the following checks:

  • Reviews track records
  • Reviews financials
  • Reviews licensing and adherence to state usury laws
  • Runs background checks
  • Reviews legal and underwriting processes

PeerStreet’s campaigns have an investment minimum of just $1,000 — lower than the typical $10K investment minimum.

How To Start A PeerStreet Campaign

Contact PeerStreet with details of your loan campaign proposal and wait to hear what they think.

Takeaway

PeerStreet’s reputation among investors is second-to-none, so attracting investors to your real estate crowdfunding project may be easier than with other platforms. Their policy of complete transparency to investors (PeerStreet investors can review the performance of every loan ever featured on the site) and strict vetting for loans and loan originators makes PeerStreet a standout company among real estate crowdfunding platforms.

Visit the PeerStreet website

2) RealtySharescrowdfunding real estate

With over $700 million in real estate investments facilitated since its founding in 2013, RealtyShares is at the tip of the real estate crowdfunding spear. Both equity and debt crowdfunding are available, and every deal on the site is strictly vetted before being allowed to campaign. Read on to learn more about this heavyweight real estate crowdfunding contender.

Best For…

Connecting real estate businesses and projects — both commercial and residential — to accredited investors.

How Does RealtyShares Work?

RealtyShares names three different types of real estate investments that can be listed on its site.

(1)  Cash-flowing/Value-Add equity investments in commercial and residential properties such as apartments, retail, office and pools of single family homes;

(2)  Equity investments in Fix & Flips located in high demand/low supply markets;

(3)  Loans secured by residential and commercial real estate.

On the loan side, RealtyShares lists fixed-rate bridge loans, floating-rate bridge loans, small balance permanent loans, and triple-net loans. On the equity side, RealtyShares lists common and preferred equity offerings. Rates and fees for RealtyShares’s various debt and equity products are given on the website at the links provided.

RealtyShares Rules

RealtyShares does its due diligence for investors by running background and credit checks on all funding campaign sponsors. As for the cost of running a campaign, RealtyShares says the following:

Real Estate Companies that raise capital through our investment platform will be required to reimburse RealtyShares for its out of pocket expenses related to establishing and managing the fund that invests in your project.  These costs typically include legal, accounting and compliance costs.

The exact amount of the reimbursement will depend on the specific investment opportunity. Please contact us here for more details.

Only accredited investors can invest in a RealtyShares campaign. The minimum investment amount is $5,000.

How To Start A RealtyShares Campaign

Create an account on RealtyShares’s site and submit an application. The company will get back to you within 24-48 hours to let you know if you’ve been accepted. It will then request additional information. You’d better know what you’re doing, as RealtyShares states “Currently, only a small percentage of prospective investments are listed on the site.”

Takeaway

RealtyShares has a reputation for being one of the top platforms for crowdfunding real estate deals. Having financed over 1,000 projects in 39 states thus far, the company has a proven track record and is a solid choice indeed for the real estate business looking to source investment.

Visit the RealtyShares website

3) RealtyMogulreal estate crowdfunding sites

Launched in 2013 and headquartered in Los Angeles, RealtyMogul offers both equity and debt financing for real estate projects. Over $338 million has been invested thus far through RealtyMogul, financing over 350 commercial and residential properties valued at over $1.5 billion.

Let’s see what makes RealtyMogul tick.

Best For…

Raising equity for commercial projects and conducting debt crowdfunding for both commercial and residential real estate.

How Does RealtyMogul Work?

RealtyMogul’s FAQ details how their campaigns work, but here are some pertinent details. Real estate companies can raise from between $1 million and $5 million from accredited investors in an equity campaign for commercial real estate. Terms, rates, and fees for RealtyMogul equity raises can be found here.

RealtyMogul also offers debt campaigns for both commercial and residential real estate. Most of these loans are sold to institutional investors. RealtyMogul offers hard money loans, bridge loans, and permanent loans. Information regarding terms and fees can be found here.

RealtyMogul Rules

RealtyMogul runs background, criminal and credit checks on all who apply to campaign.

How To Start A RealtyMogul Campaign

You begin the application process on the website, providing information about your firm, the property in question, and other details. A company representative will then contact you, take you through the due diligence process, and work with you in setting up your campaign.

Takeaway

Through RealtyMogul, the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs raised more than $1.5 million in equity financing in what was the first equity crowdfunding campaign ever conducted by a hotel. A pioneer in the industry, RealtyMogul’s track record inspires confidence.

Visit the RealtyMogul website

4) MinnowCFundingcrowdfunding real estate

Founded in 2017, MinnowCFunding is a recent entry to the real estate crowdfunding race. Headquartered in Los Angeles, MinnowCFunding is a “funding portal” as defined by the law. This means it can offer Regulation Crowdfunding, or equity crowdfunding with non-accredited investors. MinnowCFunding does not offer debt crowdfunding.

MinnowCFunding consists of “a team of real estate veterans and advisors with over 50 years of collective experience underwriting and managing residential and commercial real estate.” Let’s learn more, shall we?

Best For…

Real estate companies looking to conduct equity crowdfunding campaigns that are open to all investors, not just accredited investors.

How Does MinnowCFunding Work?

Through MinnowCFunding, equity campaigns can be launched for the following real estate types:

  • Residential rental real estate
  • Commercial real estate
  • Industrial real estate
  • Retail real estate
  • Mixed-use real estate

Due to legal limits on Regulation Crowdfunding, a maximum of $1.07 million can be raised per year by any single entity.

Be warned that MinnowCFunding takes 7% of what you raise as a platform fee.

MinnowCFunding Rules

Companies looking to campaign for equity must undergo strict vetting: “Our experienced real estate and financial experts review the credentials and plans of the investment target.”

The minimum investment amount for a MinnowCFunding campaign is just $1,000.

How To Start A MinnowCFunding Campaign

Contact MinnowCFunding with your crowdfunding proposal and see what their agents tell you. The company doesn’t yet have a lot of information posted regarding the application process.

Takeaway

MinnowCFunding is the new kid on the block when it comes to real estate crowdfunding, yet they’ve generated a fair amount of buzz in the short time they’ve been around. Those in the real estate industry interested in Regulation Crowdfunding should give them a look.

Visit the MinnowCFunding website

5) AlphaFlowreal estate crowdfunding platforms

Judging by the name, you might assume AlphaFlow was some kind of non-FDA-approved prostate supplement. However, you would be libellously wrong. Shame on you.

Founded in 2015, AlphaFlow, in their own words, “purchases first lien mortgage notes from top-tier originators around the nation, providing non-conventional liquidity to residential real estate lenders..” Let’s look at AlphaFlow in greater detail.

Best For…

Connecting real estate companies to investors via loan originators. The loan originator offers the investor a balanced portfolio of diversified real estate investments — the investor doesn’t actually choose the individual projects to invest in.

How Does AlphaFlow Work?

AlphaFlow works with companies like PeerStreet to find residential debt crowdfunding campaigns. They take what they believe to be the best campaigns, make sure they are spread out across the US, and build portfolios to offer investors so the investor doesn’t have to do the heavy lifting.

AlphaFlow describes their loan products as follows:

  • Asset-backed (first-lien) mortgage note
  • Loan amounts between $75K-$2MM
  • 6-12 month duration
  • 7% + interest rate
  • Personal guarantee
 AlphaFlow Rules

The company states the following regarding loan originators wishing to use the platform:

AlphaFlow conducts extensive due diligence on each originator partner. Lender onboarding entails strict review of the firm’s management staff, historical loan performance, underwriting guidelines, quality control metrics, and onsite review by AlphaFlow of their lending operations.

How To Start An AlphaFlow Campaign

Individual real estate companies don’t apply to raise funds on AlphaFlow. Rather, lending platforms apply to AlphaFlow, and if the platform is onboarded, it serves as a source of residential debt deals from which AlphaFlow draws to build its portfolios for investors.

Takeaway

AlphaFlow makes investing in real estate easy by offering portfolios comprised of diversified, pre-vetted residential loans.

Visit the AlphaFlow website

6) Fundrisereal estate crowdfunding sites

Launched in 2012, Fundrise’s brand of real estate crowdfunding is somewhat akin to that of AlphaFlow. Fundrise’s investors see their investments spread out over the company’s portfolio, which includes both commercial and residential real estate. The investor doesn’t choose which projects to invest in.

Investors invest in Fundrise’s portfolio through the vehicles of the eREIT (an electronic Real Estate Investment Trust — it resembles a mutual fund for real estate projects) and the eFund (similar to the eREIT).

Best For…

People who want to invest in real estate but don’t want to choose the individual investments.

How Does Fundrise Work?

Fundrise sources real estate investment from around the US, then offers anybody and everybody (not just accredited investors) the chance to invest in Fundrise’s portfolio.

Fundrise doesn’t publicly release the duration, interest rates, etc. of their loan products. On the investor side, Fundrise allows investments of as little as $500 and takes a 0.85% annual asset management fee.

Fundrise Rules

There are no limits as to who can invest with Fundrise. As for real estate companies looking to raise funds with Fundrise, the company is not publicly seeking new projects right now, so no rules for companies looking for investment are given.

How To Start A Fundrise Campaign

You can’t apply for funding through Fundrise’s website, so you’ll have to contact the company via other channels if you have an irresistible deal to propose.

Takeaway

Fundrise is known for its supreme ease of use for the investor. It’s a great way for the average person to invest in something that is independent from the stock market.

Visit the Fundrise website

7) Patch Of Landcrowdfunding real estate

Born in 2013, Patch Of Land is a hard-money debt crowdfunding site for real estate investments — mostly residential, but some commercial. The company was founded by Jason Fritton (who lobbied for the passage of the JOBS Act that made real estate crowdfunding possible in the first place), and his brother Brian.

On Patch Of Land’s About page, the company posts the following mission statement:

Patch of Land aims to solve the problem of slow, inefficient, fragmented and obscure private real estate lending by using the latest technology, data and process efficiency to more accurately assign risk profiles and project viability, while greatly reducing time and cost of loan underwriting for borrowers with real estate projects that are overlooked or rejected by banks and traditional lenders.

Best For…

Real estate companies and the investors who love them.

How Does Patch Of Land Work?

For real estate projects, Patch Of Land offers three different types of loan program:

  • Fix & Flip Loan Program
  • Rental Loan Program
  • Commercial Loan Program

Details of each loan program are given at the link. One thing each has in common is that you can campaign for a maximum of $3 million USD.

Patch Of Land details the performance of its loans here. Some of the highlights: Patch Of Land has funded 986 loans to the tune of over $442 million with a realized rate of return of 10.88%. (Numbers current as of 3/25/18)

Patch Of Land Rules

Regarding the due diligence process, Patch Of Land states:

We will conduct due diligence process and review all the required documentation, including an appraisal. Typically we can close your loan in as little as seven days. Our process is transparent; we do not charge “junk fees” or hidden fees of any kind.

How To Start A Patch Of Land Campaign

Patch Of Land details the application process for borrowers here. Perhaps the highlight of the process is the fact that filling out the application, according to the company, takes only five minutes.

If you’d rather speak to a person about your prospective funding campaign, call a Patch Of Land agent at 1-888-959-1465 with details of your project.

Takeaway

Check out Patch Of Land’s track record and see if they might be the real estate funding solution you’re looking for.

Visit the Patch Of Land website

8) GroundFloorcrowdfunding real estate

GroundFloor provides debt crowdfunding for residential real estate developers. Founded in 2013 in Atlanta, GroundFloor offers fix-and-flip hard money loans for both accredited and non-accredited investors to, well, invest in.

You can invest as little as $10 in a GroundFloor crowdfunded real estate loan. Yes, $10, no typo. Though, I’m not entirely sure what the point of that would be.

Currently, GroundFloor can only be used in a limited number of US states. I’ll tell you which ones in a bit.

Best For…

Financing fix-and-flip real estate projects.

How Does GroundFloor Work?

GroundFloor describes their loans thusly to borrowers:

  • Rates starting at 5.4%
  • Fix-and-flip hard money loans from $75,000 to $2,000,000 for residential properties (Please note: cannot be owner-occupied)
  • Closing as fast as 15 days
  • Monthly payments or balloon payment at maturity date
  • All points can be rolled into the loan
  • No personal guarantee required
  • Lend up to 70% ARV (after repair value)
  • Borrow up to 90% LTC (loan to cost)
  • Fast and simple application with minimal documentation (no tax returns, no bank statements)

GroundFloor also touts 8-12% annualized returns on average on their loans with 6-12 month terms.

GroundFloor Rules

Of course, GroundFloor doesn’t let projects crowdfund loans without doing some vetting:

The product is based on venture loans to real estate entrepreneurs, originated and serviced by Groundfloor. Prior to offering, every loan is pre-funded by Groundfloor after a thorough vetting of the borrower’s experience, credit worthiness, and business plan, plus an assessment of the property value on an as-is and as-improved basis.

As of this moment, you can only raise funds through GroundFloor in the following states: Massachusetts, Maryland, DC, Virginia, Georgia, Illinois, Texas, Washington, and California. However, GroundFloor recently announced that due to their offering having just been qualified by the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission under Tier II of Regulation A, they will be operating in all 50 states in short order. Just not quite yet.

Note that in a recent press release, the company said: “Groundfloor has not historically charged any investor fees, but may elect to begin doing so in the near future.”

How To Start A GroundFloor Campaign

If you reside in one of the aforementioned states, apply online and see what GroundFloor says. Alternately, call the company at 678-701-1194 and strike up a chat.

Takeaway

GroundFloor may only be getting started, but they seem to be making some moves to gain a foothold in the industry.

Visit the GroundFloor website

9) EQUITYMULTIPLEreal estate crowdfunding sites

With an all-caps name that makes me feel like I’m yelling at you just by typing it, EQUITYMULTIPLE offers commercial real estate crowdfunding in the form of syndicated debt, equity, and preferred equity raises.

EQUITYMULTIPLE is a young company, having been founded in 2015. However, extolling their familiarity with the field, EQUITYMULTIPLE states:

Experience matters. While other platforms are backed by venture capital companies, we’re backed by a real estate company – Mission Capital, a recognized national leader in commercial real estate debt & equity finance.

Best For…

Commercial real estate developers looking for crowdfunded investment, investors looking for real estate deals, and people who like shouting.

Only accredited investors can invest through EQUITYMULTIPLE.

How Does EQUITYMULTIPLE Work?

Here are the details of EQUITYMULTIPLE’s syndicated debt offerings:

  • Target Rate to Investors: 7-12%
  • Typical LTV: 50-75%
  • Typical Term: 6-24 months

The details for the company’s preferred equity offerings:

  • Target Current Preferred Return: 6-12%
  • Target Total Preferred Return: 50-75%
  • Typical Term: 1-3 years

Lastly, the company’s regular equity offerings:

  • Target Annual Cash Return: 6-12%
  • Target Internal Rate of Return to Investors: 14%+
  • Typical Term: 1-3 years

EQUITYMULTIPLE Rules

Regarding due diligence, EQUITYMULTIPLE describes the platform’s vetting process:

We will provide a comprehensive diligence request list. Once these items are received, our team will determine if the deal meets the requirements of EQUITYMULTIPLE’s investor network. During this time, the Sponsor and EQUITYMULTIPLE will begin discussions surrounding the terms of the anticipated Offering.

How To Start An EQUITYMULTIPLE Campaign

EQUITYMULTIPLE’s deal submission and funding process is detailed here. One key point: once you submit your deal, EQUITYMULTIPLE “will get back to you within two business days with follow-up questions or preliminary approval.”

Takeaway

EQUITYMULTIPLE is a real estate crowdfunding platform just finding its sea legs. Keep an eye on these folks.

Visit the EQUITYMULTIPLE website

10) Small Changereal estate crowdfunding sites

Launched in 2014 and headquartered in Pittsburgh, Small Change may not have the longest track record, but the equity real estate crowdfunding platform distinguishes itself by associating its brand with social responsibility:

We created Small Change to allow everyday people to invest in real estate projects that change cities and neighborhoods for the better, and we created our proprietary Change Index to track that change.

The Change Index is a way for Small Change to assess real estate developments in terms of their access to public transportation, the walkability of the area, access to parks and fresh food, and other factors.

Best For…

Developers of residential, commercial, and mixed-use properties that score sufficiently highly on the company’s Change Index. Non-accredited investors can invest in some projects, while others are strictly for accredited investors.

How Does Small Change Work?

Small Change advertises average returns of between 8-10%. The minimum investment amount on a Small Change project is just $500.

Small Change doesn’t provide much in the way of details as to how their investments perform. Hopefully, this will change in the future.

Small Change Rules

The company’s Change Index is a fairly comprehensive scoring system for how beneficial a real estate development is to the wider community. Projects must hit a certain target score on each metric before being allowed to use the platform. I recommend reading the details of the Index carefully if you’re thinking about using Small Change for your real estate venture.

How To Start A Small Change Campaign

You’ll have to create an account and get in touch with the company to ask about getting your project on the platform. Small Change doesn’t provide any granular detail as to how to do this.

Takeaway

It’s good that at least one real estate crowdfunder seems aware of the fact that not all real estate developments benefit the community and that such developments should be viewed through the prism of social responsibility. For that, I tip my cap to Small Change and the Change Index.

Visit the Small Change website

Final Thoughts

Real estate crowdfunding can hardly be said to be a mature industry at this point. After all, it’s only about six years old. As such, the industry is in flux, and my list of leading real estate crowdfunders would undoubtedly be different if I were to write this article in another few years.

That’s not to say real estate crowdfunding can’t work for you right now — indeed, evidence indicates quite the contrary. Check out the companies I’ve listed above if you want to get a good picture of where the industry stands today.

The post 10 Great Real Estate Crowdfunding Platforms For Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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A Guide To Shopify Templates And Design Tools

Shopify is a cloud-based, SaaS solution for online sellers. This ecommerce platform allows you to build a full website, add products, create promotions, and sell from your own site.

Shopify is an incredibly popular solution, hosting online stores for over 500,000 merchants; this popularity is due primarily to Shopify’s simplicity and ease of use. Sellers of all skill levels can set up and operate their stores on Shopify.

What’s more, Shopify is well known for its excellent web design. The platform offers a wide selection of modern and elegantly designed website templates.

Like everything this company does, Shopify’s responsive design is intended to be easy to use and accessible to merchants with little to no experience in web development. Keep reading to learn more about Shopify’s design templates, design tools, and best practices for your own designs.

How Do Shopify Designs Work?

Shopify uses a theme marketplace to provide design templates to their users. Every merchant has access to Shopify’s theme marketplace, which includes 63 themes made to fit a variety of industries and online stores.

When you find one you like, you simply download the whole package and enable it on your site (in some cases, you will have to purchase the theme). You can then tweak your site with a few of the available design tools. We’ll talk more about those design tools later. First, let’s talk about the kinds of Shopify templates available.

Types Of Shopify Templates

Free Shopify Templates

10 of Shopify’s 63 themes are free to download. Those themes are a bit simpler than their premium counterparts. However, many merchants will find that the free themes fit their needs just fine.

Here are a few of our favorite free Shopify templates:

Premium Shopify Templates

If the free themes don’t strike your fancy, take a look at Shopify’s premium themes. These themes are a little more complex, and they are typically priced between $140-$180.

Here are a few examples of Shopify’s premium templates:

Buying Shopify Templates

If you do choose a premium design, purchasing the template is a simple process.

Just go into the theme marketplace, and select the template you’d like to buy. Then, click the “Buy Theme” button located under “Try Theme.”

You’ll be redirected to your admin where you can confirm the purchase.

Then, you can enable your brand new template on your site.

Available Design Tools

Once you’ve found your template, it’s time to start customizing your store. Shopify provides a variety of tools for different levels of customization. Here are a few of the tools you can use to change up your site.

Easy-To-Use Tools

  • WYSIWYG Editor: Use a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor to quickly update copy and add content to your site, without touching the code.
  • Theme Editor: Use Shopify’s built-in theme editor to make a few simple changes, and preview those changes in real time. You can use this tool to adjust the backgrounds, images, colors, and fonts of your online store.
  • Sections: Sections is Shopify’s new drag-and-drop block design tool. Sections lets you make large-scale changes to your site by adding content blogs and rearranging widgets. This tool is currently only available with select themes. However, Shopify is continually working to expand its availability. View the Sections editor below.

Advanced Customization Tools

While the above tools are great for merchants who simply want to tweak their existing designs, they do have their limitations. If you want to alter your templates more than these easy editors will allow, you’ll have to go deeper.

Here’s how you can best customize your website design:

  • Code Editor: In order to make dramatic changes to your site, you’ll need to really get into the code. Shopify uses the Liquid templating language (Learn more about Liquid). You can also edit your site’s HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.
  • Hire A Shopify Expert: If you want to make changes to your code, but you don’t have the skill to do it, look into outsourcing your customization to Shopify Experts.

Shopify Template Designs & Best Practices

When you select a Shopify theme, you get every template that comes with it. You will have a pre-designed template for your About Us page, storefront, blog, checkout page, etc.

As we’ve already discussed, while most of the design elements are determined by the theme you choose, you can edit a few elements of your online store’s design using available tools.

Here’s what you can do to make sure your site meets with industry best practices on every page:

Shopify Store Templates

Before we get into best practices for your storefront design, let’s take a look at one of Shopify’s preset storefronts. This image is taken from the free Brooklyn theme.

Shopify does a lot right with this preset. And, with a little work, you can make this design even better. Here are a few of the most important factors to keep in mind as you customize your design.

Prioritize Site Navigation

Excellent site navigation helps your customers locate the products they’re looking for, hopefully reducing your store’s bounce rates. One of the best ways to improve site organization is by implementing a navigation bar with a drop-down menu at the top of your site.

This navigation bar should include categories and subcategories (which you can display using a drop down bar). Everything in your navigation bar, from titles to promotions, should be clickable.

Not only does a navigation bar aid your customers, but also it improves your online store’s overall SEO. Listing your categories and subcategories on every page gives Google more keywords to grab onto, helping your site rank better on organic search results.

Focus On Images

Studies show that image-focused responsive design inspires more engagement. Design your homepage to feature your products and your brand with engaging, high-quality images.

Keep Information Above The Fold

Make sure your most important information is displayed at the top of your page, so customers will see it before they scroll. This includes contact information, promotions, shipping information, and your shopping cart icon.

Shopify About Us Templates

The About Us page is your space to shine. Share your story with your customers, and let your brand’s personality come through. Scroll down for a few more tips for your About Us page.

Connect With Customers

Your About Us page should be a place where you build a relationship with your customers. Make sure to welcome customers to your site and don’t be afraid to use flattery. (“You won’t settle for anything but the best!”)

Tell A Story

Every business has a story. Use your About Us page to put your history on display. Show your customers that you are regular people and demonstrate your business’s growth to date.

As you write your About Us page, be sure to use your brand’s own voice. Include all the personality of your brand.

Consider Including Alternative Media

Got a video you’d like to share? This is a great place to put it! Consider using videos, images, and testimonials on this page, as well as links to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and others.

Shopify Blog Templates

We love that Shopify offers built-in blogs with all their themes and designs. Maintaining an active blog is a great way to build your brand, promote your online store, and harness some extra SEO power. Here’s a look at Shopify’s blog template for the Brooklyn theme. See below for more information on blogging best practices.

Post Regularly

The most important part of having a blog is actually using that blog. Develop a publication schedule and stick to it! Posting frequently and regularly will show customers that your online store is still in business, and it will indicate to Google that your site is active.

Write Relevant & Useful Information

While your blog is an important part of your business’s marketing strategy, your articles should not read like advertisements for your products. Write articles that are interesting, useful, and entertaining to your customers. Each article should have some value for its reader. Keep in mind your customers’ needs and interests as you write.

Shopify Thank You Page Templates

The Thank You page is the page your customers will see after they finalize a purchase. Shopify gives you an excellent starting place with their predesigned Thank You page. However, you can still do more to optimize this page.

Think Upsell

Now that you’ve secured a purchase, it’s the perfect opportunity to encourage more purchases. Consider displaying related products in the sidebar of your Thank You page. You could even provide a discount code for future purchases at your store.

At the very least, make sure customers can easily return to browsing with the easy “Continue Shopping” button that Shopify has already included.

Final Thoughts

If you’re already a Shopify merchant, you’re only a few steps away from a beautiful baseline for your online store. Just take a tour through the theme marketplace, test out any responsive themes that pique your interest with a demo, and settle on one that fits your website design plans.

Then, customize, customize, customize, until your site works exactly the way you need it to!

Are you already using Shopify’s design tools? Do you have any favorite themes? Let us know in the comments below which theme you’re using and how web design is going for your online store.

The post A Guide To Shopify Templates And Design Tools appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best First Data Credit Card Processing Alternatives

First Data logo on the websiteIf you’re a business owner searching for a merchant account provider, you’re going to hear about First Data sooner or later. They’re rather hard to ignore, as they’re the largest provider in the United States. The company currently processes 45% of all credit and debit card transactions in the US, either directly or through a network of sub-ISOs and third-party partners. There are several really large providers in the processing industry, but First Data is simply huge.

The company dominates the processing industry in the same way that Amazon and Walmart dominate the retail sector. Unfortunately, First Data’s outsized chunk of the market share is the only thing they have in common with these two retail giants. While Amazon and Walmart have succeeded by offering lower prices than their competitors, First Data is more like the Apple of the processing industry. They provide a high-quality product, but you’ll pay top dollar for it, and they make no effort to lower their prices to accommodate customers of more modest means.

We’ve reviewed First Data and found that their products and services are generally quite good. However, their prices and contract terms are geared toward the top end of the market. If you’re a large business processing over $100,000 per month, they can offer you very competitive rates. They’ll also charge you high account fees, but you’ll still save money overall. Small businesses, on the other hand, will be far more impacted by the higher fees, and won’t qualify for the lowest possible rates. First Data also continues to push outrageously expensive terminal leases through their subsidiary, First Data Global Leasing.

If you’re a small business owner, you’ll want to consider several alternatives to signing up with First Data. Below, we’ve presented four alternative processors that work better for smaller businesses. One (Dharma Merchant Services) is a merchant account provider that uses First Data as their backend processor. This relationship gives you access to many of First Data’s powerful features, but at a much lower cost and with far more personal customer support. The others (Helcim, Fattmerchant, and Chase Merchant Services) offer services similar to First Data but are much more affordable for small businesses. Of these four alternatives, only Chase Merchant Services is a direct processor, able to manage your merchant account and process your transactions.

Overview of First Data

If you’re still thinking about signing up with First Data, you’ll want to read our in-depth review of the company before making a decision. While we’ve given them a decent score overall, the fact remains that their services are geared (and priced) more toward big businesses. They’re not a good deal for smaller companies, and merchants who only occasionally need to process credit or debit card transactions should steer clear altogether due to their high account fees.

First Data’s standard contract imposes a four-year term, with an automatic renewal clause that extends the contract for one-year periods after that. The contract is enforced through an early termination fee (ETF). Rather than charge a fixed amount for breaking your contract, First Data adds your monthly minimum, monthly customer service fee, and monthly account fee together, then multiplies this amount by the number of months remaining in your contract to calculate your ETF. This amount can easily exceed $1000 in the first year or two of your contract – far more than most providers charge for an early termination fee. While the company is sometimes willing to waive this fee altogether, you might prefer to avoid liability for this fee entirely by choosing one of our alternative providers, none of whom charge early termination fees at all.

First Data doesn’t disclose any information about processing rates on their website, but they offer a combination of both tiered and interchange-plus pricing plans. Of these two, tiered pricing is almost always more expensive. Because it brings in more revenue for First Data, you’re likely to be offered this type of pricing if you don’t ask for interchange-plus. Sales representatives have some leeway to negotiate the kind of pricing plan you’ll receive and the rates you’ll pay, but very small businesses or those without an established processing history might have no choice but to accept a tiered plan. You can avoid the uncertainty and the possibility of overpaying for processing by looking into one of our alternative providers. Dharma and Helcim offer fully-disclosed interchange-plus rates exclusively, while Fattmerchant uses a unique subscription-based pricing system that offers very low interchange-plus rates in exchange for a higher monthly account fee. Chase Merchant Services offers a combination of both tiered and interchange-plus rates, but seems more amenable to offering interchange-plus rates to smaller businesses than First Data.

First Data also charges a number of monthly, annual, and incidental account fees to maintain your merchant account. While none of these fees are directly disclosed on their website, you can find information about most of them in the sample contract. While some of these fees may be waived or reduced through negotiation, they’re generally higher than industry averages. If you don’t want to pay extra just to maintain your merchant account, you’ll be happy to know that our preferred alternatives charge lower fees than the industry average. Better yet, Dharma, Helcim, and Fattmerchant fully disclose their fee schedule right on their website. You won’t have to talk to a sales representative or sift through pages of fine print to figure out what your fees will be for your merchant account. Chase doesn’t disclose their fees in such a transparent manner, but merchant feedback indicates that they’re reasonable and in line with industry averages.

While pricing is understandably the most important concern for most merchants when choosing a provider, customer support and service after the sale should also be an important consideration. All our suggested alternative providers offer excellent customer support. First Data has a surprisingly good reputation in this area despite their huge size, but we’ve found that smaller providers generally offer better, more personalized service than the larger companies. With these considerations in mind, let’s take a closer look at our recommended alternatives to First Data:

Dharma Merchant Services

Dharma Merchant Services review

If you want to harness the power of First Data’s specialized services and products, but at a lower cost, take a look at Dharma Merchant Services (see our review). While the company uses First Data as one of its backend processors, they have a completely different pricing structure and a unique corporate philosophy. Dharma Merchant Services takes its name from the term dharma, which is found in several Eastern religions and roughly translates to a “right way of living.” The folks at Dharma take this concept seriously, offering a full spectrum of credit card processing services for a fair and reasonable price. Their fee structure is completely transparent, with all fees and charges disclosed on their website. All merchants receive interchange-plus pricing, and there are no annual fees. They also don’t charge account setup fees, early termination fees, or have a monthly minimum. Fees that they do charge (including PCI compliance fees) are fully disclosed. Dharma is unique in the world of credit card processing companies in that they donate a significant percentage of their profits to charity, living up to their motto “Commerce with Compassion.”

In addition to merchant accounts, Dharma offers a variety of wired and wireless countertop terminals for in-store use, including the First Data FD130. Their terminals are EMV-compliant and support Apple Pay. If you need a full-featured POS system, they offer the popular Clover Mini. Dharma also offers their proprietary MX Merchant system, which integrates a payment gateway, virtual terminal, and mobile processing solution into a single product.

Dharma easily offers the fairest and most transparent fee structure in the industry. In addition to a flat $10.00 per month fee for storefront and eCommerce accounts, transactions are billed according to an interchange-plus pricing model. In-person transactions are charged interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction, while eCommerce transactions are charged interchange + 0.35% + $0.15 per transaction. For restaurants, Dharma offers a special discounted rate of interchange + 0.20% + $0.07 per transaction. Other additional fees (such as PCI compliance fees) are clearly spelled out on Dharma’s website.

While there is no minimum monthly volume requirement, Dharma openly acknowledges that their full-service merchant accounts don’t make financial sense for low-volume businesses processing less than several thousand dollars per month in transactions. If your business falls into that category, they recommend either PayPal or Square.

Helcim

Helcim logo

“Trust, transparency, and fair pricing” is Helcim’s motto, and they live up to it by providing the most up-front, clearly-explained pricing structure of any of the credit card processing companies we’ve reviewed. A Canadian company, they also have an office in Seattle and provide full support to US-based merchants.

Helcim (see our review) offers a full gamut of services and equipment for both storefront and online businesses. Their website features a variety of EMV-compliant and NFC-capable credit card terminals, starting at $199. Unlike many of their competitors, they encourage US customers to buy their terminals outright, rather than renting or leasing. Helcim will reprogram your current equipment for free if it’s up-to-date. If your current terminal isn’t compatible, they’ll exchange it for a refurbished model for $75.00. Unfortunately, Canadian EMV-compliant terminals are not designed to be transferred or resold, so Canadian customers will have to use the rental option or buy a new machine. Renting on a month-to-month basis (which is not the same as leasing) is usually the best option for Canadian merchants.

Helcim has recently introduced their Helcim Commerce system, a web-based solution that processes both online and manual payments on your computer or with a traditional terminal, generating receipts that can be emailed or printed. This system includes a virtual terminal, payment gateway with API, support for recurring billing, billing information vault storage, e-invoicing, shopping cart integration, and hosted payment pages. Best of all, you get all these features for a flat $15.00 per month for retail users or $35.00 per month for eCommerce merchants.

Mobile payments are supported through the free Helcim Commerce Mobile app for iOS and Android. To use the app, you’ll need the Helcim Mobile Reader, which supports magstripe swiping and plugs into your smartphone’s audio jack. Readers cost $30 each.

Helcim uses an interchange-plus pricing model for all merchants. Rates for retail merchants range from as high as interchange + 0.25% + $0.08 per transaction to as low as interchange + 0.10% + $0.05 per transaction, depending on your monthly processing volume. Online rates range from as high as interchange + 0.45% + $0.25 per transaction to as low as interchange + 0.10% + $0.10 per transaction, again depending on monthly processing volume. Helcim doesn’t charge fees for account setup or termination, and PCI compliance is included in the monthly subscription fee. All contracts are month-to-month, with no early termination fees. For small businesses processing at least $1500 per month, Helcim will save you a significant amount of money over First Data through lower interchange-plus rates and lower account fees.

Fattmerchant

Fattmerchant (see our review) is a newcomer to the merchant account industry, starting up in 2014. Focusing on transparency and lower costs for merchants, the company offers several subscription-based pricing plans. Under these plans, you’ll pay a higher monthly fee, but you won’t pay any markup percentage on your processing costs. With a high enough processing volume, this can lead to significant savings in overall costs over traditional interchange-plus pricing plans. Your monthly subscription fee also covers things like PCI compliance, eliminating most of the additional fees that traditional processors like to add to your bill.

With Fattmerchant, you’re encouraged to buy your own terminals, and they’ll re-program them to work with their services for free. They also offer EMV-compliant terminals and POS systems with some of their pricing plans. For mobile payments, the company offers their free Fattmerchant Payments Mobile app, which is currently available for iOS only. An Android version is under development.

Fattmerchant offers a choice between two subscription-based pricing plans. The $99 per month plan is available for businesses that process up to $1 million annually. Larger businesses processing over that amount pay $199 per month for their subscription. With the $99 per month plan, retail merchants pay interchange + 0% + $0.08 per transaction. Enterprise users on the $199 per month plan pay interchange + 0% + $0.06 per transaction. Online and mobile transactions cost interchange + 0% + $0.15 per transaction under the $99 per month plan, and interchange + 0% + $0.12 per transaction under the $199 per month plan. As you might have guessed, the bulk of your monthly subscription fee goes to covering the markup that traditional interchange-plus pricing plans charge. If your processing volume is high enough, you could save quite a bit in processing charges with one of these plans. On the other hand, it’s probably not cost-effective for low volume or seasonal businesses. Fattmerchant doesn’t charge PCI compliance fees, batch fees, or statement fees, as these are all covered by your monthly subscription fee.

While Fattmerchant claims that there are no contracts, what they really mean is that there are no long-term contracts. Their merchant accounts are billed month-to-month, and there is no early termination fee if you close your account.

Fattmerchant offers an intriguing alternative to traditional merchant accounts. Their processing rates are extremely low, although this is offset by the high monthly subscription costs. You’ll want to run the numbers carefully and compare your current processing costs to what you’d pay with them to see if their plans make sense for your business. While mid-sized companies could save as much as 40% over the cost of a First Data merchant account, smaller businesses might find the subscription cost to be too high to save money overall on processing costs.

Chase Merchant Services

Chase merchant services review logo

While all the alternatives to First Data we’ve discussed so far have been smaller providers, Chase Merchant Services (see our review) is one of the larger merchant services providers in the industry. They’re large enough to be a direct processor, much like First Data itself. As such, they can offer you many of the same powerful features that First Data can. However, their pricing and terms are more competitive, and they have a much better reputation for customer service.

Like First Data, Chase doesn’t disclose any pricing information on their website. However, they offer a similar combination of both tiered and interchange-plus pricing rates. Merchant feedback suggests that they’re more likely to provide you with interchange-plus pricing, and that their account fees are reasonable. They also sell their equipment rather than leasing terminals, which is a big plus.

While the company doesn’t appear to offer true month-to-month billing, they no longer include an early termination fee in their contracts. So, while you might still be bound by a three-year contract with an automatic renewal clause, it will be much easier to close your account early, and you won’t be charged a penalty for doing so. As always, we strongly advise you to read your entire contract thoroughly before signing up, and don’t rely on any verbal assurances from sales representatives.

Chase Merchant Services is a good choice for both retail and eCommerce merchants. They offer several EMV-compliant credit card terminals, which you can purchase outright rather than leasing. Their Orbital Payment Gateway is one of the best in the industry. They also have a solid mobile payments system, which uses their Chase Mobile Checkout app (available for both iOS and Android) and an EMV-compliant mobile card reader. Note that, as of this writing, they’re one of the few providers in the industry to offer an EMV-capable mobile card reader.

Chase Merchant Services is also a good choice for companies that do business overseas or process a lot of B2B transactions, offering payments in over 120 currencies and providing the ability to process Level II and Level III card data.

While you won’t find the same high level of transparency that our other alternative providers offer, Chase Merchant Services is a good choice for mid-sized and larger businesses looking for a provider that can match First Data’s services, but at a more competitive price. The company also has a remarkably low complaint volume relative to its size. As a point of comparison, Chase Merchant Services has 37 complaints within the last three years, while First Data has over 1000.

Final Thoughts

With nearly half the market share in the United States, it’s impossible to ignore First Data in your search for an ideal merchant services provider. However, bigger isn’t always better, and First Data is really only a good choice if you’re already very successful in your business and experienced in negotiating with providers. Smaller businesses and merchants who are just starting out should steer clear of First Data and consider one of our preferred alternatives instead.

One of the significant advantages offered by Dharma, Helcim, and Fattmerchant is that they fully disclose their pricing upfront. Not only does this eliminate the need to negotiate with a sales representative, but it also allows you to make a far more accurate estimate of your anticipated processing costs before you ever contact their sales department. While you won’t be able to do this with Chase Merchant Services, a price quote from them will allow you to make an accurate estimate of how their costs stack up against our other, more transparent, providers.

In selecting between these four alternatives, Dharma and Helcim are best for nonprofit businesses, as they offer discounted pricing for qualified nonprofits. Dharma is also an excellent choice for restaurants, being one of the few providers in the industry to provide lower pricing just for restaurant owners. Helcim is a great all-around choice for small or newly-established businesses. Fattmerchant can offer the most significant savings over more traditional providers to businesses that are large enough to afford their subscription rates. Finally, if your business needs the power of a direct processor and you can negotiate a good deal, Chase Merchant Services is a great alternative to First Data. If your business is too small to afford any of these alternatives, we recommend that you look into a payment service provider (PSP), such as Square or PayPal.

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The Best iPad POS Systems

iPads: “They’re not just a way for tourists to awkwardly take photos anymore!”

(That is just one of the hundreds of rejected slogans I’ve pitched to Apple over the years, but I’m still optimistic. One of these days, I’ll hit the sweet spot and retire on the marketing royalties.)

In all seriousness, the iPad has been an enormous technological breakthrough across multiple platforms and, when it comes to the world of point of sale software, the iPad completely changed the game. Now entire businesses can be run on a simple, portable, and surprisingly cost-effective tablet. It’s really no surprise that so many POS companies have developed apps either specifically designed to run on the iPad or that are at least compatible with iOS. While Apple will always have its critics, the iPad’s appeal to business owners and customers alike is undeniable. But in a landscape where new iPad POS software dominates the market, it’s tough to figure out the best option to meet your needs. Fortunately, evaluating SMB software is what we do best here at Merchant Maverick. Read on for a look at a few of our favorite Apple iPad point of sale systems.

ShopKeep

Best For…

Small to mid-sized retail businesses and smaller restaurant establishments.

Pricing

$69 per month per first three registers.

Feature Overview

ShopKeep (read our review) remains one of Merchant Maverick’s most recommended iPad POS systems because it features nearly every element you would want in a good point of sale software, and does so in a highly palatable and efficient manner. ShopKeep is also competitively priced and routinely updates its software to improve on an already stellar product. And with its recent advances in features for the restaurant/foodservice industry, ShopKeep continues to live up to our 5-star rating.

ShopKeep is successful largely because it stays in its lane. It is designed for small to mid-sized businesses and caters to them in most aspects. After a comprehensive walk-through during set-up that can help you with as much or as little as your previous experience with POS systems dictates, ShopKeep is exceptionally easy to use in all facets. The inventory management feature is truly impressive, offering an unlimited number of products and a matrix inventory, which is an advanced feature for a small to mid-sized business.

The company’s multi-store function has also come a long way and you can view details across all of your locations on one device. ShopKeep’s customer service is excellent and, although the company suggests using its own payment processing plan, it is integrated with numerous other processors so you’re not locked in.

Takeaway

Like most of the best POS systems, ShopKeep continues to improve. In particular, ShopKeep is becoming a better and better option for restaurants. Already boasting an excellent interface and strong reporting and employee management, the modifier and check functions of this POS make it worth a look for any new business owner. ShopKeep is at the top of its field for user-friendliness, working well with most versions of the iPad, including the iPad Pro, iPad Air, and iPad Mini.

Read our complete review or check out ShopKeep’s website for yourself.

Vend

Best For…

Any sized retail establishment

Pricing

Four options, starting with a limited free version. Other packages are $69, $99 and $249 a month with discounts for being billed annually.

Feature Overview

Vend (read our review) is a terrific option for anyone looking for a tablet POS system. The company offers a Mac bundle, PC bundle, and an iPad bundle, all of which feature Vend’s easy-to-use software and fairly robust feature set. If you’re a retailer looking to keep costs down while not feeling like you’re missing out on any top-tier functions, Vend is worth a long look.

Like ShopKeep, Vend does a nice job catering to its specialty: small to mid-sized retailers. There is some basic foodservice functionality that makes Vend perfectly acceptable for small vendors like cafes or food carts but, to retail shops will get the most bang for their buck (or lack of buck if you take advantage of Vend’s limited but still generous free version). Although the software is geared to smaller, more independent retailers, Vend is more than capable of handling a multi-store operation. Its eCommerce platform (available in the Advanced and Multi-Store versions) is easy to set up and navigate.

Vend thrives in the area of customer management. It offers a built-in and comprehensive loyalty function and makes it easy to take and store customer information for future promotions. The inventory management tool offers everything a small business would need, with the ability to import via a CSV file and an option for creating purchase orders. Vend integrates with loads of other software apps and has strong customer service, although it charges extra for its premium support.

Takeaway

Vend is one of the most versatile and effective iPad POS systems for retail businesses. If you’re a small company just starting out, you can take advantage of its free package. And if you have a large-scale multi-store enterprise, Vend is robust enough to have your back as well. With an advanced eCommerce platform and great customer management, Vend is worth a long look.

Read our complete review or visit Vend’s website on your own.

Revel

revel systems

Best For…

Mid-sized to larger foodservice businesses, though it can be adapted to smaller restaurants as well.

Pricing

Revel has a flexible pricing structure depending on what features you need. The cost of the software is built into the monthly subscription.

Feature Overview

Revel (read our review) packs a ton into its relatively unassuming software. The company, which functions best as an Apple-based restaurant POS, has also expanded to suit certain retail establishments as well. Revel currently is only offered on Apple iOS devices, but it is a fully functional POS and is robust enough to suit large, multi-store restaurant chains. However, as long as you’re not overwhelmed by its wealth of back-end features and an interface that is slightly less intuitive than average, Revel is flexible enough to work with smaller retailers as well. It features a flexible pricing structure to suit multiple needs.

As you would expect, Revel offers real-time inventory management with a convenient matrix for importing mass items and tracking them across multiple locations. Revel also has a fantastic Kiosk option for iPads which allows customers to order and pay on their own with a number of different methods. The Kitchen Display System for cooks is a strong feature, helping to cut down on ticket times and increase communication between the front- and backend of a restaurant.

Where Revel really separates itself is reporting. Its comprehensive suite features a convenient layout and runs nearly any report you could think of. Combine that with a great QuickBooks integration, and Revel makes some of the minutiae and tedium of backend features simple.

Takeaway

Revel is a powerhouse of a POS that can handle large-scale restaurant establishments. The system boasts excellent real-time reporting and an extensive employee management system. Though it comes with a slightly higher learning curve than some systems, Revel’s wealth of integrations gives it a big edge in a very competitive market, and it’s one of our favorite POS solutions here at Merchant Maverick.

You can find our full review here or check out Revel’s website.

talech

talech POS logo

Best For…

Almost any type of food service establishment.

Pricing

$69 or $99 a month with an enterprise option as well.

Feature Overview

There are many nice things about talech (read our review), but what I really appreciate is that, depending on your size of business, you can really get what you pay for. The Standard package gives you everything you would need for a small retail store or quick serve restaurant, while the Premium package expands its features to serve larger retailers and full-service restaurants, meaning you’re generally not going to be paying for features you’re not using.

talech does plenty of things well, starting with a strong and functional inventory management system. You can generate your own barcodes and print them from any device, track product history and performance across multiple stores, and create complex inventory bundles. Employee management is another strength; talech makes it easy to track an individual’s sales and actions. There is also a function which makes it so that managers, via swipe cards, are the only ones allowed to make voids.

talech review

talech is constantly updating and adapting to stay on top of current trends. One of its most recent changes is its online ordering system, which is an add-on that can dramatically increase a business’s sales output. talech integrates with a handful of major companies, including QuickBooks, Xero, Shopify, and Magento. It also offers highly regarded customer service.

Takeaway

talech is exceptionally affordable and has options for small to large restaurants. Even with lower tier packages, you get terrific inventory and employee management. With its commitment to updating its software and the ability to set up online ordering, talech continues to impress.

Read our complete review of talech or check out their website.

ERPLY

erply-logo

Best For…

Small to mid-sized retail businesses.

Pricing

$200 or $350 a month with enterprise options available.

Feature Overview

For ease of use, ERPLY, (read our review) continues to be at the top of the iPad point of sale class. Designed specifically for small to mid-sized retail businesses, ERPLY is another company that specifically seeks to alleviate recurring issues that smaller, independent business owners may be having with their software. ERPLY is remarkably user-friendly and comes with the ability to customize and print purchase orders — and it also connects with major shipping companies.

Inventory management is simple and customizable. You can set limits for stock to be automatically reordered. Tracking inventory across multiple stores is intuitive, and ERPLY’s inventory module makes it possible to determine pricing by location (or even by a specific promotion or sale that you may be running). Speaking of which, ERPLY offers a built-in function for promotions and it can store all kinds of information on customers, from their social media IDs to their loyalty points.

ERPLY comes with well over 100 reports, so if you’re into analytics, they’ve more than got you covered. You would think with that much to offer, the software would be a bit unwieldy, but ERPLY prides itself on its simple to use platform. Everything can be customized to suit your personal style.

Takeaway

ERPLY isn’t a bargain by any means, but if you’re looking for an iPad POS that’s pretty much hassle free and loaded with features, it might be worth the expense. ERPLY is easy to navigate right out of the box and does just about everything well. It is particularly useful if your business has multiple locations. You’ll have to shell out a bit more per month than you would for some other systems, but many merchants will find the convenience worth the cost.

You can find our full review here or visit ERPLY’s website on your own.

SalesVu

Best For…

Small to mid-sized retail and restaurant establishments.

Pricing

Flexible, but generally ranging from $25 to $150 a month.

Feature Overview

Another one of our 5-star systems, SalesVu (read our review) can handle both small to mid-sized retail and restaurant establishments. The software isn’t flashy, but all of the functionality you would expect from an Apple-based POS is there. Food industry businesses can set up their menus to switch to Happy Hour prices at specific times, and a convenient kiosk function allows customers to order directly at the table. SalesVu’s simple eCommerce platform is ideal for online ordering, and creating your own website with back-end integrations built-in can be done in a matter of minutes.

SalesVu’s inventory management is excellent, allowing for mass imports via CSV files. You can also use your iPad or your iPhone as a scanner. When an item is getting low, SalesVu alerts you and gives you the option of pulling the item completely or allowing for sales to go through even when supplies are limited.

SalesVu is also a great option for spas, salons, or any service-based businesses, featuring a built-in function that connects employees to a scheduling calendar.

Salesvu review

There are also plenty of reports available, as well as a built-in loyalty integration that can store customer information for sales and promotions. Currently, SalesVu is limited in its integrations but it does pair with QuickBooks and a handful of different credit card processors. You also get highly rated customer service. SalesVu is a fairly affordable iPad point of sale system, but its pricing structure can be a bit convoluted, so you’ll want to speak with a representative to sort out the details.

Takeaway

SalesVu’s flexibility is refreshing and, even if you’re going with one of its smaller packages, you get a lot for your money. The inventory management is excellent and, for small food service businesses, its kiosk function is terrific. Built-in loyalty and integrations with multiple processors are also big pluses.

Read our complete overview of SalesVu or visit the company’s website.

Lavu

Best For…

Quick service or full-service restaurants.

Pricing

$79/month with enterprise option available.

Feature Overview

Designed specifically for iPads, Lavu (read our review) is an impressive POS that can fill the needs of most mid-sized food industry businesses (either quick service or full service) and some light retail establishments. The interface is sleek and modern and designed with servers in mind. Order taking is simple and table and menu layouts are all intuitive and customizable. Lavu has a very convenient system for creating and executing modifiers as well.

Keeping with its employee-friendly theme, employee management is one of Lavu’s strong suits. Servers can log in with a key code and their hours and overtime are easily tracked; permissions can be assigned with a simple click. The company has also recently bolstered its inventory management feature, allowing for bulk importing and automatic alerts when products run low. If you are operating multiple stores, inventory can quickly be transferred from one location to another.

Lavu’s gift card and loyalty plans are both available as add-ons, which isn’t ideal. However, once you’ve purchased these add-ons, they integrated seamlessly with the software. Lavu has some other nice integrations, including an impressive customizable kitchen display system and customer-friendly features for online ordering and pick-up. Lavu integrates with a wide range of processing companies as well, giving you flexibility.

Takeaway

Your employees should love Lavu — its interface is easy to learn and simple to navigate. And, as a manager, you’ll appreciate the customizable options and employee management functions. Lavu has recently beefed up its inventory management, which had been one of its few flaws in the past, and it is now an extremely well-rounded option.

Check out our complete review of Lavu or visit Lavu’s website.

iConnect

Best For…

Most retail establishments with a bent toward spas and salons.

Pricing

$75/month with a multi-store option available,

Feature Overview

With a name like iConnect, (read our review) you know you have a POS made specifically for iOS (although it recently updated to function on Windows as well). iConnect is a versatile system that is perfect for small or large retail establishments, depending on the plan you purchase. iConnect has some unique features that make it a particularly strong option for businesses that book appointments, like salons. With the ability to set up recurring billing, it’s also a useful system for gyms and other businesses that operate on monthly subscription plans.

Customer management is a big draw for iConnect. Each customer is assigned a code, storing their information and making it simple to create specific promotions with its built-in loyalty program. As with most Apple POS systems, the interface is intuitive and comes with a helpful set-up process. Some of the more advanced features come with a higher learning curve, but the front-end, in particular, is easy to navigate.

iConnect comes with 55 reports and you can customize how they appear, easily adding your most run reports to the top of the screen. It’s not the most robust reporting system around, but most businesses shouldn’t find it lacking. There is also eCommerce functionality that can help you create your own website at no extra cost. The system comes with a large number of impressive integrations and the option to purchase add-ons that could be helpful, depending on your specific business.

Takeaway

iConnect is another versatile option that can be customized to fit your business’s needs. This iPad POS features some unique features for gyms, spas, and salons. iConnect has strong customer management features, especially in terms of setting up promotions, and its interface is intuitive and easy to operate.

You can find our full review here or visit iConnect’s website on your own.

Final Thoughts

iPad users are notoriously loyal to their devices and, if you fall into this category and are hunting for a POS system, you’re in luck. Many of the best point of sale systems were specifically designed to run on iOS — there’s almost certainly an option that will meet your needs. And this is not an exhaustive list, by any means. For the full scoop on all the top-rated POS systems for iPad, be sure to check out our iPad POS software reviews. 

The post The Best iPad POS Systems appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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