How to Promote Your Website Online (for free!)

How To Promote Your Website

So you want to promote your website online…for free, preferably.

By now, you probably know from experience that the “build it and they will come” philosophy is flawed. You can have great content — in fact, you need at least “good” content — but unless you know how to promote it, your site is a ghost town. But you also don’t have the budget to go straight to advertising online.

You don’t need a grab bag of tips and tricks. You don’t need best practices to “go viral”. Instead – what you need is an actual process to follow that you can consistently do – to create a “flywheel effect“.

Here is an exact, step-by-step strategy that I recommend to anyone who wants to promote their website online. The specific details vary, but it’s a pretty tried and true path for anyone who wants to promote their website.

Start with Definitions & Goals

Before you do anything, you’ve got to start with the foundation: what are you trying to achieve?

Aside – “making money” or “getting customers” does not count. The key is to get specific. Quantify your marketing in other words.

This is the part so many people either get stuck on or skip entirely. Usually, website owners just want to dive in and start doing, doing, doing.

While getting your site out there and testing is great, you need a balance. It’s just as important to test with the right methods as it is to collect a ton of data and learn from it

There are three things you need to figure out before you dive in:

  • what you’re promoting
  • who you’re promoting it to
  • how much you can actually spend on promotion

Let’s break them down.

What You’re Promoting (Your Product)

What is it that you’re actually offering/promoting on your website? A product? A service? Valuable content?

Whatever it is, you need to be able to define it and sell the value. What makes you different from the million and one others out there?

Remember, this doesn’t need to be your life’s mission. In fact, it shouldn’t be. You need to define your product in a clear and concise way. Keep it simple and to the point  — and make sure you emphasize why you’re different.

Who You’re Promoting It To (Persona)

A persona is marketing jargon for a profile of your target audience and having one is crucial to your marketing.

Before your start promoting your website, you’ve got to know who you’re actually promoting it to. What do they want? What problems do they have? How do you solve those problems?

Create 2-4 personas for your brand that outline your ideal customers. Be as descriptive as possible by including things like job title, favorite device, payscale, main frustrations and problems, end goals, what they do in their spare time, etc. Use this detailed guide by Moz to guide you through the process.

Remember that your personas don’t have to be the end all be all. The focus here is to define your initial target market that’s small enough you can effectively reach them but large enough to get some sales and feedback to polish what you’re offering (your product/website/brand).

Nearly every business started this way (think about how Facebook started by targeting college students).Here’s a podcast episode explaining this concept[skip to the ~11 minute mark].

How Much You Can Spend on Promotion (Time & Financial Budget)

Thinking there’s no overhead online is lethal. You’ve got to put real numbers behind what you’re doing. Marketing costs money or time… so put real goals in place.

Outline your budget, even if it feels arbitrary. Define your product/services costs, profit margins, and what kind of marketing spend gives you a positive return. Here’s a more extensive post on quant-based marketing.”

Lay the Foundation

Once you have your goals and definitions laid out, it’s time to lay the foundation. While “build it and they will come” is a flawed philosophy, once you start getting them to come, you need to be sure what you’ve created is decent and captures data.

This is divided into three steps:

Website / Destination Set Up

To promote anything online long-term*, you need a decent website. Whether you’re an ecommerce business who needs an online store, a local business with a brick and mortar store, or an educational website that needs a place to publish content, a decent-looking website will put you ahead and allow you to do more with your brand and marketing.

*Aside – when I say long-term – I mean that you don’t want your project compromised by the whims of a platform (I’m looking at you, Facebook Pages and Google My Business). For short-term projects, plenty of people do well with marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy while content publishers do great with a good email marketing platform.

If you don’t have a website yet, I recommend setting your own website up with a common, well known software like WordPress and hosting it on your own hosting account. I have a simple guide to doing that from scratch here. There is some learning curve, but it will provide maximum versatility.

For ecommerce shops, I recommend either using a high-quality hosted ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce or set up an ecommerce website with WordPress and WooCommerce.

If you have a website and know it’s a mess, use this guide to help you clean it up.

Create Focused Pages

Depending on what you’re goals are, creating focused pages can be an essential part of conversion.

Focus pages are landing pages that target a very specific need, but they don’t have to be complex. They are simply pages that visitors can land on and take a specific action (buy your product, sign up for your service, etc.)

Why use landing pages? Because nobody cares about or even sees your homepage. Your homepage is for people who already know who you are and are just navigating around to find what they already know exists.

Landing pages, on the other hand, are for new (or returning) visitors to land and convert (AKA take whatever action you want them to take). These pages should target what your audience is searching for on a granular level.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce business, you’d want to create product pages targeting specific product information (i.e. Blue Swimwear) or a specific audience (i.e. Swimwear for Women Distance swimmers).

For service-based businesses, you’d want to create service pages targeting what your customers are searching for (i.e. Atlanta Dentist or Root Canal Services)

For sites that are focused on content creation, think about pages that can organize your posts into broader topics and orient readers who land deeper into your site and encourage them to take additional actions (like reading more or subscribing). Use this guide to using category and tag pages in WordPress to accomplish this.

If you have way too many idea – then think about how to organize your site by topic / keyword.

Set Up Analytics

Before you start promoting your website, you need a way to capture data through an analytics platform. There are tons of options, but Google Analytics is the go-to solution (it’s also free).

If you’re unclear on what Google Analytics actually does, start here.

Depending on what you’re promoting (see above), you’ll want to set up specific goals. For example, if you’re an ecommerce website, you’ll want to make sure you have Ecommerce checkout set up. If you’re a local business, you’ll want to track thinks like clicks to call and contact form completions. Use this guide to set up call tracking in Google Analytics.

You should also link Google Analytics to Google AdWords and set up a retargeting audience with Google Analytics. And lastly, you should set up a Facebook Ads account and place a retargeting (audience pixel) cookie on your website.

Work on Getting Traffic

Now that you have the foundation down, it’s time to get people to your website. This where a lot of people get way too detailed… way too fast. Why?

Because not all marketing channels operate at the same speed. They’re also not all used the same way — they have different strengths and weaknesses. They complement and supplement each other instead of compete, and it’s all about how you use them together.

For example, the US Navy’s main war-going unit is the Aircraft Carrier Group. But it’s not just made up of an aircraft carrier. Instead, it’s a grouping of different types of ships that all do different things at different speeds so that the whole group together is nearly invincible.

A lot of business owners want to start with SEO or with a fully fleshed out social strategy. To keep to the analogy, that’s like sending your battleship and aircraft carrier to scout out for the rest of the group.

Bad idea. Battleships (aka SEO) and Aircraft Carriers (Social) take forever to get going and to turn. Save those until you know where you’re going. You do not want to invest hours and hours and tons of resources and thought into SEO and Social if you have no idea if they will pay off.

Start with channels that can speed up, slow down and change direction at will. That means 3 things: direct outreach, community involvement, and paid traffic, specifically AdWords Search Network.

Testing with Direct Outreach

It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of promoting something because you think it’s amazing. But here’s the thing — what if no one wants it?

Too often, we make assumptions for our audience. So before you go into a full-blow promotion plan and start running ads, emailing everyone on your list, and working on your SEO tactics, it’s good to get some validation.

Start by soliciting feedback from a small, targeted group. These should be people who are active in your niche, would ideally collaborate with someone like you, would give you some feedback and maybe even promote your website for you.

What we’re really doing here is finding complementary marketing “parents” — think of other bloggers and businesses your target audience also visits. There are infinite ways to do this process. The key piece is to find someone who shares your interests or has a need that you can fill. Here are some examples.

Friends & Family

Ok – friends and family will often be interested by default. They won’t be able to provide useful feedback. But here’s the thing – you are probably friends because you share interests. Additionally, you might share interests with your family.

Those family and friends are a great place to start with your outreach. It doesn’t mean spamming your Facebook page. It does mean not being afraid to show off your work personally to interested friends and family.

Individual Brands / Influencers

I hate the term “influencers” – and I don’t think that you can or should compete with big brands for social media celebrities. Instead, you should use your own advantage as a DIY website owner (rather than social media manager) to find people that you respect and listen to. Figure out what they need / want. Do they need co-promotion? Topic ideas? Reach out and pitch.

Individual Bloggers / Site Owners

A blogger of any size & influence will be deluged with pitches from big companies. Again – use your advantage as an actual site owner to go around the social media managers to reach small and up and coming bloggers. Use your agility to solve problems that agencies cannot quickly solve.


Journalists have an infinite black hole of content that they need to fill. They are always looking for a story (not a product). If you can create a story based on your insider expertise, then you should pitch them. Keep it short, keep it relevant. Start with small sites and use successes to pitch bigger publications.

The good example is a local package delivery service pitching a story about “porch pirates” to news outlets in Philadelphia.

Complementary Business Owners

Your product probably pairs with other companies’ products. Swimwear pairs with beach resorts. Festivals pair with beverage companies. Wood refinishing pairs with historic preservationists. The list is infinite.

Find businesses where you can co-promote.


Your vendors want you to succeed…because your success means more sales for them. Pitch your vendors on co-promotions.

Then, get to emailing and messaging. Send them to your landing pages or content piece to buy, subscribe, or review. Ask for feedback and referrals and keep notes!

Keep in mind that you are emailing people. It’s easy to get into a spammy quantity mindset. But remember that that a single, quality connection is worth way more than you can measure right now. Your goal is to get feedback and access. You cannot and should not make this a primary sales channel. Your goal is feedback to promote more effectively and more broadly.

Check out this case study or this post for even more detail.

Find Like-Minded Communities

To expand your direct promotion efforts means finding groups of individuals. And that means finding communities.

Communities can not only provide a lot more feedback – but you can also find opportunities to get sales.

The issue with a community is that you need to be a part of it. Nobody likes someone who shows up to promote rather than participate.

Even though you might need sales right now – you absolutely must set aside that need and look to the long-term.

Figure out what the community likes & needs. Provide that. Focus on being overly helpful rather than promotional. Here are some examples.

Industry Specific Forums

Whether it’s ProductHunt / HackerNews in tech or Wanelo for trendy shopping – there is an industry specific forum for everything. Find it and get involved.

Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups are super-accessible and cover topics on everything under the Sun. They are a great way to build an organic presence on Facebook now that business newsfeed organic reach does not exist. Use creative Facebook Open Graph searches to find the non-obvious ones.

Website Forums

Yes – website forums still exist. And yes, they can be extraordinarily powerful. Do your research and get in touch with moderators.

Blog Comments

Yes – people still read these. Set up alerts via Google or via RSS feeds and stay involved in relevant discussions on high-traffic blog posts.

Reddit & Crowdsourced Forums

Reddit is the world’s largest general forum – but everything from Kickstarter to Pinterest could technically be considered a forum. Again, find where your target audience hangs out. Focus less on teh actual platform and more on the people using it.

Amazon Comments

Ever noticed the “questions about this product” or the discussion sections on Amazon product? Yep – those have insane engagement…and provide an opportunity to piggyback on Amazon’s traffic. Look for complementary products / services to yours that your target audience is purchasing. Use your expertise to answer questions.

LinkedIn & Business Groups

This angle is similar to crowdsourced forums – but for B2B and vendor relationships. Discussions happen all over the place on the Internet. Everything from Slack to LinkedIn Pulse to IRC are open. They are all tools for people to connect. Think about who your people are and find where & how they talk.

Guest Posting

Do you know of high-traffic blogs that your target audience reads (not simply blogs in your industry)? Find out guest post requirements and go there.

Once you’ve found a channel that you feel comfortable with and “get” – focus on expanding your presence and being as helpful as possible. People will notice and talk.

Using Paid Traffic to Get Data

Jumping right into ads isn’t always the best approach for promoting your website. It can get expensive, especially for the return on investment. However, our goal here is a bit different.

Using some (even on a small budget) search advertising can be a great way to get data faster. Instead of relying solely on direct outreach and a content strategy that takes a few months to grow, we can get lots of data in a short amount of time by doing some advertising.

For a full breakdown of different paid advertising channels, see this guide about how to advertise your website online.

You should be doing a few different things with this data:

  • Looking at what keywords are driving conversions. AdWords gives you this information.
  • Looking at which landing pages (or content pieces) perform best based on your goals. How can you optimize those pages and use those findings to improve the ones that aren’t performing?
  • Determining which ad copy performs best
  • For ecommerce, identifying which types of offers do people find most enticing (i.e. free shipping, 20% off welcome discount, etc.)
  • Setting up retargeting campaigns – not generic “buy, buy, buy” campaigns but interesting retargeting ads that you can afford to do when your traffic is small. If you want to divert some paid budget to Facebook, follow this guide.
  • Once you have retargeting campaigns going, you should be looking at where your audience goes online. We covered this topic on this podcast episode.
  • Improving your ad campaigns in general

Understanding Organic Search

The world of organic traffic sources is wide and takes time. So while I won’t tell you it’s the best channel for immediate satisfaction, there are still some amazing results to be had.

For most, a successful SEO campaign would be a huge win due to the sheer volume of traffic that Google organic search can drive. Google processes over 3.5 billion queries per day and most of the clicks go to an organic result.

You’ll learn pretty quickly that in paid advertising, clicks for commercial keywords can be quite expensive. That’s a cost you don’t have to pay if you rank in the organic search results.

When you’re setting up your website promotion strategy, you’ll just have to know what it takes to get organic traffic and what it will take on your part to get it done.

SEO boils down to 3 components.

The first component is technical SEO.

Technical SEO is all about ensuring that Google/Bing bots can crawl and index your website effectively. It’s about making sure you’re not generating tons of duplicate content. Here’s “Technical SEO for Nontechnical Marketers”

The good news is that you are using WordPress or an HTML-based website builder (aka not Flash or Wix), you have the big barriers taken care of. THe same applies to ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Bigcommerce or a self-hosted store with WordPress + Woocommerce.

If you are already using a different platform, a technical audit might be the one SEO thing worth paying for. Mentioning a “stand-alone technical audit with recommendations” to an SEO expert can be valuable if you’re on a custom built site. Just don’t let them sell you on “ranking #1 tomorrow!”

If you are running WordPress, install WordPress SEO by Yoast and run through my guide for using it effectively.

If you are using Shopify or Bigcommerce, then your technical issues are 90% solved if you have it set up by the book (Shopify’s guide and Bigcommerce’s guide). You should just be sure to use their SEO-related toolset to implement your on-page content, which happens to be the second component of SEO.

The second component of SEO is on-page content and optimization

It is all about “targeting” the right keywords and ensuring that your website is laid out in a coherent way that is understandable by search engines and users browsing your website.

I wrote about the concept of keyword mapping and some basic on-page SEO concepts (like keyword research, title tags and meta descriptions, and using Google Search Console) previously.

Depending on what your goals are, there are a ton of different pieces of content that can bring in visitors. The goal is to bring in new people AND support sales. Don’t create keyword-stuffed content that won’t help customers on your website make a decision. Make the authoritative content that addresses problems, questions, etc of your market.

The great part about creating the absolute best content that you can find about everything your target market cares about related to your product is that it will naturally drive the third component of SEO – off-page factors.

“Off-page factors,” is the third component of SEO

This is SEO-speak for getting links, with the caveat that links are not all considered equal.

Sketchy links, the type that you buy for $5, can harm your website. However, quality links placed on a related or well-known website are the primary factor for getting better visibility in search results.

There are a lot of ways to get links. But the best ways that I’ve found for website promotion are:

  • Creating content that no one else has done well, and then promoting it. I wrote this guide to creating prequalified content. I’m a fan of this guide for the promotion angle as well
  • Hustle PR promotion – Find the blogs they read. Find the news websites they follow. Find the social media feeds they are involved with. Research and stalk every single one until you can craft a manual email pitch (see direct outreach above)
  • Get even more ideas in my guide to Ahrefs

Using Social Media

If SEO is your giant battleship, I think of social as your aircraft carrier. It’s easy to burn a lot of energy flying planes for no reason, but nothing gives you a tactical edge and far reach like your aircraft.

Social media experts make social out to be rocket science. It’s really not. Unless you started a business you know nothing about, you should know where your audience hangs out.

The key is to realize that you don’t have to be 100% present on every single social network. Effective social media is about having direct interactions where you build relationships and learn more about your audience.

So with that said, go ahead and claim your branding across all the various social networks, but focus on one or two that will generate an outsize of impact on your goals.

This is particularly effective for getting feedback on what you’re promoting. Similarly to direct outreach, you can use social media to solicit public feedback through forums like Reddit, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, etc. Just remember — it’s not about blasting your message out there for everyone and their mother. It’s about targeting the right audience. Find where they are and go there.

For the other profiles, learn how to automate them so you can have a presence without actually interacting. Set up alerts so you can “listen” even when you aren’t actively participating.

Lastly, remember you can make the process faster by paying to jump ahead. Just as you used AdWords or alternative channels to collect data on what works and what doesn’t for your website promotion goals, you can use social ads to test networks.

Next Steps

That’s the website promotion strategy I would map out for any website. It’s a long post, but it’s a plan you can implement quickly by breaking each section into small, doable steps.

Immediate next steps: start by defining your goals, personas, and revenue/budget. Then, put a plan in place that takes you through each phase of the process outlined above in a methodical manner. Go one section at a time and break each down into smaller steps you can follow without getting overwhelmed.

I’ve also written versions of this post for both local businesses and ecommerce websites.

The post How to Promote Your Website Online (for free!) appeared first on ShivarWeb.


Best Shopping Carts For Global eCommerce

selling internationally

Online sellers are always looking to expand–expand their product catalogs, expand the reach of their marketing, and expand across sales channels. And when it comes to expansion, there’s no bigger project to undertake than international growth.

Successfully going global is only possible if you have the appropriate resources in the form of products, market, and software. And while finding a market and products is up to you, we here at Merchant Maverick can help when it comes to choosing the correct software.

International sellers demand more from their shopping cart setups than do domestically-based merchants. You’ll need your shopping cart to be able to display your site in multiple languages and currencies. What’s more, you’ll need to be able to handle complicated taxes and shipping functions. Your eCommerce software should either come with these features already built in or be able to integrate with extensions to fill the gaps.

In this blog, we’ll be discussing four carts that offer merchants the features (and integrations) they need to sell internationally. These software companies maintain a global focus, giving you multiple options for global success and staffing a diverse team of developers from all across the world. If you need the power to create a multilingual site — and a multilingual support team on hand at the moment’s notice — look no further than this list.

Keep reading to learn which eCommerce software programs we recommend for global expansion.


prestashop logo

With PrestaShop, international is the name of the game. PrestaShop is behind 270,000 stores worldwide. They have headquarters in Miami and Paris and employ over 100 employees who are proud to speak a variety of languages.

PrestaShop is open-source software that is free to download, highly customizable, and offers loads of add-ons. With a strong international user community supporting the development of the software, you can expect new releases and extensions regularly.

PrestaShop’s biggest downfall is that you’ll need developer skills in order to best use the software. What’s more, PrestaShop’s customer support costs a bit more than you may be willing to spend.

PrestaShop comes with a robust feature set built in. Here are a few of the ways PrestaShop is especially good for international sellers:

  • Set Currencies & Automate Exchange Rates: Set your shop to accept a wide number of currencies.
  • Multi-language Product Sheet: Quickly import product information in multiple languages.
  • International Forum: Find support from other users in a variety of languages.
  • PrestaShop Translation Product: Users can assist in translating new versions of PrestaShop.
  • International Add-Ons: Purchase and download extensions from international developers to further broaden your store’s functionality.

For more information on PrestaShop, check out our full review or try one of PrestaShop’s easy-to-access demos.


woocommerce logo

WooCommerce is one of the most widely used eCommerce solutions around. While the stats are uncertain (WooCommerce claims a part in 28% of all online stores, while BuiltWith says Woo is behind 42%), what is certain is that Woo is enormously popular in the eCommerce world.

WooCommerce is free, open-source software that plugs directly into It is highly customizable and scalable. WooCommerce’s Achille’s heel, as with many open source solutions, is the unfortunate combination of limited customer support and a moderate learning curve. WooCommerce also follows a Core+Extensions model, which means that built-in features tend to be rather basic.

Despite these obstacles, WooCommerce is an excellent choice for international sellers. With employees located in 19 different countries, you’re sure to find support in a range of languages. And given the many international developers contributing to the project, international features are well within reach.

Here are a few of the international selling features that WooCommerce offers:

  • Calculated Taxes: Set tax rates for the countries and regions in which you sell your products. Show taxes based on your customer’s shipping address and billing address and your store’s base address.
  • Supports International Transactions: Accept multiple currencies with the right payment gateways.
  • WooCommerce Translation Project: Users help make WooCommerce available in multiple languages.

For more information, take a look at WooCommerce’s tips for selling internationally. Or, head over to our review and download the software for free.


magento logo

If you’re looking into open-source solutions, but our first two suggestions don’t quite meet the mark, you should take a look at Magento.

Magento is used by developers worldwide and supports a user base of 250,000 merchants. With such a wide base, the Magento marketplace is always growing. You can expect a steady release of new extensions and payment gateways from Magento’s global developers.

As an open-source software solution, Magento comes with similar advantages to PrestaShop and WooCommerce. The software is free to download, highly customizable, and scalable. Magento includes a robust feature set and boasts an international user community.

As you might expect, the trouble with Magento lies in its usability. In order to best utilize the platform, you’ll need to have confidence in your developer skills. The software comes with a steep learning curve, and there is no phone number to dial for technical support.

Regardless, Magento is a great shopping cart for merchants who are looking to expand internationally. Here are a few of the reasons you should consider Magento:

  • International Forum: Get help from a community of 150,000 developers. These developers can also help you create extensions that work for your target countries.
  • Extensions: Take your pick of a vast marketplace of extensions. You’ll find extensions for international payment gateways, currencies, and shipping carriers.

For more information on using Magento to sell globally, take a look at the company’s advice on making your site global ready. To learn more about Magento in general, head on over to our full review or get started now by downloading the platform for free.


shopify logo

If you’re in the eCommerce industry, you’ve heard of Shopify. This Canadian SaaS solution is famous for its usability and clean design. And over the past few years, Shopify has skyrocketed in popularity. The platform now hosts over 500,000 stores worldwide.

Shopify is the only hosted solution we’ll be including in this list. In general, if you’re looking to build a website that reaches customers around the world, open-source is your best approach. With so much opportunity for customization and growth, you’ll likely find that an open-source solution better fits your international store’s needs.

However, like we’ve discussed, open-source comes with its own challenges, including limited usability and technical support. And so, if you want to take a global approach but aren’t sure you can handle the technical challenges of open-source, Shopify may be the way to go.

Here are a few of the international selling features you can benefit from as a Shopify user:

  • Multi-lingual Checkout: You can set your checkout to operate in over 50 languages. You’ll need to translate the rest of your theme on your own.
  • Non-US Taxes: Set up tax rates for other countries. You can also set your store to charge taxes on shipping rates.
  • Numerous Payment Gateways: Take your pick from over 100 payment processors in order to accept payments worldwide.

For more information on Shopify, take a look at our full review or get hands-on experience by signing up for a free 14-day trial.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, one or more of these shopping cart options has piqued your interest. As always, I encourage you to take your research further. Read our full reviews, look up comments from current customers, and take advantage of every trial and demo you can get your hands on.

You might also read our article, The Most Important Questions To Ask Before Shipping Internationally, and download our free eBook, The Beginner’s Guide To Starting An Online Store. In this fifty page guide, we unpack everything you need to consider as you approach online selling.

But for those of you who are already planning your global expansion, I wish you the best of luck and bon voyage!

The post Best Shopping Carts For Global eCommerce appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


The Best Specialty Crowdfunding Sites

specialty crowdfunding

By now, if you keep up with developments in the business world (or if you’ve had to raise funds for a loved one in need), you’re likely familiar with crowdfunding giants like Kickstarter (see our review), Indiegogo (see our review), Patreon (see our review), and GoFundMe (see our review). The biggest crowdfunding platforms also tend to have the most marketing resources at their disposal, so it’s little wonder if you’ve heard of them and not their smaller competitors.

Big crowdfunders have their places, but it’s high time some of smaller, more specialized crowdfunding sites out there got a little attention. Many such platforms are aimed at a particular slice of the crowdfunding market and may be better suited to your particular cause than some of the more general-purpose crowdfunders.

Let’s explore some of the specialty crowdfunding sites that can help you raise money for your distinct needs.

Small Business & Startup Crowdfunding



Fundable (see our review) is a business crowdfunding platform with a particular appeal to small businesses and startups that have exponential growth potential. With Fundable, a company can launch a rewards crowdfunding campaign or an equity crowdfunding campaign…or even both!

Fundable won’t let you run a rewards campaign and an equity campaign simultaneously, but if you play your cards right, you can use a successful rewards campaign to demonstrate the strength of your startup to investors and begin a successful equity campaign. (Read my article on the differences between equity crowdfunding and “traditional” crowdfunding for more information.)

Fundable is more exclusive than many other crowdfunding platforms and must approve your Company Profile after you’ve finished filling out your company information on their site.

Fundable doesn’t charge a percentage of what you raise as a fee, departing from the practice of such crowdfunding platforms as Kickstarter and Patreon, which charge 5% each. Instead, Fundable charges a flat rate of $179/month. For the underresourced startup, this monthly fee is a substantial barrier to entry — particularly as the fee must be paid regardless of whether your campaign is successful. For the small business that expects success, however, this fee policy can be a boon. Consider the startup that successfully raises $50K in a 60-day campaign. $358 is a lot less than $2,500 (5% of $50K)!

You will, however, have to contend with payment processing fees. For its rewards campaigns, Fundable takes 3.5% + $0.30 of each transaction to cover payment processing. There are no such fees associated with Fundable’s equity campaigns because those campaigns do not involve online payment transfers — all payments are made offline.

Like Kickstarter, Fundable has an all-or-nothing funding policy. If you don’t reach your funding goal by the time your campaign ends, you don’t get anything. Something to keep in mind!



Wefunder (see our review) is another crowdfunding platform that specializes in business funding. Unlike Fundable, it is exclusively an equity crowdfunding site. And while Fundable’s equity campaigns only allow you to fundraise from accredited investors (a term that essentially refers to rich people), Wefunder’s equity campaigns take advantage of Title III of the Jobs Act of 2012 to offer equity crowdfunding for non-accredited investors (often referred to as Regulation Crowdfunding). What this means is that Wefunder lets you raise equity from anybody and everybody, just as you can raise money from anyone with rewards crowdfunding.

Wefunder is the largest Regulation Crowdfunding platform in existence, currently comprising 50% of the market share.

Wefunder takes a more relaxed approach to letting companies use their platform than does Fundable. Wefunder doesn’t do any prescreening, so there’s no initial bar to clear. Once you’ve started, Wefunder charges an initial non-recurring fee of $195 to launch your funding campaign. They then charge, in their words, “up to a 7% fee” of what your raise in a successful campaign. Conducting a Regulation Crowdfunding raise with Wefunder means accepting this relatively onerous fee policy. Payment processing fees are paid by the investors.

Like Fundable, Wefunder’s crowdfunding campaigns employ the all-or-nothing funding model, so if you take your business fundraising idea to Wefunder, you’d better have a detailed plan of action and the means to follow through on it. If your campaign doesn’t live up to its billing and you don’t reach your goal, no funding for you.

Medical Crowdfunding

When it comes to crowdfunding to pay for medical expenses, GoFundMe receives the lion’s share of attention. A recent NerdWallet study found that $930 million of the $2 billion raised on GoFundMe during the time period studied went towards medical campaigns. However, as I documented in my GoFundMe review, quite a few campaigners have had serious issues with the company and its practices. Let’s take a look at some GoFundMe alternatives for those Americans (curiously enough, it’s just about always Americans) seeking to crowdfund their medical expenses or those of a loved one.


Of all the crowdfunding platforms focused on human need, YouCaring is probably the most well-known of the non-GoFundMe crowdfunders. How does YouCaring stack up?

GoFundMe recently garnered some good press by eliminating its 5% platform fee for campaigns based in the US and Canada. YouCaring does them one better: Its campaigns have no platform fees no matter where the campaigner is based. Both platforms do, however, take 2.9% + $0.30 out of each donation to cover the cost of payment processing while asking donors to voluntarily contribute money to the platform to help keep it going.

One thing that comes across when perusing user reviews of YouCaring is that its customer service is second to none — the level of responsiveness described is unusual for a crowdfunding site. YouCaring offers real-time chat support and personalized coaching that helps guide users through the crowdfunding process.

YouCaring has facilitated the raising of $900 million since its founding in 2011, so it has an established track record of success. The site is definitely worth exploring if you or someone close to you needs help with medical expenses.


GoGetFunding is another crowdfunding platform focused on personal crises like medical episodes (though they let you crowdfund for any and all causes). You can raise funds in 23 currencies with GoGetFunding.

In one respect, however, GoGetFunding has fallen a bit behind the times. In its FAQ, GoGetFunding proclaims that its platform fee of 4% is “lower than all of our major competitors.” Now, this may have been true when written, but it is no longer true. If you take a trip down memory lane, you’ll recall that I mentioned that YouCaring and GoFundMe have no platform fees. (With all due respect to GoGetFunding, 4% is not lower than 0%.)

Beyond the 4% platform fee, 2.9% + $0.25-$0.30 per transaction is taken by the payment processor — roughly the same payment processing fees as GoFundMe and YouCaring.

Anyone choosing GoGetFunding over its immediate competitors is accepting the 4% fee, so let’s see what you get for that money. GoGetFunding lets you add team members to your crowdfunding campaign if you want to make your campaign a team effort. You also get PayPal support, a personal fundraising coach, and PR to help promote your campaign to the media.

Crowdfunding For Filmmakers


Seed&Spark is a crowdfunding platform devoted to funding the production of movies and shows. Not only that, but the rate of funding success for Seed&Spark projects is 75%, which (Seed&Spark claims) beats all other competitors in this particular field — a claim that seems to have been corroborated by a blogger.

Seed&Spark’s fee policy is unique in the industry. Seed&Spark takes 5% of donations — the same rate as Kickstarter — but offers backers the chance to cover that fee at checkout. According to Seed&Spark, a majority of backers do so. In addition, the platform charges 2.9% + $0.30 for payment processing (same as most competitors). Combine this with the fact that, according to Seed&Spark, filmmakers take home an average of 95% of what they raise, and it appears the average platform fee paid by Seed&Spark creators is 2% — not bad at all for a non-personal crowdfunder!

Seed&Spark’s funding model is a hybrid of the all-or-nothing approach favored by Kickstarter and the keep-what-you-raise approach adopted by other crowdfunders. With Seed&Spark, you get to keep what you raise only after reaching 80% of your funding goal.

Once you’ve had a successful campaign and you actually complete your movie or show, you can even choose to have it distributed by Seed&Spark. If you do, the revenue will be split 60/40, with the creator getting 60%. Subscribers to Seed&Spark will then be able to stream your movie or show at as well as on Apple TV and Roku through Seed&Spark’s app.


Slated is an equity crowdfunding platform devoted to movie production. Launch a Slated project and you’ll be marketing your film concept to a select crowd of accredited investors, many of whom work in the film industry (producers, writers, directors, actors, etc.). In fact, according to Slated, 68% of the films appearing at Sundance in 2016 and 54% of 2016’s Oscar-nominated films were made by Slated members. Using Slated is a way to get exposure for your project among the very people in the industry who matter.

With Slated, all funds are transferred offline — not great for convenience, but it means you won’t be paying any fees on what you earn.

The platform is free to use, but if you want any real likelihood of meeting your goal, you’ll want to use Slated Analytics’ Script Analysis service. Use this service and three Slated members — industry insiders with experience doing exactly this — will pore over your script and assess its screen-worthiness. Only one of the three pros who read your script has to give it a passing grade for it to earn an official recommendation. Your score will prove vital to your ability to attract investors and secure funding. The script analysis costs $395 per draft, while the combined script and financial analysis package will set you back $995.

Crowdfunding For Musicians


PledgeMusic is a crowdfunding platform for musicians. It gives bands and other performers the ability to get their music funded, connect with their fans, and offer exclusive content. According to PledgeMusic’s FAQ:

“You can run a project around your new album or EP, a book, a DVD, a concert tour…anything you’re doing, as long as it’s centered around music!”

In addition to being a crowdfunding platform, PledgeMusic also hosts your music. This may explain why PledgeMusic takes a sizable 15% cut of what you raise in a successful campaign (thankfully, you won’t have to cover the payment processing costs). Furthermore, PledgeMusic is an all-or-nothing crowdfunder. You’ve got to hit your funding goal before you receive anything.

PledgeMusic will work with you in designing your campaign and in tweaking the look of your store page. The platform is designed to allow you to offer both digital downloads (tracks, albums, etc.) and physical products like instruments, backstage passes, and swag.


ArtistShare is a crowdfunding platform so old that it predates the term “crowdfunding.” Founded in 2001 and launched in 2003, ArtistShare was the first “fan-funding” site for creative artists.

ArtistShare is much more of an exclusive club than the other crowdfunding sites I’ve covered in this article. The company must pre-approve you before you can raise funds on the site, and judging by the artists on the platform, ArtistShare favors polished jazz and classical musicians.

ArtistShare takes 5% of what you raise in fees. They take an additional 3-5% for payment processing fees.

ArtistShare’s funding model isn’t quite all-or-nothing and it isn’t quite keep-what-you-raise either. With ArtistShare, if you don’t hit your funding goal, you will only receive funds from backers who clicked the “Unconditional Support” option when making their contribution. Thus, if your project doesn’t reach its goal, you’ll still get some funding, but you won’t get everything that was pledged.

Final Thoughts

If crowdfunding makes sense for your particular situation, there’s no reason you have to follow the herd and go with the big boys. There are plenty of specialty crowdfunding sites out there, only a few of which I’ve covered here. You may find that a niche crowdfunding site can offer you particular benefits — benefits you might not get with a more general-purpose crowdfunder.

The post The Best Specialty Crowdfunding Sites appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


Best Payment Processing Integrations For Accounting Software

Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

Are you ready to start accepting credit and debit cards from your customers? Do you want your customers to be able to pay their invoices directly online? You’ve come to the right place.

Here at Merchant Maverick, we know payment processing can be a tricky concept to wrap your mind around. Finding the best option for your business isn’t always easy. The good news is we’ve done the hard work for you. The even better news? Each of these payment processors integrates directly with your accounting software to make your life that much easier.

This post will discuss five of the top payment processors that integrate directly with accounting software. We’ll cover the pros and cons of each to help you decide which is best for your small business. And we’ve even created a handy chart to help you compare all the payment processors that integrate with major accounting programs.

But before we begin, let’s cover a few basics about payment processing.

If you’re already a payment processing pro, feel free to skip this section and continue on to our top picks for best payment processing integrations. Or visit our merchant account reviews to see more payment processing options.

A Brief Intro To Payment Processing

There are two different types of payment processing companies — merchant accounts and payment service providers (or PSPs).

  • Merchant Account: A merchant account is an individual account that connects your business directly to a payment processor so you can accept credit cards and debit cards. When your customer pays with a card and the payment clears their banking institution, the transaction will be deposited directly into your bank account through your merchant account.
  • Payment Service Provider: A payment service provider also allows you to accept credit cards and debit cards. However, instead of creating an individual account, a PSP will lump all of your transactions into a shared account where multiple merchants transactions are stored.

So which one should you use? There are a lot of factors to consider, including your business type, the size of the transactions you’re processing, the number of transactions you process per month, and whether or not you are considered a “high-risk” merchant.

According to our merchant account expert, Tom DeSimone:

If you plan to process large transactions ($300 or more) or a sizeable monthly volume in card payments (about $10K or more, NOT INCLUDING cash and checks), you will want a merchant account to get the best rates.

On the other hand, he says this about PSPs:

While transactions fees might be a little higher than if you had your own merchant account, PSPs usually do not charge a monthly fee or other schedule fees. You just pay for what you use, which is ideal for businesses that only process sporadically.

It’s pretty simple, really. If you plan on processing large transactions or lots of transactions every month, a merchant account will probably be the way to go. If you’re a smaller business that doesn’t process much and needs a pay as you go option, a PSP might be a better choice.

There are other pros and cons to consider with each type of payment processing company, however.

We borrowed this handy chart from our Beginner’s Guide To Payment Processing to help you better understand the differences between merchant accounts and PSPs:

Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

There is one more important concept to cover before we move on. In addition to merchant accounts and PSPs, you might encounter payment gateways.

If you’ve ever bought anything online, you’re already familiar with this concept (whether you know it or not):

  • Payment Gateway: A payment gateway allows you to accept credit and debit cards online. Payment gateways use either merchant accounts or PSPs to connect your business and your customer’s banking institution so you get paid.

Payment gateways account for some of the most common accounting integrations (think PayPal and Stripe).

In order to integrate your accounting software to a payment gateway, you will need to establish an account with that gateway provider. Depending on the payment gateway you choose, you may need to set up a merchant account or PSP account. Your payment gateway may require that you use a specific merchant account or PSP of theirs, or they may offer a payment gateway and merchant account or PSP bundle.

I know this is a lot to take in, believe me, but it gets easier from here. Now you can sit back, relax, and learn about our top five favorite payment processing integrations for accounting software.


Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

Fattmerchant integrates with QuickBooks Online.

Fattmerchant (see our review) is a merchant account provider that was founded in 2014. This company sets itself apart by offering subscription-based pricing, making it competitive and potentially more affordable than other merchant accounts. Fattmerchant also offers 24/7 customer support and receives positive feedback from the majority of its customers.

Products & Services

Fattmerchant supports the following products and services:

  • Merchant account
  • Virtual terminal
  • Countertop terminals (pricing not disclosed)
  • Point of Sale (POS) integrations
  • Mobile payments
  • One mobile card reader ($75 for each additional reader)
  • Shopping cart integration
  • eCheck services ($29/mo + $0.25 per transaction)
  • Data analytics

The company does not have its own payment gateway, but Fattmerchant is compatible with Authorize.Net, Payeezy, or the TSYS Payment Gateway. It will set you up with a free gateway or integrate with your existing one.


Fattmerchant offers two pricing plans that are paid monthly. There is no locked-in contract and no early termination fees for either plan.

  • Basic: $99/mo + $0.08 per transaction for retail ($0.15 per transaction for ecommerce)
  • Enterprise: $199/mo + $0.05 per transaction for retail ($0.10 for ecommerce)

If you’re looking for an affordable, honest merchant account, Fattmerchant is one of the best. This option is good for businesses looking for a predictable monthly subscription plan. Fattmerchant does not provide high-risk merchant accounts and may not be a good value for small businesses with low payment processing.

Read our full Fattmerchant review to learn more and see if this affordable merchant account option is right for you.


Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

CDGcommerce integrates with QuickBooks Online.

CDGcommerce (see our review) is a merchant account provider with over 20 years of payment processing experience. This company is geared toward small to medium-sized business and also operates on a monthly subscription pricing model. A free payment gateway is included with every CDGcommerce merchant account. The company also sets itself apart with an impressive client retention rate and excellent customer support.

Products & Services

CDGcommerce supports the following products and services:

  • Virtual terminal
  • One credit card terminal (with a $79/yr insurance fee)
  • Mobile payments
  • POS systems
  • Optional security service
  • Data analytics and reports

CDGcommerce offers a free payment gateway. Users can choose between Quantum or Authorize.Net.


CDGcommerce has two types of pricing: simplified pricing and advanced pricing. Simplified pricing rates depend on your business type and size.

  • Online: Interchange + 0.30% + $0.15 per transaction
  • Retail: Interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • POS: Interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Mobile: Interchange + 0.25% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Non-Profit: Interchange + 0.20% + $0.10 per transaction

Advanced pricing offers discounts for business with a processing volume of $10,000+ each month. There are no long-term contracts or early terminations fees for either pricing structure. Check out our complete CDGcommerce review for more pricing details. To learn more about interchange and interchange-plus pricing, read Trading Ease For Transparency With Interchange Plus.


CDGcommerce is a scalable company with an impressive number of products and services. The free credit card terminal is also a huge plus. The only catch with this company is that it is limited to merchants in the US.

If you’d like to learn more about CDGcommerce, read our full CDGcommerce review.


Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

Square integrates with QuickBooks Online, Xero, Zoho Books, Kashoo, and Kashflow.

You’re probably familiar with the swipe-based payment processing system known as Square. Square (see our review) is one of the leaders in mobile processing. It offers great features including inventory, invoicing, and customer management features. And to top it off, Square has a ton of integrations.

Products & Services

Square supports the following products and services:

  • Virtual terminal
  • Gift cards ($2 per card)
  • Shopping cart integrations
  • e-Invoicing
  • Inventory management
  • POS app
  • Customer management
  • Customer feedback
  • Advanced reporting
  • Email marketing
  • Appointments ($30-$90/mo)
  • Payroll ($25/mo + $5/mo per employee)
  • Event rentals


Square offers standard fees with no interchange-plus pricing. There are no monthly fees, no locked-in contracts, and no early termination fees.

  • Standard Swipe Transactions: 2.75% per transaction
  • Square Register Swipe Transactions: 2.5% + $0.10 per transaction
  • Virtual Terminal Transactions: 3.5% + $0.15 per transaction
  • eCommerce & Invoice Transactions: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction

Square offers several add-ons and additional monthly services. Be sure to read our complete Square review for more pricing details.

If you’re looking for a mobile payment processor, this is one of the most well-known and developed options. Square is good for small businesses with low processing volumes and can be an affordable choice. However, Square is not meant for high-risk merchants or companies with a large processing volume as the company is known to hold funds and suddenly terminate accounts.

To learn if Square is the right payment processing option for your business, check out our full Square review or read our post: Is Square Right For Your Business?.


Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

Authorize.Net integrates with QuickBooks Online, Xero, Zoho Books, FreshBooks (classic), and Microsoft Dynamics.

Authorize.Net (see our review) is a payment gateway that was founded in 1996; it has since supported over 400,000 merchants. Not only does Authorize.Net allow you to accept online payments from customers, it also has a checkout feature, recurring billing, contact management, and fraud protection. In addition, the company offers good customer support and key accounting integrations.

Products & Services

Authorize.Net supports the following products and services:

  • Virtual terminal
  • Mobile payments app
  • Supports mobile card reader ($42-$98 per reader)
  • Simple checkout
  • Apple pay support
  • Fraud detection
  • Recurring billing
  • Customer information management
  • eChecks (additional cost)

If you have a merchant account, is designed to be compatible with your existing merchant account.

If you don’t have a merchant account, you can have Authorize.Net set you up with one. Or, you can choose a merchant account provider that partners directly with Authorize.Net. If you want to go this route, we recommend Dharma Merchant Services, one of our all-time favorite payment processing providers.


Authorize.Net offers two pricing plans: a gateway-only plan and a gateway + merchant account plan. There are no-long terms contracts or cancellations fees (but this may vary depending on your merchant account provider).

  • Payment-Only: $25/mo + $0.10 per transaction
  • Payment Gateway + Merchant Account: $25/mo + 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction

Note: If you are using a merchant account provider that partners with Authorize.Net, your merchant account may lower or even waive certain fees. Read our complete Authorize.Net review for more pricing details so you can make sure you get the best deal.

If you’re looking for a payment gateway, Authorize.Net is a great option. It boasts excellent customer service and tons of features to cover most business needs. One important thing to remember is that Authorize.Net is not good for data exporting. Pricing can also be expensive if you sign up with Authorize.Net directly, so make sure you explore all of your options before deciding.

Read our full Auhorize.Net review for more information.


Best Payment Processing Integrations for Accounting Software

Braintree integrates with QuickBooks Online, Xero, Sage One, FreshBooks (classic), and Saasu.

Braintree (see our review) offers both merchant accounts and payment gateways. This processing company was established in 2007 and offers impressive features, multiple currency options, and excellent customer support. Flat-rate pricing and ample integrations are also a huge plus.

Products & Services

Braintree supports the following products and services:

  • eCommerce integration
  • Mobile payments
  • Recurring billing
  • Fraud detection
  • Tax support
  • Developer tools
  • PayPal integration

Braintree comes paired with its own payment processing, but merchants can choose to use a different merchant account with the Braintree gateway for an added fee.


Braintree has a simple pricing plan. There are no monthly fees, setup fees, gateway fees, or early termination fees. Instead, you’ll pay a competitive, standard rate:

  • 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction

If you only want to use the Braintree gateway and not its payment processing, then you’ll have to pay a flat fee of $49 per month plus $0.10 per transaction instead.

We like Braintree so much that it even outranks PayPal and Stripe in our books. However, Braintree is not suited for high-risk merchants and certain types of businesses are prohibited from using Braintree.

Read our complete Braintree review for more details and to see if this merchant account and payment gateway provider is a good fit for your business.

Which Is Right For Me?

If you’ve learned anything from this post, it’s that when it comes to payment processing there are lots of options to choose from. The right payment processing provider for your business will depend on whether you’re looking for a merchant account or a payment gateway (or a combo of both), plus the number of transactions you process and the extra features your company requires.

One of the main things you should consider is which providers integrate with your accounting software. This will narrow down your decision quite a bit.

While we named some of our favorite companies above, there are several other common payment processing accounting integrations, including PayPal, Stripe, forte, and GoCardless. To make your search for the perfect payment processor easier, we’ve created a chart of the most common accounting programs and the payment processing providers they integrate with.

Software Payment Processing Integrations
QuickBooks Pro BluePay, Durango Merchant Services, QuickBooks Desktop Payments
QuickBooks Online Authorize.Net, BluePay, CDGcommerce, Fattmerchant, Forte,, Payline, PayPal, WorldPay, QuickBooks Payments,    Square, Stripe, WePay, WorldPay
Xero Authorize.Net, Bill&Pay, Braintree, Forte, GoCardless, PayPal, Square, Stripe, WorldPay
Zoho Books Authorize.Net, Braintree, Forte, PayPal, RazorPay, Square, Stripe, WePay
Wave PayPal, Stripe, Wave Payments
FreshBooks (new), Payments by FreshBooks, PayPal, Stripe
FreshBooks (classic) Authorize.Net, Braintree, Forte, PayPal, Stripe
Sage One Braintree, PayPal, Sage Payment Solutions,
Stripe, WayPay, WorldPay
Sage 50c GoCardless, Sage Payment Solutions
FreeAgent GoCardless, PayPal, Payal Here, Square, Stripe
Saasu Braintree, eWay, PayPal, PayWay, PinPayments, Stripe
Kashflow GoCardless, Global Payments, PayPal, Square,
Stripe, WorldPay,
Kashoo BluePay, PayPal, Stripe
ClearBooks GoCardless, PayPal,  PayPoint
AND CO PayPal, Stripe

Note: The above integrations are always changing and may vary by country. Check with your accounting software directly for the most up-to-date information.

Remember that when you are choosing the perfect payment processor to integrate with your accounting solution, you can never do enough research. Be sure to check out our merchant account reviews to learn how each software stacks up in terms of features, value for your money, and reliability. If you’re interested in learning more about payment processing, you can also download our free Beginner’s Guide To Payment Processing to learn to evaluate your options, negotiate a good merchant account contract, and more.

Best of luck, and stay tuned for more payment processing tips and tricks from the Merchant Maverick team. If you’d like to do more reading on the subject, the following articles will point you in the right direction:

The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway

Are You A High-Risk Merchant?

The 5 Best Small Business Credit Card Processing Companies

The post Best Payment Processing Integrations For Accounting Software appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


10 Signs It’s Time To Rethink Your Shipping Strategy

Shipping effectively is one of the most complex aspects of online selling, and a topic we focus on frequently here at Merchant Maverick. With so many variables affecting shipping, it can be difficult to know where your business stands. You could be missing out on valuable opportunities for savings or faster shipping without even knowing!

To help reveal some of these potential blind spots, we’ve compiled a list of 10 red-flag indicators. It may be time to rethink your shipping strategy if…

1. You Have Not Reevaluated Your Shipping Strategy Within The Past Year

Shipping rates change as often as teen fashion. If you aren’t up to date on the most recent pricing adjustments, your dollars may be flying right out the door.

And shipping rates aren’t the only elements in flux. Very likely, your fulfillment trends are changing frequently as well. Your customer base and shipping volume will vary from year to year. You may now have more international customers than you did in 2016, and you may be shipping larger items than in previous years.

A shipping strategy is not something you can set and forget. Much like your annual budget, your shipping strategy is something that should be monitored and reconsidered regularly.

If it’s been a year (or more) since you last considered your shipping methods, now is the time to look again!

2. You Use Only One Shipping Carrier

Variety is the spice of life, but it’s also the key to success when it comes to shipping. What one shipping carrier does poorly, another does well. If you sell products in multiple dimensions and weights (and most merchants do), you should be using at least two shipping carriers in your fulfillment process.

The main three shipping carriers are USPS, UPS, and FedEx, and every one has its own strengths and weaknesses. In fact, we’ve written an entire article describing the pros and cons of each carrier. Take a look at that article for more information or view a very brief summary of each carrier’s best qualities below.

USPS: Cheapest Option For Small & Light Packages

The USPS (US Postal Service) is without a doubt the cheapest option for merchants selling small and light products. If your packages weight less than two pounds, USPS will likely ship for the lowest rates — and if packages are lighter than 13 ounces, USPS simply can’t be beat.

UPS: Guaranteed Express Shipping

If you’re an Amazon Prime user, you may have noticed that many two-day shipments are delivered by UPS. That’s because UPS provides dependable, fast shipping with advanced tracking services. If you need to get a package to your customer ASAP, UPS may be the way to go.

FedEx: Saturday Delivery

Unlike UPS, FedEx does not charge additional fees for Saturday delivery. It’s all part of their regular offerings. Delivering products to your customers two days early could be the edge your business needs.

For more detailed information about the pros and cons of each shipping service, take a look at our article: USPS, UPS, Or FedEx: Which Shipping Carrier Is Best?

3. You Don’t Use Shipping Software

If you’re already using two or more shipping carriers, you know that juggling multiple shipping rates can be difficult. Integrating with a robust shipping software can eliminate or diminish a few of the challenges that inevitably come with a diverse shipping strategy.

Shipping software programs, like Shipping Easy, ShipStation, and Ordoro, simplify the shipping process by running rates calculations for you. They also generate packing slips and shipping labels, which you can print in bulk.

What’s more, these software companies typically make arrangements with major shipping carriers to offer discounts on shipping rates. If you haven’t tried a shipping software yet, the discounts alone may be worth it.

Read our article, The Best Shipping Software Solutions For eCommerce Businesses, to learn more about which options may be right for your store.

4. You Don’t Give Your Customers Options

Customers love options. When it comes to shipping speed and price, you should provide customers with at least few different choices.

I recommend giving customers three options: free and slow; cheap and moderately paced (around 5-7 business days); and fast and expensive.

Not every merchant can offer free shipping to all their customers, but I recommend finding some way, however limited, to provide free shipping without breaking the bank. For example, you could try offering free shipping for purchases over a set amount or running free shipping promos. Test your options until you find something that works.

By giving your customers choices, you decrease the risk of cart abandonment. You won’t scare away customers who would rather wait a few days than pay for expedited shipping, and you won’t frustrate customers who need your products tomorrow.

5. You Don’t Get Packaging Materials For Free

If you purchase all of your shipping materials, you could be missing out on big savings.

Many merchants are unaware that the USPS offers free boxes and envelopes to their customers. You can order these packing materials and have them delivered to your warehouse. Keep in mind that these boxes are intended to be used for USPS’s Priority Mail. So, if you’re going to be using these free packaging materials, you should also be shipping via Priority Mail.

If you’re really trying to save a buck and you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty, you can take a dumpster diving approach. Contact local brick-and-mortar businesses and ask if you can raid their recycling bin. Retail stores get rid of loads of cardboard and filler material every week, and they might not be opposed to you repurposing some of that waste.

Be creative, and you will find ways to save on the everyday aspects of shipping!

6. Customers Complain About Late Packages

This one is a no-brainer. If customers aren’t receiving their purchases on time, something needs to be done.

Start by considering your order processing system. How long does it take to get an order packaged, labeled, and out the door? Is there anything you can do to streamline that process?

Next, revisit your site’s shipping promises to make sure they’re in line with what shipping carriers can reasonably deliver. Only advertise delivery times that you can guarantee.

If the fault for your delivery delays lies with your shipping carriers, you should consider signing up with 71lbs. 71lbs will automatically file for shipping refunds on FedEx and UPS packages that are delivered even one minute late. This could amount to big bucks for you, which may redeem some of the damage done by late shipments.

7. You’ve Never Heard Of Last Mile Delivery

Last mile delivery services (UPS SurePost and FedEx SmartPost) let you ship one package through two different carriers, ultimately cutting down on shipping costs.

With last mile delivery, your packages ship first with a private carrier (UPS or FedEx) until they reach your customer’s local post office. The USPS handles the delivery from there.

Letting the USPS handle the last mile of your deliveries will add an extra day or so to your delivery time, but it will also eliminate the residential surcharges that you would have incurred with UPS and FedEx.

You will have to determine for yourself whether an extra day’s delay in shipping is worth the savings. Either way, just being aware of the option is a step in the right direction.

8. You “Wing It” When It Comes To Return Shipping

You work hard to sell your products, so it’s discouraging when customers change their minds about their purchases. Unfortunately, no matter how good your product descriptions and images are, you will always be faced with customers who simply don’t want your products after they’ve been delivered.

With a return rate as high as 20% for apparel and soft good (up to 30% during the holidays!), returns are inevitable. So when it comes to managing returns, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Create a refund policy early on and make that policy very clear. Put it on your FAQs page, on every product page, and on your checkout page.

If you have chosen to offer free refunds, one strategy you may consider is including pre-printed return labels with your shipments. Your customers will simply attach these labels to their returns and drop them off at a nearby carrier office. You will only be charged for these shipping labels when they are scanned.

If you’d prefer not to make returns quite so available to your customers, you can also offer free (or paid) return labels through email when requested.

Regardless, you should have a set plan for returns, rather than scrambling every time the issue arises.

9. You Don’t Include Branded & Promotional Inserts

The way you choose to package your products says a lot about your brand. eCommerce marketers refer to this branding as the “unboxing experience,” and you want your brand to shine as your customers receive their orders.

However, for many sellers, the expense of custom boxes and luxurious filler material is simply too much to justify. If this is you, you may consider instead including a few branded inserts in your packages.

This is your opportunity to communicate with your customers away from a computer screen. Send thank you notes, promotional inserts, or small gifts in every package. Engage with your customers in a more personal way by giving them a tangible piece of your brand.

10. You Spend Too Much Time Filling Orders

Your main job should be managing your business, not filling orders. So, if you spend a large portion of your time packaging and shipping orders, now is a good time to reevaluate your shipping strategy.

Consider integrating with a solid shipping software program and/or hiring additional help to tackle that overwhelming number of orders. Just one extra person working a few hours each week can free you up to take care of more important things, like actually running an online store.

If you’ve tried all of that already and you’re still swimming in packing peanuts, it may be time to go one step further. Look into outsourcing your fulfillment with a professional logistics company. These fulfillment services will store, package, and ship your products. What’s more, they’ll handle all aspects of customer service pertaining to shipping. Of course, convenience comes at a cost, so be sure to weigh the pros and cons of these services as you make your decision.

Take a look at our article, Learn To Delegate: What It Means To Outsource Your Fulfillment, to learn more.

Final Thoughts

Do you resonate with any of the statements above? If so, it’s time to dive back into your business plan and rethink how you do fulfillment. Simplify, streamline, and save!

Find more resources about mastering shipping in our blog or read the shipping section of our free, downloadable eBook: The Beginner’s Guide To Starting An Online Store.

The post 10 Signs It’s Time To Rethink Your Shipping Strategy appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


The Best Credit Card Processing Apps For Mobile And Service Businesses


Being able to take payments on the go without having to jump through five million hoops is crucial for mobile businesses, whether you’re a service business that visits customers at home or just a small business without a permanent storefront. That’s where credit card processing apps come in: Combining integrated payments and feature-rich POS systems that run on smartphones and tablets, they’re designed to operate anywhere you can get a cellular or Wi-Fi signal.

We took a look at the most promising credit card processing apps for mobile and service businesses, comparing their features as well as their processing rates. Then, we compiled the best options into a list!

Choosing the Best App Features for Mobile & Service Businesses

If your business is primarily service-based or you tend to do more pop-up sales and events than deal with retail storefronts, you probably don’t need (or want) a whole lot of hardware. What you do need is an EMV-friendly reader and a smartphone or tablet to run the system from.

We used two primary criteria in deciding this list: first, the product has to have integrated payment processing, and the app must be available on a tablet (preferably a smartphone as well).

While hardware may not be a priority, knowing which systems can work as a countertop system as well as mobile is helpful. Invoicing, virtual terminals, solid sales tax management, and decent item libraries were also factors. Take a look at our comprehensive comparison chart to figure out which system might work best for your particular needs.

Square for retail review logo imageSquare PayPal Here Shopify Payline Mobile SumUp
Integrated Processing Yes Yes Yes (Other options available) Yes Yes
Processing Rates (for most swiped/dipped transactions) 2.75% 2.70% 2.70% Interchange + 0.5% or 0.3% 2.75%
Monthly Fee $0 $0 Plans start at $9/month $0 / $9.95 $0
Number of Devices Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 1
Tablet Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple, Android Apple, Android
Smartphone Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple, Android Apple, Android
Email/SMS Receipts Email/SMS Email/SMS Email Only Yes Email/SMS
Receipt Printer Connectivity Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless Bluetooth, USB, LAN No Bluetooth, LAN
Cash Drawer Connectivity Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity) Yes (iPad Only, with Printer Connectivity) No Yes (with Printer Connectivity)
Split Tender Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Offline Processing Mode Yes No Very Limited No No
Full and Partial Returns Yes Yes Yes (including store credit) Yes Full Only
Sub-User/Employee Accounts Yes (monthly fee) Yes (free) Yes (PINS/accounts) Yes Yes (Limited)
Discounts by $ or % Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Tipping by $ or % Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Multiple Tax Rates Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Adjust Tax Rates In-App Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Customizable Receipts Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Generate Invoices Yes Yes Yes No No
Virtual Terminal Yes Yes (monthly fee) No Yes Yes
Bulk Item Upload Yes No Yes No No
Item Counts Yes No Yes No No
Item Variants Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Item Add-ons Yes Yes No No No
Item Categories Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Item Photo Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Create Item from App or Dashboard Yes Yes Yes Yes No (App Only)

You can check out our reviews of each service for more information about features, user experience, and more.


Square business model and mobile credit card processingSquare made its name with a mobile processing service that anyone could use, and while the company is definitely catering to larger entities these days, small and mobile businesses still make up a good portion of Square’s merchants. Square’s totally free processing app makes it easy to create an item library of physical products as well as services.

Square’s tax rate settings are easily adjustable from within the mobile app and you can pre-program different rates if you find yourself flipping between different locations often.

In addition, Square offers invoicing, recurring invoicing/storing cards on file, and a free virtual terminal. You can even integrate Square’s appointment booking software seamlessly.

Square will charge you 2.75% per swiped transaction, but invoicing will run you 2.9% + $0.30, and virtual terminal transactions will cost you 3.5% + $0.15.

PayPal Here

PayPal Here review: One of the top Square alternativesPayPal Here is another staple of mobile businesses with a free mobile app. PayPal has the advantage of massive eCommerce support as well as a solid mPOS so you can seamlessly blend different aspects of your business. Plus, your funds are available almost instantly in your PayPal account, and with the PayPal debit card, you can spend them anywhere. The free mobile app isn’t quite as feature-rich as Square’s, but it’s highly capable.

You’ll also find PayPal Here’s tax settings are adjustable within the app and you can easily accommodate different sales tax rates. Like Square, you get free in-app invoicing. However, if you are looking for a virtual terminal or recurring billing, they’re going to run you an additional $30 and $10 per month, respectively, which is a fairly high price tag.

You’ll pay 2.7% per transaction in the app, whereas invoices will run you 2.9% + $0.30. Virtual terminal transactions (not counting the monthly fee) cost 3.1% + $0.15.


Shopify started out as just an eCommerce offering but it’s expanded into a multi-channel solution for business. You can get Shopify’s Point of Sale app for as little as $9/month with the Lite plan, or you can upgrade to a countertop-friendly version with the Retail package, and even add on integrations for appointment booking. However, if you don’t /need/ a receipt printer or cash drawer and don’t sell through your own site online, the Lite plan will absolutely get you through.

Shopify isn’t the most advanced credit card processing app out there — for example, it doesn’t support tipping — but overall it has most of the features mobile and service-based businesses need, and its integration with the eCommerce tools is definitely an asset. It even allows invoicing.

Shopify allows you to set a tax rate for a shop location and create overrides and exemptions. One thing I do like that I don’t often see in these sorts of apps is tax rates based on GPS location, which eases the burden on you considerably.

For Shopify Payments (the default processing method), you’re going to pay 2.7% per transaction to start out, though if you opt for the higher-tiered plans you’ll see some savings.

Payline Mobile

Payline is one of our favorite merchant account providers, and we like their mobile solution because it’s available independently of the other offerings and suitable for low-volume businesses, which isn’t common with traditional merchant accounts.

The app is overall solid, with inventory features, tipping, and discounts. While there’s no invoicing feature, the mobile plans do offer access to a virtual terminal. The app is also designed for mobile use only: it doesn’t support retail/countertop processing features like cash drawers or receipt printers. However, Payline supports multiple tax rates for different items as well as a master tax rate for checkout, depending on your needs.

Payline’s mobile products offer interchange-plus pricing, too: the Start plan (formerly Spark Plan) will charge you 0.5% over interchange plus $0.20 per transaction with no monthly fee; the Surge plan charges a 0.3% markup plus $0.20, with a $9.95 monthly fee. The $0.20 per-transaction fee is a little high, but doesn’t put Payline Mobile in the realm of unreasonable pricing. However, it does mean businesses with larger ticket sizes will feel the effects of that per-transaction fee less.

Spark Pay

Capital One’s mobile processing solution Spark Pay is part of the larger “Spark” line of businesses solutions, which includes a fairly advanced online store. However, despite that, Spark Pay the mobile app stands alone, with no integrations.

It has all the major features a merchant would need — tipping, custom discounts, an item library, and support for a countertop setup. Unfortunately, there’s no invoicing, and Spark Pay’s virtual terminal is only in beta mode. You can only set one tax rate in the app as well. However, the major shortcoming is simply that while Spark Pay does offer EMV terminals, there’s not currently an EMV-compliant mobile reader, something that all the other options here do offer.

That said, Spark Pay does offer great customer service, and its pricing is competitive. On the Go plan, there’s no monthly fee and transactions cost 2.65% + $0.05. The Pro plan has a $19 monthly fee, but your rates drop to 1.99% + $0.05.


SumUp has been operating in Europe for several years now, but it’s only reached the US in the past year, which definitely makes it the newcomer. The app is overall solid, though more limited than the others on this list.

You do get a free mobile app and free virtual terminal, as well as a fairly unique tool: SMS payments where customers can complete a transaction by opening a link sent through text message.

However, you can only process on one device at a time, so while you can create sub-user accounts, there’s not much of a benefit. SumUp does support multiple tax rates, but tax rates can’t be deleted when they are associated with an item. You’ll have to delete the item first.

The lack of discounts and the ability to make some changes through the dashboard are a bit disappointing — but the fact that you can manage everything from within the app is a major improvement over a platform like Clover Go, which requires you to make many adjustments in the web dashboard.

There are no recurring billing or card-on-file options, though, and no invoicing, either. That said, SumUp charges a simple 2.75% per transaction, and 2.9% + $0.15 for virtual terminal and SMS payments, with no monthly fee.

Final Thoughts

I’m usually pretty hesitant to recommend one product above all others without consideration of the differences from one business to the next. And that’s true here. If you really only have simple needs, any of the options on this list will serve you well. As your needs get more advanced, it’s definitely worth looking at more advanced setups such as Square or PayPal Here. And as always, the price is a major consideration. Make sure you run the numbers and are confident the rates you will pay are competitive.

The good news is that all of these services have a no-monthly-fee option so you can try them out with no risk. I encourage you to check out our complete reviews of any credit card processing app you’re interested in pursuing. And if you have questions, I encourage you to reach out. We’re always here to help, so feel free to leave us a comment!

The post The Best Credit Card Processing Apps For Mobile And Service Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


What Is Affirm And What Does It Offer?

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We often talk about how tightening credit standards have changed the face of lending. What’s less discussed is the effect the Great Recession has had on consumers

American credit card debt, currently amounting to around $808 billion, is one of the easiest types of credit to overextend yourself on. Not coincidentally, many younger Americans are avoiding credit cards at a higher rate. Fewer than one-in-three Millenials claim to have a credit card, for example.

That’s where Affirm comes in. Companies like Affirm count on the fact that cardless consumers will still face situations where they need to buy something that they can’t afford.

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How Does Affirm Work?

Affirm offers point-of-sale (POS) financing. This isn’t a new form of lending, but rather a technology-assisted reinvention of an old lending model.

Here’s an example of how the process works:

You decide you can’t possibly live without the hottest new gaming console a moment longer, so you add it to your online shopping cart and proceed to checkout. Among your options to pay are the usual credit and debit cards, along with payment processors like PayPal. But this merchant also provides an option to use Affirm, which allows you to take out a short-term loan on the spot to finance the exact cost of your purchase. You’re given the choice of paying back the loan over the course of three, six, or 12 months. Affirm then shows you how much money you’ll be paying back, expressed as both an interest rate and a dollar amount. If you accept, your purchase is processed.

Congratulations, you’re the proud owner of a new game console…and a short-term loan!

Isn’t That Just How A Credit Card Works?

In a sense, sure. Revolving lines of credit and short-term loans have a lot in common. In both cases, you’re “taking out” an amount of money equal to the cost of your purchase, which you’ll be paying back (hopefully) within the next few months. Additionally, in both cases, creditors aren’t concerned with what you’re buying, just the amount you’re requesting/using.

But there are some important differences.

The big one is that Affirm evaluates each loan separately rather than as a line of credit. You won’t be cut off when you hit a specified credit limit, but your loan may be denied if you missed payments on other Affirm loans or if they believe you’ve overextended yourself. Additionally, Affirm may not always cover the entirety of your purchase; you may have to make a downpayment.

You can expect APRs between 10% – 30% with Affirm. The average credit card APR is around 15%, so you can easily end up paying more than you would with a credit card. Loans are capped at $10,000.

Why Would I Want To Use Affirm Instead Of A Credit Card?

The short answer is that it’s mostly a matter of your own spending psychology, but there are some specific reasons why you might choose a POS loan over a credit card purchase.

You Have Poor Credit

Credit card companies aren’t quite as conservative as they were during the financial crisis, but many shoppers may still find themselves unable to access credit. Or they may only qualify for a very low credit limit. POS lenders take credit into account (Affirm, for example, does a soft pull on your credit when you first signup), but don’t weight it as heavily.

You’ve Maxed Out Your Credit Cards

While you may want to reconsider taking on more debt, there’s nothing really stopping you from utilizing both credit cards and POS loans.

Special Offers

It’s not unusual for credit card companies to offer 0% APR introductory rates. PoS loans also come with 0% APR offers, but they’re a little different. Instead of being attached to new accounts, Affirm will sometimes offer 0% APRs at specific partner stores.

You Like The Way The Loans Are Structured

Credit cards offer enormous flexibility in how they’re repaid. Other than making the required minimum monthly payment, you can throw any amount of money you want at your balance every month. At the same time, it’s not necessarily clear how much you should be paying to make a good dent in your balance. A POS loan has a prescribed end and tells you the amount of money you need to pay each month in order to meet it.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot of diversity in the types of financing being offered to individuals and businesses these days. POS loans fit into the broader alternative lending trends. That is to say, they’re fast, easy, and more expensive. Still, they do provide options for borrowers who have a hard time otherwise accessing credit, or who wish to avoid credit cards’ minimum payment trap.

Meanwhile, if you’re a business that prefers old-fashioned credit cards, why not take a look at our business credit card comparison chart?

Chris Motola

Chris Motola is an independent writer, journalist, programmer, and game designer who has mastered the art of using his laptop in no fewer than 541 positions, most of them unergonomic. When he’s not pushing keys or swiping screens, he’s probably out exploring urban or natural environs, experimenting in the kitchen, or delighting/annoying his friends with his ideas and theories.

Chris Motola


What Are Loyalty Programs And How Do They Work?

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Customer Loyalty

Were you aware that the average adult is enrolled in nine loyalty/rewards programs? (I’ve had many a polite staring match with clerks trying to push their store’s rewards program. Needless to say, I’m not at all surprised by this statistic.) Loyalty programs, in one form or another, have been around for many years. Though they’ve evolved through time, these systems have increasingly become a weapon for business owners to retain existing patrons.

Technology is rapidly encroaching every area of our lives and rewards programs are no exception. The advent of cloud computing has revolutionized businesses’ ability to store big data. Electronic rewards programs benefit businesses owners as well as customers. Proprietors can utilize these systems to collect customer information, track sales, and keep an eye on their retention and churn rates. This article looks to examine what loyalty programs are, where loyalty programs got their start, and how they work. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.

What Are Loyalty Programs?

Loyalty programs are rewards programs put in place by the owners of an establishment to encourage customers to return. These programs are extremely popular in businesses where customers make frequent purchases. Every rewards program is unique to the company who implements it, but they operate on roughly the same premise: The more a customer shops at your establishment, the more rewards they receive, and the more incentive they have to come back and continue shopping at your place of business.

Rewards programs typically require customers to hand over some form of personal information (name, address, etc.). In return, they are issued a unique membership card, number, or access code so they can receive their benefits. As was previously stated, modern electronic rewards programs specifically benefit business owners because they can mine a large portion of previously untapped customer data.

How Do Loyalty Programs Work?

There are a wide variety of loyalty program styles out there and each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Let’s go over a few of the main styles:

  • Cash Back Or Rebate Program: This type of rewards program is pretty self-explanatory: customers earn money back from their purchases. Once they reach a certain dollar amount or a certain time limit has been reached, they can redeem their rewards for cash. The rebate is usually based off of a percentage of the total purchases during the time period in question. This type of program is easy to understand but it lacks the element of instant gratification for your customers and it can also be expensive to implement.
  • Discount Program: This system offers a discount off the original price of any given item that can be applied to customers at the checkout counter. Discount programs are easy to understand and process but may give customers the impression that your regular prices are too high
  • .Frequency Programs: Many of the businesses that use this type of rewards program employ paper punch cards to keep track of their customers visits. (Buy 5 subs and the 6th is on us!) While these punch cards are low cost, they don’t track any customer information and are more open to fraud.
  • Points Programs: With these rewards programs, customers are given points, often in exchange for the amount they spend in your store. The point system is a great way to avoid discounting your merchandise, but you may need to find a way to remind your customers of their status in the rewards program.
  • Tier System: This sort of rewards program is great for keeping customers engaged on a consistent basis. To join the system, a customer must make a simple purchase. The more frequently a customer makes purchases and the cost of those purchases will determine the level of rewards they receive. This sort of program works really well for businesses with expensive merchandise.Different loyalty systems can be mixed and matched together to create your own unique loyalty program that works best for your specific business and customer needs.

Final Thoughts

Any business owner worth his or her salt will tell you that having loyal customers is vital to keeping a thriving business. Not only is retaining existing patrons about 5 to 25 times less expensive than acquiring new ones, repeat shoppers are known to spend up to 67% more when they visit your establishment. Implementing a solid loyalty program is not only an important way for you as a business owner to make sure that your customers keep returning, it is also an important metric for your churn rate. It is important to do your research before adopting any loyalty solutions for your company, but this day in age, adopting some sort of loyalty program is becoming more and more advantageous. A loyal customer is a customer you can count on returning to your business and spreading free advertisement about your brand by word of mouth. (One of the most effective forms of advertising, I might add.)

Elizabeth Cranston

Elizabeth Cranston is a writer and native Oregonian who lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She enjoys researching and getting to the bottom of questions relating to the Point of Sale industry.When not writing about and researching Point of Sale software, she can usually be found overindulging in Dutch Bro’s coffee, making others laugh, or listening to music.

Elizabeth Cranston

Elizabeth Cranston

Elizabeth Cranston


Shopify Payments Review: What Are The Pros And Cons Of Shopify’s Integrated Payment Processor?

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If you’ve spent any time on our blog, you know that Shopify (read our review) is one of our favorite shopping cart solutions, primarily because they provide an all-inclusive solution to a wide range of merchants. One monthly rate gives you access to Shopify’s hosting, security, administrative abilities, customer service features, inventory management features, web design tools, and more.

With the addition of Shopify Payments, an integrated payment processor, you can even access built-in payment processing features. Shopify Payments allows you to quickly begin accepting orders on your online store. You won’t have to worry about integrating a third-party processor, and Shopify will waive their shopping cart transaction fees.

However, despite its convenience, Shopify Payments is not a perfect solution. Customers often complain that they do not qualify to use the service. Others say that Shopify Payments has frozen their account or is holding payments.

Keep reading to learn if you qualify for Shopify Payments and if it’s right for your business.

In this article, we’ll be discussing payment service providers (PSPs). If you’re new to the world of payment processing, we’d love to help get you oriented. Download our free ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Payment Processing, to get started.

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What Is Shopify Payments?

Shopify Payments is a payment processor that allows you to accept customers’ money securely on your account. Shopify is responsible for these transactions, although they are effectively processed through Stripe and Wells Fargo.

Shopify Payments is already integrated into your Shopify account, so it requires very little setup. There is no need to integrate a third-party processor or coordinate payments with a separate company. All you have to do is select Shopify Payments in your admin and add your banking information. Read Shopify’s setup instructions.

What’s more, Shopify Payments comes with a few additional features, including chargeback management and fraud prevention.

When you use Shopify Payments, Shopify will waive their usual shopping cart transaction fees. The only transaction fees you’ll need to pay are those associated with payment processing.

What Are The Rates?

Every PSP comes with its own processing rates and fees. Shopify Payments bases their rates on users’ subscription level. Users on higher Shopify plans benefit from lower rates. Take a look at the screenshot below for a breakdown of those rates.

Shopify states that they do not charge any monthly fees, hidden fees, or setup fees on their payments service.

Who Can Use Shopify Payments?

Perhaps the most obvious requirement is that you must be a Shopify customer to use Shopify Payments.

Shopify Payments is only available to merchants in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. Shopify Payments is not available to US territories, with the exception of Puerto Rico.

You must follow Shopify’s Acceptable Use Policy. Take a look at the extensive list of products and services Shopify does not support below:

If you do not comply with Shopify Payments’ Terms of Service, you will not be approved or the service may be revoked.

When Do I Get Paid?

Payday is on everyone’s mind. One of the most frequently-asked questions regarding Shopify Payments is how long you’ll have to wait to receive your customers’ payments.

This period — the time between when a customer places an order and when those funds are sent to your bank account — is called a pay period. You should keep in mind that this pay period does not include the amount of time it takes for your bank to process that deposit after it’s sent (typically between 24-72 hours).

Your pay period with Shopify Payments will depend on the country in which your company is based. You can view the full breakdown of pay periods in Shopify’s knowledgebase, or you can see my summary below:

  • US: 2 business days. Funds from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are grouped and sent together as one payment.
  • Canada: 3 business days. Funds from Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are grouped and sent together as one payment.
  • Australia: 3 business days. Funds from Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are grouped and sent together as one payment.
  • New Zealand: 3 business days. Funds from Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are grouped and sent together as one payment.
  • UK & Ireland: 4 business days. Funds from Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are grouped and sent together as one payment.

Make sure you keep in mind this delay in payments as you plan your business. It might be worth setting up a business credit card so you always have funds on hand.

Pros & Positive Reviews

Customers choose Shopify Payments for a number of reasons. Here are the primary benefits of using Shopify Payments:

  • No Shopify Transaction Fees: While there will always be processing fees, when you use Shopify Payments, you’ll no longer have to pay that 1%-2% transaction fee associated with your Shopify plan. I assume Shopify instead takes their money from your payment processing. Either way, it’s savings for you.
  • Potentially Lower Processing Fees: As I’ve said before, higher-level Shopify merchants benefit from lower rates. You may find that Shopify’s rates are competitive with those of other major processors.
  • Already Integrated: You won’t need any developers to connect with Shopify Payments.
  • Integrated Fraud Prevention: Shopify Payments helps you reduce fraudulent transactions. You can choose to enable an address verification system and a card verification value upon checkout to ensure customers are real cardholders. Read more about fraud analysis.

Shopify Payments is a great solution if you meet the requirements and are looking for a processor that’s easy to integrate.

Cons & Complaints

While Shopify Payments is great for convenience, I’ve seen numerous reports blaming the service for being unreliable and difficult to contact. Here are a few of the most common complaints and disadvantages of using Shopify Payments:

  • Ineligibility: Shopify users often complain that they are not eligible for Shopify Payments. For some, this is because Shopify Payments is not available in their country. In some cases, Shopify has actually revoked payment services because, for one reason or another, their business was deemed “high-risk.” Shopify’s Terms of Service states: “We reserve the right to modify or terminate the Service for any reason, without notice at any time.”
  • Shopify Holds Funds: Merchants frequently complain of their funds being withheld for an extended period of time. Here’s what Shopify Payments’ Terms Of Service says about that: “Stripe, on behalf of Shopify and/or Wells Fargo reserves the right to change the Payout Schedule or suspend payouts to your Bank Account should we determine it is necessary due to pending disputes, excessive Chargebacks or refunds, or other suspicious activity associated with your use of the Service or it required by law or court order.”
  • Difficulties With Chargebacks: Chargebacks are an unfortunate and inevitable part of running an online business. If customers file too many chargebacks against you, Shopify may withhold your funds, further complicating the issue.

Make sure you read the Terms of Service for every solution you sign up with, including Shopify and Shopify Payments. It could save you a world of pain.

Final Thoughts

I’ve seen enough negative reports about Shopify Payments to be skeptical of the service. Many merchants have been denied payments or had the service revoked entirely.

However, without the specifics, it’s difficult to determine whether Shopify was justified or not in these actions. If merchants were not complying with Shopify Payments’ Terms of Service, Shopify was within their rights to cancel the service.

As you make your decision, read every word of Shopify Payments’ Terms of Service to ensure your business qualifies. There are some great benefits to integrated payments, and if your store follows all the rules, Shopify Payments could be the best choice for your store.

But, don’t stop your research there. Take a look at our complete review of Shopify (and the real customer comments below) to learn more about the software, and be sure to read up on Shopify Payments in their knowledgebase. Best of luck!

Liz Hull

Liz is a recent college graduate living in Washington state. As of late, she can often be found haunting eCommerce forums and waiting on hold with customer service representatives. When she’s free, Liz loves to rock climb, watch Spanish dramas, and read poorly-written young adult novels.

Liz Hull


Merchant’s Help guide to Stopping Card-Present Fraud

Charge card fraud, for most of us, invokes 1 of 2 scenarios. First, you will find data breaches à la Target or Lowe’s, where thieves connect to the system and steal charge card figures, names, along with other data. Beyond that, you may consider online card fraud, where shady people use stolen card figures (sometimes acquired in data breaches such as the formerly pointed out ones) to purchase a lot of stuff online. Even though you start digging into ways retailers can safeguard against card fraud, the overwhelming quantity of sources are directed at eCommerce an internet-based transactions, and the ways to prevent fraud there. There isn’t many details whatsoever about card-present fraud — that’s, transactions which are still not legitimate but occur inside a store, in which the card is swiped or dipped.

Overall, card-present charge card fraud is really a smaller sized bit of the cake than online fraud, that is likely why there is a disproportionate quantity of sources regarding internet-based cons. But it’s still necessary that retailers take each step they are able to to safeguard themselves. Which includes being aware of what risks you face within the brick-and-mortar atmosphere.

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Understanding the kinds of Charge Card Fraud

I’m penning this mostly to describe how to prevent fraud. I shouldn’t enter into all the various scams and methods that fraudsters use because you can write a little ebook about them. But generally, all charge card fraud (or bank card fraud) falls into 1 of 3 groups:

  • Cloned/Counterfeit Card Fraud: This is a kind of card-present fraud in which the fraudster forges a card with another person’s username and passwords and uses it inside a brick-and-mortar storefront.
  • Lost/Stolen Card Fraud: This kind of fraud is most familiar to consumers, and sure concern for a lot of retailers: a fraudster using another person’s card to create a transaction (frequently a really large one). This could happen online or perhaps in a store.
  • Card-Not-Present Fraud: Any kind of fraudulent online transaction falls into this category, simply due to the credit card not swiped or dipped. While there are several tools retailers may use to mitigate this risk, generally, it’s the easiest kind of fraud to commit. CNP fraud comprises nearly all card fraud, especially as EMV makes it harder to clone or counterfeit cards.

It is also important to note there’s a couple other kinds of fraud retailers have to be cautious about:

  • ATM Fraud: Scammers uses a couple of different tactics to obtain either money or card data from ATMs, including installing card skimmers (we’ll discuss individuals inside a bit) or deliberately blocking the money distribution mechanism. For those who have an ATM on-site at the business, be familiar with it as being a possible target.
  • Check Fraud: Checks are certainly decreasing. Actually, based on the Fed, the entire quantity of check payments produced in the U.S. fell typically 6.2 percent each year from 2000 to 2012, and from 2012 to 2015, fell by typically 4.4 % yearly. In 2015, consumers authored as many as 19.4 billion checks, that was a complete loss of 3.1 billion over 2012 figures. However, the Given also reports that the need for the checks risen has elevated — and therefore while individuals are writing them less often, they have a tendency to create them for more and more bigger purchases. Check acceptance isn’t universal, however if you simply do accept checks, utilizing a digital service for example Telecheck to instantly convert payments and flag dangerous transactions is a great way to safeguard yourself.

I am not likely to really enter into CNP fraud, as the majority of it requires running an eCommerce store. This short article won’t cope with ATM or check fraud in-depth simply because they don’t affect nearly all retailers. Our focus is particularly card fraud at brick-and-mortar stores, whether it is debit or charge card related.

The Charge Card Fraud Game-Changer: EMV

Before the EMV liability shift required place, fraud experts were predicting that CNP fraud would increase with a tremendous amount in america because other nations that implemented EMV observed an identical pattern, and individuals predictions have held true. Credit monitoring agency Experian reported a rise of CNP fraud totaling 33% when compared with 2015.

One of the reasons for elevated CNP fraud may be the development of shopping online. As increasing numbers of use online, the entire amount of charge card fraud is likely to increase. However, the rollout of EMV can also be playing a job within the increase of card-not-present fraud.

Particularly, the chips in EMV cards tend to be harder to repeat and reproduce than the usual magstripe card (which is dependant on technology straight from the 1970s). So rather, scammers are switching to purchasing online, where you can find no techniques to physically authenticate the credit card. Rather, most security checks depend around the CVV or AVS checks to recognize suspicious transactions.

That’s not saying cloned or counterfeited cards aren’t an issue whatsoever. They’re. EMV market saturation in america isn’t 100%, as well as if consumers have nick cards, that does not mean retailers are outfitted to simply accept nick cards. As well as if counterfeited card fraud is decreasing, there’s still lost/stolen card fraud to bother with.

6 Methods to Reduce Charge Card Fraud in Brick-and-Mortar Stores

So, your house you need to antiques store. Someone is available in to purchase some furniture for his or her new house. Two days and a few 1000 dollars later, you discover the card used would be a stolen card. The cardholder has filed a chargeback, meaning the entire transaction amount continues to be deducted from your bank account and put on hold pending analysis. Not just that, but you’re the actual merchandise, effectively doubling whatever is lost.

Regrettably, this could and does occur to retailers. Although some industries are much more likely than the others to become victims of card fraud, any and each business should know the potential risks and take safeguards.

Which industries are most in danger? Based on an american Bank presentation, a few of the MCCs (merchant category codes, accustomed to identify the kind of services or products a business offers) which are most focused on fraud range from the following:

  • 5411: Supermarkets and Supermarkets
  • 5732: Electronics Stores
  • 5812: Dining Establishments and Restaurants
  • 5999: Miscellaneous and Niche Stores
  • 4722: Travel Agencies and Tour Operators
  • 5311: Shops
  • 5661: Shoe Stores

Exactly what do you need to do to safeguard yourself? To begin with, you should know of whether you’re in the kind of industry that’s enjoy being focused on card-present fraud. A dry-cleaning business or perhaps a cafe? Most likely less. An gallery, a furniture or electronics store, or other business where consumers can drop hundreds or 1000s of dollars all at once? Most certainly a target.

Second, make certain you implement procedures and policies that will help mitigate fraud. We’ll begin with a very fundamental one, that we suspect lots of retailers overlook:

1. Check Network Guidelines for Card Acceptance

I mention mtss is a lot — by a great deal, I am talking about in nearly every review I write — but READ YOUR CONTRACT. Understand what you’re signing and just what rules and needs you’re being certain to. It’s important to maintain your credit card merchant account open so that you can keep accepting cards. But it’s also wise to consider the merchant guidelines the various card systems (Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Uncover) offer. They often cover guidelines for example displaying marks of acceptance, surcharging, and minimum/maximum transaction amounts. Hidden in individuals guidelines will also be policies which cover safety measures you’re likely to take and list of positive actions if you feel a card is fraudulent or even the transaction otherwise seems suspicious.

To help you get began, I suggest checking the Visa card acceptance guidelines, in addition to MasterCard’s rules.

2. Secure Your POS and Hardware

What is POS

In addition to the threats resulting from counterfeited or stolen cards, it’s also wise to be familiar with the opportunity of an information breach. If a person has the capacity to access the body and compromise your customers’ private information, it may be devastating for both you and your business. Data breaches can occur in lots of ways.

Among the apparent ones is skimming, in which a fraudster installs a tool over your terminal or pin pad that captures the credit card data and stores it. Skimmers may take only seconds to set up and therefore are difficult to place unless of course you are aware how to acknowledge the twelve signs. Scammers may also result in a data breach by using adware and spyware in your POS system or else hacking it. They are more complex techniques in most cases directed at high-value targets, but they’re possible you should know of, particularly if you store any type of customer data.

PCI Compliance: What you ought to Know

Technically, PCI DSS compliance (usually just known as PCI compliance) isn’t just about POS systems. Sturdy your hardware, too. More often than not that’s lumped along with your POS, though, particularly if you come with an integrated solution.

PCI DSS means Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. It’s a unified policy indicating the steps retailers have to take to secure their transaction data through hardware and also the POS system, laid by the PCI Security Standards Council. Retailers are sorted into certainly one of four levels with respect to the type and number of transactions yearly. Most small companies are Level 3 or Level 4, that have the least steps to consider to keep compliance.

There’s an excellent chance that, should you didn’t construct your system yourself, you’re already PCI compliant. Software and equipment vendors will need to go via a certification process when they handle payment card information. However, should you store any customer data (particularly in a database you develop and keep yourself) or route it via a website you maintain yourself, that won’t function as the situation. You need to speak to your credit card merchant account provider or software vendor by what steps are needed to make sure your compliance. You might be needed to accomplish quarterly scans or self-assessments.

PCI compliance could be summarized into 12 points of action lumped into six groups. The reason here is obtained from the PCI SCC Quick Reference Guide.

Build and keep a safe and secure Network
1. Install and keep a firewall configuration to safeguard cardholder data.
2. Don’t use vendor-provided defaults for system passwords along with other security parameters.

Safeguard Cardholder Data
3. Safeguard stored cardholder data.
4. Secure transmission of cardholder data across open, public systems.

Conserve a Vulnerability Management Program
5. Use and frequently update anti-virus software or programs.
6. Develop and keep secure systems and applications.

Implement Strong Access Control Measures
7. Restrict use of cardholder data by business have to know.
8. Assign a distinctive ID to every person with computer access.
9. Restrict physical use of cardholder data.

Regularly Monitor and Test Systems
10. Track and monitor all use of network sources and cardholder data.
11. Regularly test home security systems and procedures.

Maintain an info Security Policy
12. Conserve a policy that addresses information to safeguard all personnel.

For retailers, I believe the important thing takeaway is the fact that PCI compliance (and knowledge peace of mind in general) isn’t a one-and-done type deal. You have to positively take preventive steps and monitoring the body, from updating software and firmware when updates seem to watching the employees and ensuring they’re educated on card security issues and proper procedures to handle.

Beyond PCI Compliance: How to maintain your POS (and knowledge) Secure

Learning all the intricacies of PCI compliance is most certainly challenging for anybody, the experts! However, since, data security isn’t something take proper care of once rather than consider again, you need to certainly take a moment to discover security.

Two big terms at this time are file encryption and tokenization. PCI DSS signifies that the POS and hardware should secure transactions. There’s two major kinds of file encryption, point-to-point and finish-to-finish.

Tokenization isn’t yet a business standard, though it’s increasingly common, mostly because of NFC/contactless payments. Tokenization generates a 1-time-use card number and substitutes it for that actual card number. Even when information is breached and decrypted, that tokenized number is useless to scammers. That’s just how Apple Pay and Samsung Pay and Android Pay keep the card data secure: Your card number is kept in a cloud vault which your phone have access to. Your phone generates the token and passes it to the system, which verifies the amount.

If you would like to understand more about how you can secure your POS, check out our POS 101 article around the subject, in addition to PC Mag’s article regarding how to place skimmers.

3. Capture Signatures, Even on Low-Value Transactions

accept mobile credit card payments

Credit (and debit) cards possess a space around the back for customers to sign them because, theoretically, retailers are meant to compare that signature towards the one around the receipt as a way of verification. The truth is couple of or no retailers really do that.

Within the interest of speeding along transactions, particularly in environments where customers be prepared to be interior and exterior the checkout fairly rapidly, the credit card systems have relaxed their guidelines with no longer need a signature on all transactions. Low-value transactions (under $25 or $50 with respect to the network) frequently waive the signature requirement.

mPOS systems — Square, PayPal Here, SumUp, etc. — plus some POS systems frequently allow retailers to disable signatures on low-value transactions. For mPOS systems, the brink is generally $25. For full-fledged POS systems, that threshold may also be in the merchant’s discretion.

Realistically speaking, quick-serve cafes and restaurants, supermarkets, etc., where you’re likely to encounter low-value transactions, aren’t an enormous risk. And also the losses, unless of course you’re experiencing a huge string of fraudulent transactions, are minimal. It isn’t that you simply absolutely must enable signatures on all transactions to safeguard yourself. That’s not true. However if you simply want to maximise your protection out on another mind the additional time to gather a signature throughout the checkout phase, you are able to enable them.

For top-value transactions, you need to absolutely be collecting signatures on everything. Actually, for large transactions, signed invoices are an easy way to safeguard your company and reduce the chances of chargebacks.

4. Request Customer Identification

Some consumers, rather of filling out the backs of the cards, decide to write “SEE ID” for the reason that space. This informs retailers they ought to request a photo ID and compare it towards the name around the card.

A great practice. Not every retailers get it done, especially with increasingly more consumer-facing PIN pads and terminals in which the cashier never handles the credit card.

But there’s only one small problem:

A merchant can ask to determine a photograph ID for any transaction, but legally, the customer isn’t obligated to supply it. Visa’s guide, 5 Important Visa Rules That Each Merchant Ought To Know, explains it such as this:

“A Merchant may request cardholder identification inside a face-to-face atmosphere. When the name around the identification doesn’t match the name around the card, the merchant could decide whether or not to accept the credit card. When the cardholder doesn’t have, or perhaps is reluctant to provide, cardholder identification, the merchant should recognition the credit card should they have acquired evidence of card presence, a legitimate authorization, along with a valid signature or PIN.”

Therefore if a person provides an ID that does not match the name around the card, the merchant can pick to say no the transaction. When the customer will not offer an ID or doesn’t have one, Visa’s rules condition that you ought to process the transaction, provided you will find the card in hands plus they sign or enter their PIN.

That stated, requesting ID continues to be generally a great policy. Just be familiar with the credit card systems acceptance rules (see point #1 above).

5. Avoid Keyed Transactions

It’s story time!

A lengthy, lengthy time ago (OK, a lot more like eight years back), after i labored like a cashier somewhere that shall ‘t be named, I recall from time to time getting to place a card inside a plastic grocery bag and swipe it to obtain the POS to see it. I’m still unsure why this labored, however it did. Them which had this issue were usually old and worn — sometimes worn to the stage the elevated figures weren’t as elevated because they must have been, and also the whole card appeared thinner, even extended. They often left worn-lower, overstuffed wallets, therefore i just generally assumed the put on evolved as the result of in which the card was stored. Sometimes, though, even that didn’t work, since the card might have a split inside it within the magstripe or it simply wouldn’t read. In individuals cases, I could (and did) by hand go into the card.

I do not determine if the cards I processed by doing this were fraudulent, but I know since it was a danger. Card network guidelines, in addition to other security experts, suggest that you inspect the physical card for indications of damage or tampering before you decide to process a transaction. Broken cards — particularly if it normally won’t swipe — can (but don’t always) indicate counterfeit or cloned cards. Entering the transaction means the POS does not have to physically look into the card, because it’s treated like a card-not-present transaction.

First, keyed transactions always are more expensive than swiped or dipped ones. PayPal and Square both charge 3.5% + $.15, that is well over the 2.7% and a pair of.75% (correspondingly) they charge for swiped or dipped transactions. Traditional merchant services may also assess a greater fee, although it varies more.

Second, getting a lot of keyed transactions is frequently a warning sign for a free account provider. It shows that someone may be processing cards that aren’t even physically contained in the shop, that is, clearly, a large no-no. A particular quantity of keyed transactions should be expected, but a lot of can result in a hold, freeze, or termination.

So your very best to prevent entering card information, because this will safeguard your company. Most security experts also recommend searching at the processing background and making note associated with a patterns — whether these transactions happen in a particular time consistently, or maybe one cashier is much more vulnerable to keyed transactions than the others.

6. Change to EMV Acceptance

EMV credit card terminal

Should you not curently have a POS and hardware that accepts EMV transactions, it’s about time you are making the switch. No exceptions, no excuses. Yes, it may appear costly, you will find, the EMV rollout continues to be rather slow partly due to the backlog on hardware and software certifications. But there are many EMV-certified hardware and software open to retailers. If you were postponing the switch, just start it already. It’s probably the most important methods for you to safeguard your company from charge card fraud.

Like I stated earlier, it’s a great deal harder (not possible, but very, very hard) to repeat a nick card. That is why many scammers are relocating to CNP fraud. On October 1, 2015, liability for fraudulent nick card transactions shifted in the banks to “the least-secure party,” which within this situation means retailers who aren’t outfitted to simply accept EMV.

Remember the instance I began with, using the antique furniture. Repeat the person purchasing the products have a counterfeit nick card. However, you, the merchant, have only a magstripe readers. If you’d had an EMV readers, it could have been in a position to identify the card was fraudulent. But rather, you processed the magstripe transaction — which leaves you entirely responsible for the entire mess.

The problem could be different when the fraudster were built with a stolen EMV card and tried on the extender in an EMV terminal. For the reason that situation, the liability would fall around the card provider.

Should you haven’t already, get EMV-capable card-readers and make certain your POS is EMV certified, too. It’s absolutely worthwhile, and every one of our top-rated merchant providers offer EMV acceptance, just like our top-rated mPOS providers.

Conclusion: How Large a danger is Card-Present Charge Card Fraud?

Realistically, retailers who sell online face an even bigger threat than brick-and-mortar retailers. That’s largely because of the EMV liability shift and rollout of nick cards. Unfortunately, even nick cards can’t safeguard against stolen or lost card fraud. And until EMV market saturation hits 100%, there’s still a danger of accepting counterfeit cards.

Fortunately, you are able to take measures to safeguard your and yourself business. Understanding is power, especially within the payments industry. So review your processing contract, the credit card networks’ laws and regulations, and also the legal matters affecting your industry. Make certain that you simply keep the POS secure, out on another overlook simple defenses for example collecting signatures or requesting IDs, and keeping keyed transactions low. Applying EMV, should you haven’t already, is among the most critical methods for you to safeguard your company.

If you have questions, we’d like to respond to them! Take a look at our comment guidelines by leaving your question inside a comment. Thanks for studying!

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Manley is definitely an independent author and editor who loves e-commerce, internet marketing, technology, and social networking. Not so long ago, she earned a journalism degree, but she continued to uncover that they could work at home, researching, editing, and covering the items she found most fascinating. When she’s not associated with her laptop, Melissa usually can be based in the kitchen, studying a magazine, or doing something from the nerdy persuasion.

Melissa Johnson