Should I Use Yelp for Business Owners?

We’ve all heard of Yelp. You might think of it simply as a helpful website that advises you to steer clear of that new Asian-Fusion place on Main Street (the service is terrible and you will get food poisoning). Based on how fellow customers rate restaurants and other businesses on a five-star scale, you can make decisions about whether various establishments are worth your time. You can even see pictures of locations, plates of food, menus, hotel rooms, and more.

But there is more to Yelp than just customer reviews of local services. On the other side of the curtain is a whole array of business tools designed to bring more customers through your doors. Functioning much like a social media account, Yelp for Business Owners lets you post pictures, interact with customers, and even buy targeted advertising to help grow your business. Ranging from free options that allow you to “claim” your business to paid subscriptions providing advertisements and high-quality video support, Yelp for Business Owners might be just the thing you have been looking for to give your business a boost.

But is it worth the expenditure? What can Yelp for Business really do for you? Read on to find out.

Do I Have To Pay To Create A Yelp Account For My Business?

Yelp for Business is free on the most basic level, but there are paid options if you want more features. Let’s take a closer look at the costs involved.

Free Tools:

The basic concept behind the free tools is that you can claim your business and establish a greater presence through Yelp. In many cases, your business will already be on Yelp, with positive and negative reviews, photos, and traffic already present. By claiming your own business, you will be able to gain some control over that content, including the ability to respond to reviews and add your own photos. In most cases, and especially if your business is already rated and reviewed on Yelp, there is no reason not to at least check this version of Yelp for Business out.

Self Service:

If you want to take advantage of Yelp’s proven popularity with consumers, you may find it advantageous to try their advertising service. The self-service option allows you to set your own budget for ads and will target people searching similar services to yours within your area. Yelp does not post their prices publically, but I found a general consensus among small business owners that pricing starts at $350 per month. Opting for this plan also allows for an “upgraded slideshow,” and removal of competitor ads when potential customers are looking at your Yelp page.

Full Service:

Signing up for the Full Service option gives you the opportunity to add a video to your Yelp profile, as well as a “call to action button” on your page. Both of these make your Yelp page stand out from competition, which could be valuable if there are lots of similar businesses to yours in your area. The Full Service package also includes support from Yelp’s own team of marketing experts, who will be on hand to help you craft your ads and deal with bad reviews and difficult customers.

How Easy Is It To Use Yelp For Business?

By all accounts, Yelp for Business Owners is very straightforward to use. It is easy to add photos and respond to customers on Yelp’s web platform. Designing an ad campaign is a little more difficult, but that mostly comes down to your own marketing decisions. So far, so good. However, if you do decide to sign up for Yelp’s advertising (hoping to take advantage of Yelp’s high trust rating with internet users), be aware that some things just aren’t possible. Hoping to set geographic boundaries for your advertisements? No can do. Want to specify particular keywords to direct traffic your way? Big nope there. So while the actual operating of Yelp for Business is pretty easy, the lack of things to do does not bode well for the app.

Are There Downsides To Using Yelp?

Well, we have partially answered that question already. The limitations on your advertising potential are a huge drawback for a platform that is supposed to be all about advertising for local businesses. Unfortunately, the bad news does not end there. In addition to being a little opaque in terms of usability, Yelp for Business is expensive. With prices starting at $350 per month and only increased from there, you will be paying exponentially more for Yelp than you would for Google, Facebook, or other ads. On top of that, I read reports from several users (read: most that I saw) claiming that it can be hard to determine just how effective those ads really are. Proponents of Yelp talk about the excellent reputation the site has with consumers and how often users visit an establishment once they look it up on the site. But actually finding how those statistics apply to small business owners can apparently be rather difficult.

On top of that, Yelp’s customer service reps can be charitably described as… persistent. I ran across more complaints about this aspect of Yelp for Business Owners than any other. Once you make it known to Yelp that you might be interested in an advertising contract, they push for it hard, even to the point of insisting that a higher price will be so beneficial to your business that you can’t afford not to give in and sign up. As a small business owner myself, I can’t imagine the frustration of continually having to defend my own decision to limit my budget below what a sales rep thinks is wise. After all, the business is mine.

Final Thoughts

Yelp is a proven platform that users–your future customers–trust almost implicitly. That said, Yelp for Business can be expensive, on the opaque side, and possibly less effective than advertised. My own take on it is this: signing up with Yelp for Business Owners is worthwhile if you already have a significant following on the platform. If your business already has positive reviews and has a decent history, you may as well at least claim your business on Yelp and upload some official photos. It might even be worth it to give in and pay for some ads. Just make sure you have a strategy in place for using Yelp for your business marketing.

If your business is brand new and has little to no Yelp presence, you may not want to go beyond confirming your business. At the very least, you should wait for a more established footprint on this review site before paying at all for their advertising; your money will just be better used elsewhere.

Get Started With Yelp For Business Owners

The post Should I Use Yelp for Business Owners? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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10 Best Domain Registrars And Web Hosting Services Of 2018

domain registrars

If you’re planning to create a website, you’ve probably spent a lot of time considering how exactly you want to build it, who to hire to build it if you don’t want to build it yourself, the features and/or apps you want to include, how to monetize your site, and so on. One thing to which you may not have devoted much deliberation, however, is which domain registrar to purchase your domain from and which web host to go with.

What is a domain registrar? For those new to the technical aspects of getting a website online, a domain registrar is the service through which you reserve your site’s domain for an annual fee. Want to create a website at www.catfoodart.com? You’ll need to reserve catfoodart.com with a domain registrar first. Common domain extensions are .com, .org, .gov, .edu, etc. Most businesses will use a .com extension, though some go other routes.

What is web hosting? And how web hosts related to domain name registrars?

Importantly, a domain name registrar service is not the same thing as a web hosting service. Web hosting is the practice of storing the actual files that comprise your website on a physical server. The difference between a domain registrar and a web host is obscured by the fact that many domain registrars also offer web hosting (and vice versa). For the sake of convenience, many website owners choose to reserve a domain with the same company they use for web hosting, though there are some in the field who advise against this. Just know that despite the fact that many companies offer both domain registration and web hosting, they are, nonetheless, separate services.

What is the best domain name registrar? Who offers the most comprehensive web hosting services? Good questions! In this article, we’ll explore some of the leading domain registrars and web hosting sites.

1) BlueHost

domain registrarsBlueHost has become known as an easy-to-use domain registrar/web host and a solid choice for those seeking to get a site online for the first time. In fact, BlueHost is one of only three web hosts to receive an official recommendation from WordPress.

As BlueHost’s pricing currently stands, a .com domain will cost you $11.99 for the first year and $15.99 for all subsequent years. Unfortunately, if you want domain privacy protection so that your name, email address, phone number, and home address aren’t publicly available for doxxing, that will cost you an additional $14.88 per year.

If you decide to go with BlueHost as your web host as well as your domain registrar, you can get a domain with no extra cost. BlueHost’s hosting packages differ wildly in their pricing, as the company offers many different types of hosting, but in terms of shared hosting — the most common type of website hosting — BlueHost’s packages currently start at just $2.95/month, though this is subject to change. Furthermore, the $2.95/month Basic plan becomes more expensive if you buy your hosting package for less than a 36-month term and/or if you add on such things as domain privacy protection, SiteLock security, and BlueHost SEO tools.

Alternately, BlueHost offers WordPress-optimized hosting, cloud hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated hosting.

If you’re interested in BlueHost as a domain registrar and/or web host, check out its offerings at its website.

Visit the BlueHost website

2) GoDaddy

GoDaddy is more than just a widely recognized brand and controversy magnet. With over 75 million domains registered for over 17 million users worldwide, GoDaddy is the world’s biggest domain registrar. Let’s take a look at just what they have to offer.

GoDaddy is known for eye-popping first-year prices. To this end, they currently advertise an extraordinary deal: you can register a .com domain for just $0.99 for the first year, renewing at $14.99/yr. However, if you want domain privacy protection — and you probably do; it’s a really good idea! — your first-year price will jump by $7.99, the cost of privacy protection for the first year (it’s $9.99 each subsequent year).

On the hosting side, GoDaddy offers a host (haha) of options, with the cheapest hosting option being their Economy shared hosting package, which goes for $2.99/month and includes a free domain for the length of your subscription before renewal. However, as with BlueHost, the $2.99/month price only applies if you lock in your subscription for 36 months. Add-ons like SSL security and website backup will boost the price further.

GoDaddy also offers a website builder called GoCentral for those who want a domain, web host, and website builder all from the same source. Read my GoDaddy GoCentral review to learn more!

To get further details on GoDaddy’s products, visit GoDaddy’s website.

Visit the GoDaddy website

3) BuyDomains

domain registrarsUnlike GoDaddy and BlueHost, BuyDomains is strictly a domain registrar. BuyDomains owns many in-demand domains, so if your desired domain is under the company’s ownership, you can simply purchase it and it will be yours. These are premium domains, however, and they typically run upwards of $500-$800 apiece.

BuyDomains also lets you register a new domain. You can buy a domain for anywhere from one year to 10 years, but the price will remain the same: $24.95 a year for a .com. Domain privacy will set you back another $9/yr. Other available add-ons include an SEO tool ($50/month), SiteLock security ($35-$120/yr), and listing your business URL at whoisbusinesslistings.com ($20/yr).

Visit BuyDomains’s site at the link below if you’re interested.

Visit the BuyDomains website

4) CloudWays

web hostingAs the name would suggest, CloudWays specializes in cloud hosting. Cloud hosting differs from shared hosting in that your site is hosted on a cluster of servers, not just one single server. Unfortunately, CloudWays doesn’t offer domain registrar services.

CloudWays’s hosting packages currently start at $10/month and top off at $1,035/month. You’ll get escalating levels of RAM, processor speed, storage, and bandwidth with each subscription level.

web hosts

With so many hosting options, it’s all the easier to select just the package you want with the features you need.

Visit the link below to find out more about CloudWays.

Visit the CloudWays website

5) Domain.com

domain registrarsDomain.com is… wait for it… an internet domain registrar! As it happens, Domain.com offers hosting as well, so the name doesn’t tell the full story. In other words, Domain.com is about more than just…domain names.

A new .com domain from Domain.com costs $9.99/yr and comes with URL forwarding, email forwarding, DNS management, and transfer lock. Domain privacy will cost you an additional $8.99 per year.

Domain.com offers a broad range of hosting options. The cheapest packages come in the form of their Basic hosting packages, which cost $3.75/month for the Linux version and $4.75/month for the Windows version. Sadly, these hosting plans don’t include the cost of registering a domain. The Deluxe hosting package, by contrast, includes hosting, a free domain name, use of Domain.com’s drag-and-drop website builder, and personalized email for $6.75/month.

Additionally, Domain.com’s VPS hosting plans start at $29.70/month.

Click the link below to get more information on Domain.com’s domain registrar services and web hosting packages.

Visit the Domain.com website

6) HostGator

domain registrarsHostGator is another internet company offering domain registrar services, web hosting, and a drag-and-drop website builder — the web trifecta. HostGator’s shared web hosting is highly regarded in the industry.

If all you want is a domain, HostGator has you covered — .com domain names will cost you $12.95 a year, though domain privacy protection will set you back an additional $14.95/yr. If it’s a hosting package you’re after, HostGator’s Hatchling plan sells for $2.75/month and includes a domain for no additional cost. HostGator’s Baby plan and Business plan both offer unlimited free domains and cost $5.95/month as things stand.

If you want hosting, a domain, and a website builder, take a look at HostGator’s Starter plan for all-in-one hosting and site-building. For $2.75/month you get a domain, hosting, and a website builder. And for $9.23/month, you can get eCommerce on top of all that with HostGator’s eCommerce plan.

For more on what HostGator has to offer, check out the company’s website below.

Visit the HostGator website

7) DreamHost

domain registrarsDreamHost is akin to HostGator in that it offers the would-be webmaster the ability to get a domain, web hosting, and a website builder from the same source.

If you’re just looking for the cheapest domain registrar you can find, DreamHost offers up solid value. A .com domain will cost you $11.95 for the first year and $13.95 each subsequent year. What makes this a great deal is the fact that domain privacy protection is included at no additional charge.

On the hosting side, DreamHost’s shared hosting plans start at $7.95 a month and includes one free domain and privacy protection. DreamHost also offers VPS hosting, dedicated hosting, cloud hosting, WordPress hosting, and WooCommerce hosting.

DreamHost’s website builder hosting package starts at $4.95/month and includes hosting and a free domain for one year. However, when the domain comes up for renewal in a year, you’ll have to pay the regular domain rate for it.

Check out DreamHost’s site below to learn more.

Visit the DreamHost website

8) FatCow

web hostingFatCow is another internet company offering the trifecta of domains, web hosting, and website building. FatCow’s website gives off something of a dated vibe, but let’s take a closer look at the company anyway!

On the domain side, you can register a new .com domain for $10.99/yr, though domain privacy will cost you another $9.99/yr. As for FatCow’s web hosting, the standard shared hosting package can be had for $4.08/month for the initial term and $12.95-$14.95/month subsequently, depending on the length of the term. A domain, a website builder, and an online store building tool are all included in the price, though domain privacy is not.

To learn more about FatCow and their web offerings, you know what to do.

Visit the FatCow website

9) iPage

web hostingLike the previous three companies I’ve mentioned, iPage offers domain registrar services and web hosting and throws in a website builder to boot. And like GoDaddy, the company offers an eye-catching introductory offer to would-be site owners.

If it’s just domain names you’re after, iPage offers .com domains at $10.99 per year, with domain privacy costing an additional $9.99 per year (renews at $12.99/yr). On the hosting side, iPage offers web hosting for just $1.99/month for the initial term. Tempting, eh? This hosting package includes unlimited domains (domain privacy is still extra though), a website builder, free email addresses and free marketing tools. However, when it renews, it will renew at the regular rate — $7.99 to $9.99 per month, depending on your chosen term length.

Check out iPage’s website if you’re intrigued.

Visit the iPage website

10) WPEngine

domain registrarsWPEngine is a web host that, unsurprisingly, focuses on one thing: managed WordPress hosting. WPEngine is not a domain registrar, so you’ll have to get a domain somewhere else.

WPEngine’s WordPress hosting options are as follows:

WPEngine’s cheapest plan goes for $35 a month and includes all the features you see above. While $35/month is significantly more expensive than the cheapest/most basic hosting plans offered by the other web hosts I’ve mentioned, it’s actually pretty competitive in the world of WordPress hosting.

Looking to take a WordPress site to the next level? Check the link below and look into WPEngine.

Visit the WPEngine website

Final Thoughts

A post like this can only scratch the surface of what’s available online in terms of domain name registration and web hosts, considering the countless such options in existence. However, by providing an overview of some of the better-rated and higher-profile companies operating in these spaces, I hope to give you an idea of what you should expect to pay for these services and what features to be on the lookout for.

The best domain registrar for your website will depend on a number of factors, including the domain extensions you want, whether you need SSL certificates, how long you intend to use your domain and whether you need to purchase an existing domain. The best web hosting service, on the other hand, will depend on your need for good customer support, whether you want eCommerce built-in, and your preference for shared servers vs VPS. Some businesses may want to find a web hosting company that offers packages for both domain registration and hosting.

Building a web presence isn’t rocket science. Just make sure to do your due diligence before signing up for a multi-year hosting/domain deal — you don’t want to be locked into an inadequate hosting arrangement!

The post 10 Best Domain Registrars And Web Hosting Services Of 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Accept Credit Card Payments For Your Small Business

Whether you’ve been in business for a while or are just starting out, you know how important it is to be able to accept credit and debit cards as payment from your customers. Credit card usage has soared over the past twenty years or so, while the use of traditional payment methods such as cash and paper checks has dwindled. Put simply, accepting credit cards will lead to increased sales and happier customers.

Unfortunately, adding credit card acceptance to your suite of business tools is neither easy nor inexpensive. The credit card associations (i.e., MasterCard, Visa, etc.) charge a fee known as interchange every time their cards are used, and you’ll need to sign up with a credit card processor to process your transactions and pay those fees for you. Your processor will, in turn, add a markup to your processing charges to cover their costs, and – in most cases – also charge you a bewildering variety of fees for maintaining your account.

In this article, we’ll provide a brief overview of the requirements you’ll need to meet to set up credit and debit card processing for your small business. There are a huge number of providers out there on the market, all offering different variations on the same basic services that most companies need. We’ll give you a quick and dirty explanation of how credit card processing works, what a merchant account is, and whether you need one to accept credit or debit cards. We’ll explain the various options for taking card payments, including the required hardware and software you’ll need to get started. Finally, we’ll give you some tips to help you avoid having your account suddenly frozen or terminated – a situation you can and should avoid.

If you’re looking for the best credit card processing companies for your business, you should take a look at our favorite payment processor shortlist to get you headed in the right direction.

How Credit Card Processing Works

You don’t need to be familiar with all the intimate details of processing a credit card transaction, but it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of the steps involved and how they go together. A little knowledge of how processing works can help you avoid some of the common problems that can result when a transaction doesn’t go smoothly.

First, you’re going to need a way to accept your customer’s card data. This can be accomplished using either a traditional credit card terminal or a payment gateway in the case of online transactions. Another option is a software service known as a virtual terminal, which turns your computer into a credit card terminal and allows you to either input the card data manually or read it using a compatible card reader.

Once you’ve input your customer’s card data, it’s sent to your provider’s processing system for approval. Your provider’s network will check with the cardholder’s issuing bank to confirm that funds are available to cover the transaction. For debit cards, this is a simple check of the remaining balance on the banking account linked to the card. Credit cards require that the cardholder won’t exceed their available credit if the transaction is approved. The processing networks will also run a few anti-fraud checks to (hopefully) detect a suspicious transaction. If sufficient funds are available and there aren’t any clear indications of fraud, the transaction is approved, and you can complete the sale.

At the end of the day, you’ll upload all completed credit/debit transactions to your processor’s network for processing. This usually occurs automatically if you’re using a payment gateway or a modern credit card terminal. For each transaction, your processor will deduct both the applicable interchange (which is then forwarded to the cardholder’s issuing bank) and their markup. You’ll receive whatever is left over after these fees have been deducted. It usually takes another two to three days for these funds to be transferred back to your bank account.

From our payment processing infographic:

Do You Need A Merchant Account To Accept Credit Cards?

For many years, the only way to accept credit cards was to open a merchant account. At its most basic, a merchant account is simply an account to deposit funds into from processed credit/debit card transactions. Of course, maintaining a merchant account also requires transaction processing services, equipment and software to process the transactions, security features, and numerous other services, depending on the needs of your business. Traditional merchant accounts tend to end up being rather expensive, and merchant services providers often require that you agree to a long-term contract with a hefty early termination fee in case you close your account before the contract expires. As a result, traditional merchant accounts tend to be expensive, especially for a small business that’s trying to minimize their expenses.

In recent years, an alternative has become available that lowers costs for small businesses while still providing most of the essential features available with a full-service merchant account. Payment service providers (PSPs) allow you to accept credit and debit card transactions without a traditional merchant account. PSPs such as Square (see our review) and PayPal (see our review) have revolutionized the processing industry by offering simple, flat-rate pricing, no fees for basic services, and month-to-month billing that eliminates long-term contracts. They’re able to do this by aggregating accounts together, so you won’t have a unique merchant identification number for your business. PSP accounts are easier to set up, but they’re also vulnerable to sudden account freezes or terminations which can make them a risky proposition for businesses that depend on being able to accept cards without interruption.

Cheapest & Easiest Ways To Accept Credit Cards Without A Merchant Account

There are now quite a few well-known PSPs on the market, each one specializing in providing credit card processing services to particular segments of the business community. Here’s a brief overview of each of the most popular options:

Square:

This is the best all-in-one solution for low-volume users, especially those in the retail sector. Square also supports eCommerce businesses, but doesn’t have quite as many features for online enterprises as its competitors. Square features a mobile processing system that uses a new, EMV-compliant card reader, no monthly fees, month-to-month billing, and a simple flat-rate pricing system that’s more affordable for a small business than a traditional merchant account. See our review for complete details.

Shopify:

This is the best option for eCommerce merchants looking to easily set up a fully-featured webstore. While Shopify has better eCommerce tools than Square, it’s also more expensive. Pricing starts at $29.00 per month for the Basic Shopify Plan, with a flat-rate processing fee of 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction. Billing is month-to-month, but you can receive a discount if you pay for a year (or two) in advance. See our review for more specifics.

 

PayPal:

Easily the oldest and best-known option for online credit card acceptance, PayPal is now available for retail merchants also. While a standard PayPal account comes with no monthly fee, you’ll have to pay $30.00 per month for the PayPal Payments Pro Plan. This upgraded plan includes a virtual terminal and a hosted payments page. PayPal uses a flat-rate pricing plan for processing fees that’s nearly identical to what Square charges. See our review for details about PayPal’s services.

Stripe Payments:

Stripe logo

Very tech-oriented, Stripe only supports eCommerce businesses. They don’t charge any monthly fees and have no long-term contracts. All transactions are processed at a fixed rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. Stripe offers a huge library of APIs that allow you to customize your eCommerce website just about any way you like. However, utilizing these features will require either extensive coding experience or the services of a developer. Check out our full review for more details about what Stripe has to offer.

Braintree Payment Solutions:

Braintree Payment Solutions logo

Another eCommerce-only provider, Braintree is very similar to Stripe in terms of features and pricing. The primary distinction is that, unlike Stripe, Braintree is a direct processor. This translates to increased account stability, which is very important for an online business where credit and debit cards are just about the only forms of payment you can accept. Braintree charges 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, but doesn’t require a monthly fee or a long-term contract. They also offer a variety of developer tools to help you customize your website any way you like. For more details, check out our complete review.

When & How To Set Up A Merchant Account

With so many low-cost alternatives available, you may be wondering why you would ever consider the added expense and complication of a full-service merchant account. The primary reason that merchant accounts are still alive and well today is that for many businesses the overall cost of a merchant account is actually lower – sometimes much lower – than using a payment services provider. How is this possible? It primarily comes down to processing rates and how your monthly volume and average ticket size affect them. With a full-service merchant account, you can obtain interchange-plus processing rates that are significantly lower than the flat rates charged by PSPs. Providers such as Square (see our review) have to charge an inflated processing rate to pay for all the ancillary services they aren’t charging you for with a monthly fee. A traditional merchant account provider bills for those services separately, so they can afford to offer a lower per-transaction markup.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to determine the point at which it’s more cost-effective to upgrade to a full-service merchant account. The primary factor you’ll want to look at is your monthly processing volume. Your average ticket size is also important, but to a lesser extent. We’ve seen providers recommend merchant accounts for businesses processing anywhere from $1500 to $10,000 per month at a minimum, and sometimes even more. Where to draw the line will ultimately depend on the unique needs of your business, and what options for upgrading are available to you. You’ll want to compare your current processing costs with an estimate based on a quote from a merchant account provider to see which option is cheaper. Be sure to factor in all the hidden costs that come with merchant accounts. You can usually uncover these in the fine print of your proposed contract.

For more, see our complete guide to credit card processing rates and fees.

Account stability is also an important factor. With a PSP, a single unusually high transaction can be enough to have your account suspended or even terminated. For some businesses, particularly eCommerce merchants, this can be catastrophic. While this situation can still happen with a traditional merchant account also, it’s far less likely and you’ll have better access to customer service to get your account working again if it does occur.

Setting up an account with a PSP is usually very easy. Most PSPs have online application forms that you can fill out and submit without ever having to talk to a sales agent. If you need a card reader, your PSP will mail it to you. Account activation is usually also accomplished online.

Traditional merchant accounts are more complicated to set up. You’ll need to contact the sales team at the provider you’re interested in and negotiate the terms of your agreement. There’s also a lot more paperwork, although some providers now offer you the opportunity to complete your merchant application online. Beware that automation can sometimes work against you when setting up a merchant account, as some sales agents are now using tablet devices to get your electronic signature. This practice often locks you into a long-term contract before you’ve had any chance to review your contract terms and conditions. Insist on a paper copy of all contract documents and study them very carefully before you sign anything. For some suggestions on making this process go more smoothly, please see our article How to Negotiate the Perfect Credit Card Processing Deal.

How To Accept In-Store Credit Card Payments

For retail merchants, you’re going to need at least one credit card machine per location. These days, you have a choice between a traditional countertop credit card terminal and a point of sale (POS) system. Countertop terminals can process transactions, but most models offer little or no other functionality. A POS system, on the other hand, can handle things like inventory management, employee scheduling, and a host of other features to help you run your business. Naturally, POS systems cost more than most countertop terminals, although tablet-based systems such as ShopKeep (see our review) are more affordable (and mobile) than a standalone POS terminal.

Whatever type of equipment you decide to purchase, make sure it’s EMV-compatible. EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) is now the standard method for accepting credit and debit cards in the United States, and since the EMV liability shift in October 2015, you can be held responsible for a fraudulent transaction if you accept an EMV-enabled card using the magstripe instead of the chip. EMV-compatible terminals are widely available and less expensive than ever. With most customers now carrying EMV cards, there’s really no good reason to continue using a magstripe-only card reader.

If you want the latest and greatest in card acceptance technology, it’s pretty easy to find a terminal or POS system that accepts NFC-based payment methods. NFC stands for near-field communications, and it’s found on payment systems such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. NFC technology is built into most modern smartphones, tablets, and even smartwatches. While it hasn’t seen widespread adoption by the general public yet, it’s gaining in use as more people become aware of its availability and convenience.

Regardless of what type of terminal or POS system you decide to get for your business, we highly encourage you to buy your equipment outright rather than signing up for a lease. Equipment leasing is still being pushed by sales agents, who cite misleading arguments about the low up-front cost and the possibility of writing off the lease payments on your taxes. While these arguments are technically true, they mask the reality that leasing a terminal or POS system will cost you far more in the long run than buying. Equipment leases typically come with four-year contracts that are completely noncancelable. The monthly lease payments will, over the term of the lease, far exceed the cost to simply buy the equipment. Adding insult to injury, you won’t even own your equipment when the lease finally expires. Instead, you’ll either have to continue making monthly lease payments or buy the equipment (often at an inflated price). For more details on why leasing is such a bad idea, see our article Why You Shouldn’t Lease A Credit Card Machine.

How To Accept Credit Card Payments Online

If your business is eCommerce-only, you’ll have it a little easier because you won’t need a credit card terminal or POS system. However, you will need either a payment gateway or at least a virtual terminal to accept payments from your customers. A virtual terminal is simply a software application that turns your computer into a credit card terminal. Mail order and telephone order businesses use them to enter their customers’ credit card data manually. They can also be combined with a card reader (usually USB-connected) to accept card-present transactions. For retail merchants, a virtual terminal can replace a dedicated countertop terminal if you add a card reader. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen many EMV-capable card readers that are compatible with virtual terminals yet.

A payment gateway is a web-based software service that connects your eCommerce website with your processor’s payment networks. Payment gateways allow customers to enter credit card data from wherever they are, as long as they have access to the internet. Most merchant services providers charge a monthly fee (usually around $25.00) for the use of a payment gateway. You might also have to pay an additional $0.05 – $0.10 per transaction for the use of the gateway in some cases. Authorize.Net (see our review) is one of the most popular payment gateway providers, but there are many others today as well. Many of the larger processors now offer their own proprietary gateways that include the same security and ease-of-use features that you’d find in a more well-known gateway. For more information on payment gateways, see our article The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway.

Depending on how many products you sell on your website and the options you want to give your customers, you may or may not need to use an online shopping cart in conjunction with your payment gateway. Shopping carts allow you to feature products, conduct secure transactions online, and perform a variety of other functions related to running your business. You’ll want to ensure that your chosen shopping cart is compatible with your payment gateway before you set up your site. Most of the popular shopping carts today are compatible with almost all of the more well-known payment gateways. For more information on online shopping carts, see our article Shopping Carts 101: How to Choose a Shopping Cart for Your Business.

How To Accept Credit Card Payments With Your Mobile Phone

When Square (see our review) first introduced their original card reader in 2009, it was revolutionary. For the first time, merchants could accept credit or debit cards using their smartphones or tablets. Square was (and still is) a great choice for very small businesses, startups, and merchants who operate seasonally. Naturally, they’ve spawned a lot of competitors, and today almost all merchant services providers offer some type of mobile payment system.

Visit Square

These systems inevitably include both an app for your smart device and a card reader. Unfortunately, many of the apps are very basic and don’t offer the depth of features that Square does. Card readers have lagged behind current technology, with many providers still offering magstripe-only readers. The current trend among smartphone manufacturers to remove the headphone jack has also caused problems, as most mobile card readers use a plug that fits into the jack to connect to the device. Today, Square and a few other providers now offer upgraded card readers that feature both EMV compatibility and Bluetooth connectivity. These card readers are significantly more expensive than the older models, but they’re still cheaper than a traditional countertop terminal. For businesses that need to accept transactions out in the field, they’re lighter and far less costly than wireless terminals, which usually run at least twice as much as their wired brethren and require a separate wireless data plan. For more information on mobile payment systems, please see our article on why accepting credit cards with your phone is the easiest option.

Can You Accept Credit Card Payments For Free?

Whether you ultimately use a PSP or a traditional merchant account, you’re still going to pay several percent from every sale to cover your processing costs. While there are many ways to get this percentage down to a reasonable level and avoid overpaying, at some point you’re going to ask yourself why you have to pay for processing instead of your customers. After all, they’re the ones who consciously choose to pay with credit and debit cards rather than cash or a paper check. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to transfer this expense to your customers rather than having it come out of your profits?

In fact, there is a way to do this. Transferring the cost of processing onto your customers, also known as surcharging, is allowed in 41 states. However, the practice is currently going through a series of legal challenges that will ultimately either lead to it being banned or expanded into all jurisdictions. With surcharging, your processor will calculate the processing charge when a transaction is submitted for approval and add it to your customer’s bill.

Needless to say, your customers aren’t going to like unexpectedly having a few percentage points added to their bill just for using a credit card. For this reason, surcharging isn’t popular with most merchants, and you’ll usually only encounter it in certain industries where it’s become an accepted practice, such as taxi cabs and busses. For most merchants, it’s much easier to “adjust” your prices to cover your anticipated processing costs rather than passing those costs directly onto your customers. For a more in-depth look at surcharging, check out our article The Truth Behind Free Credit Card Processing.

How To Avoid Account Terminations & Funding Holds

Once you’ve got your merchant account up and running, you’ll naturally want it to be available and fully functional every day. While this isn’t normally a problem, account holds, freezes, and terminations sometimes occur. You’ll want to understand how this happens, and what you can do to prevent it from happening to you.

An account hold usually occurs when a single transaction is held up, and you don’t receive the funds you were expecting. In most cases, your processor’s risk department has flagged the transaction as suspicious, and you won’t get your funds until they can investigate and confirm that the transaction is legitimate. A single transaction that’s for much more money than your average ticket size is most likely to trigger a hold. Fortunately, you should still be able to process other transactions while the matter is being resolved.

This isn’t the case with an account freeze, unfortunately. Your processor can and will freeze your account – preventing you from getting paid for previous transactions or processing new ones – if fraud is suspected that would affect your entire account. While the wait can be excruciating, account freezes are usually temporary unless your processor decides to terminate your account.

As the name implies, an account termination is final. Your account is shut down, and you won’t be able to reopen it. The risk of an account termination is higher with a PSP than a traditional merchant account. Account terminations usually occur when your processor determines that you’ve misrepresented your business and the type of goods you’re selling. It doesn’t matter if this was intentional or just an honest mistake on your part. If your business type is one that usually falls into the high-risk category, save yourself the aggravation and get a high-risk merchant account from a provider who specializes in these kinds of accounts. It will cost you more, but you’ll have a much more stable account. For more information on the various hiccups that can affect your merchant account, please see our article How to Avoid Merchant Account Holds, Freezes, and Terminations.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking that merchant accounts and credit card processing are pretty complicated. You’re right! There’s a lot to know, and unfortunately, there’s also a lot of misinformation out there. The credit card processing industry has a lousy reputation for misleading sales practices, high costs, hidden charges, and long-term contracts that are very difficult to get out of. The main reason that PSPs like Square (see our review) have become so popular is that they offer a simpler, more transparent alternative to traditional merchant account providers, both in terms of costs and contract requirements.

For many businesses, however, Square can actually be more expensive than signing up for a traditional merchant account, even when factoring in the various account fees and the cost of buying processing equipment. While we heartily recommend Square for very small businesses and startups, realize that if your business grows large enough, you’ll eventually want to switch to a full-service merchant account. You’ll enjoy lower costs, improved account stability and (hopefully) better customer support. PayPal is also a great choice for eCommerce businesses that are just starting out. Again, if your business grows large enough, a full-service merchant account with a fully-featured payment gateway will be a better choice.

Note that this article only provides a relatively brief overview of the significant factors that affect credit card processing for small businesses. For more information, please take a look at the other articles we’ve linked to above for a deeper dive into subjects you aren’t already familiar with. For an overview of several highly recommended providers, please see our article The 5 Best Small Business Credit Card Processing Companies. You can also compare several excellent providers side-by-side using our Merchant Account Comparison Chart.

The post How To Accept Credit Card Payments For Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Best Apps For Scrum Project Management

Scrum. It was originally a rugby term, describing the interlocking formation of players as they get ready to…you know…do rugby stuff. Now that I have alienated our entire British commonwealth audience, let’s turn our attention to Scrum’s other meaning, the one in the field of project management. In snazzy technical terms, scrum project management is “an iterative and incremental framework for managing product development.” But, since that definition is just a collection of buzzwords, let me just show you:

Unlike Waterfall project management, in which you follow a very black and white, linear process, the idea here is that you and your team start tasks in the “to-do” column, move them to “in-progress” while you work on them, then send them through verification and Q/A. When put like this, it makes perfect sense! More than that though, it is clear why this method of organization might be beneficial.

The original Scrum concept used a whiteboard and post-its in order to create the classic grid and moving tasks, but that is far from the only way to use this methodology. As you might expect, a number of software developers have created different apps capable of replicating the original pen-and-paper version. Which of them is best? Let’s take a look and see.

Trello

Trello (read our review) is the first app I thought of when preparing an article on scrum project management. One of the originators of the now popular Board View, Trello is ideally suited to arrange into a Scrum configuration. You can create boards for each section of the scrum, then add cards to those boards and drag them back and forth as you see fit, which is vital to effective use of scrum and agile methodology.

Trello also has the advantage of being free to use. While there is a paid version available, in most ways it is just not necessary, especially if you are only interested in using it for Scrum applications. Perhaps most important of all, though, Trello is fantastically easy to use. Every step of the process of signing up is a breeze, and there is effectively no learning curve.

Redbooth

Redbooth (read our review) employs a similar system to Trello, wherein you may create task lists, populate them with tasks, then drag and drop them into other lists as you need. This, though, is about where the similarities end. Redbooth is a much more developed tool, with such additional features to sweeten the pot as subtasks (oooh), reporting (aaaah), and even some communication tools (round of applause). Some of those features, especially the reporting tools, are pretty useful in understanding how effective your Scrum techniques have been, and in identifying possible trouble spots.

Of course, those nice extra features come at a price. Sure, Redbooth offers a free version of the software, but all those nice, juicy extras could be yours for less than $10/user/month. Fortunately, the price is probably worth it; Redbooth is both easy to use and also beautiful to look at.

Binfire

Binfire (read our review) is designed from the ground up for Scrum project management. Each project is fully customizable with different “bins” for you to file tasks under, allowing you to decide project-by-project how you want to organize your work. This, of course, means you can easily set up a wide variety of Scrum configurations. Binfire also specializes in communication features, with a pretty excellent group chat. My favorite part of this instant message-style chat is that it stays with you as you navigate through the program, allowing you to look at your work as you communicate with team members, rather than clicking back and forth between screens.

Unlike the first two apps covered here, there is no free version of Binfire. However, the lowest subscription level is just $5/person/month, which is pretty good value for money. It should be noted, however, that the minimum user count is six, so if you happen to be working on an extremely small agile team, this might not be the best choice for you.

Asana

best ecommerce apps

Asana (read our review) might take the cake for prettiest Scrum project management app. The clean design just invites users to drag-and-drop tasks back and forth between boards. In addition to the Scrum project view, Asana offers Gantt charts, excellent integrations, project reporting, and more. Really though, the biggest appeal in Asana is the absolute beauty of the UI. Some might consider this of little importance in a piece of software, but I personally feel that if you are going to be spending considerable time in an app, it had better be a nice place to be.

The pricing for Asana is incredibly simple. There is a free version (limited to just 15 users), a $10 version, and an enterprise version that you have to contact the sales team to learn the pricing for. Most of the good features in Asana only come from the paid version, so even if you are part of a team with less than 15 users, it might be worth paying the fee to get the rest.

Teamwork Projects

Teamwork Projects (read our review) is perhaps less adaptable to Scrum project management than some of the others on this list. However, with the recent addition of Board View to the app, it will be more than serviceable in this regard. One of the things I appreciate about Teamwork is that it is a very scalable product; if you have aspirations of growing your business beyond the “small” label, this could be the project management app for you.

Like Redbooth and Asana, Teamwork has a free option, offering a reduced feature set to users for either limited use or use as a trial phase. If you want the rest of Teamwork Projects’ features, you are going to be shelling out $9/user/month. This pricing category goes all the way up to 100 users. If you need more than that, the price per user will go up.

Final Thoughts

Scrum project management is one of the most approachable iterations of Agile methodology and could represent a huge boost in productivity and efficiency for your business. While the original whiteboard approach might work for some, for others a more technological approach will be more appealing. If that is you, any of these five options might suit you.

If I were pressed for a single recommendation, I honestly think I would go with Trello. While it offers fewer features than the other items on this list, it also is available completely free and is an absolute joy to use. But honestly, it would be difficult to go wrong with the others as well. Fortunately, you don’t have to choose completely blindly. Start by reading the complete reviews of the most likely candidates for your business, then sign up for one of the free trials before making your final decision.

The post Best Apps For Scrum Project Management appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Can I Afford A Small Business Loan?

Can You Afford A Small Business Loan?

“Can I afford a small business loan?”

For many business owners, this is (literally) the $64,000 question!

With so many variables in play, it may seem daunting to calculate whether you can actually cover new loan payments. Luckily, there are multiple financial ratios in place to help you do just that.

In this post, we’ll teach you how to use the debt service coverage ratio and the debt-to-income ratio to determine whether you can afford a loan, what borrowing amount is right for you, what monthly payment you can afford, and if a loan is actually the right choice for your business. (If it turns out, based on these ratios, that you can’t afford a business loan just yet, we’ll also give you six practical tips to better your financial situation.)

Read on to see if your small business is ready for financing.

Is A Small Business Loan Right For Me?

This is the very first question you should ask yourself. Just because you can afford a loan doesn’t mean you should take one out. Before you start seeking funding, take the time to really consider your business’s financial situation.

Ask yourself what problems you would be solving by taking out a business loan and consider whether there is another way to solve those problems.

For example, if you’re looking for start-up funding, have you considered venture capital? Angel investors? Crowdfunding? If you’re having trouble maintaining consistent cash flow, have you carefully analyzed your operating costs or cut back unnecessary business expenses to increase revenue?

Make sure to explore all of your options before jumping the gun on your loan search. Now, that being said, there are plenty of solid reasons to get a business loan:

  • To expand your business
  • To purchase inventory
  • To buy equipment
  • To cover off-season expenses
  • To take on a new, high-potential project
  • To build business credit

When determining whether a small business loan is right for you, carefully meditate on your business’s short-term and long-term goals. If you haven’t already, make a business plan to help you achieve your future goals.

If a loan fits into this plan and benefits your business, great!

Next, we’ll talk about how to know if you can actually afford a loan, how much you can borrow, and what to change if you can’t afford a loan.

What Do Small Business Lenders Look For?

At the most basic level, lenders want to see that:

  1. Your business has enough cash flow to afford monthly payments.
  2. You can make those payments on time.

There are many factors that lenders consider when analyzing a loan application, but some of the most important variables are your credit score, your debt service coverage ratio, your debt-to-income ratio, and your ability to put up collateral.

We’ll cover all of these factors in greater detail below.

Using The Debt Service Coverage Ratio

The debt service coverage ratio is one of the main tools lenders use to determine whether you are eligible for a loan — it’s also one of the most important calculations small business owners can do before taking on new debt.

The debt service coverage ratio (DSCR) measures the relationship between your business’s income and its debt. Lenders use this ratio to gauge the risk of lending to you and to see if you can afford to make payments on a loan, given your business’s cash flow.

How To Calculate The Debt Service Coverage Ratio

Each lender calculates the debt service coverage ratio differently. Some lump the business owners’ personal income in with the net operating income; others don’t. We’ll cover the most common DSCR formula, but be sure to ask your lender how they calculate DSCR for the most accurate ratio.

Most often, your business’s DSCR is calculated by dividing your net operating income by your current year’s debt obligations:

Net Operating Income / Current Year’s Debt Obligations = Debt Service Coverage Ratio

Your net operating income is the total revenue generated by selling services or goods, minus your operating expenses (operating expenses include things like inventory, employee wages, rent, utilities — anything that is directly related to purchasing, creating, or selling your goods and products).

Your current year’s debt obligations comprise the total amount of debt you must repay in the next year, including interest payments and fees.

Let’s look at an example:

A business owner wants to know whether or not they can afford a loan to purchase some new equipment. The business takes in $65,000 in revenue annually but pays $15,000 in operating expenses, resulting in a net operating income of $50,000.

Each month, the business spends $2,000 on its mortgage, $400 on a previous loan, and $100 on a business credit card, making a total monthly debt of $2,500. Since the DSCR calculation requires the current year’s debt, we need to multiply our monthly debt by 12. That gives us a total of $30,000 in debt obligations for the year. Now, let’s plug these numbers into the DSCR formula from earlier.

Net Operating Income / Current Year’s Debt Obligations = Debt Service Coverage Ratio

50,000 / 30,000 = Debt Service Coverage Ratio

50,000 / 30,000 = 1.666667

When you divide 50,000 by 30,000 you get 1.666667. Round this number to the nearest hundredth to get a current debt service coverage ratio of 1.67.

We’ve successfully calculated a debt service coverage ratio! Plug in your business’s information to determine your own DSCR.

What Is The Ideal DSCR?

How do we know what a good DSCR is? What does the DSCR mean in terms of your business?

When it comes to DSCR, the higher the better. Let’s say your DSCR is 1.67, like in our earlier example; that means you have 67% more income than you need to cover your current debts. A DSCR ratio of 1 would indicate that you have exactly enough income to pay your debts but aren’t making any extra profit. If your DSCR is below one, then you have a negative cash flow and can only partially cover your debts.

Obviously, you don’t want a negative cash flow, and breaking even doesn’t quite cut it if you want to take out a loan. So what’s the ideal debt service coverage ratio?

In general, a good debt service coverage ratio is 1.25 or higher. This can vary by lender and by the state of the economy, but overall, a high DSCR suggests that you have enough income to take on another loan and are more likely to qualify for the loan you want.

How Much Can I Borrow?

Not only can your DSCR tell you if you can afford a loan, it can also help you determine the size of the loan you should take out.

Let’s take a look at our earlier example again. We calculated the business’s DSCR at 1.67. This is well above the 1.25 DSCR mark, yes, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you the size of loan the business can afford to borrow.

To figure out the amount the business can safely borrow, we’ll take its annual income and divide it by 1.25:

Net Operating Income / 1.25 = Borrowing Amount

50,000 / 1.25 = 40,000

From the calculation above, we can see that the business can afford to pay up to $40,000 a year on total debt obligations. In our example, the current year’s debt obligations were already $30,000/year. All in all, the business can take on an extra $10,000/year in debt (because $40,000 – $30,000 = $10,000). That amounts to roughly $830/mo.

Plug your own information into the equation so you can determine the ideal borrowing size for your small business loan. This will give you a clear idea of how much you can realistically afford to pay each month before you go and speak to a lender.

To learn more about the debt service coverage ratio, read our post Debt Service Coverage Ratio: How To Calculate And Improve DSCR.

Using The Debt-To-Income Ratio

Lenders also use your personal debt-to-income ratio to evaluate whether or not your business is eligible for a loan. The debt-to-income ratio is used primarily for personal loans (especially mortgages), but this ratio is still important for small businesses, especially sole proprietors.

The debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is a financial tool used to measure the relationship between a person’s debt and income.

Why Is DTI Important?

Your DTI is an important indicator of your trustworthiness. Whereas your credit score shows how likely you are to make your payments on time, your debt-to-income ratio shows lenders if you can afford the monthly payments on a personal loan or mortgage.

But if the debt-to-income ratio is predominantly for personal loans and mortgages, why is it important for small businesses?

For sole proprietors and freelancers seeking funding, this ratio is particularly important. Since sole proprietors aren’t legally considered separate business entities, they don’t have a debt service coverage ratio. Instead, the debt-to-income ratio is the main tool lenders will use to analyze a loan application.

While the debt service coverage ratio is by far a better indicator of small business’s financial state, lenders still look at the business owner’s DTI ratio. Lenders evaluate your DTI to see if you are trustworthy and to ensure that you can personally guarantee your business loan if no other collateral is provided.

When deciding whether your business can afford a small business loan, make sure you also consider if you can afford to personally take on the business loan payments if your business goes under. No one wants to think about the fact that their business may fail or that they might default on a business loan. But this scary reality is one you must consider before accepting a business loan. If you can’t afford to offer up collateral or take on the implications of a personal guarantee, then maybe a business loan isn’t right for you.

How To Calculate The Debt-To-Income Ratio

To calculate your debt-to-income ratio, divide your total recurring monthly debt by your gross monthly income:

Total Monthly Debt / Gross Monthly Income = Debt-To-Income Ratio

Your total monthly debt should include all recurring minimum monthly debt payments, while your gross monthly income should include your total monthly income before taxes.

Let’s do an example:

You’re trying to use your DTI to see if you qualify for a mortgage. You pay $300/mo for your car and $200 on student loans for a total monthly debt of $500. Your monthly gross income is $3,500/mo.

500 / 3,500 = Debt-To-Income Ratio

500 / 3,500 = 0.142857

When you divide 500 by 3,500, you’re left with 0.142857. To turn this decimal into a percentage, simply move the decimal point two places to the right and round to the nearest tenth. This gives you a current debt-to-income ratio of 14%. Easy!

Add your own financial information into the formula to see what your debt-to-income ratio is.

What Is The Ideal DTI Ratio?

Now that you know how to calculate your DTI ratio, what does that percentage mean? How do you know if you have a good DTI ratio or a poor ratio?

Unlike DSCR, when it comes to debt-to-income ratios, the lower the better. A low DTI indicates that you can afford to take on an additional loan and are more likely to get approved for the loan you want. A high DTI ratio means that you may have too much existing debt or too little income to be able to afford monthly payments on a new loan.

Generally, a DTI ratio of 36% or lower is considered a good debt-to-income ratio. Many lenders will finance (up to) 43%, but if your DTI is higher than 43%, you may have a hard time getting approved for a loan.

However, these percentages may vary by lender. Real estate and mortgage lenders are known to stick more closely to these guidelines, while other lenders may be more lenient. So be sure to research your lender’s requirements.

What Monthly Payment Can I Afford?

You can use the debt-to-income ratio to determine how much you can afford to pay each month on a loan.

This calculation is most important for sole proprietors seeking funding and individuals seeking mortgages. However, small businesses should still do this calculation to make sure that they can personally afford to cover the payments on a defaulted loan.

Let’s return to our example from earlier. Remember, you were trying to qualify for a mortgage loan. We calculated your current debt-to-income ratio at 14%.

To maintain a good debt-to-income ratio, you don’t want your total DTI ratio to exceed 36%. That means a potential mortgage can take up 22% of your total debt-to-income ratio (36 – 14 = 22).

In this example, to determine the size of the mortgage loan payment you could afford each month, simply multiply your gross monthly income by 22%. (To convert the percentage to a decimal, move the decimal point two spaces to the left.)

3,500 x .22 = 770

Assuming you still want to stick to a 36% DTI, you can afford to pay $770/mo on your mortgage while continuing to make your other monthly loan payments and covering everyday expenses.

To learn more about DTI, read our complete post: Debt-To-Income Ratio: How To Calculate And Lower DTI.

Consider Your Return On Investment

Finally, when determining whether your business can afford a business loan, you want to make sure the benefits ultimately outweigh the costs.

If you are spending the time, money, and effort on a loan, it’s important to have a good return on investment (ROI). Able Lending puts it this way:

The reasonable expected return on your investment must be greater than the APR.

In other words, a loan is only worthwhile if it ultimately helps your business’s profits exceed the costs of the loan, plus interest and fees. Before you borrow money, make sure you have a clear business plan and know exactly how you intend to use your loan to improve your business.

What If I Can’t Afford A Loan?

If you’ve made it to the end of this post and realized that you can’t afford a loan, don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world. There are plenty of ways to improve your business’s financial position so that you can afford a loan in the future.

1. Increase Revenue

Increasing your income can open the doors to more business opportunities and additional funding. By increasing revenue, you can improve your DSCR, lower your DTI ratio, and boost your chances of qualifying for a loan.

2. Decrease Existing Debt

Another way to increase DSCR and lower DTI is to pay off some existing debt. With old loans out of the way, you can move on and take out new loans to help propel your business forward.

3. Improve Your DSCR

We already mentioned that increasing your revenue and decreasing your existing debt can help improve your DSCR. Another way to improve your debt service coverage ratio is to decrease operating expenses. By cutting back on unnecessary expenses and streamlining your business processes, you’ll have a greater overall net operating income — which means more money that you could apply towards a loan.

4. Lower Your DTI

We also already mentioned that increasing your revenue and lowering your debt improves your debt-to-income ratio as well. For borrowers seeking a mortgage, making a bigger down payment is another good way to lower your DTI and decrease the size of your monthly payments.

5. Improve Your Credit Score

Another major roadblock businesses and individuals run into when seeking funding is a low credit score. Improving your credit score can help unlock better loans and rates. To learn more, read the Ultimate Guide To Improving Your Business Credit Score or our article on 5 Ways To Improve Your Personal Credit Score.

6. Lower Your Borrowing Amount

Maybe you really can afford a loan right now and just need to lower your borrowing amount. You may not be able to afford the $100,000 loan you were hoping for, but can you afford the monthly payments on a $50,000 loan? If you can satisfy your needs with a smaller borrowing amount, you should try to do so; if a smaller amount won’t meet the brief, use the first 5 tips above to improve your financial situation so you can afford the loan you want.

Final Thoughts

When wondering whether you can afford a small business loan, you should ask yourself:

  • Do I have a debt service coverage ratio of 1.25 or higher?
  • Do I have a debt-to-income ratio of 36% or lower?
  • Do I have collateral or can I confidently sign a personal guarantee?
  • Will the loan lead to a good return on investment?

If you’ve answered yes to all of these questions, odds are your business is in a healthy financial spot to take on a new small business loan. Use the debt service coverage ratio and debt-to-income ratio to discover exactly how big of a loan you can afford.

Wondering what type of small business loan you should take out? Not all loans are created equal, and a bank loan will be worlds apart from an atypical online lending product. Traditional term loans, short-term loans, SBA loans, and merchant cash advances all have very different rates, fees, and terms. Make sure you understand the differences between different types of funding before you jump the gun on any loan product. Our small business loan calculators can help.

Looking for good lending options? Our small business loan reviews cover online lenders and major banks that offer various types of loans (bank loans, SBA loan, short-term loans, installment loans, lines of credit and more). If you’re just starting out, you might want to consider taking out a personal loan and using it for your business.

To evaluate multiple low-interest lenders at once, it’s a good idea to use a free loan matchmaking service, often called a “loan aggregator.” Merchant Maverick has partnered with Mirador Finance, a financial technology company, to bring you the Merchant Maverick Community of Lenders. By filling out one application, you can be matched to multiple potential lenders. Check your eligibility below.

Borrower requirements:
• Free loan aggregation service; requirements vary by area and lender.
Check your eligibility
Learn more about the Community of Lenders

If can’t afford a loan yet, you should focus on increasing your ability to afford a loan and your chances of getting approved by a lender. Download our free Beginner’s Guide To Small Business Loans for more information, or consult any one of the following articles:

Debt Service Coverage Ratio: How To Calculate And Improve DSCR

Debt-To-Income Ratio: How To Calculate And Lower DTI

The Ultimate Guide To Improving Your Business Credit Score

5 Ways To Improve Your Personal Credit Score

The post Can I Afford A Small Business Loan? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Stripe VS Braintree

Stripe VS Braintree
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Overview

If you need a tech-driven platform to power payments for your business, Braintree Payment Solutions (read our review) and Stripe (read our review) should be at the very top of the list. In addition to very strong developer tools with support for multiple programming languages, both companies are global service that can reach customers all over the world. But does one company excel more than the other? In the Stripe vs. Braintree debate, which company comes out on top?

Here’s the good news: Because their core offerings are so similarly aligned, it’s really easy to draw direct, apples-to-apples comparisons. And in most regards, Stripe and Braintree are very similarly matched. They both cater to some very large and/or very innovative businesses with industry-leading tools for online and mobile commerce, global business, and subscription/billing management.

Before committing to either of these platforms, it’s important to understand that to make the most of them you need advanced coding knowledge or a developer. You can go it alone with minimal knowledge, but you’ll be unable to harness the full potential of Stripe and Braintree. If you’re not tech savvy, another solution may be a better fit.

Braintree differs from Stripe primarily in that it issues merchants with their own merchant accounts, whereas Stripe is a third-party processor that aggregates payments. That means Braintree has much greater account stability than Stripe. Braintree also provides its tools at no additional cost beyond its flat-rate processing, whereas Stripe will assess small fees for the use of select services. So Braintree could very easily become the more cost-effective solution.

However, Stripe has made a name for itself with industry-leading tools, and you’re particularly interested in marketplace or subscription tools, Stripe is the standout option.

Normally, a merchant account is suited to merchants processing more than $10k/month (though some work with merchants with volumes as small as $5k/month). Braintree has no minimum and no monthly fee and says that it works with businesses of all sizes. That’s quite a bit different. With its similar pricing, Braintree is just as attractive an option as Stripe for new and small-but-growing enterprises.

The best solution for a business isn’t immediately clear here. You’ll need to look at what features are must-haves; you’ll need to consider costs. And if you are leaning toward Stripe, it’s worth considering the tradeoffs that you’ll make regarding account stability. Ultimately, it’ll be down to you and your developer to decide whether Stripe or Braintree is right for your business.

Read on for a more in-depth analysis of these two online payment gateways! Got questions? Comments? We’d love to hear from you, so leave us a comment!

Products & Services

Winner: Tie

First things first: both of these companies support all kinds of payments, from directly on a website to inside mobile apps. They both off a choice of pre-built and completely customizable payment forms. They also offer tools for businesses that operate on marketplace or subscription models. Differences between the two platforms really come down more to the nitty-gritty details. You can also find out more about each company and its offerings by checking out our complete Braintree Payments and Stripe reviews.

Braintree Payments

 

Braintree’s payment processing and gateway services support merchants in more than 45 countries, versus 25 for Braintree. However, merchants can reach customers all across the globe with support for 130+ currencies. One of the biggest draws is Braintree’s PayPal integration. Because Braintree is a PayPal owned company, it makes sense that the integration between the two would be seamless.

Braintree’s SDKs support both Android and iOS for mobile developers, as well as six other languages. And you’ll find support for major payment methods across the globe, as well.

Braintree Supported Programming Languages

  • Android/iOS
  • Java
  • .NET
  • Node.js
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby

Braintree Supported Payment Types

  • ACH Direct Debit
  • Credit Cards
  • PayPal
  • Venmo
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • Amex Express Checkout
  • MasterPass
  • Visa Checkout
  • UnionPay

Braintree Core Features 

Braintree categorizes its core offerings into four services. I like the way they are grouped because it helps better explain what Braintree is capable of doing for different kinds of businesses.

  • Braintree Direct: If you want to sell directly on your own website, this is the solution for you. Direct includes subscription tools (see below for more information).
  • Braintree Marketplace: Braintree’s marketplace tools allow you to create your own platform and manage the sellers and payouts with automation.
  • Braintree Auth: “Auth” (assuming that’s short for Authorization) is Braintree’s platform for other service companies to integrate the Braintree gateway into their solutions. This allows these companies to securely access their merchants’ data and take certain authorized actions on their behalf. For example, an invoicing company could use Auth to create an integration with their platform and allow Braintree merchants to connect their accounts and populate invoices based on data from the customer vault. Auth is also the tool that lets businesses make it possible to onboard merchants and accept payments natively.
  • Braintree Extend: Formerly called contextual commerce, Braintree has expanded its offerings here. The merchant hosts the payment checkout and transaction data, but is able to share the transaction data with partners. This creates a seamless, frictionless commerce experience for customers and keeps them on your site. Extend would be the appropriate platform for booking sites (hotels, airlines, event tickets, etc.) and other businesses that want to empower merchants/partners to sell through their website or app.

Additional Braintree Features

  • Fraud Management Tools: Braintree separates its fraud management tools into two tiers: Basic, which includes control over AVS and CVV checks, as well as risk threshold analysis. Advanced fraud tools require more work to enable, but include a partnership with Kount, a fraud management service. Kount Standard is offered at no charge, but if you want more control over transactions and your risk management policies, you can implement Kount Custom. You must meet Braintree’s requirements and it will cost more. In addition to all of that, Braintree also supports 3D Secure for additional verification.
  • Multi-Currency Displays And Conversions: Braintree allows merchants to display prices in local currency rather than just the merchant’s default currency, which can help entice international sales. Braintree even automatically converts the currency for you. Global businesses with bases of operation in several countries can connect multiple bank accounts and help reduce processing costs by eliminating the need for conversion.
  • Recurring Billing And Subscription Tools: Braintree has some powerful recurring billing and subscription tools whether you sell software or physical goods. However, you will notice a shortage of some specific features, such as invoicing. Stripe’s suite of tools is more advanced in this regard. However, if invoicing is a concern, don’t forget that Braintree integrates pretty seamlessly with PayPal and so you can use PayPal or another integration as an extension.
  • Account Auto-Updater: Reduce failed transactions and canceled subscriptions with Braintree’s Account Auto-Update feature. Expired and re-issued cards from certain institutions will automatically update with new card data to ensure continuity.
  • Reporting: Braintree offers a smattering of default reports in its control panel, including transaction-level reporting. However, even the company admits that you’ll probably outgrow the standard reports. Braintree’s Reports API allows you to generate custom reporting based on criteria you set. And unlike Stripe, this feature costs nothing at all.
  • Integrations: Braintree does support a variety of integrations, including eCommerce shopping cart software. You can browse available integrations on Braintree’s site.

I certainly think Braintree has everything most merchants will need. It does lack a few features that Stripe offers, but it’s a hugely capable system. And the seamless Payal integration could be a major draw from some merchants who have loyal PayPal customer bases.

Stripe Payments

Stripe is available to merchants in 25 countries at the time of writing this, including some betas. You can check out Stripe’s Global page for a complete list. However, regardless of merchant location, you can accept payments from all over the globe. Stripe actually supports 135+ currencies.

In addition, Stripe’s SDKs include support for Android/iIOS and seven other programming languages. Accepted payment methods depend on the merchant’s location, but Stripe supports many popular local payment methods in the EU and China in particular.

Stripe Supported Programming Languages

  • Android/iOS
  • Go
  • Java
  • .NET
  • Node.js
  • PHP
  • Python
  • Ruby

Stripe Supported Payment Methods 

Stripe’s supported payment methods can be broken down into universal methods and local payment methods. Whereas Braintree focuses on universal payment types, Braintree has worked hard to add support for payment types common in markets such as the EU and China. Let’s start with universal payment types:

  • Alipay
  • Apple Pay
  • Google Pay
  • Microsoft Pay
  • Amex Express Checkout
  • Masterpass by Mastercard
  • Visa Checkout
  • WeChat Pay

Local Payment Methods are only available in their regions where they are most popular, generally speaking:

  • ACH
  • Bancontact
  • EPS BETA
  • Giropay
  • iDEAL
  • P24 BETA
  • SEPA Direct Debit
  • SOFORT
  • WeChat Pay

Stripe Core Features

Stripe claims to offer more than 100 features, though it’s not exactly clear how it defines a “feature.” Still, you can do an awful lot with this company. Here’s a quick primer on what you can expect:

  • Payments: Stripe Checkout is a prebuilt form you can just drop into your site. But if you need something more customizable, Stripe Elements will let you design a form that suits your needs. You can build payments into your site or your mobile app.
  • Connect: Stripe’s Marketplace tools are definitely some of the most robust out there. Build and manage your own platform, including automated payouts to your merchants. Connect also facilitates connecting Stripe to other services (such as building native payments into eCommerce software) in the same way as Braintree Auth.
  • Billing: “Billing” now encompasses all of Stripe’s subscription, invoice, and recurring billing tools. Stripe’s subscription tools have always been powerful, but with the addition of invoice capabilities and the option for metered billing, it’s safe to say that you really can’t beat what Stripe has to offer.

Despite the differences in how these companies market and present their tools, the reality is, Stripe still has many of the same functions as Braintree. They’re just framed and presented in a different way.

Additional Stripe Features:

  • Sigma: Stripe offers an assortment of standard reporting tools in its dashboard. However, if you want more advanced reports, then you’ll need Sigma. For an additional monthly fee (based on volume, see the pricing section below for more details) you can generate custom reports based on SQL queries.
  • Radar: Stripe’s fraud monitoring tools include machine learning to identify and flag suspicious transactions. Merchants can review and override transactions they know to be legitimate, or set up custom rules for fraud transactions, all with far less fuss than you’ll see with Braintree. If you’re very comfortable with fraud management, this is definitely an advantage.
  • Multi-Currency Displays And Conversions: Stripe has spent a LOT of time billing itself as the platform of choice for global businesses. It should come as no surprise then that Stripe allows merchants to display pricing in local currencies and automatically handles the currency conversion. You can connect multiple bank accounts to save money on conversion costs, too.
  • Account Auto-Updater: Keep recurring transactions from failing when customers get new cards. Stripe will automatically update card data in your vault to ensure continuity of subscriptions.
  • Integrations: Stripe has more than 300 integrations with all kinds of other software and services a business might need. The sheer number of supported integrations could be a significant advantage for some merchants. You can browse integrations by categories on Stripe’s “Works With” page.

If everything is starting to sound really similar, it’s because these two companies really are evenly matched in most regards. it comes down to little details — like the fact that Stripe is a third-party processor while Braintree issues traditional merchant accounts. Or the fact that Stripe has far more ready-to-go integrations than Braintree.

Braintree has an advantage in that it’s available to merchants in 15 more countries, but both companies are evenly matched in the number of currencies accepted and their multi-currency displays. Also, Braintree’s pricing model (see below) is also far more straightforward and will save merchants money versus Stripe, which now charges merchants for access to many of its advanced tools.

My overall impression is that for the most part, Stripe is willing to give you more freedom with less oversight. The tradeoff, of course, is account stability.  For example, you have complete control over your fraud monitoring tools and which transactions are approved, but it’s quite possible to make a mistake and find yourself in hot water. Braintree offers a comparable set of features, but there will be a couple more hoops to jump through if you want the same degree of control over fraud management as you get with Stripe.

You’ll also find that Stripe’s subscription tools are far more advanced than Braintree’s. However, an integration (though more costly) could but Braintree on a more even keel here.

All in all, Braintree and Stripe are pretty evenly matched, and it’s hard to call one superior to the other. So much depends on what features you need and what payment methods you want to accept.

Rates & Fees

Winner: Braintree

Baseline pricing for Square and Stripe is pretty simple, and similar. However, because Stripe has started charging for access to some of its features, merchants will find themselves paying more with Stripe than they will with Braintree.

Let’s start with transaction rates:

  • Card Transactions: 2.9% + $0.30 per card transaction for both Stripe and Braintree
  • ACH Processing: 0.75% for Braintree, 0.8% for Stripe (both capped at $5)

If you’re wondering, the $5 cap for ACH transactions would kick in at $625 for Braintree, and about $665 for Stripe transactions. However, Stripe says the $5 cap starts at $625. However, I imagine for many merchants the wibbly-wobbly space between $625 a $665 won’t be much of an issue.

It’s also worth mentioning that with Braintree, you can accept PayPal and PayPal Credit transactions. Those process at the rates determined by your PayPal account, but for the most part, you can expect them to be 2.9% + $0.30.

Both Braintree and Stripe allow you to accept cards from outside your home country. Those will cost an additional 1% per transaction; if the transaction is processed in one currency and settled in another, another 1% fee also applies for both companies.

Discounts and Alternative Payment Plans

I want to point out that Braintree does offer alternative payment plans for some merchants:

  • Interchange-Plus Pricing: Available in Europe as well as to high-volume merchants (more than $80,000/month) in the US.
  • Nonprofit Discount Rate: 2.2% + $0.30  (Amex processed at 3.25% + $0.30)

Braintree doesn’t offer its own micropayments plans, but you can integrate Braintree with PayPal and use PayPal’s micropayments plan (5% + $0.05) instead.

Stripe also offers discounts as well:

  • Volume Discounts: Stripe doesn’t specify the threshold for enterprise pricing/custom discounts. It also doesn’t indicate anywhere easily found whether those custom discounts include interchange-plus pricing.
  • Nonprofit Discounts: Stripe mentions that 501(c)(3) nonprofits may be eligible for custom discounts. It doesn’t disclose what those rates are. In addition, the wording used on Stripe’s website sounds more like “we’ll see if we can work something out,” so it’s safe to assume not all nonprofits will qualify.
  • Microtransactions: Stripe says its sales team will work with merchants who want to implement micropayments, but it doesn’t specify what the cost is.

You’ll notice a trend here, I hope: a lack of disclosure. All of these pricing features are available, but Stripe fails to mention them. This likely indicates that the pricing isn’t consistent from one business to the next (usually volume and industry are two of the biggest contributing factors). It’s not a red flag, but it’s disappointing when you look at Braintree with its disclosures.

Additional Fees

Both Stripe and Braintree assess a $15 fee per chargeback incident, which is industry standard.

Braintree will refund your processing costs in the event you issue a full refund to a customer (it will not return fees on partial refunds, however). This is very nice, and it isn’t universal across all processors. PayPal, for example, keeps the $0.30 per-transaction fee but will refund the percentage fee.

Stripe does not refund processing fees for refunded transactions. This is (somewhat surprisingly) stated very clearly at the bottom of Stripe’s pricing page.

Generally speaking, Braintree charges absolutely nothing for access to all its features and tools. However, you may incur additional charges for using 3D Secure depending on your rate plan. Using Kount Custom as part of your advanced fraud monitoring will also incur additional costs.

Stripe has modified its pricing to include additional fees for its subscription, marketplace, and reporting tools.

Stripe Billing (including all of the formerly free subscription tools) now assess a small percentage charge. Pricing is lumped into two tiers:

  • Starter: Free for first $1 million in transactions; afterward, 0.4% in addition to processing costs
  • Scale: 0.7% in addition to processing costs; includes additional features and discounted processing costs.

If you used Stripe’s subscription tools before April 5, 2018, you are grandfathered out of these costs and can use Stripe Billing at no additional charge. That’s actually quite nice — and somewhat unexpected.

Sigma, Stripe’s reporting tool, is priced on a sliding scale based on volume. I’ll admit this is a fair way of pricing a service like this — it’s better than tiered packages that are divided by the amount of info available or the number of queries you could generate. This way small businesses get a very fair price for advanced business info.

  • <500 Transactions: $0.02/charge plus $10 infrastructure fee
  • 501-1,000 Transactions: $0.018/charge plus $25 infrastructure fee
  • 1,001-5,000 Transactions: $0.016/charge plus $50 infrastructure fee
  • 5,000-50,000 Transactions: $0.014/charge plus $100 infrastructure fee

Beyond that point, your business moves into enterprise-level pricing and you’ll get a custom quote. You can test out the pricing tool for yourself on the Stripe website.

Costs for using Connect, Stripe’s marketplace tools, are laid out on the website pretty clearly, which is nice to see given how little other information is out there.

Also, merchants who are on a custom payment plan will pay an additional $0.04 per transaction

One final point of consideration: With Stripe, you can’t access the gateway separate from the company’s processing services. But you can do that with Braintree, for $49/month + $0.10 per transaction. That’s a bit pricey for a gateway fee, but it could easily be worth the cost to access to all of Braintree’s tools.

All in all, Braintree is the winner here simply because it offers most of its features at no additional charge beyond processing costs, and that translates to savings for merchants.

Contract Length & Cancellation

Winner: Tie

With both Stripe and Braintree, merchants have no multi-year contracts. Everything is pay-as-you-go, so if you find a better service you are free to leave at any time. This is always good to see. But what’s even better is that both companies will help you migrate your data (customer database and card vault) securely to ensure seamless continuity. And that’s not just good, it’s awesome.

Sales & Advertising Transparency

Winner: Tie

I’m always happy to say when any processor is fair, honest, and transparent. In this case, I am extra happy to say both companies fit the mark. You won’t find any deceptive sales tactics, misleading quotes, or pushy sales reps here.

You’ll pay exactly what you’re quoted with both Stripe and Braintree, which is awesome. I like that both companies use flat-rate pricing by default. It’s hard to compare that number to interchange-plus models, which are usually the most cost-effective; however, you know exactly what you’ll pay for every transaction regardless of card brand. Flat-rate pricing is far more transparent than tiered pricing models, too.

You’ll find both companies are great at pushing out information about new features and how to use them, as well, and they’re upfront about matters such as customer service channels, integrations, and more.

Perhaps the only mark against Stripe is that while its terms of service spell out that an account can be terminated at any time for any or no reason, plenty of merchants seem to gloss over this or forget it entirely…until it happens to them. Stripe is a third-party payments provider, which means that the company doesn’t do extensive underwriting or investigation into your company when you apply for an account. The tradeoff to getting your account set up quickly is that you will face more intense scrutiny after the fact. Stripe has been known to terminate merchants with no warning, whether it’s for too many chargebacks or the company’s risk assessment team identifying a pattern of high-risk transactions. When this happens, there’s no appeals process to reinstate an account. You just need to move on and find a new processor.

To be fair, Braintree seems to exhibit some of this same behavior, despite the fact that it isn’t a third-party processor. When you sign up with Braintree, you do get a traditional merchant account. However, while I have seen complaints about this behavior, the overall volume is incredibly low, especially for a company as large as Braintree. So my honest assessment is that while it can happen, it happens only rarely with Braintree users. Account terminations are more common with Stripe because of its third-party processing model — but again, an account termination is an exception to the rule, rather than the norm. Most importantly, you should be aware that this is a possibility but you can take steps to protect yourself.

First, make sure you check out Stripe’s Prohibited Businesses list and then also look at Braintree’s Acceptable Use Policy. Both of these documents outline what kinds of merchants they won’t work with, so make sure your business isn’t on the list.

You can also check out our resources, including our guide on how to avoid holds, freezes, and account terminations.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Braintree

One of the most difficult parts of assessing customer support is that experiences vary so much from one merchant to the next. With some notable exceptions, it’s fairly common to see at least one negative review focusing on customer support for every good review that praises a company’s customer support. So as a reviewer, I look for patterns that can clue me into what, if anything is going on. But it’s also important to look at what support channels are offered and how they serve merchants. Being able to talk to a real, live person in real time is such an important aspect of good service for many merchants.

Braintree is a clear winner in this category. It likes to tout its “white glove service”; even ignoring the marketing buzz, when you take a look at the options and availability, it becomes clear that Braintree has worked hard to cater to merchants’ needs.

Braintree Support Options

  • Email: Email support is available from 5 AM to 12 AM US Central Time, Monday-Thursday and 5 AM to 8 PM, Friday. It’s nice to see the extended weekday hours, but the lack of any sort of weekend hours is a bit disappointing.
  • Knowledgebase & Documentation: In my experience, Braintree makes it much easier to find information about particular features and how to use them than Stripe does. The self-service knowledgebase includes extensive guides so that even merchants who aren’t technically inclined can make sense of Braintree’s features without having to wade through the documentation. And generally speaking, developers seem to approve of Braintree’s documentation and the available resources. The company seems to have made some major strides forward and is up there along with Stripe in terms of documentation quality.
  • Phone support: Hours for Braintree’s phone support are 8 AM to 7 PM US Central Time, Monday-Thursday and 8 AM to 5 PM, Friday. Again, I think the lack of weekend support hours is disappointing, but it’s nice to see extended weekday hours.

I do want to point out that Braintree does make one additional promise about its customer support:

Of course, we offer emergency support via email 24x7x365, and have support reps and engineers on-call at all times.

So it’s nice to know that in an emergency you’ll at least know someone is there to answer your questions and help your business running again. But I have no data about whether this emergency support is effective (or even necessary).

Stripe Support Options

  • Knowledgebase and Documentation: I personally haven’t found Stripe’s self-service knowledgebase to be very informative. It’s quite basic, and if you want to learn more about all of Stripe’s features or understand how they fit together, you’ll need to look at the documentation. However, I will say this: Stripe’s documentation is the gold standard. So developers will have no trouble here.
  • Email: Stripe doesn’t offer a turnaround time for emails, just that the company will “get back to you as soon as we can.”
  • Freenode IRC Chat: Stripe’s developers apparently spend their time in the #stripe channel if you need technical assistance. Unsurprisingly, most developers seem to like this aspect of support.

Stripe doesn’t offer phone support, and it doesn’t offer any information as to when its team is on call to respond to questions, all of which is a bit disappointing. But it’s the quality that counts, right? Except, reports suggest Stripe’s customer support isn’t always awesome, either. Check out the next section, “Negative Reviews & Complaints,” for more information.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Braintree

The overall quantity of complaints is only one factor we use to evaluate a merchant because you also need to consider the overall size of the business.

Braintree doesn’t publish current numbers for its merchants, and Stripe is vague about it. All we know is that the number exceeds 100,000, which is a good number for any merchant services provider. But we do know that both Stripe and Braintree are enormous companies that handle billions of dollars each year. Part of that is because they both serve some very large, high-profile clients. But you’ll certainly find plenty of smaller businesses and startups using these platforms, too.

On the whole, Stripe has far more complaints floating around than Braintree does. This isn’t too surprising because third-party processors, including Stripe, tend to have a high number of complaints overall, usually for 1 major reason:

  • Holds and Terminations: Third-party processors or aggregators can’t offer the same sort of stability that you get with a traditional merchant account because the onboarding process for new merchants doesn’t include the traditional in-depth analysis of the business and underwriting. That means accounts are more likely to face termination for suspicious behavior after they get up and running. This is absolutely the pattern we’ve seen with Stripe and it is one of the two biggest complaints about the company.

The other major complaint about Stripe is:

  • Poor Customer Service: One of the biggest gripes in the customer service department is the lack of phone service. When something is not right, merchants want to talk to a real, live person. When companies that provide core services like payment process don’t offer that, it leaves merchants upset. That’s what I’ve seen with Braintree. However, other customer service complaints say that support is unresponsive and unhelpful. This is particularly true in the account of funding holds or terminations. I don’t see many complaints about the quality of support for everyday sort of issues.

And then there’s Braintree. Braintree overall has far fewer complaints scattered across the web. (Considering this is a PayPal-owned company, I continue to be absolutely flabbergasted by this fact.) However, you will see some similarities to Stripe complaints:

  • Account Terminations: I want to make it clear that references to merchants who have had their accounts terminated are few and far between. They aren’t the majority of Braintree complaints, and even if they were, they would still be uncommon. From what I can tell, an account termination usually occurs when a business is deemed high risk. Whether this is a flaw in the screening process or a determination made by analyzing processing history or particular transactions, I don’t know.
  • Poor Customer Support: Complaints in this category seem to center on slow response times for email support, as well as inconsistent answers from support reps. However, I do see other merchants praising Braintree for the quality of its customer support, too.
  • Long Setup Times for Accounts: Some complaints focus on the fact that it can take a while to establish an account with Braintree. I know we live in the age of instant gratification, but sometimes vetting can take time.

All in all, it’s easy to call Braintree the winner in this regard. You’ll likely deal with fewer headaches and hassles with Braintree, and you’ll certainly see far greater account stability.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Stripe is a media darling, for sure. There’s no shortage of articles about the company’s co-founders, the Collison brothers, or about how massive the company is, the way it disrupts payments technology, etc.

Braintree doesn’t get quite as much press, but its parent company, PayPal does.

But press coverage doesn’t really tell the whole story.

Most of Stripe and Braintree’s big success stories come from household names. Big companies that you’ve probably heard about. You can see a shortlist of logos from prominent Braintree clients on its homepage; you can find a longer list on the Merchant Stories page.

However, what I like best is that Braintree actually has case studies for how these different companies have used Braintree to build successful businesses and process payments. These case studies aren’t exactly common, so it’s nice to see them — and so many, at that.

Stripe’s client list is no less impressive than Braintree’s though. You can find a shortlist on the homepage as well, but a more in-depth list on the Customers page. It offers only brief snippets instead of case studies, but the page does showcase the ways you can use Stripe.

But what do everyday merchants have to say? What do developers say?

Both Stripe and Braintree are popular with developers, and the consensus is that they both offer good documentation, extensive libraries, and powerful features.

Braintree’s merchants also praise the company’s customer support — at least, the customers who don’t have a problem with the customer service praise it. It appears the customer service excels on both the technical/developer side and the merchant side.

I also see Stripe get a lot of compliments for its well-designed website and the intuitive user interface in the dashboard.

Let’s call this one a draw.

Final Verdict

When two options are as similar in appearance as Stripe and Braintree, it can be tempting to say “Eeny Meeny Miney Mo!” and point to one and roll with it. But I hope you’ve got a slightly better understanding of where Stripe and Braintree align and where they are very different.

Obviously, the stability of a merchant account can be a major draw, and some businesses won’t want to sacrifice that even if it means spending a bit more on integrations to get features they need.  On the other hand, Stripe has several best-in-class tools that some businesses may find absolutely essential, such as its Billing tools. The risk of an account termination is relatively small so long as your business model is sound, you’re not on the list of prohibited business types, and you take appropriate measures to mitigate the risk of fraudulent transactions and chargebacks.

Both of these companies integrate with some major shopping cart software options, so if you’re looking primarily for an easy way to take payments, you can certainly go that route. But having a developer will really make it possible to harness the full capabilities of both companies.

It’s important that you sit down, make a list of must-have features and a list of “Would be nice” features. If you can’t make a choice based on those criteria, have a discussion about the account stability issue and decide how much risk you’re willing to tolerate. Also consider the customer support that each company offers and the fact that you may end up having to pay more for using some of Stripe’s best features.

Don’t forget to check out our complete Braintree review, as well as our Stripe review, for good measure.

Thanks for reading! I always love to hear from readers, so if you have questions or comments, please leave them below! We’ll be happy to help you!

The post Stripe VS Braintree appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Easy Accounting Software For Small Businesses

Easy Accounting Software for Small Businesses

If you’re reading this, you’re in the market for a simple accounting solution. Maybe you don’t know anything about accounting and need a program that’s easy to learn. Or maybe you’ve been using Sage or QuickBooks Desktop Pro and are tired of the confusing accounting lingo.

The good news is that accounting doesn’t have to be difficult, and neither does finding easy accounting software. Thanks to the Cloud, there are plenty of full-featured, capable accounting programs that are easy to use and can help small business owners gain control of their business’s finances.

In this post, we’ll cover the top seven easiest accounting software programs. Each program on this list is easy to use and makes learning how to manage your accounting a breeze. We’ve included options to fit every budget and multiple business types.

Each program is ranked by how easy it is to use, how well the software is designed, and how quickly it can be mastered. Read on to see which is right for you!

1. WaveEasy Accounting Software For Small Businessses

Wave (see our review) is an eminently easy to use accounting software — and with a price of $0, it’s easy on the budget as well. Excellent customer support, competitive pricing, and great features have earned this software 4.5/5 stars on our site.

Best For…

Small businesses on a tight budget that still want strong accounting capabilities. Ideal for Etsy sellers and micro businesses.

Wave Pricing

As we mentioned earlier, Wave is free, no gimmicks or strings attached. With a Wave account, you get access to all Wave features and unlimited users. The only extra costs to be aware of are payroll and payment processing. Read our complete Wave review for all of the pricing details.

Wave Features

Wave is well-developed software that even rivals some paid programs in terms of features. This app is incredibly easy to navigate, and the learning curve is minimal, making it a great choice for business owners with little previous accounting experience. The software covers all of the accounting basics including invoicing, expense tracking, accounts payable, bank reconciliation, and more.

Easy Accounting Software for Small Businesses

Wave also has several unique features. In Wave, users can separate personal and business expenses, which is ideal for freelancers or side hustlers who don’t have a separate business bank account. Wave also offers Lending by Wave, which helps business owners gain access to capital through a partnership with OnDeck (see our review). Learn more about this financing option in our post Lending by Wave: Everything Small Businesses Need to Know.

Other features include:

  • Item management
  • Reports
  • Receipts
  • Contact management

Wave doesn’t offer as many integrations as its competitors; however, it does have a Zapier integration, which connects Wave with over 750 third-party apps. Besides Zapier, there are only three other integrations. (The Etsy integration makes Wave a great choice for Etsy sellers in need of simple accounting.) Wave also has several mobile apps.

There are a ton of customer support resources that make the software easy to learn. Only payroll users have phone and chat support, but Wave’s support team answers emails quickly and there’s a thorough help center with how-to videos.

The only downside to the software is that there is no project management feature and time tracking is limited to payroll users. There also isn’t a true inventory feature. If these features are integral to your business, you’ll have to use an integration. Or you can take a look at one of the other options on this list.

Takeaway

If you’re looking for an affordable accounting option, it doesn’t get better than Wave. With positive customer reviews, excellent customer support, and a well-organized UI, it’s no wonder this free accounting software is so popular. It’s easy to jump straight in and start using Wave, even with little previous accounting experience.

To learn more, read our full Wave review or sign up for an account to test the software yourself. You’ve got nothing to lose — after all, it’s free.

Read our full Wave review

Visit the Wave website

2. Zoho BooksEasy Accounting Software For Small Businesses

Created in 2011, Zoho Books (see our review) offers unbeatable invoicing and strong mobile apps. In fact, recent updates have put Zoho Books on par with QuickBooks Online in terms of features, but with better customer service, cheaper pricing, and a more user-friendly UI, Zoho Books is a great option for small businesses.

Best For…

Small businesses in need of strong online accounting, affordable pricing, and good invoicing. Ideal for international business.

Zoho Books Pricing

Zoho Books offers three affordable pricing plans ranging from $9/mo – $29/mo. Each plan comes with basic features and unlimited invoices. The larger the plan, the more contacts, users, and advanced features you’ll have access to. Read our Zoho Books review for the details.

Zoho Books Features

Zoho Books has an impressive number of features. With good customer support and a well-designed UI, the software is easy to use and learn. The software has all of the features you’d expect from a fully-developed accounting solution including invoicing, contact management, expense tracking, time tracking, inventory, project management, and even tax support.

Easy Accounting Software for Small Businesses

The best part about Zoho Books is its invoicing offerings. Zoho Books offers 15 customizable invoice templates, a client portal where customers can pay invoices directly online, recurring invoices, and the unique ability to encrypt invoices. There are also many automations that make it easy to invoice customers, like the ability to autoschedule invoices to be sent at a later time. In addition, you can send invoices in over 10 languages, making Zoho Books a great choice for international business.

You’ll find these key accounting features as well:

  • Accounts payable
  • Charts of accounts
  • Bank reconciliation
  • Fixed asset management
  • Reports

Zoho Books offers 30 integrations, including 12 payments gateways options and a Zapier integration that connects Zoho Books to over 750 other third-party apps. Zoho Books also has easy accounting apps that are highly developed and praised by existing users.

Zoho Books is known for great customer service. Phone support and email support are both available. Representatives are generally helpful and quick to respond to questions. The majority of customer reviews are positive, and users especially like the level of support they receive.

The only drawback is that Zoho Books has no payroll feature. You’ll either have to find a payroll integration or opt for a different software.

Takeaway

With almost as many features as QuickBooks Online, Zoho Books is definitely a contender worth considering. The software is easy to use and its invoicing features are unbeatable. Great customer support, a good number of integrations, and international features are also perks of the software.

If Zoho Books sounds like it might be a good choice for your small business, start a free trial or read our complete Zoho Books review to learn more.

Read our full Zoho Books review

Visit the Zoho Books website

3. ZipBooksEasy Accounting Software for Small Businesses

ZipBooks (see our review) is an up-and-coming accounting software that was launched in 2015 and offers a free accounting software plan. The software may be new, but it has already mastered simplicity. ZipBooks is one of the easiest accounting programs out there, and with a free plan, unlimited users, and ample automations, it’s not hard to see why this software gets 4/5 stars.

Best For…

Small businesses in need of affordable, strong accounting. Ideal for business owners with little previous accounting experience.

ZipBooks Pricing

ZipBooks offers three pricing plans ranging from $0/mo – $35/mo. Each plan comes with unlimited invoicing and unlimited users, which is almost unheard of (especially for the free plan) Each pricing level adds more features. Read our complete ZipBooks review to see which plan’s features suit your needs best.

ZipBooks Features

ZipBooks offers a good number of features that are easy to use and has one of the most attractive interfaces out there. The software’s design is simple and intuitive, using automations to save you time. The UI is even color-coded to make navigation a breeze. ZipBooks offers the basics you’d expect from accounting software, including invoicing, contact management, and expense tracking.

Easy Accounting Software For Small Businesses

One unique aspect of ZipBooks is that the software takes the data you input and uses it to provide helpful business insights, including a business health score and business recommendations specific to your financial situation.

In addition, ZipBooks offers:

  • Time tracking
  • Project management
  • Reports
  • Category tracking

ZipBooks only comes with eight integrations, so if you’re looking for ample add-ons, this may not be the software for you.

If you’re looking for good customer support, ZipBooks has you covered. Representatives are quick to respond to questions. Phone support is available for the paid plans. Other support options include email, in-software chat, a knowledge base, and a blog.

Before purchasing ZipBooks, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider. Compared to the other choices on this list, ZipBooks has very limited invoicing and only a small number of accounting reports. There also is no item or inventory feature. Despite these shortcomings, ZipBooks receives many positive customer reviews.

Takeaway

If you’re looking for easy accounting software, ZipBooks is hard to beat. With a great design, good learning resources, and ample automations, ZipBooks does everything it can to make accounting simple.

If ZipBooks sounds like a good fit for your business, use the free plan to take the software for a spin. Read our complete ZipBooks review to learn more.

Read our full ZipBooks review

Visit the ZipBooks website

4. FreshBooksEasy Accounting Software

FreshBooks (see our review) is invoicing software with a few bookkeeping tools tossed in. Although it’s not true “accounting” software, we kept in in the mix because it is incredibly easy to use and free of accounting jargon.

Best For…

Small businesses looking for strong invoicing and basic bookkeeping but not a full accounting software.

FreshBooks Pricing

FreshBooks offers three pricing plans ranging from $15/mo – $50/mo. Most features are included in all plans, so each larger level mainly adds more billable customers.

FreshBooks only supports a single user (additional users cost an extra $10/mo each). Read our full FreshBooks review to learn more.

FreshBooks Features

FreshBooks has always been easy to use, but a recent redesign has made the user experience even simpler and the UI more attractive. Setup is simple and the software takes very little time to learn. In terms of features, you’ll find invoicing, expense tracking, contact management, and more.

Easy Accounting Software For Small Businesses

FreshBooks offers two customizable invoice templates and a client portal where customers can pay their invoices directly online. One of the coolest features in FreshBooks is the ability to chat with your customers directly on their invoices.

Other features include:

  • Project management
  • Time tracking
  • Reports

FreshBooks offers 60 integrations, which is significantly more than most invoicing programs. There are also mobile apps available.

FreshBooks has great customer support. Representatives are friendly, helpful, and quick to respond. There is phone support, email support, a help center, and several other resources to help you learn the software.

For the most part, FreshBooks receives positive customer reviews; however, there are some recurring complaints.

In addition to not being true accounting software, FreshBooks only supports a single user — and this invoicing software is already more expensive than most accounting software. Instead of purchasing additional users, you’d get more bang for your buck by choosing a full-fledged accounting program (or a less expensive invoicing program like Zoho Invoice or Invoicera).

Takeaway

While FreshBooks isn’t accounting software, many small businesses are able to look past the lack of double-entry accounting because the software is so simple and easy to use. This easy bookkeeping software is ideal for small businesses that only need to send invoices and track expenses.

If the simplicity of FreshBooks sounds appealing to you, take the software for a spin with a free trial or read our comprehensive FreshBooks review to learn more.

Read our full FreshBooks review

Visit the FreshBooks website

5. QuickBooks Self-EmployedEasy Accounting Software for Small Businesses

QuickBooks Self-Employed (see our review) is tax software designed to help freelancers with basic bookkeeping and tax support. While QuickBooks Self-Employed isn’t exactly accounting software, it offers easy bookkeeping and tax support for freelancers.

Best For…

Freelancers, contractors, and other self-employed individuals needing basic bookkeeping and tax support. Ideal for managing estimated quarterly taxes and maximizing deductions.

QuickBooks Self-Employed Pricing

There are two pricing options for QuickBooks Self-Employed. There’s a $10/mo plan that includes all of the software’s features. Going with the $17/mo plan adds a Turbo Tax integration, so you can easily file your self-employed taxes.

QuickBooks Self-Employed Features

QuickBooks Self-Employed is well-organized and easy to use. The features help simplify estimated quarterly taxes and allow freelancers to manage their expenses and track their deductions.

Easy Accounting Software For Small Businesses

This software also makes it easy to separate personal and business expenses, which is ideal for freelancers who don’t have a designated business bank account. LIke Wave, QuickBooks Online also has a built-in lending feature called QuickBooks Capital (see our review) that helps small businesses manage gain access to working capital to manage their cash flow.

In addition, QuickBooks Self-Employed offers:

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

QuickBooks Self-Employed offers a small number of integrations, but the Turbo Tax integration is the best part of the software by far. This integration makes self-employed taxes a breeze and makes it easy to file taxes online.

Unfortunately, QuickBooks Self-Employed is known for poor customer service. With no phone support and limited additional resources, it can be hard to find help, though the company is working to improve this. There is a live chat feature, a redesigned help center, and a small business resource center with helpful business advice.

While QuickBooks Self-Employed is a great option for managing your federal taxes, our one concern is that the software lacks state tax support. This means you’ll have to find another way to file state taxes.

Takeaway

If you’re a freelancer looking for a way to manage your finances and taxes, QuickBooks Self-Employed could be a good option for your business. The software is easy to use and comes with good mobile apps for quick access to your data.

To learn more about this software, read our complete QuickBooks Self-Employed review. If you’re already convinced, sign up for a free trial or start using the software today.

Read our full QuickBooks Self-Employed review

Visit the QuickBooks Self-Employed website

6. SlickPieEasy Accounting Software For Small Businesses

Founded in 2015, SlickPie (see our review) is an easy-to-use accounting software that has already received positive customer reviews and press coverage. Like Wave and ZipBooks, SlickPie offers an impressive free plan and a beautiful interface.

Best For…

Small businesses on a tight budget in need of basic accounting features and bookkeeping automations.

SlickPie Pricing

SlickPie offers a free plan and a paid plan which costs $9.95/mo. Both plans come with basic features and unlimited users. The main difference is the number of invoices you are allowed to send. Read our complete SlickPie review for all of the pricing details.

SlickPie Features

As we mentioned earlier, SlickPie is easy to use and offers several automations to help save you time and energy. There are a few occasional navigational difficulties and the organization could be improved, but overall the software is simple to set up. Features include invoicing, expense tracking, contact management, accounts payable, and more.

Easy Accounting Software for Small Businesses

One of the coolest features is SlickPie’s MagicBot, which is a data entry tool that automates your receipts. When you take a photo of your receipt, SlickPie will automatically gather the information from the photo and enter the data for you.

Here are some other features found in SlickPie:

  • Chart of accounts
  • Item management
  • Reports

SlickPie only offers three integrations, which might not cut it for many small businesses.

This app does have good customer support, however. Emails are responded to incredibly quickly. There is also phone support and a helpful knowledge base. SlickPie receives positive customer reviews, especially where support is concerned.

There are a few limitations to consider when comparing SlickPie to the other options on this list. While SlickPie is still easy to use, the software is difficult to navigate at times. There are also no project management or time tracking features. Unlike the other options, SlickPIe does not have mobile apps.

Takeaway

SlickPie is simple accounting software with basic features and a few promising automations. However, its limited automations, missing features, and occasionally unintuitive organization may rule this software out as a viable option for some small business owners.

If you’d like to learn more, read our complete SlickPie review or see the software in action for yourself by signing up for a free account.

Read our full SlickPie review

Visit the SlickPie website

7. QuickBooks OnlineEasy Accounting Software For Small Businesses

QuickBooks Online (see our review) is a fully-featured accounting software program that is generally easy to use. With 200+ integrations, strong mobile apps, and tax support, it’s no wonder this software receives 5/5 stars.

Best For…

Small businesses looking for a full-featured accounting solution that is relatively easy to use. Ideal for businesses with five users or fewer (though you can add up to 25 users for an additional cost).

QuickBooks Online Pricing

QuickBooks Online offers three pricing plans ranging from $15/mo – $50/mo. The larger the plan, the more feature you have access to and the more users you can have.

Payroll costs an additional $39 – $90/mo (plus $2/mo per employee). Read our full QuickBooks Online review to learn more and to see if Intuit is running any sales promotions.

QuickBooks Online Features

While this cloud accounting software is not quite as easy to use as the other options on this list, the trade-off is more advanced features. Set up is a bit involved and the organization is occasionally difficult to navigate, but compared to other big-name programs like Xero, Sage, and AccountEdge Pro, QuickBooks Online is a piece of cake.

Easy Accounting Software For Small Businesses

QuickBooks offers double-entry bookkeeping and strong accounting features like bank reconciliation, accounts payable, reports, and a chart of accounts. You’ll also find invoicing, expense tracking, time tracking, project management, and more. In terms of invoicing, QuickBooks Online offers the second best templates and automations (with Zoho Books being the first).

Other features include:

  • Class tracking
  • Client portal
  • Tax support
  • Contact management
  • Budgeting
  • Inventory

With over 200 integrations, QuickBooks has more integrations than any other accounting program on this list. This includes 15 payment processing options and great mobile apps.

As we mentioned earlier, QuickBooks has been known for poor customer service in the past. Recently, QuickBooks Online has made great strides to improve their customer support. While the company still has a ways to go, phone response times have greatly improved and a redesigned help center makes it easy to find assistance.

Takeaway

While QuickBooks Online may not be quite as easy to use as the other options on this list, this online accounting software might be a good fit for businesses looking to get the most bang for their buck in terms of features.

Read our comprehensive QuickBooks Online review to learn about all that this software has to offer, or sign up for a free trial to see for yourself.

Read our full QuickBooks Online review

Visit the QuickBooks Online website

Final Verdict

Any one of these simple small business accounting software options will allow you to easily manage your business’s finances and balance the books, no matter what level of accounting experience you bring to the table. Ultimately, the decision will come down to your budget and the features your business needs.

Want a good double-entry accounting solution that’s more robust than the options we discussed above? I suggest trying Xero, Sage, AccountEdge Pro, or QuickBooks Pro. These apps aren’t quite as easy to use as the seven programs in this post, but they come with far more advanced features. If you need higher-level inventory management, payroll software, or a more refined method to track bank accounts, credit card payments and/or credit card charges, you’re going to be better off with one of these solutions. Conversely, for small business owners who are in the market for something very simple and don’t want to pay anything for an accounting app, we’ve compiled a list of the best free online accounting software programs out there.

If you need more help deciding, read the Complete Guide to Choosing Online Accounting or 20 Questions To Ask Before Choosing Accounting Software. And don’t forget to download the Beginner’s Guide to Accounting — in this free ebook, we make accounting simple and teach you everything you need to know without the confusing accounting jargon.

As always, let us know if you have any questions, and happy hunting!

The post Easy Accounting Software For Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Stripe VS Square

Stripe VS Square
✓ Products and Services ✓
✓ Compatible Hardware ✓
✓ Fees and Rates ✓
✓ Sales and Advertising Transparency ✓
Customer Service and Technical Support ✓
✓ Negative Reviews and Complaints ✓
✓ Positive Reviews and Testimonials ✓
Tie Final Verdict  Tie
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Overview

Spend a little bit of time reading up on Stripe (read our review) and Square (read our review) and you’ll start to see the similarities. They’re both giants in the payment industry, media darlings that have transformed the way people pay for things and the way merchants accept payments. They’re both on the leading edge of technology and rely heavily on machine learning to drive their payment processing systems.

Most importantly, both Square and Stripe offer huge assortments of commerce tools that make it easy for merchants to run their businesses. With the various APIs and integrations available, there are almost limitless possibilities for creating a custom system with everything from invoicing to email marketing and more.

But that’s where I stop pointing out the similarities. Once you get past that point, it becomes harder to draw apples-to-apples comparisons because Square’s offerings are much more varied. Square really is an all-in-one processor that can handle in-person and eCommerce payments, as well as inventory management, customer databases, and more. Stripe is more limited to eCommerce, both for websites and for mobile apps, but it has powerful tools for global enterprises, subscription-based businesses, and other online companies.

To keep things fair and within a manageable scope, we’re going to limit the scope of this comparison to each companies’ online and mobile commerce tools. That means, for the most part, we’re not going to look at mPOS apps, POS integrations, appointment booking, or email marketing…except to say if you need them, Square is the better choice.That also means we’ll be ignoring Stripe Atlas, the company’s service for helping international merchants establish themselves in the US.

If you want to sell online and Square and Stripe have made your shortlist, you should start by asking yourself some questions:

  • What features do you absolutely need? Which features aren’t essential, but would be very nice to have?
  • What percentage of your transactions are from outside the US?
  • Do you have a developer or advanced coding knowledge yourself?
  • Do you have limited tech knowledge and need an easy solution?
  • Are you looking for specific integrations?
  • What industry is your business part of?
  • How advanced are your subscription tool needs?

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can sit down and look at each company in more detail. Read on for our comparison of Stripe vs. Square!

Products & Services

Winner: Tie

It’s so important to have a list of must-have features before you set about choosing any sort of payments or eCommerce software because you don’t want to make the decision and then find out that you’re missing a very important function. But it’s also important to think about where you want your business to go and what tools you want to invest in as your business scales up. If you pick the right service, it could mean you never need to switch. But if you don’t think about growth, you may wind up having to make a complicated switchover later in the future once you’ve outgrown a solution.

The good news is that for the most part, Stripe and Square are both very good solutions that scale up as a business grows. It just comes down to in which direction a business wants to grow.

Square Tools and Services for Online Merchants

Square initially stood out among mobile competitors by offering a free webstore to its merchants. Since then, the company has branched out considerably to include eCommerce integrations as well as developer tools. For a more in-depth review of all of Square’s offerings, check out our full review.

  • Online Store: Square’s free online store is very basic. There are only four templates to choose from, and you can only customize portions of the site (such as filling in your business name and address in the footer) in addition to loading your products. This is not a good solution for anyone with a large and diverse inventory, especially if your shipping costs vary significantly or if you’re looking for a particular visual aesthetic.
  • eCommerce Integrations: When you first take a look at Square’s eCommerce offerings, you’ll see that Square very conveniently groups everything by a merchant’s level of technical expertise. I think this is a really helpful approach.

    The easiest integrations are listed on the site and Square lets you know that you can choose from an assortment of templates.

    The intermediate level includes eCommerce integrations that require a bit more work and technical knowledge to get set up.
    Square’s list of integrations includes some of the best shopping cart options, and the list keeps growing. That makes me happy, but if your preferred integration isn’t on the list yet and you do have the technical knowledge (or an eager developer on your payroll), there are more tools at your disposal. You can check out the list of Square integrations in the app marketplace.
  • Developer Tools: Square’s dev tools make it possible for you to create almost any custom integration you could need. For eCommerce, there are two APIs, Checkout and Transactions.  Square Checkout is a premade form that can be dropped into a site with minimal fuss. Using Checkout means merchants are eligible for some perks, like next-day deposits and chargeback protection. The Transaction API, combined with Square’s payment form, is more customizable. Square has other APIs to handle other aspects of commerce, but you’ll find that Square doesn’t readily support in-app payments.
  • Dashboard Reporting: Square’s reporting tools are fairly advanced, especially for a company that started as an mPOS. They’re very popular with merchants who want to know what’s selling and how much they’re processing and need standard business data. The dashboard is actually quite intuitive, as well. However, Square doesn’t allow for a huge amount of customization in reports unless you get into the Reporting API, which allows you to create real-time notifications using webhooks.

Additionally, Square offers the following tools:

  • Advanced Inventory: Square will reconcile online and in-person sales and give you an up-to-date count on your inventory, including low-stock alerts when you hit a specified threshold. Plus, you can bulk upload products and generate SKUs, create variants, and more.
  • Fraud Protection Tools: Square uses machine learning to analyze transactions and identify and flag possible fraudulent transactions.
  • Customer Database: Save customers’ contact information and build a database with records of their purchases so that you can market to them later.
  • Invoicing: Create invoices from within the Square dashboard or from within the mPOS app. Square also allows customers to store their cards to automatically pay invoices (using this Card on File will cost you a bit more). You can also create recurring invoices. However, if you want extensive subscription management tools, you’ll need an integration with a service like Chargify, which will add to your costs.
  • Free Virtual Terminal: If you want to process payments over the phone or you don’t have access to the mPOS, you can use Square’s virtual terminal. Transactions will be processed at the manual entry rate (3.5% + $0.15) rather than the eCommerce rate, but the solution is PCI compliant and is designed for regular use.

All in all, while it’s worth noting that Square really is an omnichannel solution for merchants who want to sell anywhere without needing to build a complicated system of integrations. But it has some shortcomings, especially for digital merchants. Subscription tools are nearly nonexistent, and fraud protection doesn’t compare to the tools Stripe offers. If you want advanced, custom reports, you’ll be better served by Stripe. However, Square’s tools and overall design are incredibly easy to use, especially for business owners who don’t have a lot of technical expertise or a large budget to hire someone. And it has very strong tools for merchants who sell physical products in particular.

Stripe Tools and Services for Online Merchants

Stripe has earned its name as a developer-friendly option, but you can also integrate with a host of third-party apps to accept payments with ease. The company focuses on internet and mobile commerce, but developers have extended Square’s power to include mobile payments and more. Just take note, there’s no free storefront option here. For a more detailed look at different features, check out our complete Stripe review.

  • eCommerce Integrations & Plug-Ins: Stripe outclasses Square in terms of shopping cart integrations by virtue of sheer numbers. In addition to integrations with major eCommerce software providers, developers have created an assortment of plug-ins for businesses operating on WordPress, Magento, and other websites. If you’re not really sure where you start, you might end up doing a lot of research to decide the best course of action, but you can at least take heart in knowing that there’ll be something that will meet your needs. You can check out the full list of eCommerce integrations on Stripe’s “Works With” page.
  • Developer Tools: Stripe is much loved by developers for its flexibility, its extensive documentation and its support for multiple programming languages. Its APIs allow you to create invoices and subscriptions along with many other features.

    Stripe Elements will let you create an entirely custom form with pre-built components; Stripe Checkout generates a pre-built form you can just drop into the site with a few lines of JavaScript. With Stripe, it’s very easy to accept payments on a desktop computer, a mobile site, or within a mobile app. Stripe now even supports 1-touch payments on mobile
  • Stripe Sigma: Stripe offers your standard user dashboard with some general sales reports at no charge. But if your business is heavily data-driven, Sigma’s customizable reporting is the perfect solution for you: you can generate reports based on SQL queries. This is pretty cool, and it’s a great way to make sure that anyone on your team can get the reports they need without creating an information bottleneck. Pricing is based on a sliding scale rather than a set additional monthly see.

Stripe’s additional tools include:

  • Stripe Billing: Stripe’s subscription tools are industry-leading, with the ability to charge clients based on a recurring quantity or metered usage, to set free trial periods, and much more. You can also create invoices or set up recurring billing tools. However, new businesses will pay a small additional charge per transaction to use these tools.
  • Stripe Radar: Stripe makes a big deal of its fraud monitoring tools, bundled under the very-apt name Radar. The system uses machine learning and a host of criteria to analyze every transaction and decide whether it is legitimate or possibly fraudulent. Radar also lets merchants set custom criteria for rejecting transactions and review flagged transactions to decide whether to accept or reject them.
  • Marketplace Tools: Merchants who want to operate a marketplace can use Stripe to build the platform. Stripe’s marketplace tools are grouped under the moniker “Stripe Connect.”
  • Multiple Currency Displays & Dynamic Currency Conversion: These tools are a major reason why Stripe is such a powerful tool for global businesses. Whereas Stripe will automatically convert transactions to USD (usually at the cost of a fee to the cardholder), Stripe will allow you to display prices in local currencies based on where the customer is located. Stripe then automatically converts them for the merchant, charging a small markup over the exchange rate. This makes a business more appealing to international customers.

There’s no doubt that Stripe is very powerful. It can handle all sorts of payments, from digital subscriptions to retail goods. It’s one of the best solutions for global businesses with its currency tools. But it does have some limitations. If you plan to sell across multiple channels, there’s no option for in-person payments unless you have an integration like Flint Mobile (read our review), but it’s still more costly than other mPOS options. There’s no virtual terminal, either. While Stripe does allow you to manually enter a transaction if all else fails, it’s a last resort rather than a tool to be used on the regular because of PCI compliance issues.

Stripe’s inventory tools aren’t on the level of Square. They’re powerful, but if you want advanced inventory management, you’ll need to tack on an integration. I also don’t think that Stripe’s inventory tools are even half as intuitive as Square’s. But I think part of that is Stripe’s focus on online payments and tools for digital merchants, compared to Square’s omnichannel approach.

All in all, it’s really hard to say one of these companies is inherently better than the other. Both have a good assortment of integrations for shopping carts and other tools, though Stripe has a greater number of supported integrations. If you want ease of use, especially if you sell physical goods,  Square is the standout option. But if you need flexibility, robust tools, and advanced data, Stripe is the better choice. So it ultimately comes down to your business’ needs.

Fees & Rates

Winner: Tie

I am happy to say that pricing for both Square and Stripe is mostly straightforward:

  • 2.9% + $0.30 per online card transaction

There are no monthly fees, no monthly minimums, no statement fees. That’s very nice to see.

I do want to point out that Square charges different rates for its card-present and keyed transactions (2.7% and 3.5% + $0.15, respectively). However, invoices process at the same rate as eCommerce transactions unless you’re using Card on File, which process at the keyed transaction rate.

Square also has no chargeback fees, which is very unusual. Not only that, but the company has rolled out Chargeback Protection, which will cover the actual chargeback costs on qualifying disputes up to $250 per month. This doesn’t apply to merchants who use the Transactions API, but it is available for those who use Stripe Checkout.

You can get volume discounts if you process above $250k per year AND have an average ticket size exceeding $15. That’s a mark in Square’s favor for large businesses. However, nonprofits don’t get any sort of special discount, which you can often find with other processors.

Stripe’s pricing has become a tiny bit more complicated. In addition to card transactions processed at 2.9% + $0.30, you can also accept ACH transactions for 0.8%, capped at $5 maximum.

The base fee per transaction is simple. And for each chargeback, Stripe will assess a $15 fee, unless the chargeback is decided in your favor. In that case, you’ll pay absolutely nothing.

Stripe’s subscription tools, lumped under the name “Stripe Billing” along with invoicing, will cost you a small percentage fee (between 0.04% and 0.07%) on top of your transaction.

Existing Stripe merchants are grandfathered out of this new pricing. Large businesses will actually pay the higher 0.7% markup, but it seems Stripe has compromised by offering lower transaction fees.

You’ll also pay a monthly fee for access to Stripe Sigma. The cost is a sliding scale based on the number of transactions you process each month, which is a great way for very small businesses to still get crucial data. But for a company that built its reputation on not charging any fees beyond transaction processing, it’s a little bit disappointing to see that model disappearing. You can estimate your cost with Stripe’s tool.

Stripe does offer enterprise pricing for very large businesses, and some nonprofits may be eligible for a special rate. Stripe doesn’t make any promises about nonprofit pricing apart from “let us know and we’ll see what we can do.” So you shouldn’t assume it’s guaranteed.

With Stripe, you may also be able to negotiate for micro-transaction rates. Whereas per-transaction fees like the $0.30 Stripe and Square charge can eat up fees from small transactions (less than $10 in particular), micro-transaction rates typically include a higher percentage and a lower per-transaction fee that can save merchants money. This is ideal for anyone who sells digital goods and other low-cost items.

Because it’s something offered as part of a custom package, Stripe may not offer this deal to everyone. If you’re unable to get a micro-transaction plan from Stripe, it might be worth looking at a third option — PayPal (read our review) — instead. The 5% + $0.05 fee could save you quite a bit of money in the long run.

All in all, Stripe and Square are fairly evenly matched in pricing. Some merchants might enjoy the lack of chargeback fees and included chargeback protection that Square offers. But Stripe might be a bigger draw for other companies, despite the additional charges for using its subscription tools or Sigma reporting.

Contract Length & Cancellation

Winner: Tie 

Both Stripe and Square offer pay-as-you-go processing with no locked-in contracts or early termination fees. It really is that simple. Stripe will even help you transfer your customer data to another processor in a PCI compliant way.

If you’re using any of Square’s monthly services in addition to eCommerce processing, you can get a free 30-day trial, and then if you choose to continue with the service, you can cancel at any time. Square doesn’t bill annually for those services the way many SaaS providers do. (Conversely, you also don’t get any discounts for paying annually, either.)

Sales & Advertising Transparency

Winner: Tie 

One of the reasons I like pay-as-you-go processors is that they are, on the whole, very upfront and transparent. They tend to not have extensive sales teams, and if they do have a sales team, they’re all in-house. They’re very clear about their pricing and terms, and they’re applied fairly to all merchants.

Square and Stripe both fit this pattern to a T. You won’t see reports of misleading sales pitches or rates not as promised here, which is always nice to see. You can find Stripe’s terms of service on the site, both the general user agreement and the Stripe Payments agreement. Like Stripe, Square has separate agreements applying to general use, payments, and other services. I do recommend you be cautious and check that your business doesn’t fall on either list of “prohibited businesses,” because that’s an easy path to account termination.

Overall, I’m really happy with both companies in this category, and you shouldn’t have any worries about whether you’re being told the truth or whether you’ll pay what you were quoted.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Square

I think it’s fairly clear that Square outshines Stripe in terms of its customer support — both in quality and in the number of channels available.

Square offers merchants phone and email support, as well as an extensive knowledgebase. That’s pretty typical of any processor, but on top of that, Square operates the Seller Community, a community forum about all-things Square.

 

You can get answers from other Square merchants as well as from Square support reps. It’s a pretty powerful tool. But on top of that, Square’s team monitors Stack Overflow for questions about Square products and responds to them.

And that’s not even talking about Square’s dedicated Twitter support handle (@SqSupport), or the developer portal and documentation.

I can’t say that Square customer support is all sunshine and rainbows, because I do see customer complaints about the quality. However, without a doubt the biggest complaint about the quality of customer support comes from merchants whose accounts have been terminated. In that case, Square cuts off access to phone support and will only communicate via email. This is unfortunate and I don’t know if it’s actually a good solution. But I am sure part of the reason to reduce the odds of a customer support rep saying something they shouldn’t, and to prevent support resources from being tied up dealing with complaints from terminated merchants whose accounts won’t be reinstated.

Stripe is more limited in its support options. Its primary support channel is email. However, Stripe also operates an IRC Freenode chat (#Stripe) that developers may find useful. There’s no dedicated social media support with Stripe, but you can follow the general @Stripe twitter feed.

Stripe also maintains a self-service knowledgebase, though I don’t think it’s as extensive or detailed as Square’s. But I will say that Stripe’s documentation is pretty legendary, and so it’s going to be one of the best resources you can get.  You can also find questions about Stripe on Stack Overflow, but I am not able to ascertain whether Stripe’s team is active on the forum at all the way that Square is.

I do see comments from merchants that the support is pretty good. But I also see a lot of complaints from frustrated merchants about the lack of phone support. That complaint has actually become one of the biggest marks against Stripe. I’ve seen one mention that Stripe might be rolling out phone support to “select merchants” (presumably high-value clients). However, take this with a grain of salt. I wasn’t able to verify it through any sort of authoritative source.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

As far as complaints go, the single biggest issue for both Square and Stripe is a common one:

  • Account Holds And Terminations: This is unsurprising (understatement of the year, right there) because it’s a common issue with any third-party processor. Because these payment systems are usually open to almost anyone right away and they are all lumped into one large merchant account, there’s a greater risk that some of those accounts will be terminated for risky behavior. There’s very little scrutiny done before a sub-account with one of these processors is approved, which stands in contrast to merchant accounts, where the processing company will do a lot of underwriting and investigation before approving your application. Both Square and Stripe use a lot of machine learning to analyze transactions and flag suspicious behaviors. This potential for account holds or terminations is universal — you will encounter it with any third-party processor. If you want to avoid it, your only alternative is to seek out a traditional merchant account.

The other big complaint that I see with both is also a pretty common one:

  • Poor Customer Support: If I’m honest, reports about the quality of customer service conflict. But because of how common the complaints are, I’m listing it here. With Stripe, the most common issues are the lack of phone support and slow response times for email. With Square, a lot of the complaints about poor customer service come from terminated merchants, but I’ve seen a few complaints about slow or unhelpful email responses.

Additional frequent complaints about Stripe include:

  • Lack Of Fraud Protection: I want to be clear: Stripe does have fraud management tools and a system to help merchants fight chargebacks. But I have seen complaints from merchants who don’t think these are adequate. Chargebacks are not settled by Stripe, so there’s not much the company can do beyond pass the requested documents on. But for fraud prevention, merchants need to make sure they have the appropriate tools enabled.
  • Not User-Friendly: There’s a lot of testimonials from users (especially developers) who really like Stripe and find it simple to set up. There are plenty of others who disagree with that idea. I’m inclined to think most people with a decent technical backing will get along fine with Stripe, but for some people, especially those with less technical knowledge, it’s not going to be a good choice.

For Square, there is one other common complaint:

  • Lack of advanced features: It’s not that Square doesn’t have enough features, or that it’s missing anything important. The complaints about Square often focus on the lack of very particular advanced features that you typically find in full-scale POS systems. In this case, I think Square’s lack of extensive subscription tools would fit the bill. Some merchants have been upset for quite a while over the lack of Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) reporting. Square added this feature with its Square for Retail app, but not for online sales or its free POS. Square has some very powerful reporting tools, but in the end, they won’t hold a candle to Stripe’s Sigma offering.

I think, yet again, that the two companies are pretty evenly matched in this category. The largest complaints are identical, and that’s because they’re the same complaints we see with third-party processors. To be entirely honest, poor customer service is a common complaint across the entire payments industry. It’s frustrating, for sure. But you can take steps to better inform yourself — read our article on how to prevent holds, freezes, and account terminations. And please take reports of poor customer service with a grain of salt, because I see conflicting accounts there.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

As media darlings, both Stripe and Square have gotten lots of press. They’re both lauded for the way they’ve transformed payments.

I usually feel a little bit silly comparing two businesses in this category because it almost feels like a bit of a popularity contest. But in this case, we’re dealing with two companies who have both gotten a LOT of positive press over the years, not to mention high-profile clients. And the bits of each service that merchants love most are pretty similar, too.

Square merchants love how easy the service is to use. And I tend to agree — Square is one of the most intuitive options out there as far as payments and using the dashboard. Merchants also really like the predictable pricing and lack of fees. Other than that, the integrated invoicing feature and the seamless omnichannel commerce experience are big draws.

Stripe also wins merchants over with its pricing, and its tools are very much loved by developers. While if you don’t have a lot of technical knowledge, Stripe may feel foreign to you, developers say it’s incredibly easy to use. Also on the dev side of things, it seems like the quality of customer service is great, even if business owners don’t always like the lack of phone support. And unsurprisingly, merchants really seem to love Stripe’s robust subscription tools. The predictable pricing and lack of monthly fees are also appealing.

Final Verdict

Winner: Tie

Stripe and Square have some very important core similarities: they’re both third-party processors with an assortment of tools that allow merchants to sell online. Neither one is suited to high-risk industries, and there’s a lengthy list of businesses neither company can work with. But despite that, both Stripe and Square offer tools that cater to a huge assortment of industries. They’ll both grow with your business, making it easy to scale up.

But despite their similarities in terms of business model, it’s also pretty clear that what each company does best is completely different.

Square is a spectacular all-in-one processor. You can sell in a store, on the go, and online and get all of your information and payments and orders collected in one simply, intuitive dashboard. There’s a huge array of add-on products that allow you consolidate a host of business functions under one name, and they’re guaranteed to work together perfect. eCommerce support is really the newest branch of Square’s offerings, and it’s a work in progress as the company establishes more partnerships and integrations with other major players.

If you have limited technical knowledge, Square is going to be much easier to get started with and to navigate through the different features. It’s free advanced inventory tools are also very well suited to retailers and other businesses that sell primarily physical goods.

Stripe focuses only on Internet payments (both on the web and in-app), but its tools make it possible for businesses to cater to customers all over the globe. The international appeal — from the local currency displays to the sheer breadth of payment methods accepted — make it clear that Stripe is already a global player.Not only that, but with Stripe’s APIs and documentation, a savvy developer could create all kinds of payments platforms for a business. Business owners who don’t have a developer on staff, and who don’t have a lot of technical knowledge themselves, might struggle with understanding how to use Stripe, especially if you want to do anything more than integrate it with some sort of shopping cart software.

You also get a far more limited scope of features. There’s no native support for omnichannel commerce. No mPOS app, no POS integration to support card-present pricing, no invoicing. If you need more than online payments on a regular basis, Stripe isn’t a suitable choice. But if that’s all you need, Stripe isn’t just a good option — it’s one of the best out there, period. If your business has a global reach, again you’ll find that Stripe once again tops the lists of best solutions.

I’m not comfortable saying that one of these solutions is better than the other because it really comes down to what your priorities are. Do you need something easy to use? Do you want to embrace multiple sales channels? Or are you limited to online sales and want best-in-class tools to reach a global audience, manage subscriptions, and even drive mobile commerce? Square can get the job done, and it’ll be the easier solution, but Stripe offers far more tools.

Sit down, think about what features are absolutely mandatory for you to have — and then look at which ones you’d like to have, but aren’t necessarily required. From there, it should be fairly clear which solution is right for you! Don’t forget to check out our complete reviews of Stripe and Square for more insights into how they function.

Have questions? Leave us a comment and we’ll help! Have experience using either of these tools? We’d love to hear from you.

As always, thanks for reading!

The post Stripe VS Square appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Complete Quickbooks Product Comparison Guide

Complete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

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

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

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

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

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

Overview of QuickBooks Products

QuickBooks OnlineComplete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

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

Best For…

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

Pricing

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

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

Features

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

Complete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

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

Some of our other favorite features include:

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

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

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

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

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

Read our full QuickBooks Online review

Visit the QuickBooks Online website

QuickBooks ProComplete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

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

Best For…

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

Pricing

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

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

Features

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

Complete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

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

Some of our other favorite QuickBooks Desktop Pro features include:

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

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

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

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

Read our full QuickBooks Desktop Pro review

Visit the OnDeck website

QuickBooks PremierComplete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

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

Best For…

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

Pricing

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

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

Features

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

Complete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visit the QuickBooks Premier website

QuickBooks EnterpriseComplete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

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

Best For…

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

Pricing

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

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

Features

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

Complete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

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

Some other notable features include:

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

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

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

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

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

Read our full QuickBooks Enterprise review

Visit the QuickBooks Enterprise website

QuickBooks Self-EmployedComplete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

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

Best For…

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

Pricing

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

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

Features

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

Complete QuickBooks Product Comparison Guide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read our full QuickBooks Self-Employed review

Visit the QuickBooks Self-Employed website

How To Choose The Right Version Of QuickBooks For Your Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You A Mac Or Windows User?

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

What Type Of Business Do You Run?

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

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

How Many Users Do You Need?

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

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

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

How Much Accounting Experience Do You Have?

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

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

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

QuickBooks Product Comparison

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

The Best QuickBooks Online Alternatives

The Best Alternatives to QuickBooks Pro

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

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A Guide To Shopify Templates And Design Tools

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

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

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

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

How Do Shopify Designs Work?

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

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

Types Of Shopify Templates

Free Shopify Templates

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

Here are a few of our favorite free Shopify templates:

Premium Shopify Templates

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

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

Buying Shopify Templates

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

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

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

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

Available Design Tools

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

Easy-To-Use Tools

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

Advanced Customization Tools

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

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

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

Shopify Template Designs & Best Practices

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

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

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

Shopify Store Templates

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

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

Prioritize Site Navigation

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

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

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

Focus On Images

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

Keep Information Above The Fold

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

Shopify About Us Templates

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

Connect With Customers

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

Tell A Story

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

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

Consider Including Alternative Media

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

Shopify Blog Templates

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

Post Regularly

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

Write Relevant & Useful Information

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

Shopify Thank You Page Templates

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

Think Upsell

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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