Credit Card Processing
Learn How to Accept Credit Card Payments
It’s 2021, and if you have a business, you’ll be expected to accept credit cards as payments.
For most businesses that means “negotiating” inherently awful, one-sided credit card processing contracts and paying outrageous fees you can’t control. Why? Because the card payment industry is archaic and deeply rooted in making sure every financial institution involved gets its tiny piece of the pie.
Corporate Tools® is here to help. We’re in the business of helping entrepreneurs start and maintain their businesses, and that includes dealing with the card payment industry. We accept hundreds of millions of dollars in credit card payments. After facing down contract screw-ups of our own for the last 20 years, we set out to provide access to better credit card processing rates and terms that won’t screw our clients.
But we have another goal, too. We want you to understand what you’re up against, so we put together this extensive Guide on Credit Card Processing to walk you through it.
How to Use This Guide
This handbook explains how credit card processing works, from basic information like what a credit card is to not-so-basic information about credit card processing fees, merchant services, and how to apply for a merchant account.
It’s essentially a free online course on accepting credit card payments, and it’s just as well suited to occasional sellers and hobbyists as it is to businesses large and small.
There is no one right or wrong way to use this guide. But if you’re new to credit card processing, we recommend reading the main pages from beginning to end. Just follow the “up next” links on every page to go directly to the next page in the sequence.
If you’re already a credit card aficionado, however, feel free to skip around to the specific guides you need.
You’ll find brief descriptions of each of our main credit card processing guides in the table of contents below, and every page includes a handy navigation bar that includes links to all of the main pages in their natural order.
What You’ll Find Inside
Part 1: Understanding Credit Cards
This section explains how the card payment industry developed, how it works, who’s involved, and the types of fees you can expect to pay.
- 1.1 How Credit Cards Work: an Overview
This guide introduces you to a key idea: that accepting a credit card payment is essentially the same thing as receiving a temporary loan from an acquiring bank. And it goes on to provide an overview of the processes, key players, and fees involved when your business begins accepting credit card payments.
- 1.2 The Credit Card Payment Process
This is a detailed discussion of how consumers, merchants, banks, credit card processors, and credit card networks work together to support the miracle that is the credit card payment process. It defines the key terms you’ll need to know and provides a step-by-step description of how card payments get authorized and settled.
- 1.2.1 Buying Groceries with a Credit Card
Learn more about how credit card processing works by examining this real-world example: buying groceries at a supermarket with a credit card.
- 1.2.1 Buying Groceries with a Credit Card
- 1.3 Credit Card Processing Fees
This guide provides a detailed analysis of the main fees you can expect to pay, including interchange fees, card network assessments, and payment processor markups.
- 1.3.1 Interchange Fees and Rates
Ready to learn more about how interchange rates and fees work? This guide explains how interchange fees are calculated and includes interchange fees tables for Visa, MasterCard, and Discover.
- 1.3.2 Credit Card Pricing Models
This guide explores the 3 most common credit card pricing models, including interchange plus pricing, flat rate credit card pricing, and tiered pricing models.
- 1.3.1 Interchange Fees and Rates
- 1.4 Credit Card Chargebacks
This guide explains how credit card chargebacks (payment disputes) work, the fees involved, and the long-term consequences if your business has too many chargebacks. Additionally, we’ll cover ways to prevent chargebacks and fight against illegitimate chargebacks (often called “friendly fraud”) when they arise.
Part 2: Ways to Accept Credit Cards
This section covers the available ways to accept credit card payments, explains the differences between in-person, mobile, and online credit card processing, and explores the specific credit card processing needs of small businesses and restaurants.
- 2.1 How to Accept Credit Card Payments: an Overview
This guide overviews the basic ways to accept credit card payments—from traditional card readers at brick-and-mortar stores to mobile payments and online payment gateways.
- 2.2 Online Credit Card Processing
This guide explains how credit card processing works in an online setting, why you’re likely to pay higher processing fees for online credit card payments, and why choosing the right payment processor is crucial to turning online credit card payments into a profitable enterprise for your business.
- 2.3 Small Business Credit Card Processing
Here, you’ll find a detailed account of the credit card payment processing options and obstacles faced by small businesses, including an overview of the benefits of accepting credit cards and how to choose a pricing model that suits your small business.
- 2.4 Restaurant Credit Card Processing
This guide focuses on the restaurant industry, discusses the benefits of accepting credit cards at your restaurant, and covers what your restaurant needs to do to get started. Specifically, you’ll learn about the credit card payment solutions available to restaurants, including traditional credit card terminals, more advanced point-of-sale (POS) systems, mobile payment options, and wireless terminals.
Part 3: Choosing a Payment Processor
This section will help you get started on the way to accepting credit card payments at your business. It explains how merchant services work, how to get a merchant account, and how to choose the right payment processor for your business.
- 3.1 Payment Processors: What to Look For
This page explains what you should look for when choosing a payment processor (also called a “merchant service provider” or “credit card processing company”). Choosing a payment processor is one of the most important steps you’ll take toward accepting credit card payments at your business.
- 3.2 Getting a Merchant Account For Your Business
This guide explains what a merchant account is, the types of merchant accounts available, and the benefits of choosing a traditional merchant account for your business. Additionally, it covers how to get a merchant account for your business.
- 3.3 Credit Card Processing Companies: Common Services, Rates & More
This page compares some of the most well-known credit card processing companies and provides links to informational pages about additional payment processors, such as Square, PayPal, and Helcim.
How Corporate Tools® Can Help
At Corporate Tools®, we can help your business negotiate better-than-normal rates and contract terms with payment processors.
The key to not getting an awful credit card processing contract is simply the person who signs you up. We know the contracts you’ll negotiate on your own will eat away at your profits and make accepting credit cards seem like a futile enterprise. They will probably be the most predatory contracts you’ll ever sign.
The truth is that most of the credit card processing contracts and fees you find described online are put there for suckers. It’s like going to a used-car dealership and paying the inflated price some poor sap stuck on the windshield. You know you need to negotiate that fake ticket-price down, and maybe you even know how to do it. But you probably won’t find much success when you’re trying to negotiate a better contract with a payment processor.
That’s where Corporate Tools® comes in. We’re not a payment processor, and we don’t want to be. We simply help our clients start and maintain their business, so it’s good for our business if you get better-than-normal rates and a contract that won’t suck you dry.
Why? Not because we’re trying to make a buck off setting you up with a payment processor. We won’t make much, and we don’t really care if we do. It’s just that our clients’ businesses need to become successful and stay successful for Corporate Tools® to be successful, so it’s in our best interests to keep you from becoming one more business stuck in an awful contract.