4 Credit Card Processing Tips for Consultants & Accountants

profits Following several years of regulatory and technology credit card processing changes, 2015 has been another big year of changes. As we close out 2015, what are you advising clients to maximize profits? Every consultant to distributors, especially for building materials, including lumber and millwork, electrical, marble & stone, and plumbing supply, needs to update their merchant services knowledge. These businesses tend to have both a retail and a ‘to the trade’ component, making old solutions potentially outdated, risky, and costly.

  1. EMV liability shift October 2015, shifted liability for counterfeit card, and sometimes lost and stolen card, transaction losses from the issuer to the merchant, if the merchant does not support EMV chip card acceptance. Since businesses never saw this fraud, the financial risk is unknown, but guesses put it in the 1-2% of sales range. The first acquirer (Vantiv) announced penalties effective January 1 if a retail operation does not support EMV chip card transactions. These fees will grow throughout the payment chain in 2016, and be passed down to the merchant. If profit margins are important, EMV compliance is not optional. Between growth in credit card fraud losses and new penalties, distributors need to make the change ASAP.
  2. EMV terminal selection. Retail Distributors fall into two categories: Those who use countertop terminals, and those who use anything else, including mag swipe reader or signature capture terminal. Only the latter are even capable of supporting level 3 data, critical for qualifying for level 3 interchange rates, which makes up more than 95% of credit card processing, or merchant, fees. Yet, the vast majority of recommended EMV solutions are incapable of level 3, and or there is no certification for it. While updating, add NFC for ApplePay and newer payment methods, and P2PE, which encrypts at the terminal head, further mitigating data breach risk.  The best EMV terminal selection for distributors may reduce merchant fees an average of 32% and mitigate data breach risk. Conversely, the wrong choice will directly reduce profit margins. 
  3. PCI Compliance. Internal and external data breaches are a serious growing problem (Lowes and Home Depot both admitted), and best practices are being shared among peers that are ‘risky’ at best. Top areas of concern are paper credit card authorization forms and electronically storing card data (without certified compliant tokenization such as a payment gateway). Both should be eliminated. Online pay pages and other technology solutions have negated the need for employees to ever have access to credit card data, not even for a minute. Has your own company eliminated them?
  4. Quickbooks. For operations that used Intuit Merchant Services because there was no other integrated choice, that’s no longer an issue. Third party integrations empower businesses to use any acquirer. Look for one that supports all payment methods needed (ACH, check, wire, credit card etc). If processing more than $500k annually, fees may drop up to 50%.

CHRISTINE’S RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CLIENT ADVICE TO DISTRIBUTORS:

  • Implement EMV ASAP to avoid penalties and fraud losses.
  • Only implement an EMV solution certified for level 3 processing to maximize profit margins.
  • Get PCI 3.0 Compliant to mitigate risk of financial losses from a data breach- Replace all practices that include credit card access by any employee, even for a minute, with a technology solution.
  • Replace Intuit Merchant Services to maximize profit margins.

Note: this advice is applicable to any business that has a customer base which includes some business to business and retail, even if retail is a small part of the overall payment types accepted.

Building Supply Industry Profits Impacted by EMV chip card terminals

EMV terminal selection directly impacts interchange rate qualification, the bulk of credit card processing fees.

November 4, 2015– EMV, short for Europay, MasterCard,Visa, chip card terminals are in high demand, short supply, and most likely an unwelcome expense. Building material suppliers go to great lengths to negotiate with their payment processors for reduced rates, but this approach only impacts a fraction of costs. There is much bigger value is managing the entire payment process to affect the biggest component of fees – card interchange. The EMV terminal implemented will directly impact interchange rate qualification, and none of the most popular terminals recommended today meet critical lumber and building supply requirements.

Interchange rates are non-negotiable, but they can be influenced. There are hundreds of fees that can be tacked on based on each transaction type. Due to complexities, building material suppliers must have an intelligent solution to manage the payment process and ensure compliance with all the rules.

PURCHASING CARDS

To qualify for the lowest interchange rates, transactions must meet all the rules for the specific card and transaction method. For building material suppliers business to business (B2B), processing level III data for Corporate, Purchasing, and Business cards is critical. Their card use is growing and savings of 90 basis points or more for some cards is an attractive margin difference worth achieving.

mastercard rates level-lll

Sample interchange rates for the same credit card transaction; Failing to follow rules results in costly extra fees.

Countertop terminals like the popular First Data FD Series, Verifone VX series, or Ingenico iCT series, with downloaded programming, cannot support level III. The US EMV ecosystem requires a web-based payment gateway with EMV terminal and level III retail certification. For example, CenPOS has certified the Verifone MX915 to First Data, Chase Paymentech and Tsys, the latter which enables use with most processors. Merchants can use CenPOS via a web browser virtually instantly or an integrated application.

EMV COMPLIANCE DATES

While EMV is not a mandate, effective October 1, the party that does not support EMV (short for Europay, MasterCard, Visa) chip card acceptance is liable for counterfeit card, and sometimes lost or stolen card transactions. Because card issuers previously absorbed most of these losses without any notification to the merchant, businesses can expect losses if action is not taken. Additionally, non-EMV compliance fees have already been announced by at least one provider, NPC, starting January 1, 2016.

Christine Speedy, CenPOS global sales and integrated solutions reseller, 954-942-0483. CenPOS is a merchant-centric, end-to-end payments engine that drives enterprise-class solutions for businesses, saving them time and money, while improving their customer engagement. CenPOS? secure, cloud-based solution optimizes acceptance for all payment types across multiple channels without disrupting the merchant?s banking relationships.

B2B Credit Card Payments And EMV Technology

What’s the best EMV payment technology for business to business (B2B) merchants? Once the requirements are defined for non-EDI payments, the options are limited. Whether card not present only, or a mix of retail, phone, and ecommerce, B2B payments are different.

B2B Credit Card Payment Minimum Requirements.

  • Tokenization to store credit card, and possibly check and wire data
  • Level 3 processing (significantly reduces merchant fees through lower qualified interchange rates)
  • Payment optimization to qualify transactions properly. For example, if merchant does a pre-authorization, and captures at a later date, certain rules need to be met to avoid higher non-qualified interchange rates.
  • 24/7 payment options for customers to serve multi-time zone and increase security

EMV Terminals for B2B.

There are no desktop or countertop terminals that support level III processing, and that won’t change. These terminals are programmed with the acquirer instructions via download, and less frequently, may be connected to Point of Sale (POS) software.

To meet the minimum B2B requirements, a payment gateway is required. Merchants process transactions by accessing a virtual terminal via a secure web page, or with an integrated software solution. The gateway must certify level III processing for each card brand, and EMV, and the specific terminal, for each acquirer.

For example, CenPOS has certified the Verifone MX915 to TSYS, with P2P encryption, level III processing. Most acquirers and banks support TSYS as a way to connect to their platfor; for example, First Data, Chase Paymentech, and Bank of America Merchant Services. To date, no other gateway has certified level 3 processing for retail and EMV. The difference for distributors is huge; it’s not uncommon to reduce merchant fees an average of 30%.

Pending Certifications

Exercise caution on claims of pending certifications, if the solutions provider:

  • Doesn’t have any certifications to date, after a year or more to prepare.
  • Has never had level III processing for retail certification
  • Does not offer a way to automate interchange management in a mixed retail & card not present environment, or for card not present only