credit card processing for summer camps

It’s that time of year of heavy deposits for summer camps. Camps have learned they’ll get more early bookings by allowing parents to register online than if by mail alone. Here are some tips for camp companies:

1. PCI Compliance– if you take an order via the phone, do not store the CVV code. Once you have verified the card, you no longer have a need for it anyway. All card data must be stored under lock with restricted access.

2.  There are 3 types of merchant accounts: retail, ecommerce, and MOTO (mail order/ telephone order- card not present. Make sure you have the correct type(s) since this will affect your pricing plus your compliance with Card Association Operating Rules. For example, if you have a retail account, and you run ecommerce orders, you’ll not only pay hefty additional fees, you’ll also lose any chargebacks because you won’t have a signed receipt as required for retail transactions.

3. Debit usage is nearly on par with credit cards now. If you offer recurring billing, be sure to inform the customer of your procedures. Do you send a reminder email that you will be charging their account? This will help prevent potentially overdrawn accounts.

4. On your payment page, make sure you have a checkbox for the customer to “agree” to accept your refund policy. You can use a pop up for details or have the text right there. The box should be required to be checked. This step is needed to defend against future chargebacks.

review of Volusion merchant accounts 101

Volusion references the standard fees for merchant accounts as Discount rate, Transaction fee, and Statement fee. Then additional fees you can avoid if you use Volusion which include the application fee, set-up fee, and customer support.

For the small business, all of the above is true. Most ecommerce businesses are offered rates that fit the above description. But what if you are processing hundreds of thousands or millions annually? If you are paying the above fees and nothing else, then actual costs are being averaged with a healthy profit built in.

How do I know this? Because EVERYONE PAYS INTERCHANGE. It doesn’t matter if you get your account from a bank, an independent service provider, or your local wholesale buyers club.  Interchange varies with hundreds of different rules creating hundreds of different rates, but in essence interchange for ecommerce includes a percentage rate and a per transaction fee. Then there are other fees such as the cross border fee, Visa misuse of authorization, authorization ( frequently bundled), MasterCard Brand Usage fee, and yes, the merchant discount.

If you are paying one fee, or a few fees, then your processor has estimated what their actual costs will be based on certain historical trends, then mark it up and charge you that.  The processor WILL ALWAYS estimate a healty profit to make sure they don’t lose money, because THEY PAY INTERCHANGE and associated costs, not bundled pricing. In summary, bundled fees equals higher costs and fees that are broken out into minute detail have the potential * to be the lowest cost.

Why the POTENTIAL and not the actual lowest cost? The same card could go through at 2.2% OR 2.95%. This is for another discussion. Basically, you need to see what interchange levels you hit so that you can MANAGE interchange qualification. Yes, you can manage costs. Well, probably not you, but with an expert service like what we provide, you’ll hit a lot more at 2.2% vs 2.95%. And we’ll get you wholesale prices instead of bundled rate packages.

Compare your Gateway and processor with one company vs two companies. After the initial account set up it’s virtually unheard of to have any problems with either the gateway or the processor if you are using quality companies. Volusion isn’t in the payment processing business. They outsource and get a referral fee. I believe you should pick the best gateway to achieve specific needs and the same for the processor. For example, do you need a virtual terminal? How important is online reporting for reconciliation? I think this is really a non-issue and I’m personally indifferent as to the benefits of using one or two companies. You should be too.

What is the application process like? Why is it faster with some processors vs others? It’s not because the application is vastly different, it’s almost always the quality of pricing and services you are hoping to get. I can place you with one merchant processor and have it approved in days but another might take a week or two. The longer process is for a provider that does a more thorough underwriting review and requires additional documentation beyond the basics. The benefits are numerous including ‘best in world’ online reporting and true wholesale pricing.

In conclusion, the overall Volusion merchant accounts 101 is a great starter review. However, unless you are a very small business, you can do better with pricing and other benefits without sacrificing service and quality.  I like the Volusion shopping cart and their service and I recommend them. Like all shopping carts though, you really need a thorough understanding of what you need to accomplish on both the front and back end to determine the best solution for you. That’s why there are so many carts out there- because people have different needs.