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If your cash-only policy is starting to cost you customers, then it might be time to bite the bullet and sign up for credit card facilities, but don’t just talk to your bank.

Small businesses can look beyond the big banks if they need to accept credit card payments on the run.

Sometimes your business can get away with a ‘sorry, cash only’ policy, especially if you’re mostly dealing with regular customers and there’s an ATM nearby for emergencies. It’s understandable that you might want to stick with cash, as the fees involved with accepting credit cards eat into your profits. Of course, if your cash only policy is starting to cost you customers, then it might be time to bite the bullet and sign up for credit card facilities, but don’t just talk to your bank.

You might instinctively look to your own bank for an EFTPOS machine and it’s certainly worth checking out what they’ve got to offer. Sticking with your bank might make life less complicated, but make sure you shop around before you sign on the dotted line. There are plenty of alternatives when it comes to handling credit card transactions – especially if you could benefit from a mobile card reader that isn’t chained to your counter.

Rather than signing up for a traditional EFTPOS terminal, you can turn an Apple or Android gadget into a mobile EFTPOS terminal using a tiny credit card reader that links wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet. You can use the card reader to accept credit card payments over the counter, but you can also take it with you as you walk out the door.

Those credit card transaction fees might be money well spent if they improve your cash flow and cut down on your admin time.

The ability to accept credit card payments away from the counter can be a godsend if you’re running a festival stand, market stall, food truck or pop-up store where you can’t always rely on customers to be cashed up. It’s the same if you make house calls, whether you’re fixing washing machines, mowing lawns or grooming pets.

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Pulling out your smartphone and credit card reader to take the customer’s money on the spot means you don’t need to issue an invoice and chase up late payers. Those credit card transaction fees might be money well spent if they improve your cash flow and cut down on your admin time.

PayPal and Square are leading the way when it comes to turning handheld gadgets into credit card readers. The competition is heating up and other Australian options include Swipe, Paymate OnTheGo and MYOB’s PayDirect. The banks are also getting onboard and several offer the option of a card reader for your smartphone.

If your customers are embracing new ways to pay, then it might be time for you to embrace new ways to take their money.

The fees for smartphone card readers tend to be more attractive than for mobile EFTPOS terminals, but it’s important to read the fine print and crunch the numbers to decide what’s best for your business. Don’t just weigh up the monthly or annual fees when comparing your options. Also allow for establishment and ongoing fees, along with transaction fees – which can be a flat rate and/or a percentage of the transaction. One way or another, whoever provides your merchant facilities wants to ensure they get a cut, so make sure you still come out on top.

PayPal already offers a ‘chip and PIN’ mobile credit card reader in Australia, which deposits the money into your PayPal account. PayPal is launching a ‘tap and go’ contactless card reader in the US, which should also come to Australia. This will let your customers use Visa payWave and MasterCard PayPass credit cards. Meanwhile, Square has traditionally relied on a mobile mag-stripe card reader, but it recently unveiled a new card reader – supporting contactless payments along with chip and PIN – which should come to Australia.

Contactless terminals that support payWave and PayPass should also support Apple Pay when it arrives in Australia, letting customers pay with a swipe of their iPhone. If your customers are embracing new ways to pay, then it might be time for you to embrace new ways to take their money.

First published July 2015.