CREDIT CARD PROCESSING MADE SIMPLE

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1 CREDIT CARD PROCESSING MADE SIMPLE I m the Life Preserver for your Cash Flow. Jared Sparr Java Payment Services

2 2 Legal Disclaimer All contents copyrighted 2012 by Jared Sparr and. All rights reserved. No part of this document or accompanying files may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, electronic or otherwise, by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher. This ebook is presented to you for informational purposes only and is not a substitution for professional advice. The contents herein are based on the views and opinions of the author and all associated contributors. While every effort has been made by the author and all associated contributors to present accurate and up-to-date information within this document, it is apparent that information rapidly changes. Therefore, the author and all associated contributors take no responsibility for any errors or omissions if such discrepancies exist within this document. The author and all other contributors accept no responsibility for any consequential actions taken, whether monetary, legal, or otherwise, by any and all readers of the materials provided. It is the reader s sole responsibility to seek professional advice before taking any action. Results will vary based on the reader s skill level and individual perception of the contents herein, and thus no guarantees, monetarily or otherwise, can be made accurately. Therefore, no guarantees are made.

3 3 Contents Legal Disclaimer... 2 Who is Jared Sparr?... 4 Introduction... 4 Credit Card Processing... 5 Transaction Fee... 8 Batch Fee... 9 Annual Fee... 9 Monthly Minimum Termination Fee Free Terminals Summary and Conclusions... 14

4 4 Jared Sparr I m a Life Preserver for YOUR Cash Flow My name is Jared Sparr. I am a Cash Flow Expert and Master Agent in the credit-card-processing industry. I have been in the business over ten years, have served over 500 customers personally, and process over $10M a month for my customers. I used to own a chain of retail stores; at our peak we had over 100 employees. About ten years ago I was diagnosed with cancer; while I was recovering, I was forced to take a lot of time off. During that time off, my employees managed to embezzle over $600,000, and as you would expect, it was just a matter of time before all of the dominoes fell and I was forced to close shop. I didn t have cash flow systems in place, and because of my experience I didn t want this to happen to anyone else. That is why I do what I do I work every day to help educate other business owners on the cash-flow options open to them. Introduction I am pleased to bring you this complimentary guide, Credit Card Processing Made Simple. Be sure to watch my video series on my Web site, where you can access current information to help you manage your business. This ebook includes real-world examples on how to best understand and compare credit card processors. This ebook will give you insights into the industry, many of which other credit-card processors don t want you to know.

5 5 Credit Card Processing Thanks for taking the time to learn more about credit card processing; you ll find it will pay off in savings for your business. Did you know that as of the writing of this ebook, there are over 600 different price points for credit card processing? You don t have simply one credit-cardprocessing rate. The best way to explain it is that every card issuer (the bank that supplies the consumer with the credit card) and every card type they issue have different rates; for example, Bank of America/American Airlines, Comerica/Home Depot, and so on. Each card has its own rate and you as a business owner have no idea what type of card your customer is going to present to you for payment. To complicate things even more, these rates are multiplied by the way you accept the card do you swipe it face-to-face reading the full information on the magnetic strip, do you key it in manually with a zip code and street address, or do you accept it over the Web? Additionally, these rates change every six months, in April and October! As you can see, a credit card agent can very easily leave information out; confuse you, the business owner; and literally steal money out of your bank account. Well, here s the good news. First of all, wholesale rates are regulated by Visa and MasterCard, so every processor pays the same wholesale rate, and that is a foundation you can build from. There are no quantity discounts for the bigger processors, so here you have a level playing field to start. The main thing you need to be concerned with is how and how much the processor marks up from the wholesale base.

6 6 Different processors work in different ways. Some use the old Three- Tier pricing structure or a modified version of it. Look at your statement; if you see Three-Tier, Four-Tier, or even Five-Tier pricing, you have a problem. This is a great way for a low-tech or new sales agent to sell, because they likely don t know or understand how the pricing works themselves. They sell you a base rate and just tell you there will be a minimal mark-up for non-qualified cards. By the way, there are many definitions for mid-qualified and non-qualified cards, depending on the processor you talk to. The original definition was based on Three-Tier pricing, where the Qualified Tier was swiped face-to-face and the Mid- Qualified Tier was keyed in with matching information, like zip codes and a street address. The final, Non-Qualified Tier was the same card, keyed in but missing the matching zip code and matching street address. Currently this is a loose definition, because processors can custom-adjust their software to make any card type they want fall into any category, regardless of whether you put in the matching information or swipe the card. With Tiered pricing you as a business owner a merchant pay more. Why, you may ask? Well think of it this way: you have three buckets (Tiers) that are used, and each is larger than the last. However, you have 600 different rates of varying sizes. The first one is very small (Debit) and there is no bucket small enough for it to fit in, so you have to put it in the first bucket you have available, which is Tier One, or Qualified. Well, currently the debit wholesale cost is.05% and the first bucket you have is 1.59%. Are you paying more than you need to for that debit card transaction? Multiply this by the other 597 card types that don t have a bucket to fit, and you are paying considerably more, even with the low rate of 1.59% that the rep promised you.

7 7 There are dozens of other rate programs the agent can present to you, and frankly, they change daily, so we re not going to go into the details. I m sure at this point you can see that it can very quickly be turned into a shell game. The good news is that there is a pricing structure that puts the power in your hands: Interchange (wholesale) Plus pricing. How does Interchange Plus pricing work? It s very simple, actually. We know there is a standard wholesale price that every processor pays, and those rates are governed by Visa/MC, so every processor pays the same. Well, now we have a foundation to work from. If you pay a flat mark-up, no matter what wholesale rate or card type your customer presents, you are on a level playing field. If your mark-up is 1/4 of a percent (.25 percent), or 25 points in credit card language, then that s the mark-up you pay no matter what card your customer presents to you. Say wholesale is 1.5% and your mark-up is 1/4%, then you pay 1.75%. Now, you can compare the 1/4% or 25 points from provider to provider. If one comes in at 10 points or 1/10%, then you know they are cheaper. It s just that simple, and now all the cards are out on the table, and the power is in your hands. Okay, now that we ve found a way for you to take the power and compare apples to apples between providers, let s look at other costs for credit card processing. There are many different costs and we can look at each one individually.

8 8 Transaction Fee Credit card processing is highly regulated because it s a cash-transaction business, and the opportunity to steal a lot of money is so easy and can be very tempting. Think of your favorite movie theatre. To avoid employee theft, they have one staff member sell you a ticket, and then you turn that ticket in to a second employee to gain entry to the theatre. The credit card transaction fee works pretty much the same way. One bank performs a check to make sure the customer has the credit available to make the charge. A second bank actually transfers the money. So, the first bank performing the funds availability check charges a transaction fee, and never actually moves or touches the funds in any way. This is why a transaction fee is charged to you, even if the result is a decline. The cost of transactions for the processor are usually two to six cents, depending on the processor s size. Cost to the merchant is usually ten cents, so there is some opportunity for the processor to make some money here. Usually that opportunity is only on large-volume accounts. Now, it s not what you think not large volume as in a large amount of dollars, but a large volume of transactions. A coffee shop, for example, may be a small account as far as dollar volume goes, but they will have a ton of transactions because their average sale is so low. So merchants with a large volume of transactions can usually negotiate this fee down. One sure way to lower this cost is to convert from a dial-up terminal to an IP terminal. IP stands for Internet Protocol, which basically means that you are using the Internet instead of a telephone line. Because of lower costs for the processor, these fees are usually two cents less for you, the merchant. Your costs will also be lower in that you will no longer need a dedicated phone line for your credit card terminal, and you transactions will go

9 9 from 30 seconds to process to 3 seconds shortening the time it takes to process each transaction. If you are worried your Internet will go down, you can always have a dial back-up built into the program. Batch Fee Okay, in the previous paragraph we talked about the check-and-balance system. The transaction fee is when the bank makes sure the funds are available, but it does not move any money. Well, the batch is when the money is actually sent to your bank. This is the second part, or the balance, if you will. The bank performing the batch is a separate entity than the one doing the transaction. Typical wholesale costs for batch fees to your processor are three cents. Typically your processor charges you ten cents. Again, it s a small profit center. Think about that for a minute how small? The typical business is open 30 days a month, and has one batch a day, so they pay $3.00 a month for batch fees, generating $2.10 in profit for the processor. Annual Fee There is some argument as to the validity of the annual fee. My philosophy is to charge as close to wholesale as possible on everything and make my money on the Interchange Plus. With that said, each processor has to pay both Visa and MasterCard an annual registration fee. I believe MasterCard charges theirs in January and Visa bills for

10 10 Credit Card Processing Made Simple theirs to the processor in July. A processor charging an annual fee, in my opinion, is just recouping the cost for its annual registration fee. Keep in mind that the registration fees are flat, and not based on the number of customers a processor has, so the larger the processor, the less they need to charge for the annual fee. A fair annual fee would be $40.00 to $50.00 each year. Monthly Minimum Why do processors charge a Monthly Minimum? What is a Monthly Minimum? Well, larger businesses really don t need to worry about this because Monthly Minimums target the smaller merchants. The bottom line is that each month Visa/MC charge the processor fees directly related to each account they have on file. Fees include statement fees, account-on-file fees, PCI fees, etc. On average, these fees add up to just under $10.00 a month. Now, these are just direct costs, as a business has overhead, so do processors. They have rent to pay, phone bills, employees, etc., all to be available for servicing your account. A Monthly Minimum covers the costs the processor incurs on your behalf, even if your account does not reach a minimum volume of sales. So say your processing fees average 3%, and you have a Monthly Minimum of $15.00, you would need to process $500 each month to reach your Monthly Minimum, in order to not be charged the Monthly Minimum fee. Typical Monthly Minimums are $10.00 to $15.00, but I have seen them as high as $35.00!!! So, it s not a big deal, but it s still an area that deserves your attention when you are investigating a new processor.

11 11 Credit Card Processing Made Simple Termination Fee Also known as EOC or End of Contract fees, Termination fees are something you want to ask about. Are these fair fees? My opinion is yes, and I say that because there are certain costs to the processor and agent to get your account set up. The industry used to charge an application fee to cover these costs, but with competition, this fee has gone by the wayside. The processor pays fees to Visa and MC to register your account, pays fees to build the software to load into your terminal, and so on. These fees usually add up to around $ right off the bat. The agent spends the time to re-program your terminal and train your staff on the latest programs and fraud-prevention techniques (if your agent does not do this, you need to find a new one). So you can see both the agent and processor have out-of-pocket costs to set up your account, and need to generate revenue from your account for several months just to break even. I like to compare it to a cell phone contract, most of which are for two years and have a significant earlytermination fee. In most cases, the fee to get out of a cell phone contract is more than what is charged by credit card processors for early termination fees. Cell phone contracts are also consumer-based, not business-based, so if everyone accepts it with their personal cell phones, why is it a concern with a business-based service? That is not to say you don t need to be concerned about them at all. Termination fees are a big revealer of the honesty of the processor. First of all, ask the agent how many times his own customers have been charged a termination fee. In many cases an agent can petition to get this fee waived if it s later in the contract. My company has charged a termination fee only five times at the writing of this ebook. How much is a reasonable termination fee? Well, it seems $300 to $350 is an

12 12 Credit Card Processing Made Simple average. Honest processors are in this range because covers the set-up costs associated with the account, and it s enough to make a business owner think before he jumps ship. As a business owner, you will likely take more time to investigate an offer for validity before you make that move and pay the early termination fee. However, I have seen these fees as high as $27,000! So it s very important to read your contract. The higher fees are usually because of something called Liquidated Damages, where the processor charges you for any profits due to them through the end of the contract. If your average bill is $2,000 a month, and you have a year left on your contract, your early termination fee would be $24,000!!! Be aware of these contracts; usually the sales person is offering you an unbelievable deal that is just too good to be true. Well, likely it is to good to be true, and you find out on your first statement that it s not true and you re actually paying more. Well, at that point it s too late, because if you cancel, you will have to pay three years of fees to get away. Free Terminals Okay, let s talk about Free Terminals for a minute. In your business, do you give things to your customers for free? How many businesses can do this and still stay in business? Or, if they do, how do they make up for it? You guessed it, they have to make up the income somewhere, so buried in your contract is some other overcharge. Most Free Terminal programs are based on Interchange Plus 40 points, so you are paying nearly a ½- percent mark up. In addition, they bill the Transaction Fee at $.15 cents, the Batch Fee at $.25 cents, the Annual Fee at $50.00, the

13 13 Credit Card Processing Made Simple Monthly Minimum at $35.00 and the Statement Fee at $ In other words, you are paying the highest amount for everything to get a free terminal. Keep in mind that the high rates do not go down once the processor has made enough money to pay for the cost of the terminal; you keep paying the fees as long as you are a customer, padding their pockets with extra profit. So, overall, it actually costs you more to get a Free Terminal. Are there exceptions to this rule? Yes, there are exceptions to every rule. I have a customer who has seven free terminals, but this customer also generates over $1,200 a month in commission for me. So yeah, I can afford to pay for the terminals myself as an agent to secure his business, and break even in just a few months. Keep in mind that Free Terminals are only free as long as you are a customer. As soon as you leave, you are required to return them. Usually if the Free Terminals are not returned within say, ten days of your cancellation, your account is charged an additional $500 to $750 per terminal, and yes, it s part of the contract you signed in the small print. My suggestion is to go on EBay and buy your own terminals. They range from $100 to $300 for top-of-the-line and then you own them outright. For my money EBay is cheaper than the $500 that the processors charge. While we are on the subject of Free Terminals, let s talk about leasing. Would you pay $120,000 for a $40,000 car? No, of course not! Then why would you pay $1,200 for a $400 credit card terminal, and not even get to own it at the end of the lease? This happens every day when the merchant signs a non-cancelable lease for a cheap terminal, and pays three times more than a high retail price for it. It s sad what some agents do for a commission. Stay away from leases!

14 14 Credit Card Processing Made Simple Summary and Conclusions We have discussed how to compare processing fees apples-to-apples and put the power in your hands. We have looked at all the pricing and fair ranges for you to pay. Now you need to see if you are on a fair program, and if not, find a processor who will put you on a fair program. To find out how to choose the best sales agent, please go to my Web site and download my How to Choose a Sales Agent ebook. Once you have the best rates and the best sales agent, you can download my ebook titled Tips and Tricks to Lowering Your Fees. For a list of the agents I recommend, feel free to give me a call at I work with agents across the country, each with his or her own market specialty. Working with someone who knows your business is another contributor to your success. I m looking forward to the next time.

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