BUSINESS ARTICLES

 

Determining Validity of a Credit Card Sale

As a merchant, how do you protect yourself from fraudulent credit card sales? Following these simple steps will certainly help:

Verify address and CVV code - Sounds simple, but this is a step that is often ignored. A CVV Code or CARD VERIFICATION VALUE code is a three or four digit code located on the credit card itself and is a security feature to help verify that the card is on hand for "card not present" transactions. Verifying the address and CVV code provides the confidence that the credit card is in the possession of the cardholder your dealing with and a positive address match should mean that your are shipping the product to an address recognized by the issuing bank.

Be wary of suspicious International Sales - Now I'm not saying that all International Sales are fraudulent; however, it is important to realize the risks. Address verification cannot be performed and it is difficult for your merchant processor to verify the sale in question. Ask yourself does the sale make sense? Why does this individual have to buy the product from you and not someone closer geographically?

Stay abreast of fraud trends/scenarios - More and more, we see merchants being approached for"humanitarian" causes with large purchases needed for orphanages, churches, etc. These are uncommon for the business and are usually sent via e-mail. Merchants are provided with multiple credit cards and are asked to split the sales to get them through. These sales are often invalid. Take the extra step if approached on a Teletypewriter (TTY) line. Unfortunately, another popular method for taking advantage of a merchant is using this device to shield one's identity. Look for the warning signs and take the proper steps to verify the sale.

NEVER, EVER send money to the cardholder - A self-explanatory red flag, there should never be a reason why you would need to refund money via bank or other wire service. If the cardholder even broaches this subject, WALK AWAY!

NEVER hesitate to contact your merchant provider and request a Code 10 - A Code 10 authorization request is to be utilized if a merchant is attempting to process a credit card and suspects fraud or suspicious activity. This request is forwarded to the card issuing bank from the merchant processor so information can be verified before the sale is processed.

Remember, at WMS, we're here to help. Your risk is our risk and we only want you to process valid sales. Call us and we can recommend the best course of action.

Ultimately, the last bit of advice I can provide is this: FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS

Unfortunately, I have received emails and calls from hundreds of merchants who have been victimized stating that they "knew it didn't sound right" OR "it was too good to be true" yet still completed the transaction against their better judgment.

No one knows your business and the types of sales you process better then you do. If you are approached for a sale that doesn't feel or sound right, walk away. Seek a different form of payment or at the very least, contact your risk department and have them take steps to offer you an opportunity to make an informed decision.

In the end, ask yourself this question: "Is this sale really worth the hardship of associated fees, chargebacks, and lost product?"

- Rich Placa, Manager Underwriting and Risk Management

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UPGRADING PHONE LINES TO DIGITIAL? READ THIS FIRST!

Before you upgrade your business phone lines to digital or high-speed, it is critical to contact your merchant service provider first, or you could wind up losing the ability to accept credit cards.

As a business grows, and as technology develops, many business owners will choose to upgrade to a multi-line digital phone system, or, to the increasingly popular Voice-Over-IP-bundle, which combines telephone and internet on a single high-speed line (examples include Optimum Online, Verizon FIOS, Vonage, Comcast, etc.).

These types of data and communication upgrades can do a great deal to enhance business productivity, but if you take the plunge without first considering your Point of Sale device and its capabilities, the effect could be catastrophic.

How can upgrading my business phones or internet service disrupt my credit card processing?

Most of the countertop POS terminals (POS = credit card processing machines) being used at small businesses operate on a conventional analog phone line. These POS terminals often use a dial-up modem, very similar to the ones used in fax machines. If the analog, 'dial-up' phone line is eliminated, your POS terminal loses its ability to connect to your merchant service network. If the terminal cannot connect, sales cannot be approved by the cardholder's bank. The ability to process credit cards would be lost.

What should I do if I accept credit cards, and I need to upgrade my business phone lines?

First, take down the make and model of your current POS terminal. Then call your merchant service provider. The best thing to do is speak to a knowledgeable support representative, and let him or her know what you are considering doing with your phone/internet system. The support rep will help you find the right type of credit card processing device to match your planned system upgrade.

What are my options?

VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) allows for a number of credit card processing options. First, you can upgrade your POS terminal to an IP (high-speed) capable model, so that the terminal uses an internet cable instead of a phone wire. Transaction processing times will drop dramatically.

Another option is a virtual terminal. Virtual terminals are either web or PC based programs that allow your computer to become the POS terminal (i.e. WMS' SafePay). Credit card information can be manually keyed in, submitted via shopping cart, or, if you do face-to-face business, a card reader can be connected to the computer via USB cable for swipe capability.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) allows you the same options as above, however, a merchant can also add a DSL filter (available for less than $20) and the analog POS terminal will still function. No new equipment necessary. DSL is often a slower internet connection than VOIP, so it has become a less popular option, but it does allow a business to continue using dial-up technology as needed (like the older and more basic credit card terminals).

Digital phone lines (for voice only - no internet) present a particular challenge where credit card processing is concerned. The number of POS terminal designs that can operate on these phone systems is few or none. In some cases, the POS terminal may function sporadically, working fine one day and not at all the next. If your business requires a digital phone system (commonly used for multi-line rollover systems), it is highly recommended that you leave a separate analog line in place for the POS terminal, or, that you install a high-speed internet connection for an IP terminal or a virtual terminal.

Summing up...

Unfortunately, when the telecom companies are pitching and installing these phone and internet systems at businesses, the issue of POS terminal compatibility is rarely mentioned. Hopefully, the information provided in this article will help you to make an informed decision about how and when to upgrade, so that your ability to accept payments from customers is not disrupted.

-- Dan Levitt, Manager of Merchant Support

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WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN ISO PROVIDER: SALES SUPPORT

Congratulations! You have made the transition from being a sales rep - the feet on the street so to speak - to opening an office on your own. You are now an Independent Sales Office (ISO). Priority #1 is the evaluation and selection of the company you are going to partner with and represent and how they can help you grow your business.

This is no more evident than in the credit card processing industry. As a leading credit card processor, we see firsthand that the landscape for ISOs is constantly changing. Unfortunately, many ISO's now find themselves in financially difficult times. Why? Because they either a) didn't take the time to research their partner provider; and b) may simply not have known the right questions to ask. After all, picking the right partner is critical to your present and future success.

With this in mind, we are authoring and posting a series of articles on what to look for in an ISO provider in this industry. Following are questions pertaining to the sales, marketing and informational support that should be considered.

Key "Support" Questions when researching ISO provider partners:

· Comprehensive On-Demand Agent Portal

One of the most essential things to look for when selecting a provider is the information portal ISOs like yourself can access anytime online that contains all the information you need on a daily basis. Many providers today have nothing more than a simple database with minimal information.

To optimize your sales efforts, you need a partner who offers a comprehensive on-demand agent portal. For example, we provide our ISOs and direct sales reps with access to a proprietary ISO Agent portal where you can:

- Schedule daily appointments

- Track and manage submitted deals from stage 1 to activation

- Review commission breakdown in detail

- Access all training material / documents

- Receive a detailed breakdown of residual report

- Keep track of sales reps performance from month to month

Much more than a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, the ideal agent portal should also be able to:

- Submit merchant applications online to expedite customers through the approval process

- Provide batch reporting on a daily basis

- Flag alerts to customer service issues


Marketing

When it comes to marketing, first and foremost is the quality and key focus of your prospective partner's website. After all, this is generally the first place prospective customers go to. Is it a) professional and b) most importantly, is it merchant facing? Too many times, these sites can be geared more for ISO recruitment than new business lead generation. And obviously, lead generation is priority #1.

Other questions regarding marketing to consider: Do they provide you with compelling collateral that helps you communicate the benefits of your organization to your customers and prospects? Is this information downloadable in easily printable PDF format on their website to you? Can print and go when you need it? Do they supply pitch books which help you tell the story in a consistent, easy-to-follow layout? And, are the materials they do provide updated in an expeditious manner or are they using statistics from 1995?


Training

Training is another key area for your success. Do they help train YOUR staff to grow and position you for future growth? How often is the training - daily, weekly, monthly, never? Let's face it, having training sessions available on a daily basis, and not just once a month, makes for a most knowledgeable, more successful ISO. In addition, try to uncover the quality of the training and the credentials of the trainer? Do they have a dedicated full professional trainer on staff that has successfully trained thousands of ISOs and sales reps or are sessions conducted by an employee who does that it on his spare time?

If you can do you due diligence, follow the above guidelines regarding sales and marketing support, you should be able to gather enough information to pinpoint the right partner to work with you and help grow your business in these key areas. Please refer to other articles in this series where compensation and other significant areas are explored.

- Evan Schweitzer, Chief Financial Officer

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Credit Card Processing 101 For New Business Owners

OK, so you just took that huge leap of faith and opened up your own business. Whether you are a retail storefront, restaurant, run a mail order business or are purely internet based, the ability to accept credit cards is critical to the growth and ultimate success of your business.

What's the bottom line? Offer your customers as many payment options as possible to avoid turning away business.

Credit and debit cards alone account for about one third of all personal consumption expenditures in the U.S. - a share that increases every year. And, in times of economic downturn like these, consumers have less cash flow and are putting more purchases on their credit cards.

With that said, following is a list of common question many new business owners have in the area of credit card processing.

What is the first thing I need to do to start accepting credit cards?

You will need a merchant service provider who will set you up with a merchant account for your business. This will give you the ability to accept credit and debit cards in person, online, or over the phone.

How long will it take before I can start accepting credit and debit cards?

With leading processors, you can get you up and running within the same day in many cases.

How much do I have to pay to accept credit cards?

Like anything, rates vary depending on processor you are dealing with and the type of business you operated (i.e. storefront, ecommerce, mail order, etc.) It is important to find a merchant service provider who not only offers guaranteed low rates, but will provide your business with PCI compliant equipment and knowledgeable 24x7x365 customer service and technical support.

How are credit cards charged?

Upon swiping a credit card in a POS terminal, the information is sent from the merchant to your credit card processor who in turn requests the money from the issuing bank, which is deposited directly into your bank account.

What if I own an ecommerce/internet business. Can I still process credit cards?

Depending on the processor you choose to process your credit card transactions, the answer is yes. For instance, at Wholesale Merchant Services, we have a proprietary ecommerce gateway called SafePay that allows you to process transactions quickly and securely. This is also known in the industry as "card not present" unlike most storefront businesses that physically swipe the customer's credit or debit card.

What does PCI compliant mean for processing equipment?

The Payment Card Industry (PCI) dictates that all merchants, regardless of size or number of transactions that accept, transmit or store any cardholder data need to have terminals and card processing equipment that is PCI compliant to ensure the strictest security guidelines are adhered to.

These are just some of the basics for business owners who want to accept credit card processing to help grow their business and customer base.

- Gregory Slote, Director of Marketing

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