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Point of sale credit card processing in 5 easy steps

If you operate a business today, you’ll likely want to accept credit cards. Whatever you sell, however you sell and wherever you sell, your customers will likely expect to be able to pay for their purchases with their preferred credit card, debit card or a growing list of alternative payment methods like digital wallets.

Understanding how to accept credit cards can be overwhelming at first and it’s hard to know where to begin. We’ll start out by sticking with the physical world of accepting payments in-person.

#1 – Start by selecting a payment processor

When you start thinking about your point of sale, you’re probably thinking about equipment. That’s an important consideration to be sure. Before you get there, you’ll want to start with the people who understand payments best.

A payment processor allows businesses to accept credit and debit cards. Payment processors bring business, banks and card networks together to make paying for goods and services easy. Payment processors can help with selecting a point of sale system, provide ongoing processing services and help keep your business safe from data breaches and fraud.

Evaluating payment processors is a little more complicated than other services. You’ll want to compare processing rates and find out about the technology the processor uses. Do they offer customer support and is it available when you need it? Are future upgrades included in your processing fees or charged separately? You’ll also want to ask about transaction funding timeframes (how quickly you receive your money) and other value added services.

Look for a payment processor that’s been there for the long haul so you’ll know they’ll be there in the future. The best payment processors are considered payment partners because they demonstrate a commitment—and demonstrated ability—to deliver services that grow as you do. Once you have a trusted payments partner by your side, the rest is easy.

#2 – Select the right point-of-sale system

There are many considerations in choosing a point of sale (POS) system. First, think about how you want to accept payments. Will you do most of your business in store, online or a combination of both? Do you want to take payments offsite? Do you have expansion plans? Your payment processor can help you select everything you need including hardware, software and peripherals.

POS systems fall into the following broad categories:

Stand-alone terminals offer the basic means to accept credit and debit cards. Nearly everyone’s familiar with the simple counter-top devices that allow for cards to be swiped, dipped or tapped for payment. They’re affordable, simple to set-up, and easy to use.

Stand-alone credit card terminals typically cost less than other payment solutions, making them attractive to new businesses that want to keep overhead costs low. Credit card terminals are ideal for businesses that don’t need help with inventory tracking, accounting reconciliation, reporting or employee management.

Mobile POS terminals enable credit and debit card acceptance, freed from a static checkout station. The smartphone has grown to become a leading mobile POS device, making mobile payment acceptance even easier. The combination of smartphones, apps and peripherals like a payment “dongle” allow businesses to take payments anywhere: from tableside to the sidewalk, at a craft fair, farmer’s market or even at customers’ homes.

Integrated POS systems offer robust functionality in an all-in-one solution. Integrated POS systems offer payment processing, reporting and analytics, inventory and accounting management, loyalty systems and more. Integrated systems are also customizable—imagine a point of sale terminal with photos of the items you sell most often for a simple tap to checkout.

Integrated POS systems are often designed for specific industries with built-in features that address those specific business needs. For example, restaurant POS systems have software to manage menus and bar tabs, while retail POS systems have features that streamline inventory tracking and pricing changes.

Integrated POS systems feature a long list of “pros” including comprehensive and customizable feature sets, easy-to-use graphical interfaces and convenience for employees and business owners. 

#3 – Protect your business from fraud and data breaches

When you run a brick-and-mortar business you quickly learn the importance of physical security: like locking all doors and windows, having strict procedures and controls on alarm systems, and extra layers of security for “liquid” valuables, like safes for cash.

If you accept credit and debit cards, payment security becomes another essential layer to any business security plan. You’ll want to have data security plans to guard against the potentially devastating impacts of a data breach. You’ll also need the latest payment acceptance technology to help keep payment transactions safe. 

Payment security demands a multi-pronged approach encompassing people, processes and technology. That’s best accomplished in partnership with a payment processing provider with teams of payment security experts. Here are five things to look for when evaluating payment security:

  • EMV technology—chip card acceptance has significantly reduced card-present counterfeit fraud
  • Encryption and tokenization—encryption protects card data in transit while tokenization secures data at rest
  • Compliance with PCI DSS is a set of best practices for the management of any payment-related data and is mandatory for all businesses that accept credit cards
  • Fraud prevention services use machine learning and AI to look for anomalies helping to flag potentially fraudulent transactions
  • Breach protection offers insurance to reduce your liability in the event of a data compromise

#4 – What value-added features best serve your business?

Point of sale credit card processing used to be viewed as a commodity service—like a utility. Some payment processors provide “just the basics” of point of sale credit card processing and that might make sense for your business.

However, what starts simple can quickly become complex. Point of sale credit card processing companies vary widely: some can offer the basics while others offer a broad range of other value-added services that integrate with your existing systems and technologies.

Consider these services to get the most out of your credit card processor and your POS solution:

  • Fast funding—how quickly do you receive deposits from credit and debit transactions?
  • Do reporting and analytics tools offer insights into customer behavior and sales trends?
  • Are gift and loyalty programs built to scale with your business?
  • Will network outage protection allow you to process payments, regardless of connectivity?

#5 – Ask about installation, staff training and support

It's beneficial to understand the pros and cons of any solutions you are looking to implement.

Ask for a product demo. Find out about fraud protocols and whether necessary updates are automatically executed. Look for directed and self-help training for running transactions, how to run payment types from EMV chip cards to contactless payments, as well as how to process refunds or operate extra services like gift card programs.

Look for a payment processor that provides 24/7 customer service. Many businesses are busiest during holidays and weekends, making reliable, trusted 24/7/365 customer service an essential part of any payment service.

Credit card processing in one easy step

We enable every type of payment your customers want to make—in-store, online, or on-the-go. Connect with one of our payment experts to learn more about how your business can start accepting credit card payments today.

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