6 Proven Ways To Reduce Credit Card Processing Fees

6 Proven Ways To Reduce Credit Card Processing Fees

In today’s highly competitive marketplace, business owners are always seeking ways to reduce expenses and maximize profits. Brick-and-mortar retailers, as well as eCommerce merchants, are equally interested in decreasing their credit card processing fees.

Merchant Cost Consulting lists the average credit card processing fees in May 2022. For card-present transactions, average Mastercard, Visa, and Discover fees range from 1.70% to 2.05% while riskier card-not-present sales average 2.25% to 2.50% per transaction. American Express’ average credit card processing fees tend to be higher.

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Fortunately, understanding credit card processing fees is key to reducing them. Besides helping you with that, this article also discusses some useful strategies to reduce this drag on your business’s bottom line.

Understanding Credit Card Processing Fees

Every day, merchants of all stripes process customer credit card (and debit card) transactions. Each time a merchant completes a customer’s purchase, they are hit with multiple card processing fees.

Each payment processing company maintains its own fee schedule. Some processors, such as Payment Depot, utilize a business model that minimizes these annoying charges.

Let’s take a look at some common types of fees that most processors charge.

Interchange Fees

Interchange fees (or wholesale fees) make up the majority of a merchant’s credit card processing fees. Credit card networks like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover set these non-negotiable transaction fees.

The issuing bank (or card issuer) receives these interchange fees. These charges partially cover transaction costs and eliminate credit card and debit card fraud risks at checkout.

The type of business typically influences the merchant’s interchange rate. Business owners in lower-risk industries generally pay a lower interchange rate than higher-risk businesses. PIN-enabled debit cards have the lowest rates while higher-tier rewards cards are charged higher rates.

The type of transaction also affects the interchange rate. Card present transactions see lower rates while riskier eCommerce purchases are charged higher interchange fees.

Assessment Fees

Card brands also charge assessment fees to brick-and-mortar and online merchants. The merchant’s payment processor implements these non-negotiable charges.

Assessment fees cover the card networks’ operations costs and allow the merchant to use the specific card brand. Assessment fees are considerably lower than interchange fees.

Payment Processors’ Markup Fees

Besides the interchange rate, some credit card processing companies also charge a markup fee (or commission). This negotiable fee covers the processor’s operating expenses. When comparing payment processors, merchants should consider each processor’s markup percentage.

Merchant Service Fees

The payment processor (or merchant services provider) also assesses a multi-component service fees package. Many processors charge all these ongoing fees. However, other companies do not pass certain processing costs to the merchant.

Setup Fees

Some payment processors charge merchants to connect to the company’s network. The setup fee would likely apply regardless of whether the merchant completes the process over the phone or a technician installs the hardware.

Payment Gateway Fee

eCommerce retailers accept credit card payments through an electronic payment gateway. Each merchant pays a monthly fee for the payment gateway access.

Virtual Terminal Fee

Merchants who process phone orders will benefit from a virtual terminal. This software enables the merchant to manually enter customers’ card details. Most payment processors include a virtual terminal in their services. However, a few companies assess a charge for this feature.

Batch Fee

This small daily fee covers the batched submission of the merchant’s daily transactions. A batch fee is one of the smallest merchant charges.

Monthly Minimum Fee

Certain merchants may not meet the processor’s predetermined monthly transaction numbers or transaction volume requirements. These merchants will be charged a monthly minimum fee for failing to reach the minimum business levels.

PCI Compliance Fees

Merchants are responsible for compliance with the payment card industry data security standard (better known as PCI DSS). These measures help to ensure cardholder data security for each credit card transaction. If payment processors handle compliance issues, they often (but not always) assess PCI compliance fees for this service.

Note that Payment Depot’s pricing plan includes PCI compliance services at no extra charge. However, merchants must still complete a Self-Assessment Questionnaire every six months. After completing the form, the business can determine if changes are needed to meet PCI compliance standards.

PCI Non-Compliance Fees

A small business merchant may not meet the PCI compliance criteria during a given month. If that’s the case, some processors may charge PCI non-compliance fees for their failure to meet the standard during that month.

Statement Fee

Some credit card processors may charge merchants a monthly statement fee. This charge covers the processor’s customer service and statement preparation services.

Cancellation Fee

Most merchant account providers typically require a merchant to sign an extended contract. A three-year contract is common throughout the payment processing industry.

If the merchant cancels the contract prematurely, they will be charged a substantial cancellation fee. Notably, Payment Depot’s month-to-month pricing model does not include a cancellation fee.

Additional Fees

The term “additional fees” is a catch-all phrase for non-standard payment processing fees. The first two fees below cover optional services. The third fee results from a customer’s dispute about a previously completed transaction.

AVS Fee

An address verification fee (or AVS fee) is a charge for an anti-fraud measure. The AVS fee verifies the cardholder’s address and zip code. The merchant only pays a few cents per transaction for AVS verification.

Voice Authorization Fee

A voice authorization is another anti-fraud tactic. Here, the merchant’s point of sale (or POS terminal) reminds them to get in touch with the card-issuing bank. The bank associate collects the transaction details before approving or declining the transaction.

Chargeback Fees

Merchants of all sizes and types dread the appearance of chargebacks. A chargeback occurs when a customer challenges a completed transaction with their card-issuing bank. To resolve the issue, the financial institution launches an investigation. At the same time, the credit card processor assesses chargeback fees to the merchant.

If the dispute is resolved in the merchant’s favor, the processor refunds the charged purchase amount. However, the processor will probably not refund the chargeback fees.

Credit Card Pricing Models

Four credit card pricing models are common throughout the payment processing industry. Most models are best suited for a specific business stage and/or monthly processing volume. In certain cases, larger-volume businesses may receive a discount rate for their transactions.

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Interchange-Plus Pricing

Many businesses prefer the interchange-plus pricing model because of its transparency. Here, the merchant’s monthly statement clearly separates the card networks’ predetermined interchange fee and the processor’s markup fee. Therefore, comparing several processors’ markup fees is an easy task.

Most businesses will benefit from the interchange-plus pricing model. Depending on the processor’s markup fee, this model could be the merchant’s lowest-cost option.

Flat-Rate Pricing

Under a flat-rate pricing model, all credit cards receive the same processing rate. Here, the interchange fee and markup fee are combined into a single flat fee. This enables the merchant to predict the exact cost of every transaction. In addition, flat-rate processors rarely charge additional fees.

A flat-rate pricing model may benefit a small business with lower monthly transaction volumes or small purchase amounts. However, this model’s transaction cost could be higher than other pricing models.

Tiered Pricing

The tiered pricing model’s concept is simple. Depending on the type of card, the merchant will pay one of three tiered rates.

  • Qualified rates apply to debit cards and non-rewards credit cards.
  • Mid-qualified rates apply to conventional rewards credit cards.
  • Non-qualified rates apply to premium credit cards along with card-not-present sales.

Unfortunately, most transactions fall into the non-qualified and mid-qualified tiers. Both tiers have higher processing rates. Overall, the merchant will see higher processing rates with tiered pricing, so it’s not recommended.

Membership-Based Pricing

Under a membership-based pricing model, the merchant pays a monthly membership fee and a small preset transaction fee. However, the processor does not typically nickel-and-dime the merchant with additional fees every month. High-volume businesses will benefit from this model. Payment Depot is known for its small business-friendly membership pricing model.

6 Ways To Reduce Credit Card Processing Fees

By combining six smart strategies, merchants can decrease their credit card processing fees. Note that a business’s situation can change over time. Therefore, merchants should closely monitor their credit card processing expenses and adjust as needed.

1. Choose The Most Appropriate Pricing Model

A company’s current and projected growth will influence the business owner’s choice of pricing model. The transaction type and transaction volume are additional factors to consider.

Here’s where Payment Depot’s membership-based pricing model stands out. The company charges merchants a flat monthly membership fee, resulting in beneficial wholesale pricing.

Stated another way, Payment Depot doesn’t add a markup or take a percentage of merchant sales. Overall, this results in savings for its small-and-medium-sized business clients.

2. Transfer Payment Processing Fees To Customers

Many merchants have considered the feasibility of passing payment processing fees on to their customers. These four practices may be worth consideration. Before doing so, however, merchants should consider whether this practice will alienate customers and drive them to the business’s competitors.

Minimum Purchase Amount

Payment processing fees impact every company’s bottom line. When merchants must pay the fees on low-dollar purchases, the business receives very little income from the transaction.

Therefore, some businesses have established a minimum dollar amount for credit and debit card sales. From the customer’s perspective, this is likely the easiest option to understand.

Cash Discount Program

Under a cash discount program, all merchandise automatically reflects the higher credit card price. If a customer pays with cash, they receive a discount at checkout.

Convenience Fee Assessment

A merchant may charge a convenience fee if a customer pays with a credit, debit, or another electronic payment card. Customers who pay with cash, check, or ACH transfers will not pay the convenience fee.

A convenience fee can be a percentage of the transaction (generally 2% to 3%). Alternatively, the fee can remain at a specific dollar amount. Either way, the merchant must disclose the convenience fee before the customer makes the purchase.

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Credit Card Surcharge

Most states allow a merchant to add a surcharge to a credit card purchase. This surcharge is designed to cover the transaction’s credit card processing fees. Customers who pay with cash, a debit card, or a prepaid card will not receive the surcharge.

In February 2022, two states implemented laws that make it illegal to pass a credit card surcharge to customers. Connecticut and Massachusetts merchants will be impacted by this legislation. Merchants in other states should stay alert for the possible passage of similar surcharging laws.

Merchants Must Follow These Four Surcharging Practices:

  • The surcharge cannot be higher than the payment processing fee or 4% of the transaction amount. The surcharge will be the lower of the two figures.
  • The merchant’s POS station or checkout page must clearly display the surcharge.
  • The transaction receipt must clearly show the surcharge.
  • The merchant must tell Visa and Mastercard about the surcharging plan.

3. Prioritize Card-Present Transactions

Merchants should favor less expensive (and less risky) card-present transactions. Here, the customer swipes, dips, or taps their physical card into the POS system or card reader.

A riskier card-not-present (or CNP) transaction typically involves manual data entry for online payments or telephone orders. Historically, card thieves and cybercriminals have enjoyed racking up purchases from unsuspecting customers’ stolen card numbers.

Today, merchants typically require the CVV code from the physical card. This essentially prevents criminals from using stolen card numbers to go on a buying spree.

4. Reduce Card Fraud Risks

Merchants who process more potentially fraudulent transactions will be charged higher card processing rates. Therefore, decreasing credit card fraud risks will lower these rates over time.

For starters, the merchant should encourage card-present transactions whenever possible. As an added security measure, encrypted EMV (or chip) cards are designed to prevent card fraud.

Alternatively, the merchant can ask customers to enter their zip code or CVV code. All three practices will verify the transaction and reduce expensive chargebacks.

Some merchants choose to negotiate account details with a payment processor. During this conversation, highlighting anti-fraud measures is always a good strategy. 

Here Are Five Useful Tactics That Should Apply To Any Business.

  • Follow a clear, simple return and refund policy.
  • Save customer receipts and other transaction history details.
  • Utilize the latest technology and obtain the right equipment.
  • Ensure consistent PCI DSS compliance.
  • Train employees in correct card processing procedures.

5. Decrease Credit Card Chargebacks

A credit card chargeback occurs when a cardholder disputes a completed credit card transaction. The customer could have fallen victim to fraud.

Alternatively, the customer could have forgotten the purchase or been unhappy with their product or service. Perhaps the customer did not recognize the merchant’s name on their credit card statement.

Each chargeback has negative effects on the merchant’s bottom line. First, the retailer loses revenue from the sale. The merchant’s payment processor assesses a chargeback fee for the incident. Too many chargebacks place the merchant in a high-risk category.

In extreme cases, the merchant can lose their ability to complete customer card payments through that processor. To avoid this unwelcome outcome, merchants should take steps to reduce credit card chargebacks.

6. Consider Accepting ACH Payments And eChecks

Merchants should strongly consider accepting Automated Clearing House (or ACH) payments and eChecks. These electronic bank-to-bank fund transfers are processed more quickly than physical checks. In addition, ACH payments do not carry card-based interchange fees. An ACH payment can be processed with only a bank account number and routing number.

An electronic check (or eCheck) involves an electronic fund withdrawal from the payer’s checking account. The funds are transferred over the ACH Network before reaching the payee’s checking account.

Finding A Small Business-Friendly Processing Partner

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Small- and medium-sized businesses looking to reduce their credit card processing expenses should definitely consider Payment Depot when choosing a processing partner. The company is a small business-friendly payment processor with an excellent industry reputation.

When you sign up with Payment Depot, you’ll benefit from its membership-based pricing, wholesale processing rates, zero markups, and no insidious fees. What’s more, the company doesn’t bind you into a contract and its customer support team always receives high marks from customers. To learn how you can save more on credit card processing, contact us today.

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