Credit card processing for small businesses
Want to accept credit card payments at your small business? Compare the available options and costs in this guide.
Australia is one of the leaders in the tap-and-go trend and there are plenty of ways for small businesses to accept credit card payments. You can use this guide to compare the different options available, compare the pros and cons as well as the costs involved.
EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point of sale) machines are secure and simple to use. Customers can swipe, insert or tap their cards against a reader to make payments. EFTPOS machines accept most credit cards and there are different types to choose from:
- Countertop machines. These machines are attached to your Point of Sale (POS) computer system via cords. You can use them to process card payments from a fixed location in your store. Payments are processed in under 1.6 seconds and are compatible with 35 and Ethernet. Countertop machines are suitable if you're processing your payments from one location (such as a cafe or retail store where payments are accepted at the counter).
- Mobile EFTPOS machines. You can use mobile EFTPOS machines to process payments wherever you go. These work in a similar way to countertop EFTPOS machines, except they're portable. This type of EFTPOS machine could be beneficial for small businesses like delivery services, outdoor market stalls or cafes and restaurants where you can process payments from the customer's seat.
- Integrated machines. This option is integrated with your POS system via the Internet to help simplify sales reporting and reconciliations. They are best suited for businesses processing a high volume of transactions, such as supermarkets.
You can see Finder's guide to setting up an EFTPOS machine for details on how to get started.
What are the costs of using an EFTPOS machine?
Depending on the vendor, you could be potentially charged a combination of the following fees:
- Set-up fee
- Rental fee
- Servicing fee
- Printer cost (most machines have internal printers)
- Interchange fee
The fees charged can vary between companies. For example, one vendor may charge a fixed monthly contract with no set-up fees, while another may charge a set-up fee plus monthly usage-based charges. Compare your options and the relevant charges before deciding which EFTPOS plan is right for you.
Mobile credit card readers
You can use a mobile credit card reader to process payments through your smartphone or tablet. This mobile option usually involves a card reader which you plug into your mobile device or an app you download and use for payments. Customers can then insert or tap their card against the card reader to make transactions.
Some popular mobile credit card readers in Australia include:
- PayPal Here
- CommBank Albert
These products are compatible with iOS and Android devices, which you can manage via an app. This mobile payment option suits sole traders and smaller businesses that trade on the go. This includes vendors at a market, food trucks, plumbers and electricians.
What are the costs of using mobile credit card readers?
You'll need to pay a fee for the mobile card reader and most mobile credit card processing services charge a flat fee. The two most common models include:
- Percentage of the sale
- Percentage of the sale plus an additional fee per transaction
Online credit card processing services
The main ways you can accept credit card payments online are merchant accounts, payment gateways (such as PayPal, Braintree and SecurePay), BPAY and direct debits. You can see Finder's guide to accepting credit card payments online for more details.
What are the costs of setting up online credit card processing for a small business?
The fees you'll pay will depend on the service you're using, but you may be charged set-up fees, account fees (usually charged monthly or yearly) and payment processing fees.
Factors to consider to choose the right credit card payment processor
- Business type. The right type of credit card payment option for you will depend on your business. For example, a countertop or mobile EFTPOS machine may work for you if you're running a cafe, restaurant or clothing boutique. If you own a small business that often sets up shop at different markets, a mobile credit card reader might make more sense.
- Software integration. If you have existing POS software, you will need to find out whether the processing service will integrate with your current software. On the other hand, it may be time to migrate. When doing your research, look out for EFTPOS or smartphone or tablet processing devices that offer the most comprehensive solutions, such as accounting or sales reporting features. This can help streamline your other business costs.
- Card acceptance. Most options accept all major cards but it's important to check before you decide. You should also consider if the service will charge different fees depending on the type of card being processed (for example Visa, Mastercard or American Express).
- Revenue. The value of the machine should offset the cost of setting up a card payment service and any ongoing processing fees.
- Surcharges. It is common for businesses to pass on the cost of processing to the customer by applying a surcharge if they pay with a card. If you choose to do this, make sure you have clear signage to inform customers.
With so many methods of accepting credit card payments now available, small businesses in Australia are spoiled for choice. Some payment processing options will be more suitable than others, so it is always good to start by considering the needs of your business. It is also important to do the maths and weigh up the extra costs against your business profits to decide if it’s worth the investment.
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* The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards finder.com.au has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your own personal financial circumstances when comparing cards.