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Accepting Customer Payments

Tips for selecting the safest payment solutions for your business

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q:What's the safest way for me to accept payment from mycustomers?

A:Identifying which payment methods are best for you depends on thetype of company you run and how you conduct business. Anti-fraudtechnology and encryption techniques are continually improving inthe transaction-processing industry. And secure, affordable paymentsolutions exist to meet almost every merchant's needs.

Retail Businesses

If you run a retail establishment, your business can benefitfrom a variety of noncash payment options. Credit and charge cards,for example, offer a secure, convenient way for you to receivepayment from your customers. Debit cards provide another optionthat can help you boost sales while reducing risk. And checkconversion services make accepting checks both safe and easy.

Credit card acceptance is especially advantageous in retailsettings, because you conduct business face-to-face with yourcustomers. By following a few simple precautions--such as askingyour customers for identification or checking for the securityfeatures on every card--you can greatly reduce the occurrence offraudulent transactions.

Debit card payments are even more secure because they requireyour customers to enter their personal identification numbers(PINs) at the point of sale--a safety measure that virtuallyeliminates your exposure to fraud or chargebacks. What's more,customers can only make debit card purchases if they havesufficient funds in their accounts, assuring you'll receivepayment on authorized transactions.

Another popular payment option for security-conscious retailersis check conversion, which transforms paper checks into electronictransactions (or e-checks) that are securely processed in realtime. One of the leading providers of this payment method today isTeleCheck, which offers the Electronic Check Acceptance (ECA)Service.

The benefits to you of accepting e-checks are numerous. For onething, all converted checks are verified, usually at no extracharge. Better yet, if you use a check guarantee program inconjunction with your e-check service, you will always receivefunds from approved transactions, because returned checks are theresponsibility of your check service provider. Plus, funds fromauthorized payments are deposited automatically into your account,usually within two business days.

Restaurants

Credit cards, debit cards and e-checks can also benefitfull-service restaurants, as well as fast-food eateries. Not onlydo these payment methods provide security by reducing the amount ofcash exchanged at the counter, but they can also help you boosttraffic, capture impulse purchases and increase your business'saverage ticket amount.

Both full-service restaurants and fast-food establishments canenjoy the above advantages, as well as the ability to buildcustomer loyalty. And this, in turn, can help you improve yourrestaurant's bottom line.

E-Tailers

It's no mystery why credit cards are the most widelyaccepted form of payment on the Web--they are secure, fast andconvenient. But in addition to credit cards, online merchants canoffer their customers the option to pay with money orders orelectronic transfers from their checking accounts. Both options arenow available to buyers via the Internet.

Contrary to reports of rising fraud rates, credit card paymentsremain one of the safest payment methods available online.Sophisticated Internet solutions, such as the LinkPoint SecurePayment Gateway, process credit card payments in real time usingSecure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology, which encrypts allconfidential information during the transmission and authorizationof transactions.

Other fraud-prevention tools, such as the Address VerificationService (AVS), make online credit card acceptance even safer. Theservice compares the numerical information in your customers'addresses with records stored by card-issuing banks. It thenreturns codes that indicate whether the numbers match. Although theinformation provided by the AVS does not affect the authorizationof your transactions, it can help you make informed decisions aboutsuspicious orders.

Besides the AVS, you can protect yourself by using the cardvalidation code 2 (CVC2) and the card verification value (CVV2)verification systems of MasterCard and Visa, respectively. Theseverification services use the three-digit codes printed on allMasterCard and Visa cards to help you determine whether yourcustomers possess legitimate cards.

For customers who don't have credit cards, money orders area great payment alternative, particularly if you sell your productsin an online auction environment, such as eBay. Services likeBidPay.com allow your customers to purchase Western Union-brandedmoney orders with their credit, debit or charge cards. BidPay.comthen sends the money orders to you, along with e-mail notificationthat your customers' payments are on the way.

Services that transfer checking account funds electronically areanother quick and easy option for customers without credit cards.Western Union's MoneyZap service, for example, lets buyers paymerchants online from their existing checking accounts.

All three payment options can help you turn browsers intobuyers. Equally important, the speed and convenience of theseservices enable you to ship merchandise quickly, which helps ensurecustomer satisfaction.

Other Businesses

If you operate a mail-order or telephone-order business, creditcards let you receive payments quickly and safely. And again, byusing such security tools as the AVS and the CVC2 and CVV2 systemsdescribed above, you can effectively safeguard your businessagainst fraud.

Mobile merchants--such as taxi drivers, plumbers and deliverypeople--can process secure credit and debit card transactionsalmost everywhere they go using wireless payment equipment orsoftware. If your work requires you to accept payments whileyou're on the road, credit and debit cards offer a safealternative to checks and they allow you to carry less cash.

No matter how you conduct business, there has never been abetter time to offer noncash payments options to your customers.Service-conscious consumers expect security, speed and convenience.And thanks to today's innovative payment solutions, you canaffordably deliver the level of service your customers expectwithout compromising the safety of your business.

To identify which payment options best suit your business,contact a leading merchant service provider with experience thatoffers a wide range of payment solutions.

Cardservice International Senior Vice President ofSales John Burtzloff is in charge of sales strategy andexecution and thus is responsible for managing all aspects of thecompany's marketing, communications, telesales, checkguarantee, new accounts and sales support activities.


The opinions expressed in this column are thoseof the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended tobe general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areasor circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consultingan appropriate expert, such as an attorney oraccountant.

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