No one enjoys paying additional payment processing fees, especially if those fees are avoidable. Searching through your merchant services bills and statements can be time-consuming, especially if your line items are filled with credit card processing jargon meant to keep you in the dark. Credit card processing fees are the fees that you, the business owner, pay to accept credit cards from your customers as a form of payment at your business. These fees consist of transaction fees, flat fees, and incidental fees. All together they contribute to the total charges your small business accrues when processing payments.
Some credit card payment processing companies charge extra fees for everything from PCI compliance to setting up your account. Average credit card processing fees range from 1.7% for swiped card payments up to 3.5% for keyed-in transactions. As you can see, credit card transaction fees can be complex and difficult for business owners to understand.
So, how do you know when you’re paying too much for credit card processing? Here are a 5 credit card processing fees small business owners can avoid.
What Credit Card Processing Fees Am I Being Charged?
Read through your statement carefully to see what you’re actually being charged. You can’t cut costs if you don’t know what they are, so it’s important to find and address your credit card processing fees. For instance, the transaction fee is an additional per swipe fee that is charged on top of the interchange and percentage markup. These card processing fees can range from $0.08 to $0.30.
Transaction fees are made up of the interchange rate, the assessment fee, and the payment processing markup. These fees are charged per transaction.
When breaking down credit card transaction fees, it’s important to remember that assessment and interchange fees are non-negotiable because they’re set by credit card networks—i.e., Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover.
These payment processing costs will vary based on several factors, including:
- The card brand
- Type of credit card (e.g., credit or debit card, personal, business, rewards, etc.)
- How a credit card is processed (card-not-present transactions generally incur higher fees)
Generally speaking though, these are the average credit card processing fees for the 4 major credit card providers in the United States.
- Visa: 1.43% – 2.4%
- Mastercard: 1.55% – 2.6%
- American Express: 2.5% – 3.5%
- Discover: 1.56% – 3.5%
Now, what is negotiable is the markup of credit card processing companies. These are fees charged by your payment processor and the amount will depend mainly on the company’s pricing structure. (We’ll get into more detail in the section about finding the best merchant services provider.)
These are typically monthly fees and they depend on the payment services provider you currently use. It’s the cost you accrue for using their payment processing service. Most payment processing service providers make huge profits from the fact that the average small business owner is not aware of what they are paying and why. Keep an eye out for these credit card processing fees on your next statement to make sure you’re not paying anything unnecessarily and you could save hundreds of dollars on your next bill.
- Monthly Minimum Fee
- Statement Fee
- Batch Fee
- Next Day Funding Fee
- Annual Fee
- IRS Report Fee
- Misc. Additional Fees
One-off fees are charged at the beginning, middle, and end starting with the set up of your merchant services account. After you pay a setup fee, you’re then charged additional one-off fees for PCI compliance, address verification, and additional payment gateway fees. The one-off fees don’t end there. You’ll also be charged chargeback fees and retrieval fees if your customer’s card payment is returned. The dreaded early termination fee is also included in the list of one-off fees your business could be charged.
How to Lower Credit Card Processing Fees and Avoid Extra Costs
1. Protect Your Devices
When choosing a processing service, the option to lease payment terminals so that you can accept credit card payments can be enticing. After all, you’re spreading the cost out over months instead of paying a lump sum. However, leasing can cost more in the long-run compared to buying your terminals. Many processors charge extra device fees while you lease their credit card processing terminals. And, if you want to switch processors, you’ll have to start all over again.
Instead, we suggest that small business owners buy their payment terminals and opt into a protection plan. Not only will you own your hardware, but you’ll be able to easily get a new system in cases of wear and tear or accidents. This is a great option for small businesses with high foot traffic. If your terminal gets knocked to the ground, you’ll be able to get a new one for just a few dollars a month.
2. Stay PCI Compliant
PCI stands for Payment Card Industry. This means that the PCI Compliance security standards are set by the credit card companies themselves–not your individual payment provider. All businesses that handle cardholder information have to be PCI compliant. That means that if you capture card payment information, the customer’s data is being securely stored.
Not complying with PCI Data Security Standards can incur costly fees and fines. Most credit card processors and payment service providers will help you become and stay PCI compliant. However, some payment service providers can also charge PCI compliance fees, though it’s unclear why. Be on the lookout for this extra fee on your statements.
Read more: What Is PCI Compliance and How Can It Affect Your Small Business?
3. Find the Best Merchant Services Provider for Your Business
Choosing a credit card processor is a huge business decision. When you’re comparing merchant services, it’s more than calculating the per-swipe card fees. You also have to consider the payment structure of your provider.
A closer look at payment processing pricing structures:
Credit card processors have varying strategies for how they price their services.
Tiered pricing. Some processors use a pricing strategy called tiered pricing, which categorizes transactions into three groups: qualified, mid-qualified, and non-qualified. Qualified transactions incur lower rates, while non-qualified are subject to higher rates.
The problem with this payment structure is that these categories are completely arbitrary. What’s “qualified” to one processor may be considered “non-qualified” to another. In addition, the pricing structure lacks transparency because most processors don’t disclose their methods when categorizing transactions.
Interchange-plus pricing. Next, we have interchange-plus, which is a pricing structure that separates the interchange rates (i.e., non-negotiable costs) from the markup of the payment processor.
This method offers more transparency into the process because you, the merchant, can see the exact markup or percentage charged by your payment processing provider.
Flat-rate pricing. This method bundles the processor’s markup with credit card interchange rates, creating one flat fee that’s applied to all transactions. It makes processing fees easier to understand, though merchants typically end up paying rates that are higher than the average interchange.
This is because most flat rate fees start at 2.6% per transaction, while the average interchange rate sits at around 1.8%.
Subscription-based pricing. With subscription-based pricing, you’re charged a flat monthly fee in exchange for access to the direct cost of interchange. Rather than marking up your per-transaction fees, the provider simply charges a predictable subscription rate, so you get to keep more of your profits.
Other factors to consider:
When selecting your payment processor, it’s also important to consider the types of credit card payments you will want to accept. Studies have shown that the more payment options you accept, the more customers you’ll be able to accommodate. A payment processor with multichannel card-present and card-not-present payment solutions will provide you all the payment tools you need to grow your business whether you’re selling in person or via eCommerce.
4. Consider Surcharging or Cash Discounts
Credit card surcharging is the practice of passing on credit card processing fees to the customer. This works by tacking on a surcharge to any transaction that’s paid for using a credit card. For example, if you decide to add a 3.5% surcharge, then a $10 purchase would ultimately cost the customer $10.35 because of the additional 3.5%.
Cash discounts, on the other hand, enable shoppers to save money when they choose to pay with cash. You’ll need to decide on a cash discount rate and apply that to your cash transactions.
Let’s use a similar example to the above. Suppose you decide to implement a cash discount program by giving customers a 3.5% discount when they pay with cash. In this instance, a product that’s priced at $10.35 would end up costing customers just $10 if they choose cash over credit cards.
Ultimately, both surcharging and cash discounts help you avoid credit card processing fees altogether. One caveat here is that these programs must comply with your state laws and regulations. In many instances, you’ll need to reprogram your credit card readers to support surcharging programs. Proper signage must also be displayed.
Be sure to work with a payments platform that supports these initiatives to ensure that they’re carried out properly. Stax, for example, has a surcharge-friendly program that enables you to pass credit card processing costs onto customers directly through our all-in-one payment platform.
5. Avoid Cancellation Fees
Contract cancellation or early termination fees can be costly, especially for business owners. When you’re locked into a year-long contract with a processor and want to switch, you could face a steep fee. At Stax, our monthly subscription means you don’t have to worry about being locked into a contract for a year to avoid paying a fee. You pay a flat, monthly rate and can process as much as you want.
Extra processor fees and hidden costs can bring down what seemed like a great deal on credit card processing, but you can avoid them with the right processor. Stax’s innovative subscription pricing gives you access to the direct cost of interchange. There are no extra markups or fees and you don’t have to sign a contract. Plus, our easy-to-read statements are transparent and clear on what you’re paying for.
Your business can process as much as you need to without worrying about the hidden fees of traditional merchant service providers. That means no PCI compliance fees, statement fees, or cancellation fees. Put dollars back in your bottom line and take the hassle out of trying to find out what exactly you’re paying for and why.
Interested in learning more? Request a demo and see how Stax’s innovative technology and transparency are changing the payments experience for businesses like you.