Learn how to start accepting card transactions for your business – in four easy steps
So you want to take credit card payments? Good decision – more and more consumers are avoiding cash only businesses. And a staggering 87% of retail purchases are now made online, with – you guessed it – a credit or debit card.
So just how do you take credit card payments?
We’ve broken it down into four simple steps. Here’ you’ll find out how to take credit card payments, what you’ll need, who the providers are, and how much it will cost. Let’s take a look.
How to take credit card payments:
- Step 1: Choose an EPOS system
- Step 2: Sign up for a merchant account
- Step 3: Get a payment gateway and a virtual terminal
- Step 4: Start selling!
▶ Read more: Top 4 tips for accepting credit card payments
Step 1: Choose an EPOS system
What is it?
An Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) system is a collection of equipment that lets your team take payments at the point of sale. EPOS systems let your team track stock, monitor sales, and provide a seamless customer experience.
It includes hardware components such as:
- Your till or cash register
- The screen you use to log transactions
- A receipt printer
- A barcode scanner
- A PDQ machine or mobile card reader for accepting credit cards
It also includes software elements such as:
- Inventory management
- Customer loyalty discount schemes
- Integration with your ecommerce sales and accounting
So, when learning how to take credit card payments, why is choosing an EPOS system the first step?
Well, an EPOS system determines the look of your counter. It’s what your customers will see when ordering, and what your staff have to be able to use day in, day out – with ease and comfort.
Also, some EPOS systems come with the built-in ability to process payments. This type of ‘all-in-one’ system offers a simple approach – you get a complete EPOS system, with payment processing included, from one supplier. These systems usually offer straightforward, flat rate transaction fees, too.
Companies like iZettle, Square, and PayPal offer all-in-one EPOS solutions. They process your payments through their own merchant account, and get you started with all the POS hardware you need to start taking credit card payments.
The other option is to choose a traditional EPOS system and integrate it separately with a merchant account. This is ideal for bigger businesses – skip to Step 2 to find out more.
EPOS system providers
Traditional EPOS systems can set you back anywhere from £1,000 to upwards of £3,000. Costs depend on how advanced or industry-specific you need your system to be. Find out how much an EPOS system will cost you.
All-in-one providers tend to offer much cheaper (albeit more basic) EPOS systems. In many cases, you can set up your POS with just an iPad and a card reader.
To sum up: Choosing an EPOS system provider is the first step towards taking card payments. Small businesses should consider all-in-one providers for their simplicity and value.
Step 2: Sign up for a merchant account
What is it?
A merchant account is a type of bank account that lets your business accept credit and debit card payments. However you plan to take credit card payments – online, on the phone, or over the counter – you’ll need some form of merchant account.
Merchant accounts are where credit card payments go to be settled. Banks take a fee, then move the balance from your merchant account to your (separate) business account. You can apply for a merchant account through an acquiring bank or provider (like Worldpay). Or, you can get one through a third party payment processor (like PayPal).
So, you’ve got your EPOS system in place – congrats! But you’re not finished yet. If you didn’t go with an all-in-one provider, you’ll still need a merchant account to accept credit card payments.
A traditional merchant account works out much cheaper if your business has a higher sales volume. It’s a bit more difficult to set up (and understand!) than with an all-in-one provider. But its low transaction fees make it cheaper in the long run.
Is it possible to get an EPOS system with my merchant account?
Yes! Most merchant account providers work with EPOS suppliers to offer their customers a more complete solution. takepayments, for instance, works with EPOS Now to offer merchants the whole package, from one convenient place
The drawback? Because you’re not working with the EPOS supplier directly, it can be more difficult to get the right technical support when you need it.
Merchant account providers that also offer EPOS solutions
How much you’ll pay depends on the provider – and the plan – you choose. It’ll also be affected by your card sales volume, too. Check out our comprehensive merchant account fees breakdown for more info.
To sum up: If you don’t go with an all-in-one EPOS solution, you’ll need to get a merchant account. Your merchant account provider gives you a card machine that slots into your existing EPOS system. This works out as a more cost-effective option for larger businesses.
Step 3: Get a payment gateway and virtual terminal
What are they?
A payment gateway is what you’ll need to take credit card payments online. Acting like a sort of ‘virtual EPOS system’, it authenticates and secures payments made through your website.
A virtual terminal is a secure webpage that lets you take payments over the phone. You just log into the page from your device, enter your customer’s card details, and take the payment.
You know what they are – but how do you get one?
Well, it’s easy actually – both features come as add-ons you can opt for when you’re accepted for a merchant account. If you’ve gone for an all-in-one solution, then a virtual terminal service should be included as standard. However, payment gateways aren’t always included. If this is the case, don’t fret – you can set one up separately with a third party provider.
Third party payment gateway providers can offer a more dynamic (but more complicated!) approach to getting paid online. We recommend you entrust your online services to a single merchant account provider.
Payment gateway providers
Again, the best option for you depends on the size of your business. All-in-one providers usually charge a percentage on every ecommerce transaction you take. Traditional merchant account suppliers, on the other hand, charge monthly, so they’re less feasible avenues for smaller businesses.
To sum up: Payment gateways and virtual terminals are provided with your merchant account – if you want them. All-in-one providers, though, don’t always offer ecommerce solutions – so you may need to use a third party provider.
Step 4: Start selling!
You’ve chosen an EPOS system, set yourself up with a merchant services provider, and can take payments online and over the phone. Time to start selling!
Before you rush off, though, read on for our top tips on how to accept credit card payments. It’ll take a minute, and could end up saving you cash.
Top 4 tips for accepting credit card payments
Our first tip? Think about where you’ll be selling. Purely online? From a bricks and mortar establishment, or maybe at a market stall? Your sales environment is crucial, because where you trade will determine how your business takes credit card payments.
Mobile card readers are better for remote businesses, as they can work without wifi. Countertop card machines are ideal for retail businesses, while restaurants will need a less static solution. And if you just want to sell online, you can sign up to a payment gateway provider like Stripe quickly, with little hassle and few checks.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Your sales volume will always make a huge difference when it comes to fees. Let’s quickly recap:
Business with higher sales volume: Go for a dedicated merchant account through a company like Worldpay or Handepay. Fixed monthly fees (and low transaction fees) make it more affordable in the long run.
Business with lower sales volume: Try a mobile card reader like SumUp or iZettle. Many also offer EPOS add-ons, so they make great all-in-one solutions for taking face-to-face payments. Transaction fees are higher, but the lack of setup or ongoing monthly costs makes it worth your while.
This one’s a biggie. Before you sign up with a merchant account provider or begin browsing EPOS systems, have a think. Do they offer a dedicated account manager? What about 24/7 customer support? Can you get advice over the phone, or just online? Can you reach them at the weekend?
It may not seem like a big deal now. But if you’re dealing with a big queue and your card machine stops working, you’ll want the best – and the quickest – support available.
If there’s one pitfall that claims new merchants when first taking card payments, it’s this one. The less scrupulous merchant account providers will offer amazing deals to rope you into lengthy contracts.
All we’ll say is, no new business should have to put up with massive early termination fees and long contracts. So read the small print carefully. And if you are ready to start taking card payments, we can help.
Just fill out our quick, free, no-obligation webform today. We’ll do the rest, and get you quotes from industry-leading suppliers.