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Accepting credit card payments: The Basics

Congratulations on your new payments account. You know you need to accept credit cards, but you probably have some questions on how it all works. Here's a quick introduction for you.

How to accept card payments

Exactly how you charge a card differs depending on your business needs and your payment account type. Intuit offers several different options. Depending upon what software and account attributes you have, you can accept payments in the following ways:

  • Swipe cards on your mobile device with GoPayment. Take payments from anywhere. Get your free mobile card reader from Intuit and swipe cards for lower rates.
  • Type card numbers on your mobile device with GoPayment. Fast and easy, but it's faster and costs less to swipe cards with a card reader (available free with GoPayment)

    Not sure if GoPayment's already part of your account? To check, sign in to the Merchant Service Center, choose Account > Processing Information. If Process with GoPayment isn't already on, you can turn it on.

  • Type card numbers in QuickBooks. In QuickBooks when you receive payment or process a sales reciept, your payment account lets you charge a credit card. You can just type in the card number, but consider getting a card reader. Whenever you type card numbers in by hand (instead of swiping a card through a reader), you pay a higher fee.
  • Swipe cards in QuickBooks. You can get a card reader that connects to your computer and works with QuickBooks. Whenever you swipe a card, you're eligible for lower rates on that sale.
  • Charge a saved card in QuickBooks. QuickBooks can save credit card details as part of a customer record.
  • Let customers pay a QuickBooks invoice immediately online. This is a great option that differs depending upon what version of QuickBooks you have. Create an invoice and you'll probably see this option. If not, consult QuickBooks Help for details.
  • Charge a card online within the Merchant Service Center. Process transactions from anywhere you have an internet connection. Read how. Note: These transactions don't download to QuickBooks.
  • Set up a recurring charge. Use the Recurring Payments feature in the Merchant Service Center to bill customers on a regular schedule. Learn more.
  • Swipe cards through your Point-of-Sale terminal. Retail businesses using QuickBooks Point-of-Sale can process through card terminals in the store and also, as part of your account, use GoPayment on mobile devices.
  • Through your web store. Compatible ecommerce vendors (Homestead, Go Daddy,Web.com, UltraCart, IA Modules, and PDG Software) can help you connect your web store to your Intuit payments account. (You can add web-store processing capabilities to your account within the Merchant Service Center. Choose Account > Processing Activities.
What happens when you take a payment

When you charge a customer's card, your customer's credit is confirmed and the payment is authorized. At the end of the day (6pm ET), your charges are automatically batched and sent for settlement. A day or 2 later, the charge is funded, meaning the money lands in your bank account. More details.

Fees and rates

OK, great. You know how to take payments, but how much is it going to cost you? The answer to this question is: it depends. Here's how your fees break down:

  • Discount fees are the basic rate you pay for processing a card transaction. This rate varies depending upon:
    • whether or not you swiped the card (sometimes called card-present transactions) or entered the number manually (which costs more since the card's assumed to not be present, therefore the transaction carries more risk)
    • what the card type is (reward cards cost you more)
    • what industry you're in

    Discount fees fall into 3 tiers: qualified (the lowest), mid-qualified, and non-qualified (the highest rate). Sometimes a transaction may be downgraded, which means that because of some info that came in later (like card type for instance) you're charged a higher rate.

  • Transaction fee. A small, flat, per-transaction fee that covers the cost of electronic authorization.
  • Other fees. Depending upon your account type you may or may not see other fees on your statement. Sometimes Intuit needs to pass through fees from Visa, Mastercard and the other card companies, for example. Other fees are one-time occurences based on an incident. For instance, if a customer disputes a sale and files a chargeback, you're charged a fee for the cost of processing the chargeback. Or some larger accounts incur a monthly minimum fee if they don't process a certain amount per month.

The good news is: you can control some of these variables to save money. Read how to get the lowest rates possible for your business.

When you need to reverse a transaction

Made a mistake? Did the customer change their mind? You can easily reverse a sale (probably within the same software you used to process the sale—consult your product's Help). If you reverse quickly after the sale (and before batch time at 6pm Eastern/3pm Pacific), the transaction processes as a void, which incurs only a nominal transaction fee. After that, the reversal processes as a refund and you must pay discount fees as well as transaction fees on a refund transaction. (Read on to learn more about fees.)

When you need to reserve funds but charge later

Say you're a car mechanic and want to ensure your customer can pay the $500 they'll owe you next week when you finish fixing their car. You can't charge them before work is done, but you can process an authorization, which freezes funds in their account and assures you that they have that amount of credit. When it comes time to actually charge the customer, you won't process a new charge, instead you'll capture the amount you previously authorized. You have up to 14 days to capture an authorization. After that time, it expires.

Protect your account

There are a few guidelines you must follow to protect and manage your new account and also prevent fraud. Here's a list of dos and don'ts that can help protect you from losing your payments account and from incurring extra fees or fines.

  • Do ship within 24 hours. Card association rules prohibit you from charging the cardholder until the product has been shipped (as opposed to charging the customer on the date the product was ordered or authorized).

  • Don't run your personal credit card through your own merchant account or use it to provide cash to yourself or a friend.

  • Don't place minimum or maximum limits on your transactions. Regulations stipulate that if you are going to accept credit cards, you must accept them for any transaction.

  • Don't charge any sort of usage fee for credit card transactions to offset the cost of accepting credit cards.

  • Don't split a transaction into smaller transactions. You may open yourself up to a chargeback.

  • Don't request a credit card to guarantee a check.

  • Verify the identity and expiration date on the card.

  • Truncate the account numbers on your receipts. Intuit-generated receipts do this for you automatically.

  • Do your best to prevent duplicate transactions.

  • Read your merchant agreement. It outlines all the various fees and charges, as well as specific rules and regulations that you need to be aware of.

  • Make resolving customer issues a priority. When you work out issues with customers directly, you can avoid costly chargebacks.

  • Take advantage of the variety of fraud screening products and services available to merchants.

  • Ensure that old merchant accounts are properly closed and terminated.

  • Maintain the proper account for your business. Trying to process Internet transactions with your retail merchant account can lead to serious fines and even the loss of your merchant account.

Learn more about your payment security responsibilities.

KB ID# INF24096
12/6/2016 2:10:07 AM
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