Whether you’re just starting your business or are expanding your company’s capabilities and reach, there are always a lot of questions. For most tasks, there’s no “one right way” to do things – you’ve got the choice of different companies, different technologies, and different approaches to the same problems that all might affect you and how you do your business. Credit card processing is no different, and it can be intimidating to wade through all the options, especially if your experience with credit cards is limited to just using them as a consumer. Do you need a physical terminal like you see at most stores? What’s a “virtual gateway”, and how is it different? How does all of it work with the way you handle your finances now? All good questions. Knowing the best credit card processing solution for your business is really all about knowing your business – how it operates, who your customers are, and where and how you accept payments. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution out there, and there are more choices than ever when it comes to both credit card processing and all the related technology. A little bit of research now can save you both time and money in the long run, no matter what kind of business you have, or what types of solutions you need. The type of business you operate greatly influences the issues you need to consider when evaluating your processing options: Small-business storefront If your company deals directly with the public, especially if they come in to your place of business, then a physical terminal should be part of your credit card processing plans. But the choice isn’t simply “yes, I need a terminal” or “no, I don’t” – you have a lot of options. You may prefer to run the cards yourself on a terminal you keep behind the counter. You might want a retail-style terminal like you’d see at your grocery store, where your customer swipes their card and feels in control (and can easily enter their pin, if they’re using a debit card). Or you may want to integrate your point-of-sale system (including cash register, custom order software, and credit card reader) to simplify the entire process on your end. And there’s new technology like NFC, which would allow you to take mobile payments from digital wallets like Apple Pay or Google Wallet. Consider both what’s best for your business and for your customer, and look for the solution that best fits what you need. Online-only or catalog business Some companies, even very large ones, never see their customers face-to-face during the ordering process. Those customers still need to pay for services, however, and credit cards are by far the most convenient and popular way to complete sales. If you never see your customers or their credit cards, however, then the need for a physical terminal is greatly reduced, and going without one can save you both time and money (especially if you lease the terminal for a monthly fee). Instead, a virtual gateway is your answer. Your physical terminal is replaced with a web-based one, where your customers can enter their own information via your website, or you can enter it for them via a web browser application or point-of-sale terminal. In addition to processing cards and getting you paid, virtual gateways also allow for real-time reporting and integration into existing accounting and enterprise software. All shapes and sizes of integrated virtual gateways exist out there for businesses large and small. Business-to-Business company As your company has grown, the complexity of running your day-to-day operations has likely grown as well – added staff, resources, locations and software all mean larger growth, but more complexity as well. Adding credit cards to the mix has the potential to be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Companies like yours can look at fully-integrated systems, which not only include credit card processing, but also point-of-sale and card reader terminals, back-end virtual gateways, and eCommerce solutions, all in one handy (though large) package. These solutions give your company everything it needs to not only accept cards, but also to fully integrate your payments into your entire business, including orders, invoicing, fulfillment, and shipping – all in one handy interface. Independent small-business entrepreneur Do you run a food truck or farmers market booth? Have a mobile business washing dogs, cars, or driveways? Provide business services, but don’t operate out of a physical office? There’s no reason for you to forgo credit card payments just because you’re not tied down to a physical location. Many credit card processors now offer a host of mobile payment services, including stand-alone card swipers, phone and tablet accessories, and wireless point-of-sale terminals, all of which connect to a virtual gateway that handles your credit card processing. The back-end gateway also allows you to easily keep up with your payments and revenue in real-time, taking some of the guesswork out of your day-to-day financial situation. Most importantly, giving your customers a non-cash alternative on the job site or in the field not only gets you paid, but sets you apart in your competitive market. Of course, not all companies fit easily into one of the above categories. Maybe your company deals almost exclusively with the government and government contractors. Maybe you have clients that are largely overseas. Maybe you rarely deal with credit cards, but don’t want to miss out on a client with no other way to pay. Whatever your circumstances, there are solutions out there for you and your business. Don’t let the fear of complex systems keep you from growing your business – with a little research, you’ll find exactly what you need. Images: “waiter inserts the card into a computer terminal, against visiting the restaurant/Shutterstock.com“ ____________________________________________________________________________________ Tweak Your Biz is a thought leader global publication and online business community. Today, it is part of the Small Biz Trends stable of websites and receives over 300,000 unique views per month. Would you like to write for us? An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes, and visitor traffic by 50% or more. Generate great titles for your articles and blog posts with the Tweak Your Biz Title Generator.