Last editedMar 20233 min read
Most businesses will benefit from having payment card acceptance facilities. In the real world, this will require some form of physical terminal. For ecommerce merchants, a soft terminal (app) will usually be enough. This guide will provide a simple explanation of small business card payment solutions. It will explain what they are and how to go about choosing one.
What is card payment processing for small businesses?
Card payment processing for small businesses comprises three main components. These are the acceptance terminal, the payment gateway and the payment processor.
The acceptance terminal captures the card details. For example, in the real world, it would be where you would touch a debit or credit card. The payment gateway verifies the card details. The payment processor handles the transaction routing.
Many card payment solutions for small businesses handle all aspects of card transactions. They often handle mobile payments as well. If you wish to support ewallets and/or bank payments as well, then you are likely to need specialist providers.
Alternatives to card payment solutions
Ewallet transactions are often backed by payment cards. They are, however, managed by different providers. They are also subject to different rules and transaction fees. Ewallet transaction fees tend to be higher than standard card payment fees. This is because the ewallet provider needs to pay fees to the card issuer plus make a profit for itself.
Bank payments are entirely separate from payment cards. They operate under their own sets of rules and have their own fees. Both vary depending on whether you are using Direct Debit or Instant Bank Payment. In general, however, bank payments are the most economical way to take payments.
Choosing the right card payment solution
Here are the top ten points you should consider when looking for the right card payment solution for you.
This should be a given but it’s so important it’s worth double-checking. Make sure that any small business card payment solution is fully PCI/DSS compliant. Also, make sure that it is fully compliant with GDPR.
Pricing (structure and costs)
Check if the provider levies subscription fees (monthly fees). If it does, what is included in these? In particular, does it cover the cost of PCI/DSS compliance? What are the transaction fees? Are there any add-on fees? If so, what are they and how much are they? If the provider offers committed tariffs, what is the length of the commitment?
Ease of use
This is somewhat subjective but it’s usually very easy to check. Most providers will offer some form of free trial and/or testing environment. Use this to see how you (and your staff) feel about the user-friendliness of the offering.
Quality of customer support
If a small business card payment solution is user-friendly, you are unlikely to need customer support often. When you do need it, however, you may need it urgently and for a high-priority issue. You, therefore, need it to be of high quality.
Depending on your business, you may need anything from a basic but portable card-acceptance terminal to a feature-rich terminal with multiple peripherals. Make sure that a provider can support what you need even if they don’t offer hardware themselves.
Support for mobile use
Support for mobile use goes beyond hardware. You will need mobile-friendly software (mobile apps). You may also need customer support on the go. Check where a provider stands on these.
Value-add native functionality and integrations
Many providers will offer some level of value-add functionality. They may also support integrations. These can potentially save you a lot of money. Check the overall support and the support for your specific industry sector.
Analytics and reporting
Your payment card transactions can be a rich source of valuable business intelligence. It’s therefore helpful if a provider offers robust analytics and reporting.
Options for cross-border commerce
The payment card networks have a global reach. Small business card payment solutions may, however, not offer all countries by default. If this is important to you, it’s advisable to check before you sign up.
Support for higher-risk merchants
This is only going to apply to a small number of merchants but if it applies to you then you definitely need to check.
Best card payment solutions available for your small business in the UK
Here are the top three payment card solutions available for your small business in the UK.
Square aims to be more than just a small business card payment solution. It aims to be an entire business ecosystem.
Different pricing structures to suit different businesses
Easy to use
Lots of add-on functionality included for free/freemium plus thousands of integrations. These include a mixture of features that apply to all businesses (e.g. Square Online) and features that are sector-specific (e.g. Square for Restaurants)
The fact that Square is geared toward small businesses can mean it becomes less suitable for you as you grow.
Unlikely to take higher-risk merchants.
Stripe processes both card payments and bank payments. It is, however, very much focused on the former.
The core offering is a suite of APIs. This means there’s massive scope for customisation.
A huge library of extensions for all kinds of purposes.
Very simple fee structure
Smaller merchants with limited technical resources may struggle to get to grips with Stripe. They may also find its approach to customer service does not work for them.
Unlikely to take higher-risk merchants.
Zettle by PayPal
Zettle by Paypal is the part of PayPal that allows merchants to accept card payments directly rather than through an ewallet.
Super easy to use
No monthly fees
May take higher-risk merchants
High transaction fees
Relatively limited feature set
We can help
GoCardless is a global payments solution (with award-winning customer support) that helps you automate payment collection. It cuts down on the amount of financial admin your team needs to deal with and helps improve your bottom line. Find out how GoCardless can help you with one-off or recurring payments.