Credit Card Processing

The credit card is a commonly used financial instrument and its use forms an important part of personal finance. A credit card though simple to use has a networked system and structure that enables payment through a plastic card with minimal chances of misuse and fraud. The credit card industry mainly enterprises of:

  • Card Provider: Cards providers are very few in numbers. Some of the known credit card providers are: VISA, MasterCard, JCB, American Express etc. The logos of these card providers are what we very often see on entry to a store.
  • Card Issuers: financial institutions such as banks issue a MasterCard or VISA or any other card to card holders. This card will have logos of both the financial institution and the card provider.
  • Card Acquirer: The card acquirer processes the cards accepted by any store and this service is known as credit card processing or merchant account services.
  • Merchant Account: The merchant or stores have an account with a credit card processing service to enable credit card payments in their store.

Every credit card transaction initiates a flow of information and exchange of money between the credit card processing organization, card issuer and the merchant account authorized and connected by the credit card provider.

Credit card processing services do not limit their services to acceptance of credit cards alone but also enable the processing of various payment mediums such as: debit cards, electronic checks, gift cards and other forms of payment.

The credit card processing organization fulfills the key task of authorizing the credit card when presented to the merchant instantly. The credit card processing organization then debits the card issuers account and credits their account with the amount of purchase made by the card holder.This entails that the card issuer pays the card processing services for the transaction. The card services organization then makes the payment to the merchant after deducting a transaction processing fee.

This is the procedure followed for every credit card transaction and it is made easy for you due to the efficiency of various parties that are involved in making credit card transaction an easy process.

How To Read A Credit Card Merchant Statement – 5 Ways To Categorize Fees

Reading your merchant statement and finding the rates and fees you’re being charged can be like playing “Where’s Waldo?”. One reason is because there are nearly as many different statement formats as there are merchant acquiring companies. Also, because of how competitive the industry has become, many monthly statements don’t completely disclose the rates being charged. And sometimes they are completely hidden.

I know of banks that don’t even send a statement out. If a merchant wants details of what they paid they have to logon to an online account to find it.

It’s War Out There!

One reason for this is the competitiveness. You have to remember that credit and debit cards make up part of a 2 trillion dollar industry. Money is like a magnet – it attracts Most merchants are being contacted continually by competing processors trying to get them to switch processors, by promising “lower rates”, etc.

So, to prevent a sales agent from another processing company from taking a merchant away – some processors make it as hard as possible for a competitor’s sales rep to walk in to a business, analyze a merchant statement, and do an ‘apples for apples’ comparison.

That being said, there are still some basic keys to look for when reading your statement. Here’s what I look for in analyzing a merchant statement, in order:

  • One: The pricing structure – how has the account been set up? Which pricing model does it employ? Is it using tiers (e.g. 3-tier; 4-tier, etc.) or – is it using “Interchange Plus”? (NOTE: most merchants are on a tier pricing model, which, in my opinion guarantees they’re being overcharged. Also, there are other pricing structures but tier pricing is by far the most common)
  • Two: The monthly fees (sometimes called “Other”) – next, I look to see what the monthly fees are. This can include: a statement fee; monthly service fee; account maintenance fee (normally, you’d only see one of these although I’ve seen two – or, you may see the equivalent fee but using a different term); PCI fee; batch fee; and gateway or access fees. Any miscellaneous, but not monthly fees can also show up here – e.g., an annual fee or semi-quarterly.
  • Three: Processing Fees – this is where the discount rates will be listed. If you are on tier pricing the best statements will print an itemized list showing the “qualified”, “mid-qualified”, and “non-qualified” (the 3 tiers) rate. If you are on Interchange Plus, you’ll see a list showing all the different cards you took, followed by the actual interchange rate for the card, the “dpi” (discount per item), plus the processors mark-up expressed as basis points and a transaction fee (or per item, depending on the term used to list it).
  • Four: Authorization Fees – here’s where you’ll find fees that go to VISA and MC. They’ll show up listed as access, authorization, and /or WATTS fees. You could also find here AVS fees (address verification); assessment fees; brand usage fee; risk fee; settlement fees, IAS fee (Issuer Access & Settlement).
  • Five: Third Party Fees – 3rd parties means networks other than VISA & MC that are included in your statement. This would include American Express, Discover, and the debit networks if you are using pin debit

Part of the problem in reading a merchant statement is different processors use different category names and different terms to identify charges. That’s why I began by saying it can be like playing “Where’s Waldo?” While there are common terms used for certain fees there is also a wide variation used, depending on the acquirer (the company you signed a merchant agreement with).

Again, part of this is due to an attempt to hide what’s being charged and make it difficult for a competitor to analyze a statement. While that’s ‘somewhat’ understandable – in my opinion it’s a disservice to the merchant. Integrity demands transparency. Maybe if processors were more merchant oriented they’d have a lower turnover and would not have to worry about competition so much. At least that’s my opinion.

5 Real Ways to Make Money Online

This has always been a great question, and there are many different schools of thought on this subject.

A person could argue products like software, eBooks, and virtual information are amongst the most marketable as they are easy to duplicate and have no shipping costs. It’s true a virtual product can absolutely simplify your post-sale process, however are they truly the best overall product strategy? In my opinion it all comes down to the demand, then the numbers. Calculate what price you can create or retain a product for and then calculate what price you can sell it for while keeping in mind advertising, shipping, and other expenses that fall between those two processes.

Determine your total costs from start to finish. I wouldn’t even consider selling a product or service that fetches me any less than 80 percent gross profit per unit, unless it had a great backend or up-sell strategy or some type of recurring subscription based profit model.

lf you find that managing inventory or working with suppliers and drop shippers is more slanted towards your personal experience then work with a product that feels comfortable with you, you will benefit from the familiarity. The importance of comfort might just be the most influential factor for me when choosing a product to wrap around your marketing. Many people want to sell online but have no idea what products to sell. In my experience selling something for profit alone with no personal passion can be a mistake and I have found that building an email list for marketing and growing your brand is a cheap effective way to get started quickly.

5 Products you can sell and make money using “email marketing”.

  1. Digital products and virtual services. Digital products are easy to duplicate, store, and ship digitally via email or file sharing service.
  2. Affiliate marketing programs. Many companies online look for enthusiastic individuals to resell their products or services. Scrolling to the footer of a business’s website will typically link to any affiliate program if offered. You can also search for specific affiliate programs that suit your needs.
  3. Trendy products that are in demand. Great way to let product buzz and word of mouth help your cause. The Google Trends tool will show you the current trends of your product ideas based on total search volumes. This can be a great way to determine what’s currently popular.
  4. Start your own business. Get creative and bring your ideas online with a website or product page selling your creations, products or services. Accepting payments is easy these days with services like PayPal and all you need to do is promote your website using email marketing.
  5. Freelance writing services, or create a blog. Writing can be an interesting and rewarding way to make money online. You can publish and sell eBooks, blog posts can generate revenue from ads or affiliate links, sponsors, or you can write about your current products for sale.

When sending email in large volumes always be sure you choose a true high volume, web-based email marketing software that can grow with your ongoing success.

Marketing to Senior Citizens – Health and Fitness, the Growing Trend Amongst Seniors

Today seniors can’t afford not to get moving! With all the hype around nutrition and exercise the aging population is well aware of the benefit of an active lifestyle.

Most seniors of the 55 plus group are keen to reap the rewards of healthy aging through a variety of activities. They are not newcomers to the gym so to speak. Most have kept active with some form of physical activity throughout their lives, whether it is hardcore workouts in the gym or a congenial round of golf on a summer’s afternoon. Women of this age group have also managed years of multi-tasking, most having juggled full time careers, while raising families and still found time to fit in some form of exercise. These women became well acquainted with aerobics, step classes, strength training and power walking. Also, stress relievers such as yoga and pilates were embraced to combat tension and fatigue. In many cases these activities were their salvation of an overly busy lifestyle.

It is only natural then, that these baby boomers are looking to continue their active lifestyle into retirement. Quite possibly, with the time constraints lifted at this stage in life, it leaves them to focus more sharply on their health and wellness.

A huge opportunity exists for gyms and programming facilities to cater to this senior market. The number of seniors is set to skyrocket in the next five to ten years and if gym operators are to jump ahead of this curve, they should set their marketing sights on appealing to and attracting this demographic.

How to go about this? What are seniors looking for when it comes to staying fit? Firstly it is important to see a visual image that they can relate to. Marketing success is all about seeing yourself in the picture, being that person who is strong, fit and beaming with energy. If a beautiful twenty something image is smiling back, then age becomes a handicap in the mind of the senior, derailing their good intentions, making them feel like they can’t compete. The perfect image that will empower the market they are trying to impress is an attractive fit senior pursuing the exercise of his or her choice. An ad such as this will pop with the 55 plus market, creating a role model with whom they can immediately identify and connect. Seniors like everyone else need to be able to put themselves into that ad campaign and honestly believe that it could be them looking out. This puts the wheels in motion for a positive mindset and a “can-do” attitude.

Seniors are only as old as they feel. Once again we come back to the mind-set, which is a very powerful tool. Boomers today are constantly fighting the aging stereotype that has depicted seniors in the past. Seniors in their sixties often look, act and feel ten to fifteen years younger than their actual age. Advertising should play up to this pretense which promotes this healthy reversal known as “turning back the clock”.

Another means of promoting fitness is to educate the senior who wants to get moving and who wants information as to how this will benefit them and enhance their life. They need to know the positives, what they can expect, and can look forward to as a result of embarking on the fitness journey that the marketer proposes. The campaign needs to encompass every aspect of their life, proving that properly presented, seniors will understand that an opportunity to change is being offered which will impact and alter their lifestyle. It’s within their reach, all that remains to be done, is to get out there, set realistic goals with realistic time frames and make it happen.

This brings us to another point. Marketers should focus on the enhancement of senior life overall, as a result of engaging in exercise and activities, rather than the promise that, if you join up you will achieve this enviable body or snag that hot date. The quality of life and the heightened enjoyment of everyday activities which seniors can have as a result of exercise need to be highlighted.

Marketing programs should also contain testimonials and feedback from actual seniors delighted with their progress and accomplishments, similar to that of “before and after stories of weight loss”. Seniors want to hear how it has enhanced and changed other people, who are just like themselves. They want to hear the successes, for example, how exercise lowered blood pressure, how strength training enabled other seniors to do more, how medication was reduced, how endurance was stretched. It all gives the feeling that anything is possible, if they can do it, then I can as well. It sends a message and an incentive to become a joiner.

Seniors often prefer to sample a program on a trial basis to see if it’s going to be the right fit for them. Offering special programs geared to this group is smart when limiting them to one or two classes. Fitness activities can be offered at many different types of senior living facilities. Places such as retirement communities and nursing homes already recognize the need and benefits of fitness and nutritional programs. Approaching these senior residences is an effective strategy of marketing to large groups of seniors. There are also many senior assisted living residences that do not have organized fitness classes or programs in place yet, but they will soon. Visit these places and offer a free class or program, if these programs are successful you will know that this appeals to seniors and if the need is strong enough to continue. This will help to target the senior market, zeroing in on what works and what doesn’t.

Marketers of fitness need to alter their sales approach to seniors. This age group is not impulsive and will appreciate a thorough, softer sell approach. Seniors need and want information and prefer patience. This in turn builds trust, instilling confidence in the senior contemplating buying a membership. It basically reaffirms that they are doing the right thing in taking this first step to join.

Seniors as consumers hold certain expectations that need to be met for fulfillment. As part of the packaging of the programming, seniors also need and crave socialization and to be part of the group. They need leadership, to have an instructor to safely guide them through the program, with an eye to protecting them from injury and awareness of ailments like arthritis and osteoporosis in the participants. They look for convenience, with minimal stairs and easy entry, or even better brought to their home. Lastly they want value and attention, to feel like they are progressing and that their state of well being is something that is noted.

As with any market, the sales approach needs to be geared to their age defined needs and preferences. In the year 2010 and in the coming years the greying of the boomers market will keep growing by leaps and bounds. There will be an even greater emphasis on slowing the effects of aging and possibly the reversal through movement and exercise. This, the marketers realize is what it’s all about at any age. Seniors, like everyone else, want to maintain a high quality of life and that definitely includes exercise to make it happen.