Credit card processing seems simple enough: Get a merchant account and set up your equipment, and you’re good to go. But for very small businesses — such as mom-and-pop shops, one-person operations and home-based sellers — the decision to accept credit cards means having to consider some very unique needs. From the difficulty of getting approved for a merchant account to losing money from fees and facing the challenges of using the same technologies as large corporations, the road to accepting credit cards can be rough. Nevertheless, small businesses don’t have to be at a complete disadvantage.

Just because you’re a very small business doesn’t mean your credit card processing choices are limited. It all depends on your type of business, how and where you intend to conduct it and how much streamlining you’ll need in order to make running it a lot easier.

For instance, if you are a mobile business, spend a lot of time attending trade shows or otherwise want the flexibility of being able to accept credit card payments anywhere, a mobile credit card processor is the best choice for you. And if you have an e-commerce store, consider a shared commerce point-of-sale (POS) system that integrates credit card transactions with your accounting and customer relationship management (CRM) software to automatically consolidate offline and online sales data.

Figuring out the costs of accepting credit cards can seem a lot like rocket science. There are a slew of fees involved, ranging from percentages to actual dollar amounts that vary based on the type of transaction or processor. These fees are especially important for very small businesses that are concerned that credit card processing costs might cut heavily into their bottom line (for instance, mom-and-pop shops that require a minimum purchase amount to use a credit card). This is why you need a high risk credit card processor, like First American Merchant – one that knows how to deal with the ups and downs of high risk businesses.

Here are the types of fees very small businesses should pay attention to in particular, as they add up on a monthly and per-transaction basis:

  • Gateway fee (varies)
  • Statement fee (industry standard of $10 a month, but can be as low as $5 a month)
  • Monthly minimum (varies, but may require you to pay extra if you don’t meet the minimum)
  • Average discount rates (a percentage of your sale that the credit card processor keeps)
  • Transaction fee (a fixed dollar amount charged per transaction)
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