Seattle Community

James Hussher
Credit card merchant setup/sales
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Greatly helpful
8.5
out of 10
2 votes

How rising debit card use affects your retail business

Debit card issuance is rising and credit card issuance decreasing, according to Visa and Mastercard. If your business accepst plastic, read on....
Written Aug 06, 2009, read 2133 times since then.
Closed_info

 

Debit card issuance is rising in the United States, according to both Visa and Mastercard. Visa reported a 16.5% increase in debit card issuance last year; Mastercard says debit card issuance rose 10.5% in the same period. Not surprisingly, both credit card associations also reported a substantial dip in credit card transactions and an increase in debit card transactions.

What does this mean to you, the merchant? Well, with more debit cards coming into use, you will see an increase in the number of your own customers that will present a debit card for payment at the register, versus a credit card.

In today’s economy many people have maxed out their credit cards or have damaged their credit and can’t qualify for an actual credit card. Then there is the growing sector known as “The Unbanked”, individuals who are not in the banking system, either by choice or due to credit problems. These people often carry pre-paid debit cards purchased at check cashing stores, etc. They load cash onto the cards and use them just like any bank-issued debit card. The cards carry either the Visa or Mastercard hologram.

Debit cardholders may elect to have you swipe their card as either debit, requiring the customer to enter their Personal Identification Number (PIN), or have you swipe their card as “credit”.

Most merchant normally actually ask the customer, “Debit or credit?” This is not the way to save yourself money on transaction processing costs. As most merchants know, the cost is much less to process a transaction as debit than credit. Debit transactions do not run through the Visa or Mastercard interchange network, and thus bypass their fees. A typical credit card transaction might cost a merchant 1.6% and 20 cents transaction fee. To process that same transaction as a debit, the cost is typically 0.7% and 30 cents. The difference will average roughly $100 savings per $10,000 in sales. ( In this example, 1.6% would represent a transaction at the lowest tier, known as Qualified. If the card has rewards, such as cash back or airline miles, it would run as Mid-qualified at around 2.7% or more. A business or corporate or foreign card at 4% or more.)

So why would you leave the choice of processing to the customer? They don’t care, trust me. What you should be doing every time you take a debit card is swiping it as debit and presenting the PIN keypad to the customer so they can enter their PIN. If you ever get a customer who for some odd reason really prefers to run the transaction as credit, just hit your cancel button and re-swipe as credit. Some pre-paid debit cards do carry a transaction fee to the cardholder for credit swipe transactions and I have met people who incorrectly believed their bank would charge them a fee for a PIN debit transaction.

Being proactive like this can save you thousands of dollars a year, and with debit card use on the rise, processing debit cards properly will become ever more critical.

What’s that you say? You don’t have a PIN keypad? Well, contact your account executive with your merchant processor and order one today. They cost anywhere from $100 to $300 and are often available refurbished.

Many credit card terminals actually have a PIN pad function built in, the customer enters their PIN directly on your terminal keyboard. Check if your terminal does this.

One final remark about the savings by processing a debit card as debit versus credit. Depending upon what your merchant services provider (MSP) is charging you for debit card PIN-based transaction versus credit card, there is a price point below which you may save money by choosing to swipe a debit card as a credit card. Example: You sell ice cream cones. Average sale ticket is $10 for a family’s purchase. To process as a PIN-based debit, the cost to you will be .70% plus 30 cents. That comes out to 7 cents and 30 cents= 37 cents to process as debit. As a credit sale it would be 1.6% and perhaps 15 cents so that comes out to 16 cents plus 15 cents = 31 cents. 6 cents lower that a PIN-based debit sale. Not a big difference for one sale, but multiplied out to a month’s sales volume it amounts to a bit of money you might be wasting. You will have to run your own numbers depending on your own processing costs.

What’s that you say? You don’t know exactly what you are paying to process plastic? Well, you need to find out!

My own company, the merchant services provider for whom I am an account executive, offers a free analysis of your recent merchant account statement. We break down what you pay for all three tiers of credit cards (known as Qualified, Mid-qualified and Non-qualified) as well as the various monthly fees that may be tacked on, and we the, side by side, show you what we propose to charge and what your bottom-line savings could be by switching your merchant processing to us. All in one neat and easy-to-read page. Free. I have looked at many merchant account monthly syatements in my time and most can be very confusing to the customer.

We are entering a cashless era in society and the ability to take electronic payments - credit and debit cards, gift and loyalty cards, electronic check processing and more - is a crucial aspect of running your business, and managing the associated costs is just good business.

 

Learn more about the author, James Hussher.

Comment on this article

  • Credit Card Processing, Merchant Service Solutions, Data Security Consultant 
Marysville, Washington 
Scott O'Neall
    Posted by Scott O'Neall, Marysville, Washington | Jun 27, 2010

    Another great article! You present a terrific strategy for managing credit card processing cost. If a merchant offers a 'Cash Back' option, as many grocers do, then the appropriate question would be "Will there be cash back with that today?" That way they can take advantage of the break point that might make a "Credit" transaction advantageous.