You can put credit card processing fees on the list with death and taxes: Unavoidable and, at least with taxes and credit card fees, an inevitable cost of doing business in the 21st century. As consumers increasingly favor cashless payments, small business owners are stuck with the tab for interchange fees, merchant account fees, gateway fees, potential chargebacks, and on and on.
But there's another cost that most entrepreneurs are not aware of, and it could be putting them at serious risk for fraud. According to a new poll conducted by Manta, 56 percent of small companies still do not accept chip-based credit cards, and a whopping 65 percent of business owners are not familiar with the fraud liability shift that went into effect two years ago this month.
Get up to date on new fraud liability rules
For those who aren't aware, here's some background: EMV technology (that stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa) uses a chip embedded in cards to store information; they're more secure than cards with magnetic stripes. By now most of us have chip-based credit cards in our pockets and we're accustomed to "dipping" cards into readers instead of swiping them.
What business owners may have missed during this transition is the extra burden it places on them. As of Oct. 1, 2015, merchants who don't accept chip-based cards are on the hook for fraudulent transactions. That's right, credit card companies are no longer liable for fraud--you are.
That risk is simply not worth taking. Here's what you need to know about accepting chip-based credit cards and protecting your small business from the potential expense of fraud.
Chip card readers are now readily available
At the time of the switch to chip cards, many businesses that wanted to comply couldn't get their hands on new card readers or faced delays updating their point-of-sale (POS) software. Now, two years later, most of those wrinkles have been ironed out. In fact, according to Manta's survey, 77 percent of business owners who have made the switch said it's been a smooth transition.
While it may be easy, however, switching won't necessarily be cheap: card readers can cost hundreds, not to mention the cost of software upgrades, tech support, and staff training. Still, this upfront cost more than outweighs the potential risk of getting ripped off. Only 21 percent of business owners told Manta they could withstand the expense of being liable for credit card fraud.
Update your software, POS, and mobile card readers
Accepting chip-based credit cards at your business isn't as simple as just buying a new card reader for your cash register, unfortunately. You may also need to update (or replace) your POS system and ensure that all the new components are compatible with your accounting software and other tools. It can add up.
But this is also an opportunity to invest in more secure and more advanced technology--and give your customers more payment options. For example, in addition to accepting chip cards, make sure your new POS system also accepts "contactless" mobile-wallet payments such as PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Wallet and others.
If you use a mobile card-swiping device that plugs into your smartphone or tablet, you also need to upgrade that to a chip-dipping version. Mobile chip-reading devices are now widely available, and you can find mobile devices that accept contactless payments as well.
Dipping chip cards is getting faster
The biggest complaint from consumers during the transition to new credit cards was the extra time needed to "dip" their cards and wait for verification. While in reality EMV transactions lasted just 10 to 20 seconds, that felt like an eternity compared to the instant convenience of swiping.
Fortunately, chip card transaction times are being reduced. This year, retail software provider Index announced an initiative to reduce processing time to 1 second by improving backend systems, while Visa and MasterCard have both developed faster chips. Slow checkout times should no longer be an annoyance to customers--or business owners. And the inconvenience and expense of updating your payment system is more than made up for by the fraud protection and reduced risk that comes with accepting chip cards.