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Small Business Tips for Credit Card Processing

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When you’re running a small business, every penny counts. Understanding some basic ways to get the most for your money will help your business thrive. Here, we discuss several ways to save money that you might not have thought of.

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How to Save Money on Credit Card Processing in Your Small Business

The credit card processing for small business industry can be expensive, regardless of who your service provider is, but it’s a necessary function to help your business grow. Many small business owners aren’t aware that you can negotiate your rates and choose from different pricing models that are best for you.

Let’s take a look at your options.

Understand Your Business

The first step in saving money on credit card processing is to understand your business. This includes the types of transactions that you process, the volume of transactions on a monthly basis, and the types of cards your customers are using. All of these pieces of information can help you make better choices when it comes to processing.

The second item to consider is the type of equipment you have or need. This will vary greatly based on your business model. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, you likely need a lot more hardware than if you own an eCommerce business. Note: try to purchase the equipment outright, rather than leasing. It’s almost always cheaper.

Last but not least, you need fraud protection. This is a non-negotiable piece of the puzzle that you need to budget for. If you’re going to be collecting credit card information from customers, you have the responsibility of protecting that information.

Businessman in a fancy coffee shop

Know What Fees Can Be Negotiated

Credit card processing includes a complex series of fees that are charged by different entities. Some are negotiable and some are not. If you know the difference between them, you will be better suited to negotiate for your business.

1. Interchange and assessment fees are non-negotiable

Interchange fees are per-transaction fees charged by the credit card network and split between the network and the card-issuing bank. Assessment fees are based on your total monthly sales and 100% of these fees are paid to the credit card networks.

2. Markup fees are negotiable

These are the fees charged by your service provider for their services. Since the service provider doesn’t receive any portion of the interchange or assessment fees, they will charge a markup so they can make money. This is their main source of income.

3. Monthly fees are negotiable

Many service providers also charge a monthly account or maintenance fee. This fee can often be negotiated, based on your good standing with the service provider and the volume of transactions you process each month.

Tiered pricing strategy

Understand the Different Pricing Structures

This is one of the most complex concepts in the card processing world, but is vital to your business. If you want to save money on your processing, it’s important to know the difference between the pricing models. Not all models are created alike and different ones are better for different types of businesses.

1. Interchange Plus Pricing

This is considered to be a great option for the majority of small businesses who need card processing services. In this model, the service provider will pass the interchange fee on to the merchant at-cost. They will then charge their markup fees at a fixed rate.

This model makes it easy to plan for your processing costs because of the fixed markup rate. The confusing part about this plan is the interchange fee. Since the provider is passing it to you at-cost, you’ll have to navigate all the different prices for the various card-issuing banks and even the type of cards.

Since 2010, in general debit cards have much lower fees than credit, but other pricing models were not affected as much as interchange plus.

2. Tiered Pricing

Tiered pricing includes what is often a convoluted structure that can be difficult to understand. Transactions are grouped into “tiers” and charged according to their tier. These tiers are typically called qualified, mid-qualified and non-qualified. Each category is charged a different markup and interchange fee based on the category.

Different service providers categorize transactions differently, so it’s really hard to get a side-by-side comparison in this model. Service providers often clump more transactions into the non-qualified tier so they can charge higher fees. Many merchants are unprepared for the stark difference in fees between the categories.

3. Flat Rate Pricing

This model is by far the easiest to understand and plan for. It can make life much easier for the merchant because you can plan and budget for your processing expenses each month. However, not all service providers are to make this a simple process.

Some will charge a flat fee for all transactions, while others will charge a flat fee for credit cards, another for debit cards, and so-on. This also makes it difficult to compare and contrast providers when shopping for services. Providers also tend to charge higher-than-average rates because they need to cover their own costs on transactions that would cost more in a different pricing model.

Credit card payment processing at the till

Shop Around

When all is said and done, it’s important to shop around for your services. Be sure to avoid high-pressure sales situations, sales gimmicks, and loss leaders. Those are sure signs of a service provider who does not have your best interest in mind. You also want to avoid signing a contract and get a provider who offers a 30-day out instead.

Although it can be tedious to dig into all these different pricing models and fee structures, it’s a great way to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Get quotes from multiple providers and sift through everything they have to offer. You want a provider who is secure, offers great customer service and has really good rates that will help you be successful.

Conclusion

Payment processing is one of the most important aspects of your business. Be sure to give it the time and attention it deserves to make you successful long-term. All of the activities discussed here will help you get the best rates and find the best provider for your business.

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Banking

Are Small-Business Loans Installment or Revolving?

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A small-business loan provides funds to purchase supplies, expand your business and more. This type of funding can be either installment or revolving. Reviewing the credit terms of your loan offer will help you determine whether you’re being offered an installment loan or revolving credit.

Both types of loans can be found in the Small Business Administration, or SBA, loan program and at banks, credit unions and online lenders. While each can provide much-needed funding for your business, there are some key differences to keep in mind.

Installment loans vs. revolving credit

Installment loans provide a lump sum of money

An installment loan is a credit agreement where the borrower receives a specific amount of money at one time and then repays the lender a set amount at regular intervals over a fixed period of time. Typically, each payment includes a portion for interest and another amount to pay down the principal balance.

Business term loan is another common name for this type of loan. After the loan is paid off, the borrower typically must apply for a new loan if additional funds are needed.

Revolving credit provides flexible funds

A revolving loan is a credit agreement where the borrower can withdraw money as needed up to a preset limit and then repays the lender a portion of the balance at regular intervals. Each payment is based on the current balance, interest charges and applicable fees, if any. You pay interest only on the funds that you use — not the maximum limit.

A business line of credit is a common type of revolving credit. Revolving credit gives the borrower flexibility in determining when to withdraw money and how much. As long as the credit balance remains within the preset limit and you continue to make timely payments, you can continue to draw from the line again and again.

Differences between installment loans and revolving credit

The terms of a loan can vary depending on the type of loan, lender and your business’s credentials. Your loan may be a unique combination of terms. However, the following are some common differences between installment and revolving loan programs.

Installment loan

Revolving credit

Loan amount

Fixed amount.

Maximum limit.

Withdraw as needed.

Payment amount

Fixed amount.

Minimum amount based on balance and interest with option to pay more.

Interest calculation

Based on loan amount.

Based on current balance, not maximum loan limit.

Ability to renew

Not renewable, typically.

Renewable, typically.

  • SBA loans.

  • Business term loans.

  • Commercial real estate loans.

  • Equipment loans.

  • Microloans.

  • SBA lines of credit.

  • Business lines of credit.

  • Business credit cards.

When to use an installment loan

Set loan amount is needed

If you’re confident in the loan amount you need, then an installment loan may be the right fit, especially if you need the money in a lump sum. For example, if you’re using the funds to make a one-time purchase, you’ll likely want an installment loan.

Long-term financing needs

Some term loans can offer you more time for repayment when compared with revolving credit. When you stretch your payments out over a longer period of time, it can mean a lower monthly payment. However, that trade-off typically means you’ll pay more in interest costs over the life of the loan.

Larger funding needs

If you’re looking to purchase property, equipment or other large-ticket items, there are a number of installment loans that can be used for this purpose. Revolving credit limits are often less than term loan maximums.

Preference for predictable payments

With a set monthly payment amount, it can be easier to budget for an installment loan compared with a revolving loan, where the payment varies depending on how much of the credit line you use.

When to use a revolving loan

Short-term financing needs

Revolving credit can be good to handle short-term cash shortages or to cover unexpected expenses. Some businesses use lines of credit as an emergency fund of sorts since they’ll pay interest only on the funds they use.

Fluctuations in cash flow

Businesses that experience major fluctuations in their cash flows may benefit from revolving credit. For example, seasonal businesses that don’t have consistent revenue throughout the year can use lines of credit to cover operational costs during their slow season.

Preference for flexible loan amount and payments

If you don’t know exactly how much money you need, then revolving credit will give you the option to qualify for a maximum amount but only withdraw funds as you need them. This way, you’ll pay interest only on the current amount owed.

Compare small-business loans

To see and compare loan options, check out NerdWallet’s list of best small-business loans. Our recommendations are based on the lender’s market scope and track record and on the needs of business owners, as well as rates and other factors, so you can make the right financing decision.

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Banking

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Business Bank Loan

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According to the Federal Reserve’s 2021 Small Business Credit Survey, banks remain the most common source of credit for small businesses — compared with options such as online lenders, community development financial institutions or credit unions.

You can use a business bank loan for a variety of purposes: working capital, real estate acquisition, equipment purchase or business expansion. To qualify for one of these small-business loans, however, you’ll likely need excellent credit and several years in business.

Before applying for a business loan from a bank, consider the following advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of business bank loans

Flexible use of funds

Banks offer a range of different business loan products, including term loans, business lines of credit, equipment financing and commercial real estate loans, among other options. Unless you opt for a product that has a specific use case, like a business auto loan, for example, you can generally use a bank loan in a variety of ways to grow and expand your business.

When you submit your loan application, the bank may ask you to identify a purpose for the financing to evaluate the risk of lending to your business. Once you’re approved, however, the bank is unlikely to interfere if you change your intentions, as long as you make your payments. This flexibility is perhaps one of the biggest advantages when comparing debt versus equity financing.

Large loan amounts and competitive repayment terms

Bank loans are often available in amounts up to $1 million or more. Many online lenders, on the other hand, only offer financing in smaller amounts. Popular online lenders OnDeck and BlueVine, for example, both have maximum loan limits of $250,000.

Business loans from banks also tend to have long terms, up to 25 years in some cases. These loans usually have monthly repayment schedules, as opposed to daily or weekly repayments.

In comparison, online business loans typically have shorter repayment terms, ranging from a few months to a few years. Many of these loans require daily or weekly repayments.

Low interest rates

Banks typically offer small-business loans with the lowest interest rates. According to the most recent data from the Federal Reserve, the average business loan interest rates at banks range from 3.19% to 6.78%.

Although some online lenders can offer competitive rates, you’ll find that their products are generally more expensive than bank loans, with rates that range from 7% to 99%.

The interest rates you receive on a bank loan, or any small-business loan, however, can vary based on a number of factors, such as loan type, amount borrowed and your business’s qualifications, as well as any collateral you provide to back the loan. In general, the stronger your qualifications and the more collateral you can offer, the better rates you’ll be able to receive.

Relationship with a bank lender

Many banks provide ongoing support for their lending customers, such as business credit score tracking or a dedicated relationship manager to work with your business. Most banks also offer other types of financial products, such as business checking accounts, business credit cards and merchant services, if you prefer to use one institution for your financial needs.

Although some alternative lenders offer additional support and services, the Federal Reserve’s 2021 Small Business Credit Survey reports that businesses that receive financing are more satisfied with their experience with small banks (74%) and large banks (60%) compared with online lenders (25%).

Disadvantages of business bank loans

Intensive application process and slow to fund

To apply for a small-business loan from a bank, you’ll need to provide detailed paperwork that may include, but is not limited to, business and personal tax returns, business financial statements, a loan purpose statement, business organization documentation, a personal financial statement form and collateral information. You may have to visit a bank branch and work with a lending representative to complete and submit an application — although some banks offer online applications for certain business loan products.

The entire process, from application to funding, can take anywhere from several days to a few weeks, or even longer, depending on the type of loan and the bank. Some banks will also require you to open a business checking account with them before you can receive funds.

In comparison, alternative lenders typically have streamlined, online application processes that require minimal documentation. Many of these lenders also offer fast business loans — in some cases, funding applications within 24 hours.

Strict eligibility requirements

To qualify for a business loan from a bank, you’ll generally need strong personal credit (often a FICO score of over 700), several years in business and a track record of solid business revenue. Bank of America, for example, requires a minimum annual revenue of $100,000 for unsecured term loans and a minimum annual revenue of $250,000 for secured term loans.

Depending on the bank and the loan type, you may need to provide collateral, such as real estate or equipment, to secure your financing. Most banks will also require you to sign a personal guarantee that holds you personally responsible for the debt in the event that your business can’t pay.

Online lenders, on the other hand, have more flexible qualifications and some will work with startups or businesses with bad credit. To qualify for a business line of credit with Fundbox, for example, you only need six months in business, a credit score of 600 or higher and at least $100,000 in annual revenue.

Although online lenders may still require a personal guarantee, they’re less likely than banks to require physical collateral.

Find and compare small-business loans

Still trying to determine the right way to finance your business? Check out NerdWallet’s list of the best small-business loans for business owners.

Our recommendations are based on the market scope and track record of lenders, the needs of business owners, and an analysis of rates and other factors, so you can make the right financing decision.

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Finance & Accounting

What Are Typical Small-Business Loan Terms?

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Small-business loan terms determine how long a small-business owner has to pay back their borrowed money, plus interest. Typical loan terms, also referred to as repayment terms, can vary from a few months to 25 years — it depends on your lender and the type of business loan.

You and your lender will establish a repayment schedule that shows how much you’ll pay per week or month. While reviewing repayment terms, consider eligibility requirements and annual percentage rates, which take into account interest rates and other fees associated with the loan.

Typical loan terms overview

Repayment term

Term loans

Up to 10 years.

Business expansion.

Microloans

Up to six years.

Startups and businesses with smaller funding needs.

Up to 25 years.

Small businesses with good credit and available collateral.

Business lines of credit

Up to five years.

Short-term, flexible financing.

Invoice financing

A few months.

Cash advances based on unpaid invoices.

Equipment financing

Up to 10 years.

Equipment purchases.

Business loan repayment terms

Term loans: Up to 10 years

Small-business term loans provide a lump sum of cash upfront that borrowers pay back over time. Online lenders and traditional banks offer them, and maximum amounts range from $250,000 to $500,000. Term loans fall into either the short-term or long-term category — for example, a long-term loan may have a repayment term of 10 years while a short-term loan from an online lender might only give the borrower from three months to two years to pay it back.

Microloans: Up to six years

Nonprofit, community-driven lenders offer microloans to small-business owners in specific regions and underserved communities. While smaller loan amounts typically mean shorter repayment terms (and this is true for some microloans), SBA microloans have terms of up to six years.

SBA loans: Up to 10 years for working capital and fixed assets; up to 25 years for real estate

SBA loans range anywhere from thousands of dollars to $5 million and generally have low interest rates. The maximum 7(a) loan term for working capital is 10 years, although according to the SBA, seven years is common. Borrowers have up to 25 years to pay off loans used for real estate.

Business lines of credit: Up to five years

With a business line of credit, small businesses pay interest only on the money that they borrow, and funds can be available within days. Some business lines of credit require weekly repayments instead of monthly repayments.

Invoice financing: A few months

Invoice financing provides businesses with a cash advance while they wait on their unpaid invoices. Like a business line of credit, invoice financing is a quick way to access cash and is one of the shortest-term financing options available. Terms mostly depend on how long customers take to pay their invoices.

Equipment financing: Up to 10 years

Equipment financing is used to pay for large equipment purchases, and then that same equipment serves as collateral. Terms vary and usually depend on how long the equipment you’re financing is expected to last.

What is a loan maturity date?

A loan repayment term describes how much time you have to repay the loan, plus interest; you might also hear this referred to as loan maturity. This is not to be confused with the loan maturity date, which is the final day of your repayment term. On the loan maturity date, the entirety of the loan and any extra associated costs should be paid.

What is a prepayment penalty?

Some lenders charge borrowers a fee for paying off their loan ahead of schedule. Typically, this is to offset the lost interest the lender expected to receive over the full term of the loan. For example, SBA borrowers with a 15-year-plus loan term are penalized for prepaying 25% or more of the loan balance within the first three years of their loan term. Check your business loan agreement to see if your lender charges this type of fee.

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