Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Update to Harbortouch POS Terms Improves the Best Full POS Deal On the Market

The Harbortouch POS systems have always been a good economic choice for small or medium size businesses that want a fully-featured POS system without having to spend thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars out of pocket just to get set up. But many merchants have balked at the lengthy five-year agreement required to qualify for the "free" equipment placement. Even though the monthly fee was comparable to the requirements of other system providers who charged for their equipment, nobody likes being locked into a service for an extended period.

Good News for New Harbortouch Accounts

Harbortouch has now begun implementing two significant improvements in their agreements for new POS systems. First, on their lower-end POS, there is an automatic trial period of 30 days. While many companies offer 45 days, which is what you need to ensure that a full statement period is covered, this is still an important announcement from Harbortouch. This way, there is a chance to ensure that all the reports work properly and that all deposits happen as they are supposed to.

The really exciting part, however, is that their Elite II system now comes with only a three year commitment. And this is at the same monthly rate that they charged for the service before. This is a significant potential savings when the hard costs of ownership are considered. Of course, the reality is that most merchants will likely continue with the service and the payments well past the three years, but it is good to know that if cheaper and better technology is available, nothing will prevent a merchant from being able to adopt it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Working on a new book

Faithful readers, this is an announcement that my book, tentatively titled The Ultimate Guide to Merchant Processing or some similarly engaging name, is in the works. I'll be releasing info about it here as it gets closer to publication.

The book will be designed as a portable consultant to assist business owners with the process of vetting merchant services companies, working with agents (or avoiding them altogether), choosing their POS system (or sticking with a terminal or mobile app) and more.

Essentially, the book will be an inexpensive alternative to a full analysis and consultation that walks the merchant through the steps of breaking down his or her needs and then arranging the easiest and least expensive solution. Designed to save business owners time and money while increasing profits down the road, the guide will answer the questions that most merchants don't think to ask until it is too late.

If there is anything that YOU would like to see addressed, please don't hesitate to email me with topic suggestions. If I don't get them in the first edition, there is always room to add them to a later revision.

Many thanks!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

AMEX at the Same Rate as Visa and MasterCard -- Is it True?

Merchants may have been hearing over the past few months that some agents are claiming they can provide American Express transactions at the same low Qualified Rate as swiped Visa and MasterCard transactions. Well, yes and no. It had a lot to do with which network is handling the transactions, at least at the moment, and also what platform the transactions are being processed on.

Let me simplify this a bit. The first thing merchants should know is that only Global Payments affiliated providers are offering this low rate option for AMEX, not First Data network affiliates and probably not Paymentech, either. Merchants with a POS system that requires a First Data connection are currently out of luck unless they change systems. The good news is that merchant services providers like North American Bancard, Total Merchant Services and other processors that use the Global Payments network are already offering the reduced American Express rates to their new clients and rolling them out to existing clients.

For users of mobile "pay as you go" apps like Phone Swipe, PayAnywhere or Square, which use a simple swipe rate for all their card transactions, AMEX is already going through at the lower rate, which is 2.69% for NAB's Phone Swipe or 2.75% for Square. That is already less than most merchants had been paying for AMEX charges. But what of the promised 1.69% (or less) Qualified Rate for merchants on tiered processing?

This is where it gets muddy, but don't worry: it is still a lot cheaper than before. When a merchant has a standard contract and all its monthly fees, they also get much lower rates to offset those fees and, if they are processing over $3,000 each month, ought to see a net savings that improves as volume offsets the monthly fees. Such merchants may have a Qualified credit card rate of anywhere from 1.08% (plus dues and assessments and network fees) on up to around 1.79% or even more, depending on how the account was set up. What is happening now is that American Express is being priced at the same percentage as the other cards, but with a small catch.
The catch is that the other associated charges are slightly higher than the other card brands. Visa, MasterCard and Discover (and also the new PayPal card) all have additional little fees sneakily tacked on and passed through to merchants for things like "brand usage," "network access," "assessments," and more. And these tiny amounts add up. The fact is, each brand of card determines its own fees and to make it possible to sell lower rates, the processing companies take those out of their Qualified Rate and just pass the cost along to the merchant at the end of each statement, all lumped together. This is where merchants will notice that, yes, while their AMEX transactions have the same low rates, they still end up costing slightly more.

The bottom line, though, is that for merchants who take a lot of American Express cards, this new program can lead to a significant savings on the bottom line. Need another bonus? Turns out that the AMEX charges will also post along with the other card brands now, as well, which could be next day or within 48 hours, no longer requiring the additional day or two that American Express sometimes takes to make the deposits. All told, this is a lot of good news for merchants who are set up with the right plan and the right company. 

Consultations are always available, no pressure and no obligation.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

PayAnywhere Storefront POS-Lite Updates to Version 2.2

The Most Affordable POS System Just Got Upgraded

North American Bancard's PayAnywhere Storefront payment application for Android just got a major tweak. While it still is not a replacement for a full-POS system like Groovv or ShopKeep, it remains a perfect solution for small retail businesses that do not need the system to control the stock of hundreds of inventory items, maintain open checks or log employee hours. PayAnywhere Storefront still allows the input of inventory items for quick checkout (it just doesn't keep track of what is in stock) and offers a wide array of sales reports. But mostly it offers one of the most cost-effective checkout systems for merchants who want to keep low rates and low fees while still tapping into the most-wanted features of the higher-priced systems and taking advantage of added mobility.

New Features in PayAnywhere Storefront 2.2

  • Faster checkout! Merchants no longer have to press an extra button before swiping -- just run the card through the card reader and get that transaction going. There is also a novel new feature to

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Affordable Tablet POS Systems That Support Open Checks and Tips from Groovv and ShopKeep POS

Android and iOS based POS Systems perfect for small and mid-size restaurants, coffee shops, bars or any business that accepts tips or open tabs.

Most mobile credit card processing solutions are not able to handle tips or open checks (tabs) at all, acting strictly as the equivalent of a counter-top terminal for swiping or key-entering a single transaction. This works well enough for most people, who rarely will need modifiers of any sort. However, business owners wishing to move away from or avoid altogether the high-priced POS systems now are seeing viable options appear in the affordable tablet-based solutions entering the market.

While affordable solutions such as Harbortouch have begun presenting themselves in the market for full POS systems required for high-inventory merchants who need extensive employee tracking and reporting for the accountant, the mobile marketplace has seen an explosion recently with excellent retail solutions like

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Time Again for Increases in Interchange Costs

April Interchange Increases

It happens at least twice each year: the credit card processing companies all send out notices regarding unavoidable pricing increases for their merchants. Like clockwork, April brings the news, usually overlooked by merchants who are used to glancing past the fine print on their monthly statements (if they read them at all). In case you missed it, here is a brief rundown of some current increases in interchange cost associated with the major credit card brands.

Not surprisingly, processing companies use this excuse to cry poor, and in addition to merely passing the additional costs on to merchants, they will mostly tack on across the board increases to compensate for the new expenses while also generating more income.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Affordable, Full-Featured Harbortouch POS - Reliable Testimonials Speak Volumes

Harbortouch continues to offer one of the more compelling full POS systems on the market. While I am a proponent of software like PhoneSwipe / PayAnywhere and Registroid, which work on tablets and offer considerably better pricing for the use of the software and hardware, there are times when a business simply needs more muscle under the hood. Whether this is a retail situation, a high volume coffee shop or restaurant, or even a hotel, Harbortouch can be configured to offer best-in-class service that provides over 80 customized reports while managing everything from consumables in stock to employee hours and a customer's preferences. It is a very fluid system that works through the cloud, offering a complete backoffice experience from anywhere with an Internet connection, keeping multiple stations in sync and even has the ability to tie in a roaming station that can take tableside orders or payments. Plus, the equipment costs are folded into the service agreement at about the same (or lower) cost as other comparable services without the thousands of dollars those other services might expect up front in hardware purchases.

But what I really like about Harbortouch is that the company is starting to show a bit more proof about their customer satisfaction. Most of the big players have plenty of high profile clients. Squirrel, for example, doesn't need to convince anyone that their equipment works, because they have a pretty substantial slice of the pie, as does Halo. However, an upstart like Harbortouch which is offering a radically different type of pricing approach and the promise of "Free Hardware" (in quotes because, frankly, nothing is free -- here you have a time commitment of five years to make it worth their while and cover their costs, which is only two years more than most other companies sign merchants up for even when they buy the equipment upfront), needs to be able to show merchants who might not be able to attend a hands-on demo that the system is worth jumping into. No sensible merchant wants to rely on blind faith, even if there is a "trial" window available. So it is pretty impressive that Harbortouch has been slowly releasing testimonial videos from some of their clients.

Monday, March 10, 2014

New PayAnywhere (Free) Tablet Storefront Solution Is Here

First the good news: North American Bancard (NAB) has a new PayAnywhere branded mobile tablet-based processing program which offers the placement of a free counter-top system and some great new options built around a 10 inch Android tablet (plus an additional mobile card reader for phones or tablets). It is one of the most affordable processing solutions on the market that takes advantage of mobile solutions at highly competitive rates with a future-ready, upgradable combination of hardware and software. It will become EMV compliant and is consistently being updated on the software side to take advantage of the latest technology while offering more enhancements to merchants. The program is very similar to the previous Phone Swipe Tablet Program which NAB been providing, but without the high volume requirements.

Processing of Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and the new PayPal card are all available with Next Day Funding and a lower swiped rate than Square or any "Pay As You Go" style programs, and still without additional transaction fees.

Having stated the good news, you might expect that there is bad news to counter it. But there isn't, at least not in the sense of anything new about the processing industry. Instead, there is the caveat that merchants still must deal with the same basic pricing and service of typical merchant accounts, including the PCI responsibilities and standard fees. Moreover, however, this program is not a "one size fits all" solution. If merchants are not processing over $5,000 in monthly charges, there is a good chance this program is not for them. On the other hand, it could save the right merchants a lot of money, offer a forward-thinking alternative to standard terminals and increase both productivity and profits. All will be revealed after the jump...

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Phone Swipe Promo, What It Really Means

North American Bancard just released a new promotional push for its Phone Swipe product, touting it as a new, first of its kind deal for 2014. The text of the promo reads:    

"This January, be the first in the industry to offer Visa, MasterCard, Discover and even AMEX at 2.69% with next day funding to all pay-as-you-go customers! It's just another reason why Phone Swipe is the mobile payments solution that sells itself!"  

Since the next day funding option has been standard for new accounts since mid-2013, and since American Express cards have been processing on Pay-As-You-Go accounts at the same qualified rate as Visa, MasterCard and Discover for the same period, I wanted to find out which part of this was supposed to be new for the new year. Well, it turns out that it isn't new and nothing has actually changed in the program. The spin is simply the suggestion that agents should take time now - in January - to point out that Phone Swipe is the first processor to offer qualified charges for the main card carriers at this rate. Agents and merchants should still be aware that the same mid/non-qualified downgrade of 80 basis points continues to apply to all accounts on the Pay-As-You-Go plan, along with the $0.19 transaction fee for business signature cards and even rewards cards.

Does this make the Phone Swipe program a bad deal?

If you have read this blog before, you know that I have endorsed Phone Swipe for a long time. I even