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I’m sure as a business owner you have enough to do without having to figure out how Credit Card Interchange Fees work. The good news is it’s not that complicated. There are hundreds of different interchange fees, what is important is to understand that interchange is essentially the wholesale rate that banks charge each other in order to process a credit card or debit card transaction. It is the cost of doing business, usually around two percent of the transaction amount.
Although the card companies set interchange rates there are things you can do to help avoid paying too much.
Review Your Charges Annually
At least twice a year (generally every April and October), Visa and MasterCard re-assess their processes, regulations and fees then announce rate changes and new fees. Many times your existing provider will layer on additional rate increases above the Interchange adjustments. Call another provider, fax in your merchant statement and have your account analyzed to “catch” these hidden rate increases.
Use an Interchange Pass Through Program
In order to pay the lowest fees when processing credit cards, a merchant’s goal is to pay as close to interchange as possible. A merchant account that uses an Interchange Pass Through pricing method applies processing fees by adding a small percentage to the actual Interchange Rate for every transaction and all dues and assessments are passed through directly at cost. This ensures that you only pay the true interchange rate in addition to a small mark-up that goes to their merchant service provider. Many times your existing provider will layer on additional rate increases above the Interchange adjustments. Call another provider, fax in your merchant statement and have your account analyzed to “catch” these hidden rate increases.
Avoid Downgrades Whenever Possible
A downgrade occurs when a transaction falls to a higher rate then what your business may qualify for. Whenever possible swipe the card at the point of sale device in order to reduce fraud and qualify for your lowest rate. For those of you that own some sort of on-site service or repair business, invest in either a wireless credit card processing terminal or look at some of the newer solutions such as RoamPay or PayWare mobile which allow you to use your mobile phone as a point of sale device.
Obtain the Correct Billing Information
In order to avoid downgrades for Card Not Present Transactions always obtain the correct billing information for the card being used. Credit Card Companies use an Address Verification Service (AVS) for Domestic Cards to determine if the billing information you enter matches the Card you are keying in. Always collect the Billing Address of the Card including the Postal Code as well as the Card Verification Code. The Card Code is the 3 Digit Number at the end of the Signature Panel on the back of the card for Visa, MasterCard and Discover. For American Express it is the 4 digit number on the front right hand side of the card above the last 5 digits of the card number.
Make Sure your Point of Sale Device is Programmed Properly
If your Point of Sale Device is not prompting you for Billing Address information as well as the Card Code, contact your Merchant Service Provider right away to get your device updated in order to pass that information to the Credit Card Companies. Another way transactions can downgrade is if you do not Settle or Batch your transactions within 24 Hours of obtaining an Authorization. Virtually all point of sale devices have the ability to Auto-Settle or Auto-Close at a specified time on a daily basis. If your device does not have that option enabled, contact your Merchant Service Provider right away to get your program updated.
Train Your Staff
If you are not the person directly responsible for processing credit cards at your company it is important that you properly train your staff to avoid downgrades. Routinely observe your cashiers, monitor transactions and carefully review your month end processing statements.
Adam Johanningmeier is the author of this article for Merchant Services. Find more information about Credit Card Processing here.