When Credit Card Processing Gets Blocked: 7 Online Services Greeks Could Lose

Greek Flag

Imagine if your credit card was blocked and you couldn’t get another. Gradually the online services you pay for would get shut off.

That’s the situation Greek people and companies are in today. With capital controls in place, Greeks can no longer pay for online services from non-Greek companies. Which services are they missing the most?

Panos Papadopoulos of Splunk.com was so concerned about this issue, he helped set up an organisation called Zerofund to assist Greek startups who are currently unable to pay for their online services.

According to Panos, these are some of the services Greek startups are most concerned about losing:

1. Amazon Web Services

AWS, Amazon’s cloud server infrastructure has been enormously successful. It’s incredible powerful and usually very reliable. As long as you keep up your payments for it…

2. Hetzner

Another web hosting provider, this time based in Germany. Without your web server, an online business can’t do very much.

3. DigitalOcean

DigitalOcean are a large US-based web hosting company. They specialise in low-cost hosting and have become very popular around the world, including — it would seem — in Greece.

4. Google Adwords

Businesses need to promote themselves. And these days there are few marketing channels more popular than Google Adwords. Normally Google Adwords can bring in a steady stream of customers. But if you stop paying for the ads, the customers are no longer going to be able to find you.

5. Facebook Ads

With Facebook’s growth, it too has become a very popular place for businesses to advertise, including businesses based in Greece.

6. Atlassian

Many businesses these days use online collaboration tools to get their work done. Atlassian is one of the most popular of these tools. If you can’t see the status of your project, it’s hard to get much work done.

7. GoDaddy

GoDaddy provides domain name registration services to a huge number of businesses around the world. Domain name registrations have to be renewed on a regular basis. Worryingly, if you can’t pay to renew your registration, you could lose valuable domain names that you’ve been using for years.

Conclusion

These are just seven of the online services that Greeks could be losing access to. But they’re certainly not the only ones. Nature, for example, reports on how Greek scientists are losing access to online scientific journals. Whether Greece stays in the euro or not, we hope this situation gets sorted soon so that Greek credit cards can once again be accepted abroad.

 

5 Organisations That Shape the UK Payments Industry

Swirl of handsThe payments industry in the UK is big (a whopping £75 trillion big, according to the UK’s Payment Systems Regulator). It’s also critical to our modern economy: not a lot can happen without payments, after all. But aside from the big brands we’ve all heard of, who shapes this industry? What trade and government bodies help steer it?

Here are 5 of the bodies that matter to UK payments.

1. Payment Systems Regulator

Payment Systems Regulator logo

The Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) is the independent regulator for the payment systems industry in the UK. It was launched on 1st April 2015 and is a subsidiary of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). It is funded by the payment systems industry but accountable to Parliament.

Aims

The PSR’s stated purpose is “to make payment systems work well for those that use them.”

Their objectives are to promote competition and innovation in the payments industry and to ensure that payment systems are developed and operated in ways that are good for their users.

What do they do?

The PSR has a number of powers around standards-setting and to promote competition and innovation, including requiring large players in the industry to provide access to payments systems to smaller players.

2. The UK Cards Association

The UK Cards AssociationThe UK Cards Association logo is the trade organisation for the UK card payments industry. It represents financial institutions that act as card issuers and acquirers.

Membership

The organisation’s members include big names such as Barclays, Capital One, HSBC, American Express, RBS, Worldpay, First Data and many more.

3. Payments UK

Payments UK logoPayments UK launched in June 2015 as a replacement to the UK Payments Council. They are a trade body representing a range of payment service providers and other organisations, such as consultancies, with an interest in payments.

Membership

Payments UK has two levels of membership: full and associate. Full members include organisations such as American Express, Barclays, HSBC, J.P.Morgan, PayPal, Tesco Bank, and Worldpay. Associate members include the Department for Work and Pensions, KPMG and Experian and a dozen or so more.

4. European Payments Council

European Payments Council logo

The European Payments Council (EPC) is a European trade body representing payment service providers (PSPs). Their stated aim is to promote European payments integration and development, including SEPA (the Single Euro Payments Area), an initiative to develop a set of harmonised payment schemes and frameworks for electronic euro payments.

Membership

EPC members include a range of European financial institutions such as Santander, BNP Paribas, the Czech Banking Association, Deutsche Bank, Swedbank, and the Association of Banks in Bulgaria.

5. PCI Security Standards Council

PCI Security Standards Council logo

The PCI Security Standards Council is a global body that sets and promotes security standards for the handling of payments, particularly around dealing with cardholder data.

Notably, the Council is responsible for the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) which is a framework for handling payment card data in a secure way.

All organisations handling card payment data are generally encouraged by their payment service providers to comply with the PCI DSS standards.

Membership

The Council was established by American Express, Discover, JCB, MasterCard, and Visa Inc. who all recognise the PCI DSS framework. It now has a handful of affiliate members and hundreds of participating organisations.

Conclusion

We’ve looked at five of the bodies that matter to the UK payments industry. This should give you an overview of some of the organisations that help to shape the payments world.

What are your views on the organisations we’ve included? Do they really do what they say they do? And what organisations would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

 

How to Accept Payments Using Apple Pay (in the UK)

Apple Pay app showing an HSBC MasterCard card

Are you a UK retailer? You may have heard that Apple Pay is launching in the UK in July. What do you need to do in order to accept Apple Pay payments?

Apple stated in their announcement about Apple Pay that the technology will be accepted in over 250,000 locations across the UK. They mentioned a list of UK retailers that will be accepting Apple Pay, including big players like Boots, Costa Coffee, McDonald’s and Starbucks. And they also mentioned the following:

“Starting in July, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch users will be able to make purchases anywhere contactless payments are accepted.”

Visa have just published a press release saying something similar:

“Apple Pay can be used with the hundreds of thousands of contactless point of sale terminals which are already used millions of times every day throughout the UK.”

and

“Apple Pay can be used to touch and pay wherever Visa contactless payment is accepted.”

So to accept Apple Pay payments in-store, all you need is a credit card terminal with contactless technology. With a bit of luck, you may have one of these already.

If you don’t already have a contactless credit card reader, why not speak with your terminal rental company about a possible upgrade? Or if you want a new contactless card terminal together with some really competitive card processing rates, contact one of the credit card processing providers listed here.

If you don’t want to invest in a regular chip and PIN card terminal, another way to accept Apple Pay payments is with iZettle’s recently-announced Card Reader Pro Contactless. With the same contactless technology as in a traditional credit card terminal, iZettle’s device communicates via a smartphone and is available for around £79.

Do you already accept contactless card payments? If so, what do you think about Apple Pay? Will you be encouraging your customers to use it?

[Update: now that Apple Pay has been officially launched in the UK, you might be interested in our infographic on How To Accept Apple Pay.]

Photo courtesy of Apple.

13 Nifty Tips to Save Money on Your Card Processing Fees

wallet

Does your business accept card payments? If so, are you paying more than you should for payment processing?

Here are 13 nifty tips to reduce your card processing fees.

1. Ensure you are PCI compliant

Payment processors naturally want you to treat cardholder’s data securely. If you’re not doing that, you might get a brief grace period to get things set up better, but then they’ll start charging you monthly fees for the extra risk your business represents. Become PCI compliant to avoid that extra cost.

2. Negotiate your setup fee

When you’re first talking with a payment processor, they may ask for a setup fee. There are cases where a setup fee can be reasonable, but in many cases card processors will be willing to lower or waive this fee to get you signed up. Definitely something to ask for!

3. Use 3-D Secure

If your business takes payments online, the card processing fees that you’re paying will almost be affected by whether you’re using technology known as 3-D Secure. This is the box that pops up after you’ve entered your card details that asks you for a password to confirm that you are the cardholder. (Visa call their implementation Verified by Visa and MasterCard call theirs MasterCard SecureCode.)

Due to the lower risk of fraud, the card networks charge less for processing payments that have been verified using 3-D secure. Visa, for example, currently charge processing companies 1.30% for unsecured e-commerce payments but only 0.87% for payments secured using Verified by Visa.

4. Get your own merchant account

You may have started your e-commerce business using an all-in-one payment processor such as PayPal. That makes sense to get started, but tends to mean you pay over the odds by the time your card processing volumes get larger. If that sounds like you, look at getting your own merchant account. You’ll typically pay a minimum £20 per month fee to have the account but your card processing fees will almost certainly be lower.

5. Ask your payment processor for a fee review

When did you start trading? If you’ve built up a couple of years of trading history and have had the same payment processor since the start, chances are that they may be able to offer you better rates now. Speak to your account manager to see what they can do for you.

6. Get quotes from other providers

You should always know what the going rate is for card processing at your scale. To find out, get some quotes from other providers to compare to what you’re currently paying. You can find a list of merchant account providers here.

7. Encourage customers to use debit cards rather than credit cards

It tends to be cheaper to take card payments using debit cards rather than credit cards. If your customer has one of each, opt for the debit card if you can to reduce your card processing costs.

8. Reduce fraud with AVS

If some of the payments coming through your website are fraudulent, you could start racking up some large chargeback fees. To reduce these fees, make sure you’re using the Address Verification System (AVS).

With AVS, you require customers to enter a billing address. When their payment is attempted, the payment network checks whether the address they’ve entered matches the address they have on file with their card issuer. If the addresses don’t match, the payment can be rejected. As a fraudster trying to use the card may not know the cardholder’s billing address, this can help reduce fraudulent payments and hence chargebacks.

9. Screen for fraudulent payments

If you’re suffering with lots of fraudulent payments and chargebacks, you’ll want to look at the more comprehensive fraud screening systems offered by some payment processors. These typically allow payments to be scored according to certain rules and then accepted, rejected, or queued for a manual review.

Again, fraud screening can help reduce fraudulent payments and so reduce the number of chargebacks you receive.

10. Offer contactless for small payments

Contactless payments have become hugely popular in the UK now. According to the UK Cards Association, 58 million contactless cards had been issued by December 2014.

For merchants, contactless payments are great for two reasons: they’re quicker so you can serve more customers in less time and they can be slightly cheaper to process. Visa, for example, charges processors 0.65% for contactless payments up to £15 versus 0.77% for chip and PIN payments.

If you’re thinking of replacing an old credit card terminal that doesn’t have contactless support, this is an extra reason to do it now.

11. Encourage customers to use contactless

Following on from the first point, some of your customers no doubt have contactless-capable cards and aren’t yet using them. Why not suggest they start paying that way? They’ll be faster to serve and you’ll save a little money along the way.

12. Review your statement and see where you could be saving

If you’ve been processing card payments for a while, get a detailed breakdown of your charges from your processor. Take a look through and ask them to explain anything you don’t understand. It’s always good to know what you’re paying for different types of payments and you may find simple ways to tweak your business to reduce the card processing fees you’re incurring.

13. If you have a low volume, avoid contracts with monthly minimums

If your business is just getting started and you’re not sure whether it’ll ever really take off, it can be good to keep things simple and avoid signing up for long contracts. Instead, find a credit card processor that doesn’t charge a monthly minimum fee. If you’ve got an online business, Stripe can be a good place to look.watch full film Room 2015

Conclusion

We’ve looked at 13 different ways to save money on your credit card processing. Please share this article if you’ve found it useful.

What have I missed? And what other ways have you found to save money on payment processing?

Do share your thoughts in the comments below.

Top #VATMESS Tweets

On January 1st 2015, the EU is introducing changes to the VAT rules that will affect anyone selling digital products to consumers in the EU. As numerous people have pointed out, this is going to add a huge amount of paperwork that will be particularly burdensome for very small businesses.

There are calls for an exemption to the rule for small businesses and that’s an idea I very much support.

Many small businesses have taken to Twitter today to voice their concerns about this issue using hashtag #VATMOSS. Not surprisingly, the hashtag #VATMESS has also been popular. Here are some of the top #VATMESS tweets so far:

 

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3 Technologies that Could Change How We Pay for Things in the UK Forever

PaymentMovie All Is Lost (2013)

Sometimes, little things make a big difference.

That’s how it is with paying for stuff.

Paying with an Oyster card on the London Underground is soooo much nicer than fiddling about with change or a debit card to buy a paper Travelcard.

And checking out with Amazon’s one-click checkout is soooo much easier than typing in a credit card number. (Possibly too easy at times — just see my book collection.)

Compared with these slick payment methods, lots of other payments are still relatively painful:

  • When paying at an in-store checkout, you often still need to slot in your debit or credit card (that you need to have with you) and tap in a PIN.
  • When paying online, you often need to type in a 16-digit credit or debit card number, expiry date and CVV.
  • In both cases, the merchant ends up paying a fee of around 1.5% to 2% to a card network.

These technologies may soon change that.

1. Zapp

What is Zapp?

Zapp is a payment technology that is looking to compete with the likes of Apple Pay and PayPal. And it could be a step towards making credit cards redundant.

How Does Zapp Work?

As a customer, you’ll use Zapp through a mobile banking app on your phone. When you’re at a physical checkout, you’ll have a special code sent to your phone. You’ll then authorise the transaction with a tap of your finger.

Alternatively, you’ll be able to scan a scan a code into your phone from a bill in a restaurant or the screen on a card machine.

Unlike with credit or debit cards, Zapp won’t share any sensitive information with the retailer, such as credit card numbers or expiry codes. Instead, Zapp will use a unique code for each purchase that will expire after a few minutes.

Zapp’s technology can also enable online transactions in a similar way.

Here’s a short video showing how it will work:

Who is Backing Zapp?

Large retailers including Sainsbury’s, Asda, and lenders including HSBC, First Direct, Nationwide, Santander and Metro Bank.

When Can I Use It?

Zapp is due for launch in early 2015.

2. Apple Pay

What is Apple Pay?

Apple Pay is the payment system on Apple’s recently-released iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. It’ll also be available on the forthcoming Apple Watch. It uses the NFC communication standard to allow the mobile device to talk to a payment terminal.

How does Apple Pay work?

You wave your device over a contactless card reader, then press a finger on your device’s TouchID button to authorise the payment.

Who is Backing Apple Pay?

First, of course, Apple! With around a billion iOS devices sold around the world, there’s a huge number of relatively affluent consumers ready to use this new payment technology if and when retailers support it.

On the retailer side, Apple claims there are now 200,000 outlets in the US that take Apple Pay payments. Companies supporting it include Disney Store, Foot Locker, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Nike, Office Depot, Subway, Toys R Us and Whole Foods Market. It’s also supported by popular apps including Groupon, Hotel Tonight and Uber.

We don’t yet know who’ll support Apple Pay in the UK when it launches here.

When Can I Use It?

Apple Pay has just been launched in the US (with a few teething problems) and is due to launch in Europe in 2015. As yet, no specific date has been announced.

3. Paym

What is Paym?

Paym is a way to send money to people you know, using your mobile phone.

How does Paym Work?

First, you register your mobile phone number with your bank or building society. You then use your mobile banking app to select the phone number of the person you want to send money to (they need to be registered as well).

Who is Backing Paym?

Paym is backed by the UK’s Payment Council, the body with responsibility for ensuring that payment services work in the UK. The underlying service is provided by a company called VocaLink.

Paym has been supported by Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Cumberland Building Society, Danske Bank, Halifax, HSBC,Lloyds Bank, Santander and TSB from its launch in April 2014. Since launch other banks have added support for it, and the vast majority of UK current accounts now support Paym.

When Can I Use Paym?

As long as your bank has Paym support, you can use it now!

What’s Next for UK Payments?

For a new consumer to retailer payment technology to succeed, it needs to get a critical mass of retailers and consumers to adopt it. If too few retailers support it, consumers won’t bother using it. If too few consumers are using it, retailers won’t bother getting set up to accept it.

For now, it’s too early to tell whether Zapp or Apple Pay will take off in the UK. We should find out in 2015.

Paym has a slightly different, perhaps easier, challenge in that it doesn’t need retailers to be successful. According to figures released by the Payment Council in August 2014, £6.5 million had been sent using the service by that time, and the millionth person registered to use it on 31st July 2014. That’s a good start, but still a long way from widespread adoption.

What other payment technologies do you think are the most exciting for the UK over the next year?

photo credit: Magnus D via photopin cc

UK Mobile Card Reader Comparison

With plenty of mobile credit card readers on the market now, and more appearing by the week, I thought it was time to launch a new section of PaymentBrain dedicated to these devices.

Here’s our new tool to compare mobile card readers.

For now, at least, all the main providers have opted for transaction fees of 2.75%, The main differences between solutions are the initial cost of the card reader hardware and the way in which Visa transactions are validated (this can be via direct PIN entry or via an SMS message).

Braintree Payments Launch in UK

Braintree

Braintree, a well-funded US payment processing company, has now launched a UK service.

Braintree offer a payment gateway with a good range of features that has become popular amongst trendy technology startups in America. They are known for having a developer-friendly API that makes it relatively easy to integrate with websites.

The company received $34 million in venture capital funding from Accel Partners in 2011. I expect them to quickly grab mindshare here in the UK with our local technology startups and to expand from there to more mainstream merchants.

Braintree recently acquired mobile payments company Venmo, so look out for some interesting mobile offerings from them, too.

Personally, I think the arrival of companies like Braintree is a great thing for UK merchants as it will give extra encouragement to existing payment gateways to improve their APIs and over all service.