How to Decide on Your Method for Processing Credit Cards
With so many options, how do you decide what will work for you?
Think through the following considerations:
Will you have access to the actual, physical credit card?
Having cards in hand will save you time. For any volume, you'll want a method that will allow you to swipe the card (rather than typing in numbers) and print a receipt.
Will you have power and connectivity?
Processing credit cards without an Internet connection substantially limits your options. Similarly, if you don't have a phone line, you'll need to use an imprinter, mobile device, or specialized terminal.
Does the transaction need to be stored in your constituent management system?
Processing a high volume of donations or membership renewals that need to be tracked in another piece of software means integration should be a key concern. Payment-enabled software, an online payment processing service, or a point of sale setup can help.
Is this a short-term, low-volume need, or a permanent, high-volume setup?
The right hardware and integration with other systems can be big timesavers, but they require some initial up-front investment.
Does it make sense to use a quick and dirty method such as an imprinter or virtual terminal, or will investing in a more efficient solution save money in the long run? Will you need to store credit card numbers?
Doing so in any format requires strict and specific security measures under PCI requirements. Doing this in a homegrown system requires a thorough understanding of the regulations and an investment of time and money to create a system that is in compliance. It's far easier to use an online payment processor or payment-enabled software to handle recurring transactions.
What will your constituents expect?
Don't forget this important consideration. Be careful of methods that require you to gather someone's life story in order to run a simple payment or require your staff to go through strange and time-consuming machinations with a constituent standing in front of them.
How much information are you willing to collect?
Collecting the payer's zip code and the three- or four-digit security code will save you money and lower fraud rates, but also requires the payer to spend a bit more time.
It can be complicated to understand your options in processing credit cards. Many of the methods themselves are actually quite straightforward, however, and every organization should be able to find one that's suitable. Whether you're taking donations, registering members or attendees, selling T-shirts, or running a complex retail organization, there's a method that will allow you to take credit cards simply and securely.