Accept Credit Cards with Confidence

Updated on November 22, 2021

Figuring out how to accept credit cards is not as complicated as itshutterstock_105921908_edited may seem. There are many sites that try and confuse you and make it a daunting task, which is their objective. The good news is we believe in the KISS method and make it really simple.

So what do you need to do?

Step 1. Decide how you want to conduct business with your customers. If your customers come to you, then you’ll need a traditional credit card terminal, POS system or mobile device. If you go to your customers, you’ll need a mobile device, tablet or call it in to office for keyed in transaction, referred to as a MOTO account. If you have an online store or do business via internet, then you need an e-Commerce or virtual terminal account.

Step 2. Choose a provider. Now picking a payment provider when you’re trying to figure out how to accept credit card payments can be a little tricky on rates and fees if you don’t know what to look for so we’re going to enlighten you to the hard core basics of how credit card processing works.


Interchange-Plus pricing is almost always the best pricing model because there are no surcharges. You only pay the cost of each card plus a small mark-up from the provider. To learn more about interchange-plus pricing, click here.


What you’ll see when researching rates and fees?

Debit Rate

Example: Rates starting as low as 0.29%, wow sounds really good huh? Wait but why are they offering such a low rate? SimpleDebit Card Plastic Bank Charge Banking Account answer, it’s a teaser rate. So what does that mean and how will it affect my bottom line? When you see a rate like this it means you will be put on tiered rate pricing where you have different rates for debit, qualified, mid-qualified and non-qualified transactions. The teaser rate is typically the off-line debit rate, meaning when you run a debit as a credit transaction that’s what you’ll be charged for regulated debit transactions. Beware there is also a non-regulated debit transaction as well where the rate will be much higher. There are usually 3-4 tiers on tiered rate pricing and the debit rate is the first tier. On a 3 tier rate plan the debit and qualified credit will be the same rate.

Qualified Rate

The second tier is the qualified rate which is what a merchant is charged when accepting a regular consumer credit card. Although now days the price quoted by the merchant account provider is the debit rate and the qualified rate is usually the lowest rate you will incur when accepting cards for your business. Because of all of the rewards cards in the marketplace today, you would think they would fall in to the qualified category but many times it is downgraded to a mid-qualified or non-qualified transaction. The fact is that there are just not as many regular consumer cards held by customers as there used to because of the new cards that give you points for mileage, hotels, etc.

Mid-Qualified Rate

The third tier on a 4 tier rate plan is the mid-qualified rate, also The Rewards Credit Card Earn Refunds and Rebatesknown as partially qualified rate. This is the rate you’re charged if the card doesn’t qualify for qualified rate pricing. The simple explanation for this surcharge is because the payment providers are charged an interchange cost for different types of cards and transactions and they must implement a mark-up or they will lose money on the transaction. A couple of reasons this may happen are:

  • A consumer credit card is keyed in manually versus being swiped on a traditional or POS terminal
  • Special types of rewards cards are used or certain types of business cards

According to Wikipedia, The use of “rewards cards” can be as high as 40% of transactions. So it’s important to understand how this fee could impact your rates and bottom line. To see a complete list of terms for credit card processing, click here.

Non-Qualified Rate

The fourth tier on a 4 tier plan is the non-qualified rate, which isCredit cards usually the highest rate charge to any merchant when accepting credit cards. The reason providers put these charges in a higher bucket of charges are as follows:

  • If a customer uses a business card, international card, or card is keyed in without verifying address information
  • Special kinds of business, government and international cards
  • If you don’t settle your batch within the providers allotted time frame which is usually 48 hours from time of transaction. Note: Your batch or settlement can be set so it automatically batches at a certain time each day.

Ready to choose a merchant service provider? Here are some links of our best providers by category:

◊ Top 5 Best Merchant Service Providers, Multi-purpose

◊ Reviews: Best of Category Retail Merchant Accounts

◊ Reviews: Best of Category Mobile Merchant Accounts

◊ Reviews: Best of Category E-commerce / Virtual Terminal

◊ Reviews: Best of Category MOTO Merchant Accounts

◊ Reviews: Best of Category High Risk Merchant Accounts

◊ Best Free EMV Terminal Merchant Account

Square, Best Choice
for Low Volume
Credit Card Processing

Starting at 2.6% + 10¢ per swipe for Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express.