Step 1: Decide how you'll accept payments
First, decide how you will accept credit card payments. The primary options are:
- In-person payments
- Online payments
- Mobile payments
Depending on the type of business you run, it might be quite clear what type of payments you'll accept. For example, if you provide online services, chances are you'll solely accept online payments.
For other types of businesses, you might need a combination of payment methods. For example, maybe you run an online e-commerce site where you sell crafts, but you also sell them in-person at craft fairs. In that case, you would likely need both online and mobile payments. On the other hand, a new restaurant might need to accept primarily in-person payments but also allow for online payments for to-go orders.
You know your business best, and only you can decide how you'll need to accept payments.
Step 2: Choose your payment processor
In the past, you needed a merchant account to accept credit card payments for your small business. Your merchant account would provide payment processing, point of sale systems, and credit card terminals.
While merchant accounts are still an option, they often require high fees and lengthy contracts. And thanks to technology, there are plenty of more affordable options available today.
A payment processor or payment service provider provides a similar service as a merchant service without opening your own account. They allow for credit card processing and can provide any hardware you need without the costs and complications of a merchant account.
Once you know how you'll accept payments, it's time to choose a payment processor. There are plenty of payment service providers to choose from, and it can be difficult to decide which one is best.
Step 3: Get the right hardware and software
Depending on the type of business you run, you might need to have hardware or software in place. If you run an entirely online business, you'll need to set up your payment gateway on your business's website.
For businesses accepting in-person and mobile payments, you'll need actual hardware. Some payment processors will even provide you with the point of sale equipment you'll need to accept payments in person.