Sunday, November 29, 2009

PayPal Merchant Account

I'm now several months of experience with PayPal as my merchant account. So far, so good. Integration was easy. The fees are easily understood and reasonable. The reports and technology seem to work. I've set up the account with a number of different users with permissions which is important to me.

Bottom line: I'm not sure why anyone doing online business would use a traditional sales guy and merchant account. They're more complicated, somewhat quirky, and rarely as dependable as PayPal.

What am I missing?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Seven Eleven Credit Card Rebellion - Update

On July 25th I posted about a NPR story about a retail rebellion led by Seven Eleven against credit card fees. I got curious about the story and found that Seen-Eleven seems to have removed their announcement from the web. Or, their servers are down. But, thanks to Google's caching, I found a copy. Anybody know anything?

Seven-Eleven®Launches Unprecedented Million-Signature Petition Campaign to Stop Unfair Credit Card Transaction Fees

6,300 Stores Participating across USA
Dallas (July 8, 2009) - In communities across America, 7-Eleven store owners and operators are undertaking an unprecedented, million-signature petition campaign calling on Congress to reform unfair and excessive credit card transaction fees.

Some 6,300 7-Eleven® franchisees, licensees and store operators in the U.S. are working to change the way credit card companies’ do business with retailers across the country and are taking their beef to the street – or in this case to their counters and customers.

Interchange fees are hidden fees to the consumer and are set privately by credit card companies and charged to store owners every time that a customer uses a credit card. Transaction fees squeezed American businesses and their customers to the tune of $48 billion in 2008 alone. On average, an American store owner will actually pay nearly twice as much in transaction fees as they earn in profits, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores 2007 State of the Industry data.

7-Eleven stores are operated by franchisees who represent more than 6,000 small businesses on Main Streets and in neighborhoods across America,” said Darren Rebelez, 7-Eleven, Inc. executive vice president and chief operating officer. “This petition drive is a grassroots effort to get a fair deal, spearheaded by small business owners in the communities where they live and with the customers they serve every day.

“Interchange fees are hurting individual small business operators, which represent more than 75 percent of 7-Eleven stores in the U.S.,” Rebelez said. “Because more and more customers are using credit cards for small purchases, there are small transactions where the operator actually loses money. The fundamental challenge is that in most business relationships, both parties have the ability to negotiate, and in this case we do not. ”

The petition drive takes place at all of 7-Eleven’s U.S. stores, and a copy of the petition will be prominently offered for signatures at every check-out counter. At the end of the petition drive, 7-Eleven expects to deliver one million signatures to Congress, calling on them to stop credit companies from charging unfair, hidden transaction fees and to pass legislation empowering retailers to negotiate with credit card companies.

“We’re not asking for a bailout, we simply want to negotiate in good faith with credit card companies in the same manner we negotiate with thousands of our other business partners,” Rebelez said.

American consumers pay among the highest transaction fees in the industrialized world. An average of $2 out of every $100 Americans spend goes to transaction fees, and for many businesses, transaction fees are now their highest non-labor cost, growing even faster than health care costs. As other countries have reined in excessive transaction fees in recent years, and the actual cost of processing credit card transactions has gone down, Americans are now paying triple the amount in transaction fees they paid in 2001, reaching $48 billion last year alone.

Rebelez added, “In the convenience industry, credit card companies come out the winner making more than twice the profits of the industry in total. To date, we have been unable to convince these companies to come to the table to negotiate fair fees. In order to survive and stay in business, our franchisees and licensees plan to make a significant, collective statement with this petition drive. With this unprecedented effort, Congress will hear the message of 7-Eleven’ssmall business owners and our customers across the country loud and clear,” he said.

The 7-Eleven petition drive will continue through Aug. 10. At the conclusion of the campaign, the top signature-gatherers from each of 7-Eleven’s seven U.S. geographical divisions will be flown to Washington to personally deliver the signatures to Congress.

About 7 Eleven, Inc.
7 Eleven, Inc. is the premier name and largest chain in the convenience retailing industry. Based in Dallas, Texas, 7-Eleven operates, franchises or licenses approximately 7,800 7-Eleven® stores in North sales of more than $53.7 billion. For 15 consecutive years 7-Eleven has been listed among Hispanic Magazine’s Hispanic Corporate Top 100 Companies that provide the most opportunities to Hispanics. 7-Eleven is franchising its stores in the U.S., and is expanding through organic growth, acquisitions, and its Business Conversion Program. Find out more online at

Margaret Chabris
7-Eleven, Inc.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

PayPal Update

It's our third month of using PayPal as our merchant card solution. So far, they are 100% reliable.

Our biggest problem so far was a coding/design error on our side, the dreaded multiple purchase by mistake! It created a bunch of multiple sales mistakes all of which created customer complaints. We've recoded to make it impossible.

I did learn how to set up different users in my PayPal account so that support people can go in and look and do refunds but not transfer my money to their offshore accounts.

I also looked at the bill and saw that I'm being charged 2.9% plus $.30 per transaction whereas they had agreed to charge us 2.5%. I called up and complained. It will apparently be fixed and refunded. Thanks to our sales guy in PayPal Nebraska.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Paypal - hard to get a straight answer

I spent an hour on the phone with PayPal today trying to solve a few problems and get a few questions answered:

  1. How does one hook up Google analytics to get real data when a significant percent of the customers are leaving the site to go to PayPal to sign up? Can we put analytics code on a thank you page on PayPal? The problem is that the Thank You Page on Paypal has a return to site button but it's a small button.
  2. We have two distinct business units and we'd like to easily track PayPal payments to distinct business units. Is this possible using a single PayPal account? I think not, so this raises new questions.
  3. Can the same business, defined as a single FEIN (tax ID), have two PayPal business accounts? I think not but after an hour on the phone today, the operator and his supervisor assured us that we could so long as they were linked to separate bank accounts.

Friday, August 21, 2009

PayPal as an adequate Merchant Account Solution

I have signed up PayPal as a merchant solution. I had assumed, like other merchant accounts that I have, that there's a way to use PayPal in a corporate environment so that there are staff people with limited access to the account. They can pull reports and refund money but can't access sending money and other high level functions. I'm afraid that I can't find how to access these functions. Do they exist? If not, I'm shocked....

Second Problem - We're doing some testing and I'm trying to see how to track credit card declines. Again, I can't find that PayPal reports declines. Is that possible?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More credit card declines

I logged into my credit card merchant account and found this cheery news:

As a result of over 100 million credit card numbers being stolen from Heartland Payment Systems (and other companies) we're seeing a large increase in credit card declines. Some of these declines are because many Bankds and Credit Unions have issued new cards to card holders and cancelled the cards that may have been compromised.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Seven Eleven Credit Card Rebellion

I heard on NPR today that there is rebellion against the credit card fees in the retail sector. They said that most retailers survive on a 2% margin on sales which tends to be under attack by the credit cards' voracious appetite to get more per sale.

They talked about a 7-11 petition for customers to ask the credit card companies to roll-back fees. The reporter said that Visa was taking $.10 a transaction plus a 1% interchange rate for simple credit cards and debit cards. Gift and foreign cards had higher rates. The 7-11 Convenience store was complaining about the high rate which was hard to predict, arbitrary and on a typical small purchase of $2.50, is about 5%.

I've often wondered why Walmart, in their relentless pursuit of lower prices for customers, have not gone after credit card expense. Is it because they also are in the credit card business so they are making money on it? (By the way, this is total speculation, I have no idea whether Walmart offers credit cards). Is it because Walmart has a special deal with the card companies are are paying a much lower rate than everybody else? (again, total speculation, I have no insight and haven't yet researched it).

Costco doesn't allow Visa or Mastercard credit cards in their stores. You either pay with Amex or a debit card. Is that part of a strategy to attack those fees?

Anybody know?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The easy way out

Under great time pressure to get it done, I agreed to go with Paypal. The rates are reasonable and the whole thing can get set up in a few hours. It's simple. No sales people, no complexity, no delays.

We are using the Paypal as a merchant account option.

I'll tell you how it goes.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Need a new vendor

I've started a new online business and am setting it up separately than the original. It gets it's own tax ID, corporation, paypal, adsense, and credit card account. I don't want to use my original vendor (too many eggs in the same small basket) so I'm looking for someone to set up with. seems to be the name brand. If anyone wants to bid, contact me asap. It starts with a zero run-rate and I expect to collect a million dollars in the first year, most of it in the first three months (August through October) as a back to school thing.

Yes, I'm in a hurry.

Payments will mostly be $99 or $49. Contact me as creditcardsonline101 @ a gmail email.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Recurring Payments

I'm trying to understand the different ways of handling recurring payments. My service basically bills customers monthly. We've set it up so when the members sign up, their credit card data is passed directly to our credit card vendor. They're billed and then rebilled every 30 days.

The problem is that when the credit card fails to go thru on one of the recurring billings, we have no automated way of having the information passed back into our system. Also, when members cancel, we need to manually go into our credit card system and cancel the member.

There are also problems around credit card updates in that these are handled as cancellations and new accounts, not just as a credit card update. So our records get all messed up.

When I inquire about to automate these things, I'm told that we should switch to batch processing. The credit cards can still be kept at the vendors but we'll have to submit a daily list of people to bill.

Any ideas or articles to point me to which discuss these issues?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

PaySimple Payment Processing Services

I found a new very promising looking vendor. And I quote from their website....

PaySimple is an easy to use web-based payment processing application providing a complete payment gateway for electronic check (e-check) processing, ACH direct-debit processing, credit card processing, recurring billing, online bill-pay, and check processing via phone or online.
PaySimple provides one simple time and money saving solution for a variety of credit card and ACH payment processing needs:


The Recurring Billing feature sets PaySimple apart. With recurring billing, you can set-up automatic payments for your customers, via ACH direct-debit transfers from a bank account or via credit card.


PaySimple's secure online payment gateway is ideal for implementing online bill-pay and payment processing for online shopping carts. A payment form can be hosted on your site or on PaySimple's secure server for one time transactions or customer initiated auto recurring billing.


PaySimple offers some of the lowest credit and debit card payment processing rates available. We combine credit card transactions with check and direct debit payments in a single system. You can also set-up auto recurring billing for credit card payment processing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Merchant Accounts and accounting

We just finished the final kickoff meeting for the accounting team for 2009. We implemented a series of changes about how we get our accounting done.

Most significantly, we are considering the receipt of payment at our merchant account vendor account to be revenue. Previously, the accounting system recognized revenue only when the funds were transfered from my merchant account into my bank account. The result was that our revenues appeared uneven. For example, January 2009 ended with a three day holiday. So all the funds received by us from Friday Jan 27 until Tuesday, February 1st were deposited on the first.

So 10% of our January revenues would have, under our old system, been reported in February so our accounts were arbitrarily uneven. New system more accurately reflects revenues.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Got a better rate on my merchant account!

My bank called me this week which I interpreted as bad news. I immediately returned the call. In fact, there was a problem. I had exceeded my limit.

Now I am talking about my merchant account for taking credit cards so apparently, I had forgotten, that when I applied I had been given an amount that I could collect monthly. And a few years ago, it was upped. Well, she informed me that I am now collecting on a monthly basis, about 30% above my limit.

"But, this is a good thing right?" I asked.

"Why yes, but it does need more paperwork. I need a balance sheet, income statement, and a filled in questionnaired and we can raise it."

I then played a little softball talking about how since I've gotten so much bigger and have such a low chargeback rate (way short of 1%), then I must be a more attractive client. She agreed and volunteered that she might be able to get me a better rate.

And she did? While it's hard to understand, it sounds like I've gone from 1.95% to 1.8% on a key expense line. I think I'm pleased but I will keep an eye on the overall expense as a percentage of sales because now that I know it's going to move, I wouldn't be surprised if they reclassify things in such a way that the net change is not, overall, in my favor.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

PCI Compliance for Level 3 Vendor

I'm a level 3, 20K-1M online transactions vendor, none stored.

The requirements for me are, I think:

1. Filling out and sending to my bank a PCI Self-Assessment Questionnaire.
2. A quarterly scan by an approved vendor. Here is a partial list of vendors: - 807 322-9965

3. Ensuring your gateway provider is PCIDSS compliant. Here is where it's a little gray for me. My vendor is not on the list. But, he has submitted a letter to me showing that he is compliant under an arrangement with another company. If I wanted the validity of that reviewed, who would I check with? Am I being too nerdy in wanting to check?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Google Checkout is no longer free

Durn. I just read on the Merchant Account Blog that No More Free Checkout from Google. Until now, Google Checkout merchants who advertise on Google’s Adwords platform, have received credit for use toward Google Checkout fees they incur.

But Google Checkout is no longer free or even reduced for Adwords users. I'm disappointed since as a large adwords advertiser (large in terms of my credit card processing fees), this was looking like a no-brainer way to save money.

I did think it was a little too good to be true. It's terribly 500 pound guerillaish for google to have started squashing the credit card processing industry by this type of cross marketing. Given their troubles as a potential monopolist, I think this was really heavy-handed of them.

As it is, they are going to get grief for taking over Madison Avenue and most of the advertising industry

Thursday, January 8, 2009

the PCI Self-Assessment Questionnaire

A copy of the PCI Self-Assessment Questionnaire is available from your processing bank or:

For a quarterly scan there are several companies that offer a free scan or you can subscribe to their yearly service. Examples:

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

February deadline for PCI Compliance

I've been reading a post called SaaS Compliance and Levels in the PCI compliance, a very professional blog and found that I'm pretty late to the game to figure out compliance. I read that: February 2009 that is all changing. Visa Inc. (all regions except Europe) has defined new level definitions for service providers and removed the usage of ‘gateway’ from this definition. This change does not take effect until Feb. 1, 2009 so companies wishing to validate now should do so under the current rules.

Now, the context there was about some type of aggregators of merchant services such as:
... a shared e-commerce provider or independent sales organization (ISO) that aggregates transactions

I think this includes hosting companies, shopping cart vendors, and software service vendors that offer credit card processing as a component of their service. BTW - none of this applies to me. I'm still looking for what my compliance issues as a:

- an online retailer of online services
- paid by credit card
- handling over 100K transactions per year
- not keeping any credit card data in electronic or paper form.

PCI Compliance Required?

When I log into my merchant account, I see this message:

We're getting many questions about the requirements for PCI certification.
The requirement for merchants processing less than 20,000 transactions per year is just a PCI Self-Assessment Questionnaire as long as you don't store any credit card numbers.

I don't store credit cards, I did it all thru others but I do over 10K transactions per month which is a great deal more than 20K transactions per year. Do I need to fill out the PCI Self-Assessment Questionnaire? Do I need to do more?

To figure this out I should probably contact my vendor. Here's the truth about my vendor, I almost never talk to the bank. Sometimes, I forget who it is. My entirely relationship is with ------- who I guess is an ISO for them. They're a pretty small company for me to be running over 120K transactions (mostly small in the $20 - $60 range) through.

This is where I admit that I've never created or discovered a truly great glossary to help me understand the roles of the merchant bank, the gateway, the network, third party processors, ISOs, and so on.

Returning to the question of PCI compliance, I'll call my processor. I didn't make it to the PCI compliance webinar that I said that I would. I did, through consulting, discover two blogs about PCI compliance. I'll read them next:
PCI Answers
Payment Card Security & IT Controls Explained