Paying by credit or debit card is quickly becoming the preferred method of payment. Often, merchants are able to swipe cards for immediate electronic processing, but in some cases this may not be an option. Manual credit card processing is done by taking an imprint of a customer's credit card, or by taking down the customer's card information, and processing the credit card later by phone or Internet.
Uses for Manual Processing
Manual credit card processing may be required in instances where Internet and phone services are not available, or when utilizing such services would be impractical. Trade shows, concerts, flea markets and special events are places where manual card processing might be used.
In addition, merchants who have locations that have been impacted by natural disaster, electrical or system failure may need to process manually to maintain sales activity.
Some merchants that routinely find it practical to process manually may invest in a credit card imprint machine. These machines use carbon paper to make a physical copy of the credit card on a sales slip by imprinting the image on the paper after a heavy block is swiped over the actual card. The sales slip shows the total amount owed by the customer, and the customer agrees to pay this amount by signing the slip after the imprint is taken.
Manual Processing Without Equipment
Alternatively, merchants can also write out a sales slip and write down the credit card information without an imprint machine. Customers will still sign the written sales slip to agree to the charges.
In either case, the following information is required:
- The credit card number
- Expiration date
- CVV2 code (three-digit code on the back of the card)
- Billing address
- Customer signature
The sales slip should also list the items or services purchased and the total amount due. These items are necessary in case the customer ever disputes the charge with the credit card company.
Getting Ready to Process Manually
Before you can process a credit card manually, you'll need a merchant account. A merchant account allows you to initiate and run a credit card transaction. There are many merchant account companies available.
PayPal allows a merchant to easily enter collected credit card information online any time after the sale has been completed. Payments are deposited into the merchant's PayPal account, which can be withdrawn with PayPal's debit MasterCard or directly to the merchant's business bank account. PayPal's Virtual Terminal account includes free setup, and costs $30 per month, plus fees of 3.1% of each sale and a .30 per-transaction fee.
QuickBooks merchant services are a popular choice among companies that already use QuickBooks software for accounting. QuickBooks software users can easily enter credit card information directly in the software. Cleared transactions are automatically deposited to business bank accounts and financial statements and reports generated in QuickBooks are automatically updated. This eliminates the need for extra accounting entries. Monthly service fees are $19.95, and keyed entry transactions fees range from 2.52 - 3.25% of sales, plus a .25 - .29 per-authorization fee.
Chase Paymentech merchant accounts are associated with a national bank brand that has been around for many years. Companies who choose Chase for merchant services may already have business accounts with the bank, or simply find comfort with the brand recognition of Chase. The Orbital Virtual Terminal allows merchant to process manual credit card payments online and also enjoy free touch-tone (phone) processing. There are no annual account fees and competitive transaction rates. However, merchants must contact a sales representative for full rate disclosures, as Chase Paymentech does not make this information available on its website.
Most banks also provide this service to its business bank account customers, but a number of other online companies not associated with your bank provide the service as well. In addition, some accounting software programs, such as QuickBooks and Peachtree, also offer add-on merchant account services. After you have established a merchant account, you can request an imprint machine if desired. Whether you get an imprint machine or simply opt to request written card information from your customers, you will be able to enter the card information manually through your merchant account transaction interface.
Weighing Your Options
While manual card processing does allow you to take credit card payments from customers at times when automatic processing is not possible, there are a few factors to consider. First, you'll want to look at the per-transaction fees charged by your merchant company. Some companies charge a higher transaction or percentage rate for manual transactions because there is an added risk of customer chargeback. Second, if a manually processed card is declined, you run the risk of not being paid for goods or services you have already provided to your customer.
In many cases, the cost associated with these risks is minimal compared to not being able to take credit card payments manually from any customer, especially with more and more customers deciding to carry cards over cash.