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You can seriously increase your orders by accepting credit cards as payment.

It's easy and convenient for the customer, and that makes it more likely for

them to order. The only problem is that it's hard for a business,

especially a small mail order business, to gain the ability to accept credit


Banks are very reluctant to authorize credit card acceptance, mainly

because they have been burned too many times by fraudulent businesses. So,

many businesses go on, accepting only checks or money orders for payment,

and miss out on the added sales they would get through credit cards. There

is a way, though, for businesses that can't get bank authorization to accept

credit cards.

The easiest way to get a merchant account is to work with an Independent

Sales Organization (ISO), which acts as a middleman between small businesses

and banks. They will charge an additional fee for each transaction, so you

will be paying a bit more than the standard percentage charged for credit

card transactions. There will also be an application fee. Here are the

typical charges to expect, as of this writing.

Application fees: Usually, these range from $95 to $400 and may or may not

be refundable.

Point of sale terminal purchase or lease: The terminal you

use to process the charge and check for fraudulent numbers is usually

available from a bank for around $300. You will only be able to get this

price, though, if a bank authorizes you. If working through an ISO, prices

will range from $400 to even as high as $1500! You can usually lease the

terminal, though, at an average of $45/month. The best thing to do, though,

is to find an ISO that will provide computer software that can be used in

place of a terminal. This will usually cost only around $150.

Concerning service fees: Banks charge between 2% and 5% for processing a

credit card purchase. ISO's charge higher, usually 3% to 7%. They also

usually charge a per transaction fee of 20 to 25 cents, and a monthly

statement fee of $5 to $10.

Why all these fees? ISO's only want to work with legitimate businesses

and ones that will stay with them for a long period of time. If a business

can afford these fees, they are considered less of a risk. Thus, the

important thing to do is to shop around for an ISO. Get as much

information as you can about each ISO you are considering, and READ it

thoroughly. Look for hidden charges and unreasonable requirements.

Here is a list of some of the ISO's you may want to consider. This is

not an endorsement of any or all of them, these are just the most prominent


Bancard, Inc., 1233 Sherman Drive, Longmont, CO 80501 (800) 666-7575


Data Capture Systems, 231 Quincy St., Rapid City SD 57701 (605) 341-6461

Electronic Bankcard Systems, 2554 Lincoln Blvd., Suite 1088, Marina Del Rey,

CA 90291 (213) 827-5772


Gold Coast Bankcard Center, Ft. Lauderdale, FL (305) 492-0303


Harbridge Merchant Services, 681 Andersen Dr., 4th Flr., Bldg. 6, Pittsburgh,

PA 15220 (412) 937-1272


Teleflora Creditline, 12233 West Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064

(800) 325-4849

US Merchant Services, 775 Park Avenue, Huntington, NY 11743 (516) 427-9700

A final word: All of these services will require you to fill out an

application. Be 100% truthful with everything on the application and

don't let the representative talk you into putting anything false down.

The reason is, if the banks affiliated with the ISO you use were to find

out that any information on your application is false, you would probably

be immediately cancelled and your business name and address would go on a

"black list."

This would prevent you from being able to accept credit cards

for an indefinite period of time. Don't let this happen to you. Most of

the ISO's out there are legitimate, but there are a few that may put down

spurious information, rather than lose the fees they'd receive. Be sure to

look everything over twice. If you do, you'll probably find an ISO that

will work with you to expand your business through the acceptance of credit