Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Innovative Way to Accept Credit Cards

Sure it is easy to set up and accept credit card payments if your business is a bricks and mortar business. But what about those who aren't? These businesses could consist of landscaping companies which are often ran out of the home of the owner, small start up businesses like antique dealers or sales professionals, vendors who take their business to a location like food carts, or even freelance workers who sell their stuff at expos or other types of flea markets. Sure they can just as easily accept credit cards from their homes but that will be a tedious project with no payment guarantees. It would involve recording each customer’s contact information along with their credit card numbers, the date it expires, and the CVS security code and manually entering this all into the credit card terminal when you arrive home. It is a long and tedious process and the risk of a declined card or fraud are extremely high since you are processing the card without the customer or their card physically there. A common trait between these types of business is the lack of a fixed point of sale location.

Accepting credit cards does not have to be a stationary thing. The big boys in the merchant account industry offer wireless terminals. These terminals are big, bulky, and often slow. They also usually have the traditional fees associated with them causing many business owners to cringe at the idea of signing up for a contract. However, like every other technology out there, the merchant service industry is turning innovative. Developers for all the big companies are coming out with mobile credit card processing options. These options are often at lower cost and fit the life of those who do not have a fixed POS.

With mobile credit card processing services like Pay Anywhere out there, there is no reason for a business not to accept credit cards. Own a landscaping business? How convenient is it to allow your customers to pay at their doorsteps with a credit card rather than receive a check that you have to take to the bank? Customers will even want to see this process in action. It is a savvy feature that is also energy efficient. The reader which comes free plugs into the phone and runs off of the phones battery. It is paperless as receipts are e-mailed to the customer rather than printed off, and secure as no data is stored during any process of the transaction. The best part about this service, from an entrepreneur stance, is the low fees. Traditional merchant accounts will fee a user for processing the card, batching the machine at the end of the business day, a monthly rental fee, and even a monthly minimum fee. These fees factor in to a business’s decision on accepting credit cards as it can become costly.

The fees with mobile credit card processing are different. For example Pay Anywhere only charges users a processing fee. The fee is 2.69% plus an additional 19 cents for every card swiped. This is huge for someone who knows they will not be using the device daily. It is a manageable fee that is relatively similar to what processing fees are for standard credit card terminals.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Funny Message from Scottrade

I recently requested some information from Scottrade about opening a new brokerage account. They asked for a telephone number, but rather than giving them my home or work phone, I instead supplied them with my Google Voice phone number. For those who are not familiar, that is a free telephone number that you can access through Gmail.

I had not gotten around to funding the new account, so one of their representatives with a thick foreign accent called me up to see if he could answer any questions. The way that Google Voice works, if I'm not available to answer the phone (the usual case), it sends the caller to voice mail and will try to transcribe the message to Email for me. Here is what my Email said:

Hi, this message for the rich and I just can't calling from Scott Chen moving. Com that you regarding a new account opening to send a I try to find out see if the but i mean, i think you're so opening up. I was call today Give me a call if you have any questions, our number 408 So I was, 370 800 cents of a good day. Bye.

OK. Now, I'm not so sure if it was Scottrade calling or if it was actually Scott Chen calling me. I later listened to the recording, and to be honest, the voice mail was not particularly intelligible either. I think that the man's name was Justin, but he spoke so quickly that I couldn't get the return phone number straight!

So I think that the moral of the story here is that if one is working in customer service, they ought to practice speaking clearly.


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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Money Market Rates 8/11

Here are the latest money market interest rates of the banks that I've been tracking on my blog. Note that these rates are sorted by APY, and represent institutions that I have accounts at, or have otherwise mentioned in my blog:

1.10% Discover Bank Online Savings
1.04% Ally Bank Online Savings
1.00% American Express High Yield Savings
1.00% Urban Partnership Bank
1.00% ING Direct Orange Savings
0.85% FNBO Direct Online Savings
0.80% HSBC Advance Online Savings
0.55% Western FCU Money Market
0.25% E*TRADE Complete Savings
0.15% Citibank Ultimate Savings
0.15% Chase Plus Savings
0.07% PayPal Money Market* (closed)

NOTES: *The PayPal Money Market fund is NOT FDIC insured. PayPal closed the Money Market fund as of 7/29/11. This result is not surprising since the PayPal money market fund has been at or near the bottom of these rankings since 2009. It is also not FDIC insured, so clearly there are better choices available. The PayPal Money Market fund will be removed from the list in the future.

In some cases, MMA interest rates are tiered. If this is the case, I usually report the interest rate at the $10,000 tier in these updates.

Rates are believed to be accurate as of 8/2/11. I did not include banks that had special, or introductory rates in the list because they are not ongoing interest rates. I am also not including non-liquid accounts such as CD's in the list. At the request of readers, I added American Express and FNBO Direct to the list of institutions. Discover Bank currently has the highest interest rate of the banks that I'm tracking.

It seems that the general interest rate trend is down. I was especially disappointed that the interest rates for Citibank and Chase were so low. Since I still have significant funds in these institutions, I think that it is time for me to consider moving some money around to other institutions.

So, that is the latest list of money market rates. Please let me know if you know of any higher interest rates.


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