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Smarter Payments: A simple guide to accepting card payments

Why offer card payments?

As an independent retail business, offering card payments could create an opportunity to increase average transaction values and sales. Giving choice to your customers will mean they have no reason to turn away from your shop if it sells something they need, at a price they’re happy to pay.

Due to social distancing, consumer behaviour post-covid has meant there’s more of a desire to pay using contactless methods which means you’ll need to be able to accept cards.  UK Finance has helped to encourage this trend by increasing the spending limit to £45 earlier than planned during 2020.

Covid has increased the awareness of contactless cards, their ownership and usage, with over four-fifths of consumers making contactless payments.* This reflects the highest penetration on record.

Contactless payments throughout the United Kingdom have increased significantly from 63% (Q1 2017) to 85% (Q1 2020)*.

Customers now expect to see multiple payment options provided both in-store and online.

*RFI Group polls taken 2020 H2.


Outlook post Covid-19

It’s important to consider the future and how your business will be affected. In a recent survey the public was asked; As a result of the pandemic, to what degree do you agree or disagree with the following statements.*

  1. I will be using my contactless debit/credit card more
  2. I will be using payments capabilities of my phone more (i.e. mobile wallets)
  3. I will be using wearable technology to make payments more

Results showed that those aged between 18 and 44 all showed significant positive sentiment.

*RFI Group polls taken 2020 H2.


How do the fees work?

Typically, businesses are charged a flat fee or a percentage of the transaction value when a customer pays by debit or credit card. These costs will need to be considered carefully when deciding if offering payments by card is right for your business.


What’s a standard terminal rental cost?

You’ll most likely have a monthly rental fee for your card machine which can range from £12 to £25 per month. This will come with a contractual agreement ranging from 12 to 36 months. Bear in mind that shorter may not necessarily be better here. Yes, a shorter contract does mean if you want to change suppliers, you have less time to wait to avoid early termination fees, but your fees are fixed for the duration of the contract. This means if your supplier increases their fees, yours will still stay the same at least until your current contract ends, giving you more time to plan for the increase or review other suppliers.

Some retailers may purchase their card machine. This could range from £300 to £800. This will work out cheaper in the long term but you’ll need to pay upfront costs and will need to budget for repairs and replacements over time. You also have to keep your terminal up to date with the latest software and ensure it’s compliant which might involve additional costs. It’s worth considering both options to find the best option for your business.


How do credit card payments work for merchants?

For most credit cards you’ll be charged for taking them. Some credit cards such as American Express are around 3% or 4% which is why you’ll still find many retailers, particularly smaller businesses have chosen not to accept these cards in-store.

It’s worth adding that although there are charges for both credit and debit cards, offering these methods can bring better revenue to the business so it’s up to each business to decide what’s best.


What about the people who come into my shop to sell me a better deal?

These could include ISO’s (Independent  Sales Organisations). Most card processing suppliers work with ISO’s. You may find that they’re able to offer you a better deal than your current one.

When considering a deal presented from an ISO or any other source (marketing email, phone call, flyer though the post), ensure you look at the whole package. It might be tempting to go for the best headline rate, but look into what you’ll be charged for other fees including terminal rental, authorisation fees, scheme fees, PCI fines and PCI compliance fees. Then consider the total estimated cost to your business over the course of the year. This will mean you won’t get stuck with hidden charges – making you worse off on the new deal.


What is PCI Compliance?

Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance is a standard of data processing that businesses accepting card payments will need to meet. The process of becoming and staying PCI compliant means you’ll be proving you can meet those standards. A process that all businesses accepting card payments will need to do, otherwise they’ll be at risk of fines from card payment suppliers. The minimum non-compliance fee is £75 per month. This will show up on your card processing statement.

Once you are PCI compliant, there is a small charge for staying that way. This will depend on your provider but should be around £5 per month. See more information about the Bira service below, which will mean you won’t need to pay this compliance fee.


How can Bira help?

Members of Bira have access to the exclusive Bira card processing service, provided by Global Payments [can this be a hyperlink to our site?]. Here, Bira has done the hard work negotiating preferential rates and cutting any additional fees where possible. With this service you’ll benefit from:

  • Preferential rates on both debit and credit cards
  • No authorisation fees
  • No monthly PCI compliance fees


How simple is it to get set up?

Bira works closely with Global Payments to ensure members can access everything from one provider – from easy-to-use card machines, to a range of plug and play solutions – all needing no technical expertise or coding. Whether you need to process payments face-to-face, online or over the phone, they can get you set up within a few days.

Bira can start the ball rolling by referring you to Global Payments. We’ll just need a few business details from you to get started. Global Payments will then reach out to you directly to discuss your business requirements and walk you through the process.


Find out more





Additional Guidance and Resources: 

Should you expand your presence in the at-home market? Smart mapping tech 

The benefits of a booking service for your shop

Business insurance tailored to retail

A Quick Step by Step Guide to Buying a Business

How to engage with your online customers

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