Nowadays, accepting credit cards is the best choice for any business. If you only accept cash, you are saying goodbye to dollars that could be in your pocket. Studies show that more impulse sales, and higher sales, occur when your customer is using a credit card.

It is possible to accept credit and debit cards in person, online, or just about anywhere. Let’s take a look at three ways to accept credit card payments from your customers: processing payments through your Point Of Sale (POS) program, mobile processing of payments, and using a credit card terminal or “swipe” machine.  How and where you want to accept credit cards will determine the type of credit card processing you choose.

Point of Sale Systems

Many POS systems offer debit and credit card processing incorporated into their hardware and some also accept NFC (near field communication) mobile payments. Your POS system should also ensure that the terminal they provide is federally mandated EMV compliant. EMV is an acronym for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa and uses the “smart chip” technology for greater fraud protection. You will still need a merchant account to process credit card sales and your POS company may suggest a processor that you can investigate to see if they have competitive rates.

Shy away from POS systems that have an exclusive arrangement with one credit card processor.  Credit card charges can be very costly and you want to have the ability to negotiate for lower rates as your company grows.

Accepting Mobile Payments

Mobile credit card processing lets you accept credit and debit card payments securely and cost-effectively from just about anywhere. The processing software turns your smartphone or tablet into a handheld terminal. All you need is phone reception (provided you already own a smartphone or mobile device) and you can accepts payments on the go.  Although you can enter credit card information manually, you will want to obtain the small reader attachment that fits into your tablet or phone that enables you to swipe to capture the credit card info. When you process the card “in person”, the fees are lower and security is much better too.

Among the many mobile payment processors currently available to small business, Square, Paypal and Intuit stand out as preferred providers.  All three are easy to use and allow you to accept credit cards with chips for greater security, however processing and setup fees, portable swipe reader costs, as well as the speed in which your funds are deposited will vary. Each offers different features and options so take the time to compare them, to determine which one is the best choice for your application.

Credit Card Terminal

The credit card or swipe terminal is designed primarily for doing business in person and is the standard choice for brick and mortar stores. These swipe machines can also be somewhat mobile, but there are far easier options available for accepting credit cards off premises. Using a credit card terminal requires you to establish a merchant account. There may be an initial set up fee and also an equipment fee, but you will pay less in transaction fees when the card is present for you to swipe. This is because there is less chance of a fraudulent charge when the card is physically swiped at the machine.

Locating a merchant processing company can be initially done through your bank, but once you are open and successful, credit card processors will call and vie for your business. Most espouse promises to lower your merchant fees, but be cautious because credit card processing fees can be quite complicated and therefore it can be hard determine if you are actually switching to a better deal.

So whether you have a brick and mortar store, a stand-alone kiosk, sell online, or on the go at trade shows and festivals, you can accept debit and credit cards with ease. With the many options available, and advice online from trusted sources to guide you, it is no longer a mystery to ascertain the best option for your business. And, most importantly, you will never lose another sale because your customer does not have the cash in hand.

Kim Perkins is a business consultant, author and national speaker specializing in retail, employee relations, and streamlining workplace systems. She owned and managed an award-winning retail store for 23 years, writes for Fit Small Business and retail trade publications, and offers consulting services to small businesses throughout the US.