How to accept credit card payments from customers—online, in person, and by phone


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  1. Introduction
  2. How to accept credit card payments online
  3. How to accept credit card payments in person
  4. How to accept credit card payments over the phone
  5. Benefits of accepting credit cards
    1. Increased sales
    2. Improved customer experience
    3. Increased credibility
    4. Improved security
    5. Global reach

Accepting credit and debit card payments is an easy way to increase sales and improve customer experience for your business. While credit and debit cards remain the most popular payment methods for in-store purchases, they were also used for 35% of online global transactions, totaling $4.2 trillion in 2020. If your business doesn’t accept card payments, you’re missing out on substantial revenue opportunities.

Credit and debit card payments aren’t just relevant for retailers. Even businesses that don’t sell physical goods are increasingly offering customers an online card payment option, either before or after providing services.

We’ll walk you through each step of how to accept credit and debit card payments. Fortunately, the process isn’t too complicated or time-consuming.

What’s in this article?

  • How to accept credit card payments online
  • How to accept credit card payments in person
  • How to accept credit card payments over the phone
  • Benefits of accepting credit cards

Quick note: When we mention “credit card payments,” we mean both credit card and debit card payments. There is not much difference in payment processing between the two kinds of cards.

How to accept credit card payments online

Whether you need to process credit card transactions online or in person, there are two things you need to do first. Pick a merchant service or credit card processing provider. If your payment processor doesn’t include merchant account capabilities (like Stripe does), you’ll also need to open a merchant account to accept credit card payments. Stripe customers do not need—and, in fact, cannot have—a separate merchant account.

If you need to accept credit card payments online, there are various providers offering competing solutions. Each provider has its own strengths and weaknesses. Think about what other merchant services you need, too. Some providers, like Stripe, offer more comprehensive merchant services and products optimized to scale and easily integrate with other software your business might already use.

Many small business owners use peer-to-peer payment platforms to accept customer payments. A change in the federal tax code effective January 1, 2022 now requires merchants to report any commercial transactions over $600 received through those apps on their taxes. Previously, users only had to report once they exceeded 200 commercial transactions per year in excess of $20,000 in total value.

Regardless of your merchant services needs, you must have three things to accept credit card payments online:

  • Digital storefront
    Your digital storefront is your business’s home base online. It’s where you present your products to customers and allow people to make purchases. Your digital storefront could be hosted on its own website or set up as a shop on an external marketplace.

  • Payment gateway
    A payment gateway is an interface for customers to input their payment information.

  • Payment processor
    Payment processors collect payment information from customer transactions and liaise with the credit card networks, issuing banks (also called issuers), and receiving banks in order to transfer the funds.

How to accept credit card payments in person

Businesses need a point-of-sale (POS) system and a card reader to accept credit card payments in person. The exact hardware you’ll want to use will depend on the physical setup of your business. Do you have a countertop, or do you need to process transactions directly on your phone?

Most payment processing providers offer two types of hardware for in-person transactions:

  • Countertop card readers
    Countertop card readers are best suited for businesses with physical counter space, allowing customers to swipe or tap their credit cards.

  • Mobile card readers
    Mobile card readers are more compact and therefore perfect for on-the-go businesses—for instance, a plumber or in-home massage therapist. They connect to mobile devices, like phones and tablets, via a physical port or Bluetooth.

Both card readers typically interface with POS software. Depending on which provider you work with, the POS system will either be a standardized, ready-to-use product—or it could be a highly customizable solution. Stripe Terminal is an all-in-one POS solution that can be set up easily without elaborate customizations. It can also be tailored by businesses that need a specific setup or functionality.

Although online payments are growing year over year, in-person payments are still common for many businesses, including:

  • Brick-and-mortar retail businesses: grocery stores, hardware stores, bike shops, etc.
  • On-site services: contractors, landscapers, cleaning services, private makeup artists, etc.
  • Mobile businesses: food trucks, coffee carts, etc.

For most mobile businesses, it doesn’t make sense to offer online payments only. For example, not many people buy their coffee online and then walk to the corner cart to pick it up. It’s important to accept payments in person if you’re doing business in person.

How to accept credit card payments over the phone

If your business regularly accepts credit card payments over the phone, you probably don’t need unique hardware to facilitate these transactions. For most businesses, over-the-phone card payments simply require manually inputting the card number into their POS terminal or online payments interface.

Let’s say you own a restaurant that receives a high volume of takeout orders over the phone. This can be tedious and time-consuming, so it might be worth looking into payment processing providers who specialize in solutions to streamline these transactions.

Benefits of accepting credit cards

Accepting credit cards allows businesses to tap into new markets and improve operations overall. Here’s a closer look at some of the most common benefits:

Increased sales

  • Convenience: The convenience of paying with credit cards can lead to increased sales.

  • Impulse purchases: Credit cards can encourage impulse purchases since customers aren’t limited to the cash they have on hand.

Improved customer experience

  • Payment flexibility: Offering multiple payment options allows customers to use their preferred payment method, which can improve customer satisfaction.

  • Online and mobile payments: Accepting credit cards is essential for ecommerce and mobile transactions, catering to those who prefer to shop online.

Increased credibility

  • Professionalism: Accepting credit cards can add to a business’s credibility and image of professionalism.

  • Customer trust: It instills trust in customers, as businesses accepting credit cards are often perceived as more reliable and established.

Improved security

  • Less cash handling: Credit cards minimize the risks of theft and human error associated with handling cash.

  • Fraud protection: Credit card companies often provide fraud detection and protection services.

Global reach

  • International sales: Accepting credit cards enables businesses to sell to international customers, expanding their market reach.

  • Currency conversion: Credit card processors and payment processors facilitating card payments often handle currency conversion, making it easier to conduct international transactions.

Ready to get started?

Create an account and start accepting payments—no contracts or banking details required. Or, contact us to design a custom package for your business.