- Taking credit cards can lead to more lucrative business for your company.
- Accepting credit often results in increased customer satisfaction, as some people don’t have enough cash or simply prefer using cards.
- Remember that credit card companies charge fees for transactions, and large transactions may trigger their fraudulent spending alerts.
While you want your customers to view your work as rock solid, it’s not ideal if they think your payment methods harken back to the Stone Age. And if you don’t take credit cards, that’s exactly what they’ll think.
When it comes to customer payments, many construction companies are “behind the times,” says Joe Palumbo, president of Ice Dam Guys, LLC, a nationwide rooftop ice and snow removal service established in 1995 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “It’s common for contractors, subcontractors, landscapers, and builders to only accept cash or check,” he says.
Limited payment methods can limit your business. “It inconveniences customers to make special trips to the ATM or transfer money into checking accounts,” says Palumbo, whose company has taken credit cards for 20 years and does $1 million in credit card transactions alone each year. “The customer may choose to go with a competitor who does accept credit.”
To make the process of accepting credit cards run as smoothly as possible, it helps to create a “well-defined system and process for management of credit card transactions,” says another contractor who’s been accepting plastic for a while, Owner Bill Holmes of Integrity Paving & Coatings.
Benefits of taking credit card payments
Accept credit card payments, and you widen your potential customer pool. By making the credit card option available, you open up your services to people who may not have cash on hand or who simply prefer to pay with a credit card.
Other benefits you enjoy by taking credit cards include the following:
Your end goal is to make customers happy with every aspect of your service. “With the payment process, credit cards add layers of consumer protection,” says Palumbo. “Customers experience a level of comfort that they can’t achieve handing you a check or cash.”
“This might seem silly, but indicating that you accept VISA, Mastercard, AMEX and Discover on your site adds an element of trust,” Palumbo states. “For instance, customers may think that if VISA works with Ice Dam Guys, the company must be a legit business.”
More lucrative business
In his experience, Palumbo has found that customers tend to spend more freely with credit cards than they do with cash or check.
“I can go on a roof and stop a leak in two hours, but solving the underlying issue might take me four to five hours. If someone is pulling out cash from the bank, he or she might choose the quick-fix option, as opposed to the right-fix option. Credit cards can allow contractors to do a more thorough job.”
Drawbacks of accepting credit card payments
Of course, taking credit cards has its downsides. One of the biggest drawbacks are the fees, which are generally two to four per cent of the charge. “The fees do add up, but so does offering quality service that spreads through referrals,” notes Palumbo. “I’ve accepted the costs as a part of doing business.”
Some other drawbacks include the following:
Credit cards side with unhappy customers
“If there is a discrepancy or claim, credit card companies will credit the customer,” says Palumbo. “With some cards, the ability to do a chargeback lasts up to 90 days. This hasn’t happened to my company, but I’ve heard about it happening to other contractors.”
Slower to get paid
While credit card companies claim that receiving payments is a fast process, Palumbo has found that it can take several days for the money to be credited into his merchant account. “On the other hand, if a customer hands me $500 cash, I can spend it the second I leave,” he says.
Authentication sometimes required
With Palumbo’s business, he often deals with $1,500+ transactions, which can flag customer credit card accounts with fraudulent spending alerts. “When this happens, it’s frustrating to address, because it involves getting the customer and credit card company representatives and vendors on the phone to confirm the charge is authentic,” he says.
How to incorporate credit cards into your business
You’ll find several avenues for accepting credit cards. These include products from payment processing providers such as Square and PayPal. There are apps and plug-ins for smartphones that allow you to operate as a retailer just about anywhere. You can also put a secure payment option/link on your website.
“I also suggest familiarizing yourself with the cost of using credit cards, and then build the costs into your business model,” says Integrity Paving’s Holmes. “When promoting your business, emphasize the fact that you take credit cards. That’ll put you ahead of a lot of your competitors.”