The pros and cons of payment processing integration

Payment processing integration can be very valuable to your business. It allows for transaction data to transfer automatically into your accounting or ERP system when you make a sale – whether its online, through a mobile app or using a point of sale terminal. Here are a few of the pros and cons of integration.

Time and Money

Payment processing integration can save your business valuable time that would otherwise be spent manually entering transaction data.  This not only reduces the cost of labour and frees up your employees to tackle other tasks, but also eliminates human error. While there is usually an upfront cost for setting up integrated payment processing, it’s generally affordable and will likely save you money in the long run.

Security

Integration can also help with your data security. End-to-end encryption provides a high standard of security while still giving you visibility and access into your business operations and sales records. This security protects your business from threats that are outside of your control, so you can worry less about data breeches and fraud that could potentially compromise your private information.

Customer Service

An integrated payment solution will give you more data to analyze in order to improve your business. Tracking sales can improve your targeted marketing and promotions while giving you a keen insight into your inventory and deliveries. Tracking this data efficiently can have a huge impact on your customer service that will ultimately drive more business to your company.

Vendor Negotiation

Unfortunately, despite all the benefits of payment processing integration, it can also put you in a terrible situation when it comes to negotiating your rates and services with your vendor.

While software integration can be very valuable, you need to be very aware of its potential for exclusivity before you commit. Otherwise, you could find yourself in a position further down the line where your rates have increased but you have no feasible way to switch vendors. Your hardware is integrated with your current vendor and swapping would both be expensive and cause a massive interruption in service.

Conclusion

The best bet is to do your research and find a payment processing integration solution that is not exclusive to any sole vendor or system and has clear guidelines in place in regard to switching vendors while maintaining your data and integration tools.

The end-goal is to have your point-of-sale integrated with a secure yet flexible software suite that will help you save time and money, but not at the expense of locking you in with any one specific vendor. That way, if you end up needing to negotiate rates or services, you’re not stuck in a situation where your vendor is firmly holding all the cards.

What does 5G mean for you and your business?

smartphone-5g

For months, major carriers have been hyping 5G networks and their potential offerings: faster speeds, more stable data connections, and (another) massive influx of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. 5G networks have been in development for a while, and they’re expected to launch worldwide by 2020, working in tandem with current 3G and 4G tech.

Despite the hype, we haven’t seen much in the way of proof apart from some basic tests and fixed rollouts to certain cities in 2018.

However, that’s all about to change. On April 3rd, three major telecom carriers in South Korea abruptly launched the first real 5G network — just an hour before Verizon tweeted that they launched their own 5G network in Minneapolis and Chicago.

With these high-profile launches, 5G suddenly feels very real. Here’s how it’s going to affect you and your business going forward.

Upload and Download Speed

According to a study by Ericsson, 50 percent of US customers will have access to 5G in as little as five years. 5G represents the next generation of data and will eventually replace your basic 4G LTE connection. This means drastically faster download and upload speeds. Average download speeds of 1GBps are projected to be the norm, which is very fast for mobile connectivity.

The benefits of increased average speeds are self-explanatory — the less time you have to spend fighting with the internet, the more time you have to spend on running your business.

Latency

One of the less obvious benefits but perhaps the most substantial when it comes to tech innovation is the reduced latency that 5G will bring. Latency is how we measure how long it takes for a packet of data to travel from one point to another. The lower the latency, the faster your device can communicate with its target.

Not only is this extremely important for businesses that rely on IoT enabled devices, but it can also strengthen your company’s tech infrastructure and lower the vulnerability of your devices.

Reliability and Flexibility

5G is expected to be very reliable when it comes to connectivity. That means your connections will stay strong and drastically cut down on interruptions. The benefits of this reliability are most clear when considering their application in devices relating to self-driving vehicles or medical support.

In addition, 5G networks promise to be much more flexible then their 4G counterparts. For example, businesses will be able to create multiple virtual networks with just a single physical system. This is called Network Slicing, and it will lead to a better user experience for your customers and provide a robust and cohesive infrastructure for you.

Capacity and Energy

5G is being designed to have a much greater capacity, which means that a single network can better support multiple resource-intensive items at once. HD streaming, IoT devices, virtual reality, high-speed data transfer — all these services can be very demanding. With 5G, you will be able to maintain high speeds even when multiple users on your network are running demanding software at the same time.

Despite all these perks, 5G will be a benefit to your energy consumption. It’s being designed to demand less power from your devices, meaning 5G will actually extend your battery life instead of draining it faster.

Conclusion

From secure banking and automation to digital medicine and self-driving cars, 5G will have a major impact on the world. It’s the catalyst for the jump that fast, reliable connectivity will make from our desks to practically any device on the planet, mobile or stationary. It will be one of the most impactful changes to the internet since its invention.

5G will affect everyone, from the Fortune 500 to your local grocery store. It’s important that you consider how this new technology might affect your industry, because those that are most prepared to take advantage will surely prosper.

Maximizing the Probability of a Safe Delivery

Anyone who has ever packaged an item for shipping has had the same thought at least once; I hope this doesn’t break before it gets there. When you’re shipping small packages to customers on a regular basis, it becomes less of a fear and more of an inevitability.

The shipping industry has thousands of moving parts and facets, and it’s impossible to guarantee the safety of items flying across the globe. No one likes to receive a call from a customer informing them that their product was smashed before it even got to them – it simply happens. However, what you do before you send the product off can make a big difference in how often you get that phone call.

Here are some tips on how to make sure you’re properly packaging your items in order to maximize the probability of a safe delivery.

Packing, wrapping, and marking

When you’re packaging an item, you can generally split your packaging into three different categories: outer packaging, packing material, and special markings.

For example, according to packaging suggestions from Canada Post, fragile items (e.g. china) should use outer packaging consisting of a rigid, good quality, corrugated cardboard box along with reinforced tape on all seams. They should be packed with bubble wrap, tissue paper or newspaper, and they should be clearly marked with the word “FRAGILE” on the top and on one side.

All major carriers will have shipping guidelines and suggestions for how to package and wrap items on their website. While these suggestions don’t guarantee the safe delivery of your items, they’re worth following to better your chances.

It’s worth noting that a study by Popular Mechanics showed one disheartening result in regards to special markings: after mailing a bunch of sensors across America using various major shippers, they found that their packages marked “FRAGILE” actually received more abuse in transit.

According to them, “the carriers flipped the package more, and it registered above-average acceleration spikes during trips for which we requested careful treatment.”

Of course, this experiment consisted of only 12 trips, three carriers, and three cities – not exactly enough for statistical significance. Despite their findings, it’s still best practice to properly label your packages, from “FRAGILE” to “PERISHABLE” to “HANDLE WITH CARE.”

You should also use “fresh” boxes whenever possible. According to UPS, the more times a box is used, the more it loses out on its “original protective qualities.” A previously used box might not adequately protect your product.

Testing

So you’ve done your homework – your outer packaging and packing materials are appropriate for your product and you have the proper markings on a fresh box. If you’re shipping the same type of item regularly, it’s time to conduct the drop test.

As you might be able to guess, a drop test consists of packaging up your product, then dropping it to see what, if any, damage has been done to the product. The drop needs to be made from a realistic and significant height – at least 4 feet. You should also drop the box on the seams and corners as opposed to just the sides.

With thorough testing, you can ship your products with a good idea of what kind of punishment they can take. If your product is damaged in the drop test, then it has not been adequately packaging and you need to reconsider your method and materials.

A drop test is especially important if you’re shipping fragile electronics or liquids that could leak in transit. Slips, falls, shifting packages and careless handlers are all possibilities, so it’s important to make sure your package can take some light abuse without harming the product inside.

Mailer’s Responsibility

According to section 1.4 of the United States Postal Service Basic Standards For All Mailing Services, “it is the mailer’s responsibility to refrain from depositing nonmailable matter in the mail.”

In other words, if you’re shipping packages, you can’t send anything illegal and you must comply with applicable postal laws and regulations governing mailability and preparation.

There are several different categories and types of items that have their own shipping standards, such as high-density items, aerosols, perishables, and biological materials. If you’re not entirely sure on the shipping standards for something you need to mail, it’s always worth looking up before getting yourself in trouble.

Best Practices

Some things are just more likely to break than others. Liquid containers and glass are always risky to ship, but there are a few things you can do on top of proper packaging that can help make a difference.

If you’re shipping bottles containing liquid, make sure they’re standing upright and the top of the package is clearly marked with “THIS SIDE UP.” Also, ensure that your inner packaging can contain any leaks so you’re not destroying other packages in the event that a leak occurs.

If you’re shipping anything with glass panes such as framed photos or mirrors, you should apply masking tape in a crisscross pattern across the surface to reduce the chance of it cracking.

You should also always enclose an extra label with address and phone number for both the shipper and recipient inside the package before shipping it. An outer-label can get torn off, ripped up or otherwise become illegible. By packaging a label inside, you ensure the product can still get to its destination even if the outer label is lost.

Conclusion

Expedited shipping is a technological miracle, but at the end of the day, things are still going to break. It’s the price we pay for being able to ship an item across the globe in 1-3 business days.

By ensuring you’re following packaging guidelines, testing your packaging thoroughly and taking extra precautionary steps for particularly fragile items, you can keep your packages safe and avoid that angry customer phone call.

Six Tips To Minimize Credit Card Processing Fees For Non-profits

Keep More of Your Donation Dollars

No one knows the importance of cutting costs wherever and whenever possible more than those who work in the non-profit sector. At their core, many non-profits function thanks to donations. Unfortunately, in our modern world where credit and debit reign supreme, cash donations are few and far between. Since donations keep many non-profits afloat, it’s very important to make sure you’re reducing your card-processing fees as much as possible.

If you’re a non-profit that relies on funding, you know the uncertainty that often accompanies it. When you’re not sure if funding levels will be maintained year after year, it’s imperative to free up as much room in your budget as possible. Reducing overhead costs such as telecom expenses and processing fees on donations can help to offset the unknown and give your organization some much-needed wiggle room.

Here are six tips to reduce processing fees and make the most of your donation dollars.

You can’t get what you don’t ask for:

In some cases, you can lower your processing fees by asking nicely. If you can provide proof of your non-profit status, (such as your 501(c) status in the United States) your processor could be willing to lower your rate. If your processor is unwilling to offer a lower rate, don’t be afraid to apply pressure and look for other options. They want your business, and they’re often willing to negotiate if they think they’re going to lose it. Remember, your goal for seeking the most competitive processor is finding the one with the lowest markup and greatest value. Some things aren’t negotiable when it comes to processing fees – the markup is not one of them.

Keep an eye on your rates:

Complete monthly audits of your merchant services statements to check for billing errors and avoid rate creep. Processors usually offer seemingly standard contracts, but many contain provisions that allow them to increase your rates. This often comes with the caveat they must notify you first – but those notifications could appear in small print on one of your statements. Be sure to read your statements for notification of rate increases and periodically check your rate to see if it has mysteriously increased. Often, all it takes for them to waive the rate increase is a phone call to object.

Research programs that can reduce your fees:

Many programs out there are tailored to reducing fees for non-profits. One processor covers the majority of fees for donations made through its donation processing page. Others have programs where donators can opt to use their reward points to cover the processing costs of their donations. Do your research, find out if your processors offer these programs, and if they do, put them in to play as soon as possible.

Make sure PCI Compliance is up-to-date:

A vendor will incur monthly fees from the Payment Card Industry (PCI) if its compliance questionnaire is not completed annually. These fees will continue to build up indefinitely until compliance forms are completed. The online questionnaire usually takes less than 30 minutes and saves hundreds of dollars every year. By completing the questionnaire, you assure your credit card processor that you are taking the proper steps to keep customer information safe and minimize the risk of fraud.

Swipe cards and answer questions:

Credit card fees are primarily based on risk. This means you’re better off swiping or inserting a card than entering the number manually. Whenever a number is entered by hand, your processor considers it a higher risk transaction and may charge a higher fee. However, not all organizations have the resources to physically swipe or insert a card. If you’re inputting the card number manually, answer as many of the processor’s questions as possible. Providing information such as the customer’s zip code, debit vs. credit, and the three-digit or four-digit code on the back of the card are all designed to lower the risk of fraud. By entering as much information as possible and lowering the risk, you’ll see reduced transaction fees!

Hire a professional:

An independent merchant services consultant will find you the lowest rates possible in your area, and can also track your rates going forward to make sure you’re never paying more than you should. For example, Schooley Mitchell looks out for your best interests by providing objective advice to reduce your electronic payment processing spend and improve service.

Systematic analysis and auditing will:

  • Uncover and eliminate hidden fees
  • Identify and recover overcharges and billing errors
  • Select and apply appropriate rate categories
  • Ensure government legislation is properly applied

Minimizing Your Small Business Shipping Costs

Five Tips To Save Money On Shipping Feesshipping cost reduction services

Shipping carriers review their rates and services every year and, more often than not, those rates increase. Between the shifting popularity of specific shipping options, the fluctuating cost of fuel, and a plethora of other factors, the cost of shipping is rising for everyone.

While a hundred-billion dollar business like Amazon can offset these rising costs with sheer bulk, how can a more niche business stay in the black without increasing their prices?

Here are a few tips on how your home, online, or small business can offer competitive shipping rates and cut down on costs.

Size Matters:

Shipping carriers don’t only charge based on location and weight – they also take size into account. You can save money on your shipping expenses by ensuring you are always using the appropriate packaging for the job.

While it’s important to keep your product safe in transit, you should never use an oversized box when something smaller will do. Bubble mailers are a great option to keep smaller items safe and secure without breaking the bank on large package fees.

Free is Cheaper than Cheap:

Most major carriers give away free packaging. From FedEx to the USPS, you can find envelopes, self-sealing packages, bubble mailers, padded packs, express boxes, labels and countless other options for free. Of course – this usually comes with the caveat that you use that specific vendor to ship your product.

If you’re currently spending money on your packaging, make sure you take a look at your preferred shipper’s website and check out what free packaging they offer.

Third Party Coverage:

All the major carriers offer shipping insurance, but you can usually find much cheaper rates by foregoing the carrier’s offer and instead getting your shipping insurance with a third-party company. The difference can be as much as $0.50 per $100 of insurance, and while this doesn’t seem like a huge amount, these fees can really add up – especially if you’re shipping high value items like watches, jewellery or electronics.

Qualify For Bulk:

If you’re running an online store through an ecommerce platform such as Shopify, BigCommerce, or 3dcart, you may qualify for bulk shipping pricing. One of the main benefits of working with these types of platforms instead of creating your own sales portal is that they specifically work with carriers to negotiate and reduce shipping prices for the entire platform as a unit. By selling and shipping through an ecommerce shop, you leverage the bulk of everyone else who ships through the same platform.

Of course – many of these platforms also charge monthly service and transaction fees on your sales, so make sure you do a thorough value analysis to make sure you’re not just replacing your shipping fees with platform fees.

Accuracy in all Things:

There are plenty of different ways for your package to incur extra fees or grind to a halt in the shipping pipeline, and most of them boil down to not paying close enough attention to the details.

Choosing the wrong mail class for your item’s weight, underpaying the due postage and neglecting package dimensions can all incur fees. Perhaps one of the most common issues people run into is mislabeled packaging.

Your package’s shipping label takes shipping zone, weight, and size all into account – so you need to make sure these details are accurate. Another common mistake is printing the wrong zip codes on your label. Carriers calculate costs and speed based partially on the length of distance from the sender’s zip code to its destination, so it’s crucial that both your shipping address and the receiver’s address are correct.

Conclusion:

If you’re shipping from home or in quantities that don’t warrant bulk rates, it’s important to take advantage of the resources your carriers offer you and ensure you minimize mistakes that can lead to fees.

If you ship small packages or use courier services and you’re looking to make certain your fees are completely optimized, Schooley Mitchell offers a risk-free review of your shipping environment. If we don’t find savings for you, there is no fee for our services.

Should you purchase device insurance?

broken-phone-insurance-stock-photoUnless there is a compelling reason to carry insurance for your mobile devices, it is typically not cost effective for most people; its shortcomings outweigh its benefits in most situations. Here are a few reasons why we recommend self-insuring instead.

No Guarantees On Replacement Quality

The replacement phones that are provided are typically refurbished and may not even be the same model as the one they are replacing. They often have limited battery life and most device insurers have no obligation to guarantee you any specific make or model to fulfill their end of the bargain.

Your insurance premium is based on the value of your device – not the device you may receive in a replacement claim. Chances are, simply saving the same amount of money each month could pay for a similarly refurbished device, and give you more options to choose from.

Non-Refundable Deductibles

The deductibles that are required for a lost, broken or stolen phone are quite high and may approach the cost of buying a refurbished phone in the open market. These deductibles can range from $150-$250 depending on the version of the device, which is money wasted whether you make a claim or not.

An Ounce Of Prevention…

In most circumstances the likelihood of a phone that is given proper care breaking down is quite small and does not warrant the expense of the insurance. While accidents do happen, mobile devices that are properly cared for usually reach the end of their average lifespan, or at least until most people decide to upgrade. Chances are, you’re never going to make an insurance claim on your mobile device.

…Is Worth A Pound Of Cure

Unfortunately, if you are accident prone, most device insurers won’t put up with you for long. If you do need the insurance and file multiple claims, the insurance company is very likely to drop you. If you’re insistent on insurance, a “maintenance” section in your budget will keep you covered for the same amount as your premium while keeping control of the funds purely in your hands.

Common Problems Don’t Require Replacement

Many problems for personal phones can be resolved at the carrier’s retail stores, the manufacturer’s retail stores, or licensed repair stores. On average, battery, camera, microphone, headphone jack, power button, speaker, charging port and volume button failures can be repaired for under $100. Screen repairs can average anywhere from $150 to $300. It is usually much cheaper to pay for a repair for these common issues than paying an insurance premium over the course of the agreement.

In Conclusion

Most people are better off self-insuring; unless there is a compelling reason to have the insurance coverage you are likely to save money by foregoing the carrier insurance offering. In fact, phone vendors aren’t shy in admitting that device insurance is one of their most profitable services.

Wireless Phone Service tips

wireless-iphone

A typical personal phone bill is made up of several components, each of which can be managed to provide maximum service at minimal cost. Business plans can be even more complicated thanks to the sheer number of lines associated with a single account. Recent plan changes by the carriers offer consumers new ways to reduce costs and increase user accountability.

The Data Plan

The major carriers have made changes to their data plans that can provide some significant benefits to the consumer, but only if the consumer asks to be put on a new plan.

  • The cost per gigabyte of sharable data can be slightly lower than on legacy plans
  • The new plans allow for “Carry Over” data for unused data from the prior month
  • The new plans also have “Safety Mode” which will protect you from overage charges by offering slower data at no charge when limit is reached or purchase of additional data
  • Some plans offer free international calls to Canada and Mexico with the new data plans

Recommendation:  Know how much data you need and make sure that you are on the right plan to support it. If you have family members that are streaming a lot of music and/or video, understand the costs and manage their data usage.

The Equipment Charges

The major wireless carriers have been making a lot of changes to separate the cost of the equipment from the cost of the service.  This offers consumers an opportunity to lower their costs if they can keep their phones longer than the time it takes to pay them off.  Most carriers will charge a monthly equipment fee to pay off the cost of the equipment which is typically between $20-$30 per month depending on the phone.  In exchange for separating the equipment cost from the service cost the carriers have been able to reduce the monthly cost for just the service.

Recommendation: Don’t feel the need to rush out and get a new phone just because you are eligible for an upgrade. The differences between some of the newer smartphones is negligible and often not worth the additional expense of getting a new phone.

The Per-Device Charge

With the equipment costs being separated out from the service costs, the actual cost of the service drops dramatically and becomes quite predictable. The latest plans offer monthly service costs for smartphones at $20 per month, and tablets and other wireless devices at $10 per month.

Recommendation: If you are paying more than $20 per month for your smartphone make sure you understand why. Smartphones can provide the same functionality that a hot spot device does; in most cases there is no need to keep the hot spot device. Tablets can function on WiFi without the need for any carrier fees; if you are paying for service for your tablet make sure that it is really necessary.

Applications and Features

If you find that you are paying for applications and/or vanity features make sure that you are truly getting the value for what you are paying. There are options like Verizon Navigator that made sense before smartphones were the mainstay, but have been since superseded by free-of-charge apps like Google Maps and Waze.

In Summary

The recent move towards separating service and equipment costs makes it much easier to manage the costs of providing personal cell phones to a family or to establish guidelines for reimbursing wireless phone expenses in a business environment.  The account holder can provide a sharable data plan and suitable service plan for each device while holding individual users accountable for new equipment charges, insurance and personal apps and features.

The carriers will not make these changes for you by default, but they are out there for the taking.

Your Office Move is an Opportunity to Save Time and Money on your Telecom

The decision to relocate your business is never made lightly. While the process can be stressful and distracting, it’s also full of wonderful opportunities to make improvements and save money – particularly when it comes to your telecom services.

To help make your move a success, we’ve put together a list of things to keep in mind concerning your telecom equipment and services while you’re undergoing this process.

 

Establish your tech requirements:

  • Can the wiring at your new location handle your current setup?
  • Do you have the physical space you need for technology resources like power, cooling, conferencing, and wireless connectivity?
  • Do you have an accurate estimate of how much it will cost to purchase new equipment versus moving your old hardware?

It’s inevitable that your big office move is going to have hiccups, but going in with a plan can help you weather the storm of unproductivity. It’s important to consider your technology and its support systems before you commit to a big move in order to minimize your downtime and prevent large gaps in your overall office efficiency. For example, if your new location isn’t properly wired, you will need you will need to be on top of the re-wiring process to make sure your equipment has the proper connections it needs to function.

Assess current services:

  • Is your office keeping up with technology advances and taking advantage of the best, most recent deals for telecom services?
  • Are there services you can renew, eliminate or change? Do you need to downsize or upgrade?
  • If you’re moving your old services and implementing them at the new location, will your incumbent service provider force you to sign a new contract – locking you in with your current setup?

The telecommunications industry is a dynamic marketplace. The technologies, services and players are always changing. Whether you’re implementing your old services in your new office or finding new vendors entirely, you need to be fully aware of all the options available to you in order to make sure you have the technology you need, at the lowest possible price.

Talk to a telecom cost-reduction professional:

A professional cost-reduction consultant can help take the weight off your shoulders when you’re preparing for an office move. They can:

  • Set up a site visit and handle your tech audit beforehand, making sure nothing slides through the cracks.
  • Fully analyze the market and make sure you’re not getting locked into any overpriced contracts.
  • Investigate the most cost efficient way of getting you set up in your new location, including simplifying and modernizing your setup, while reducing costs in the process.

Your big move is a great opportunity to both find savings on your telecom bills and increase your overall satisfaction levels with your telecom environment. Plan for your future needs, assess your current tech, and make sure to contact a professional!

Ensuring Point of Sale Security (Both Online and Off)

When you’re operating a business, customer trust is paramount. Your shoppers trust you to be able to provide what they need, when they need it. They trust you to treat them fairly. Perhaps most importantly, they trust that conducting a transaction with you isn’t going to come back to bite them. If your customers’ credit card information is stolen because your payment solution wasn’t properly secured, their trust, and subsequently their business with you, will go right out the window.

Enter Point of Sale (POS) security. The prevention of unauthorized access by hackers looking for ways to steal customer information. By providing data protection and blocking up any security gaps, you can secure your customer transactions and ensure you’re never on the chopping block for leaking sensitive information – not to mention avoid potential massive fines from the card brands.

Consider the following points when addressing the security of your POS systems, both online and on-location.

1: Point-To-Point Encryption

Ensure that you have software in place to protect your customers’ data from exposure. Point-to-point encryption tools encrypt your customers’ data as soon as it’s received, and encrypt it again when it’s sent to the POS server. In other words, whether an attacker is trying to steal the data from the terminal or intercept it on the way to the server, you’re covered.

 2: Physical Location

You’ve probably heard the term “skimmer” before in reference to hijacking data from a customer’s card. Whether you still swipe cards or use a newer chip machine, a common tactic used by fraudsters is using physical equipment to tap into the POS terminal and intercept the information. Key loggers can record your PIN, and most of the time these devices are hidden within the terminal itself.

It’s much easier for a hacker to install a skimmer on a device that is simply sitting at a front desk or bar then it is to install one locked in a security case. If your terminal is sitting in view of the entrance to your location, consider keeping it under lock and key and under the supervision of a security camera. Hackers search for low risk, high reward terminals and a simple security case and camera are often more than enough to make your terminal an unattractive option.

If your terminals have a wireless connection, such as those used by servers at a restaurant, ensure you have a system in place to keep track of the physical terminals, and make sure you write down their individual serial numbers. Any terminal that goes missing for any length of time should be immediately suspect. In fact, merchants dealing with significant sales through their POS terminals should make checking for tampering part of their daily routine.

3: PCI Compliance

One of the most common issues we see with new merchant services clients here at Schooley Mitchell is with PCI compliance. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of procedures maintained by the PCI Security Standards Council. It has tons of guidelines revolving around authentication, encryption, vulnerability testing, antivirus, and more. These standards are designed to protect credit card information by ensuring that the systems used to transmit the data are sufficiently secure. Failure to adhere to these standards drastically increases your risk of data theft.

Validating your PCI compliance involves filling out an annual questionnaire and, depending on the scope of your own POS terminals, completing quarterly scans to check for vulnerabilities. In addition to keeping data secure, maintaining PCI compliance can also reduce the fees you are charged by your merchant services provider on every transaction. The safer your data, the smaller the risk you represent to the credit card companies.

4: Address Verification

You should always use an address verification system (AVS) if you accept online sales. Address verification is done by comparing the billing address from the purchase “request” with the address data on file at the issuing bank. This is an important step in preventing fraud, because a criminal stealing a card number often has no access to the billing address associated with the card itself. If they attempt to use the card for a purchase and the address doesn’t match, your AVS system will alert you to the discrepancy. Between your AVS and proper requirement of the CVV number on the back of your card, a fraudulent charge can be avoided even if the entire credit card number is stolen.

5: Suspicious Purchasing Patterns

If you accept payments online, you need to be aware of the warning signs and red flags that go hand-in-hand with online fraud. Signs include exceptionally large orders paired with one-day shipping, emails comprised of long strings of numbers and letters instead of real words or names, and several orders from a single IP address using multiple different credit cards. While none of these things are definitive proof of a fraudulent transaction, they can represent early warning signs, especially when used in tandem.

By monitoring for these red flags, along with utilizing your other fraud detection tools, you can help even the playing field and catch fraudulent transactions before they cause significant damage to you, your processor, and your customers.

By paying special attention to the points listed above and consulting with your merchant services provider directly or through a merchant services expert, you can maintain your reputation as a safe and reputable merchant, avoid the fees that go hand-in-hand with a data breach, and protect both yourself and your customers.

The Battle Between Amazon and Google Continues at CES 2019

UPS versus FedEx. MasterCard versus Visa. AT&T versus Verizon. All these famous rivalries pale in comparison to the biggest of the modern day – Amazon versus Google.

“The Battle for Second Place,” as it were, the two internet giants have been duking it out for years. According to Statista, Amazon and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) were the number two and three largest companies in the world by market value in 2018 respectively. By mid-year, Amazon was worth $777.8 billion U.S. dollars, with Alphabet trailing closely behind with a market value of 766.4 billion. Both are still a ways off from Apple’s gold medal showing of $926.9 billion, but the battle is fierce nonetheless.

Recently, the rivalry has been focused on smart home supremacy. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are the market leaders in the smart-speaker environment, and they were both front and center at CES 2019, the world’s largest consumer tech show, which took place from January 8-11 in Las Vegas.

There were over 30 brand-new products compatible with voice assistants announced at CES this year, from ceiling fans and tech-driven crock pots to futuristic smart glasses and even Kohler’s smart toilet. While many of these products play nice with both Alexa and Assistant, some of the exclusives include a new front-door camera from the people at Amazon’s Ring and Google Assistant’s new “interpreter” mode that translates conversations in real time.

If we’re handing out awards for ostentation, Google took the crown this year with its massive booth outside the Las Vegas Convention Center – the centrepiece of which was the “It’s a Small World” promo that Google itself called “part ride, part marketing stunt.” Complete with singing animatronics, riders were carted through various scenes that showed off some of Google Assistant’s features, such as GPS navigation and the new interpreter mode.

Whether you’re a fan of Amazon, Google, or neither, it’s clear from the showing at CES that 2019 is going to be another big year for the smart-gear market.