Nowadays, brick-and-mortar merchants use electronic card readers to enter credit card transactions. These gadgets have a slot to swipe a card, and a numeric keypad to enter the numbers manually in case the swipe doesn't work. They may be stand-alone gadgets connected directly to the credit card network via a phone line, or they may be connected to a computer and work in conjunction with a software package.
Some are even wireless. If you're doing business over the Web, you don't need one of these (regardless of what the people who sell them tell you). What you need is a payment-processing software package. Forget about phoning in orders or using one of those old-fashioned manual card imprinters. The few banks that still allow such transactions are sure to charge a premium rate.
Most banks charge a percentage of each transaction, called a discount rate, and a fixed per-transaction fee. There is often a fixed monthly fee, a monthly minimum order, and a one-time setup fee as well. A payment-processing system, whether hardware- or software-based, is an additional expense, as we shall see.
Fees for merchant accounts are like interest rates on loans - they vary depending on the perceived level of risk to the bank. Users of credit cards may refuse to pay certain charges for a variety of reasons, ranging from returned products to honest errors to fraudulent charges. Banks want to encourage the view of credit cards as a safe and convenient way to buy, so they are generally pretty lenient about allowing buyers to make chargebacks, as they are called.
You can't ignore the role of the Internet in business today. In a very short time, we've gone from mixers and meet-ups to e-mail and tweets. Not having a web site that represents your business today is as negligent as not having business cards.
You know how important taking your business online is, but maybe you, like many other business owners, don't have a clue about "this Internet thing" or where to even start.
Fear not. Taking your business online, while a project unto itself, is not much different from conducting your business any other way if you break it down into basic components.