Q: I wonder if anyone has any suggestions about how a small, craft, mail order business can acquire credit card facilities? My local Barclays business manager just falls about laughing because we are home-based and mail order. Girobank say we have to be a registered company which is far too expensive for us at the moment. Yet I am sure there are people who run similar businesses and can take credit card orders by phone etc. Any suggestions gratefully received - our little business is booming and I have been advised this is the way to go - but how?
A: I've just gone through this process for a website I am building, to enable online orders (as I have no retail premises) of arts & craft items, and I used barclays. The solution also allows me to put in offline orders eg those taken by fax, mail or on the phone through the catalog software I am using to build my site. The process was: 1. Get a business banking account. 2. Then Apply through Barclays Merchant Services for an Internet Merchant account. (Pay ??250 for the privelige!) As opposed to a retail merchant account using a PDQ machine - to enable authorisations of card details taken over the phone. Depending on volume and amount of transaction you will be advise the percentage that Barclays will take. PDQ machines attract a rental where as the internet merchant account doesn't. Barclays may take your transactions on a deferred basis - that's where they authorise the transaction but delay paying you for 2 weeks, normally if you've not been trading long or cannot show profitability in mail order terms, maybe a low volume or something like that. 3. Once you've got your Internet Merchant number apply to Worldpay or SecPay or any of the other online card authorisers - pay more money for setup admin and again a percentage is charged on the transaction depending on the amount. 4. Get an online shopping mall application (I use Actinic Catalog) which will integrate with the provider I chose in 3 above. Apart from that it's plain sailing :) The whole process took me 6 weeks and that was with a lot of calls chasing up Barclays - they don't like emails & prefer faxes and lots of forms to be filled in. Don't let this put you off though as the process does work. The other option might be to offload your store building to a 'mall' site that has already got it all set up and pay them a commision on your sales, this is the type of thing my site could do. Some traders like it because it keeps the costs down but others prefer not to compete with other providers in the same line.