The Payment Frontier: Moving Beyond Credit Cards

We remember a time when accepting credit cards was a huge selling point for business owners.
It seemed so futuristic at the time—just swipe a piece of plastic, and get whatever you want. Pretty great, right?

While the advent of credit card payment systems was a groundbreaking moment for small business owners, they came at a time before we had Internet in every household. Thanks to improving technology and 24/7 connectivity, transactions take place on too many fronts to be limited to what can now be considered stone-age payment options.

Old-Fashioned Credit Cards

Though accepting credit cards was once an amazing feature, those days are long gone. Everyone takes credit cards these days, and many businesses are already moving on to the next big thing.

In addition, credit card payments aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. Merchant processing fees can eat up more of a business’s budget than it may realize. A vendor may offer a business a rate of 1.7 percent on each transaction, but this number doesn’t factor in the fees and additional charges that you’ll find on your monthly processing statement. It’s not uncommon for business owners to pay a percentage twice as high on each transaction than their initial quote stated.

Naturally, business owners welcomed the digital revolution with open arms.

Digital Payments

If credit cards represent the past, then digital transactions are the payment options of the future. While many of these have been around for a while (think PayPal and Square), a wealth of new options are arising that give business owners more payment choices than ever before. By now, dozens of these digital service providers have popped up, each offering different benefits for each user base.

Google Wallet has great brand recognition for any user, and it offers seamless integration into your site through the Wallet Objects API. This method is an effective way to securely create a fast checkout experience for customers.

Stripe and V.me by Visa are designed to keep customers on your site, rather than redirecting them to a third-party payment page.

Checkout by Amazon lets business owners embed the online retail giant’s code on your page, allowing purchasers to complete their transaction through Amazon’s site. This lets users who already have Amazon accounts shop easily through payment portals they’re already comfortable with.

Dwolla allows payments to be taken through email, though the app requires purchase of a separate credit card reader.

The list goes on and on. As digital authentication becomes more secure, our ways to safely pay can only increase. But the options aren’t just limited desktop payments; mobile payments and other, less traditional forms of currency are also on the rise.

Mobile Options

With so many mobile users out there these days, the growth of mobile payment options is no surprise. These applications are simple: download the app, buy the card scanner, and—boom—your mobile business is ready to go. Services like GoPayment or ROAMpay are easy options for business owners who travel, with small subscriptions fees and inexpensive card reader attachments that make mobile payments a breeze.

Bitcoin

One of the forerunners of the “virtual currency” trend, Bitcoin was widely thought of as a joke…until a U.S. Senate hearing on Nov. 19, 2013, deemed Bitcoin a legitimate financial service, spiking the already-rising price of a single Bitcoin to $900. Though the Bitcoin bubble was quick to burst, it still remains a legitimate form of online currency. Vendors interested in accepting Bitcoin will need to partner with a merchant service like Bitcoin Transaction Coordinator.

The Payment Frontier

Across traditional credit cards, digital wallets, online payments, mobile banking, and virtual currency, our ways to pay have increased substantially over the past few years. Business owners have the flexibility to cater to a wide range of markets, with geographic location no longer being an issue. Only time will tell how the payment frontier will change in the next few years, but one thing’s for sure: Online payments and digital currency aren’t going anywhere any time soon.