How To Accept Credit Card Payments As A Business


Accepting credit card payments opens up a world of opportunities for businesses, enabling them to cater to a wider audience, both in-store and online.

However, navigating the complexities of credit card processing can be daunting for many Australian business owners. From setting up a merchant account to choosing the right payment gateway and understanding the associated fees, there’s a lot to consider. This blog aims to demystify the process of accepting credit card payments, offering a step-by-step guide to help you make an informed decision that aligns with your business needs.


Understanding Credit Card Processing

Credit card processing is an essential service that allows businesses to accept payments from customers via credit or debit cards. It involves a series of steps and participants to complete each transaction. Understanding this process is crucial for business owners to make informed decisions about payment solutions.

At the core of credit card processing are four main players:

  • Merchant: That’s you, the business owner, who wants to accept credit card payments.
  • Acquiring Bank (Merchant’s Bank): This is the financial institution that your business uses to provide credit card processing services. They facilitate the transaction by communicating with the card networks and issuing banks.
  • Issuing Bank (Cardholder’s Bank): This is the bank that issued the credit card to the consumer. They are responsible for paying the acquiring bank for the purchases their cardholders make.
  • Card Networks: Companies like Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover that act as intermediaries between acquiring and issuing banks. They set the rules and standards for card transactions.


When a customer pays with a credit card, the transaction goes through several steps:

  • Authorisation: The merchant sends a request to the acquiring bank to verify the card details and ensure the customer has enough credit to make the purchase.
  • Authentication: The card network checks the transaction with the issuing bank to confirm the card’s validity and available funds.
  • Funding: Once the transaction is authorised and authenticated, the issuing bank transfers the funds to the acquiring bank, which then deposits the money into the merchant’s account.

During this process, it’s vital to ensure that all transactions are secure. This standard helps protect cardholder data and reduces the risk of fraud.


Setting Up a Merchant Account

Setting up a merchant account is a pivotal step for businesses to start accepting credit card payments. A merchant account is a type of bank account that allows businesses to process electronic payment card transactions. Here’s how to set one up:

  1. Research Providers: Start by researching merchant account providers, which can include banks, independent sales organisations (ISOs), and payment service providers (PSPs). Compare their fees, services, and contract terms.
  2. Apply: Select a provider and apply for a merchant account.
  3. Submit Documentation: Accompany your application with necessary documents like your Australian Business Number (ABN), business license, proof of bank account, financial statements, and tax records.
  4. Credit Assessment: The provider will conduct a credit check to evaluate the risk associated with granting you a merchant account. A positive credit score will aid in a smoother approval process.
  5. Account Setup: Once your application is approved, the provider will help set up the merchant account, enabling you to start processing credit card transactions. They will also assist with integrating payment processing systems or software.


Choosing a Payment Gateway

In the context of Australian businesses, a payment gateway facilitates the authorisation and processing of credit card transactions, acting as a mediator between the merchant’s website and the payment processor.

Considerations for selecting a payment gateway in Australia include:

  • Integration Compatibility: The payment gateway should integrate effortlessly with your existing systems like your e-commerce platform, shopping cart software, and accounting systems.
  • Security Measures: Opt for gateways adhering to stringent security protocols, including encryption and PCI DSS compliance, to safeguard cardholder data.
  • Cost Structure: Analyse the different fee arrangements of payment gateways, which may include transaction fees, monthly service fees, and setup costs, to identify the most economical option.
  • Supported Payment Methods: Select a gateway that accommodates various payment methods, including all major credit and debit cards, as well as alternative payment options like BPAY, PayPal, or Afterpay, catering to the preferences of Australian consumers.
  • Local Customer Support: Ensure the payment gateway provides excellent customer support, preferably within Australian business hours, to address any transactional or technical issues promptly.


Hardware and Software Requirements

For Australian businesses to accept credit card payments, both hardware and software components are crucial, depending on whether the business operates online, in a physical location, or both.


Brick-and-Mortar Businesses

  • Point of Sale (POS) Systems: These are essential for in-store transactions, integrating hardware like cash registers, barcode scanners, and receipt printers with software to process sales and payments.
  • Card Readers: Necessary for processing credit and debit card payments, EFTPOS terminals should be capable of handling chip, swipe, and contactless transactions, including NFC technology for mobile payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay.
  • POS Software: This software manages inventory, sales reporting, customer data, and processing payments. It should be compatible with the chosen merchant account and payment gateway.


Online Businesses

  • E-commerce Platform: Online merchants need a reliable e-commerce platform (such as Shopify, Magento, or WooCommerce) that integrates seamlessly with payment gateways and merchant accounts.
  • Payment Gateway Software: As discussed earlier, this software connects the e-commerce site to the payment processing network, securely transmitting customer payment information.
  • SSL Certificate: To securely encrypt customer data during online transactions, an SSL certificate is essential for any e-commerce website.


Understanding Fees and Costs

Credit card processing in Australia involves various fees, and understanding these is crucial for businesses to manage costs effectively:

  • Transaction Fees: Charged for each sale, typically comprising a percentage of the sale amount plus a fixed fee.
  • Monthly Fees: Regular charges by the merchant service provider for account maintenance.
  • Setup Fees: One-time charges for setting up the merchant account or payment gateway.
  • Equipment Costs: For physical hardware like POS systems and card readers.
  • PCI Compliance Fees: Some providers may charge for compliance support and certification.


To minimise credit card processing costs, Australian businesses should negotiate lower transaction fees and monthly rates based on their sales volume and transaction sizes. It’s important to select a pricing plan that matches the business’s transaction patterns to prevent overpayment. Additionally, businesses should invest only in essential hardware and software features to avoid paying for unnecessary functionalities, thus reducing overall costs.


Security and Compliance

Compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is mandatory for any Australian business that processes, stores or transmits credit card information. This compliance ensures the security of card transactions and protects against data breaches.

To ensure credit card transaction security, businesses should conduct regular audits and vulnerability assessments, train staff on secure data handling and fraud prevention, and maintain secure networks with firewalls and encryption. Keeping payment software and hardware updated to guard against emerging threats and practising data minimisation—storing only essential customer information with robust encryption—are also critical best practices.


Chat With The Payment Solution Specialists

Accepting credit card payments is a strategic move for Australian businesses aiming to expand their market reach and enhance customer convenience. By understanding the nuances of credit card processing, from setting up a merchant account and choosing a suitable payment gateway to implementing the necessary hardware and software, businesses can facilitate smooth and secure transactions.

At Venue Smart, we stand as a leading payment service provider across Australia, delivering efficient payment solutions designed to simplify the complexities of managing your business’s payment acceptance processes. We focus on providing cost-effective, time-saving, and hassle-free solutions tailored to your needs. Ready to upgrade or implement your payment processing system? Contact us at 1300 483 683 or submit an enquiry online today to discover how we can enhance your payment operations.