Credit Card Account Options with Total Merchant Services

Are you thinking about accepting credit cards for your farm -- either online with your Member Assembler or E-Commerce payments or in person at a farmers' market? If you've decided to use Authorize.net over PayPal you will have to get a merchant account that has an online "card not present" component. Over the years, we have heard from many farmers that it can be a frustrating experience getting an online merchant account from a bank. It may take a long time and it is sometimes difficult to get accepted because of the nature of CSA & farm businesses.(We have actually encountered certain processors that flat out refuse to work with farms in any capacity.)

To help streamline the process of getting you up and running with credit cards, we've partnered with a merchant account company called Total Merchant Services to be able to sign you up for an account. Their Risk Department has already researched and approved the CSA model and are set up to work with farms so approvals for applications are usually done within a couple business days. They can offer free terminal equipment, 24-hour support, and competitive rates. You can read more about their array of services below.

If you've already decided to go with TMS, click here to get started with an application. or, read on to learn more about merchant accounts and online payment processing services.

Authorize.net Online Processing Account

If you want to process credit cards online with Member Assembler or E-commerce, here are the TMS rates for an Authorize.net merchant account:

online_pymt_fee_chart2.png    Figure 1. TMS Rates for Authorize.Net Merchant Account

Note: Qualified Discount Rate - Total Merchant Services offers four-tiered rates to reflect recent changes in the banking industry from the Durbin Amendment. Instead of a straight percentage from all cards, they charge a lower percentage for debit cards.
Note: Surcharge - There are also two tiers for partially- and non-qualified charge cards. These are higher surcharges that add on to the credit card rate for Rewards cards such as for air miles or cash back. The credit card companies that offer these options to their cardholders don't pay for it out of their pockets. They charge more to the merchants.

The overhead cost for the account is around $20/month. $15 of that goes for the secure processing and data-storage cost at Authorize.Net. Because Total Merchant Services has many accounts with Authorize.Net, this is a lower cost than if you would go to Authorize.Net for a merchant account directly. The remaining $5/month is the service cost for TMS. There are other miscellaneous transaction fees but these are the main costs to budget for. You will see the entire fee schedule with your application.

Wireless or Mobile Farmers Market Accounts

If you're like most farmers, you've packed up a nice bag of produce for someone at a Farmers Market and then they ask you if you take credit cards. When you say "No" they say they'll back with some cash, hopefully returning soon. Instead of this scenerio, you might want to find a solution to accept credit cards at the market or your stand. Total Merchant Services offers both a wireless credit card terminal and also ROAMpay, a device that attaches to your smartphone (similar to the popular Square iPhone app) that an scan credit card information.

Like an online merchant account, the wireless terminal has four-tiered processing rates. Because it is a mostly "card present" account, the rates are better.

TMS_Fig2.PNG
   Figure 2. Wireless Terminal Processing Rates

The overhead cost for the wireless terminal is around $20/month: $10 for the wireless service and $10 for TMS. They ship you the terminal for free and it's free for as long as you are their customer. They also train you on how to use it.

PaymentJack is a mobile phone app with a small device you attach in order to swipe charge cards. There is a $10/month cost to use it, but their percentage is more than a point lower than the free Square iPhone app. It's 1.69% with a 1.80% +$0.10 surcharge for non-qualified cards. You get one swipe device for free with the account and additional ones are $19.95. Since the Square app is free to use, we'd recommend using PaymentJack only if you planned to process more than $1000/month.

Lastly, if you already have an Authorize.Net account, they have their own mobile app, but it does not swipe credit cards. You have to key everything in.

Getting Started with your Merchant Account Application

For any of the above options, send us an email at support@smallfarmcentral.com to schedule an appointment to create your application. It normally takes around 30-45 minutes. Once we get all the information from you submitted into TMS's application creator, we will send you a secure link to download a copy of it for you to go over, print, and then fax back to us. Here is a list of what information you will need:

  • Information about your legal business name, Tax Identification Number (TIN), address, etc.

  • Information about owners/partners/officers of your business such as social security number, date of birth, and contact information. For co-ops and the like with elected officers and staff who do not have an ownership stake, TMS can accept financial statements in lieu of personal information.

  • An estimate of what you expect the average transaction amount to be, the highest expected transaction amount, and monthly volume of transactions.

  • The routing number and account number for the bank account where you want your deposits to go.

  • If you are currently processing with another merchant account provider and want to switch, please also have a current copy of your statement from them.

  • If you are signing up for PaymentJack, we need to know some information about what mobile phone you are using: the device type, model number, and mobile carrier.

And that's it! We know a lot about CSAs and software here but we're definitely getting a crash course in how the whole credit card industry works. Hopefully we can save you some of the struggle of diving into it yourself. Total Merchant Services has been really quick at processing applications. They are usually approved and in-service within 2 business days of getting your signed and completed application.

Contact our Farmer Support Team by calling: 412-567-3864, send us an email at: support@smallfarmcentral.org to schedule an appointment or with any questions.

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