Archives / 2009
  • Debit cards highly valued

    According to a new survey commissioned by Visa Inc., U.S. consumers whose primary payment method is their debit card would rather give up coffee, their MP3 player, their mobile phone, email, visiting social network sites for one week than they would their debit card.

    Employers issuing Visa payroll debit cards to under-banked workers not only benefit by moving all employees to direct deposit but are also providing a cash management tool highly valued by employees.  Consumers are focused on controlling spending and understand that cash purchases can be difficult to track.  The Visa survey reveals that consumers believe debit cards can help them monitor spending more closely and stay within budget.   Plus employees enjoy convenient access to their funds by using their … more

  • CPAs play a key role in helping small businesses implement payment best practices

    Poor management of accounts receivables is the enemy of cash flow. For small businesses today, 30-day terms all too often extend to 60, 90 and 120 days before payment is made.

    CPAs can help their small business clients better manage cash flow by proactively talking about their payment policies and procedures. Now is the time to help your clients set a 2010 goal of implementing payment acceptance best practices. Why?  Because by implementing sound accounts receivable policies with the objective of lowering working capital, businesses will achieve an operational advantage over their competitors.

    Business is, ultimately, about getting paid.  Businesses need to have enough working capital to fund their operations while they wait to get paid.  If a company can improve its … more

  • Salvation Army deploys card acceptance

    The Salvation Army is accepting credit and debit cards for contributions this holiday season in more regions nationwide. News articles from around the country have reported on the card terminals at the traditionally all cash "Red Kettles" which collect donations to support programs such as food for the homeless and toys for needy children.

    The Salvation Army is smart to provider donors with the convenience of more payment options including Visa, MasterCard and American Express card transactions. Realizing that many people don't carry cash, the Salvation Army kettles are adjusting to the changing payment choices consumers are making.

    The Salvation Army has deployed card acceptance to:

    Increase overall red kettle donations

    Eliminate "not carrying any cash" as an excuse for not giving … more

  • U.S. Merchants receive $1.1 Billion Final Payment Early

    The law firm Constantine Cannon LLP announced today that approximately $1.1 billion in payments will be mailed to approximately 634,000 merchants across the United States, the final large-scale disbursement in the landmark Visa Check/MasterMoney Antitrust Litigation settlement. 

    In re Visa Check/MasterMoney Antitrust Litigation is still the largest antitrust settlement in U.S. history.  The settlement with Visa and MasterCard was negotiated in 2003 and this final payment, likely the largest single payment to businesses in class action history, represents an accelerate payment schedule that was not set to end until 2012. 

    In addition to the monetary compensation to merchants, Visa and MasterCard agreed to eliminate their “Honor All Cards” policies, which … more

  • Unbanked Americans need Plastic

    The number of “unbanked” Americans rose 1.3 million nationally last year, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.   Of the unbanked Americans in 2008, more than 31 percent said they closed bank accounts because of overdraft fees, service charges or high minimum balance rules.  Yet they are substituting other more costly, less regulated services like payday loans, check-cashing services and pawn shops for their financial needs. 

    While few banks are reaching out to under-banked communities, employers can pick up the slack by moving employees to direct deposit using a Visa debit payroll card.  And employers can help control costs by negotiating group discounts for their unbanked employees. 

    Payroll cards … more

  • Retailers likely to see lower Interchange costs this holiday season

    Retailers are likely to see lower Interchange processing expenses this holiday season due to fewer consumers using credit cards and rewards cards.  According to a WSJ article, Fewer Shoppers Using Credit Cards for Gifts, there has been a drop in the number of shoppers paying with credit cards.   Higher interest rates, lower spending limits, canceled accounts, maxed out cards and watered-down rewards programs are all cited as reasons for the decline.

    In general consumer spending has shifted from credit to debit during the recession. In the third quarter of 2009, credit transactions for Visa and MasterCard reached $313 billion, an 11.58% decline over the same quarter in 2008, according to TowerGroup. Debit transaction volume for Visa and MasterCard was $303 billion, a 5.21% … more

  • Internet gambling regulations implemented

    The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System have issued regulations implementing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act requiring U.S. financial institutions and certain “participants in designated payment systems” to establish and implement policies and procedures reasonably designed to identify and block or otherwise prevent or prohibit unlawful internet gambling transactions covered by this Act. Compliance by these participants is required immediately. more

  • New gift card rules proposed

    The Federal Reserve Board announced proposed rules that would restrict fees and expiration dates on store branded and network-branded gift cards intended to protect consumers.   The proposed rules would prohibit dormancy, inactivity, and service fees on gift cards unless: (1) there has been at least one year of inactivity on the certificate or card; (2) no more than one such fee is charged per month; and (3) the consumer is given clear and conspicuous disclosures about the fees. Expiration dates for funds underlying gift cards must be at least five years after the date of issuance, or five years after the date when funds were last loaded. more

  • Vote to Abolish Check Clearing

    According to an article in Bank Technology News, the United Kingdom may stop clearing checks by 2018.  A number of large retailers in the UK have already stopped taking checks or are phasing them out with only three percent of retail spending by check in the UK in 2008, a decline of by about 66 percent over the past two decades.

    The trend toward cards and electronic payments has become strong enough that the largest banks in the UK have arranged a vote to stop clearing checks.  Estimates of check clearing cost are roughly $1.66, or about four times as much as electronic payments and would lead to substantial savings for banks. more

  • MasterCard requires support for Partial Approval, Real-Time Reversal, and Balance Response

    Recently, MasterCard announced rule changes and supporting requirements for acquirers and their merchants in the U.S. region to support partial approvals, authorization reversals, and balance response in order to improve debit card (including prepaid cards) purchase experience at the point of sale (POS).  Support for these transaction types is required for all Debit MasterCard and Maestro card programs in the U.S. region.  While Issuer support for these requirements was effective November 2008, MasterCard intends to implement this mandate for merchants and acquirers in three phases beginning May, 1 2010.

    MasterCard decided to move forward with these requirements after extensive discussions with issuers, processors, program managers, acquirers, and merchants, where high decline … more

  • No clear winner in the GAO Interchange report

    As we posted back in May, 2009, GAO to Investigate Merchant Interchange Fees, The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its report titled: Credit Cards, Rising Interchange Fees Have Increased Costs for Merchants, but Options for Reducing Fees Pose Challenges on November 19, 2009.

    There was no clear winner in the GAO report. Each proposed remedy to lower Interchange examined by the GAO would impact stakeholders differently, for example, merchants verse card issuers or large merchants versus small merchants or large issuers vs. community banks. One of the most important stakeholders to the politicians are the consumers and the GAO suggested that savings from lower Interchange would not be pass along in every industry and only in competitive markets. The GAO study … more

  • Interchange Analysis by the GAO

    Visa and MasterCard Interchange rate schedules have become increasing more complex, as hundreds of different Interchange fee rate categories for accepting credit cards now exist.

    In 1991, Visa and MasterCard each had 4 standard domestic credit card interchange fee rate categories. By 2009, Visa had 60 and MasterCard had 243 different rate categories that could be charged to card transactions, although not all of these rates apply to all merchants.

    The increase in the number of rates occurred as different types of merchants and cards were added to their Interchange rate schedules. For example, the networks introduced new rates for certain industries that previously had not accepted cards (such as energy utility companies or government agencies) or for new methods of shopping (such as … more

  • GAO Interchange Study Option 1: Limiting or Capping Interchange Fees

    Setting or limiting Interchange fees would need to address who would regulate, at what level to cap rates and which payment types would be included in the regulation to name just a few. Beyond these implementation questions, others should be considered like, will greater regulation bring more secure, innovative, alternative payments to market faster or will this regulation slow R&D?

    A significant advantage of capping or limiting interchange fees would be that it would reduce interchange fee costs most directly. The GAO study did not make any recommendations but rather posed various scenarios of capping Interchange at current levels, setting a maximum rate, setting at a level significantly below the current rates, apply caps to select Interchange rate categories like rewards cards or … more

  • GAO Interchange Study Option 2: Requiring the Disclosure of Interchange Fees

    Requiring Interchange fees to be disclosure to consumers would provide information about payment costs in an effort to influence consumer choice. However, information alone is not likely to have the desired effect of stopping people from pulling out their reward card. Plus, significant implementation costs for both the merchant and the issuer along with the level of confusion on the part of the consumer who would need to be educated on the payment industry pricing structures.

    Disclosing information about Interchange fees to consumers would incur the costs of updating technology and signage to allow for such disclosures. For disclosure in merchant receipts, merchants would incur the cost of changing their receipts. Issuers would incur cost of changing card statements to add disclosures. more

  • GAO Interchange Study Option 3: Loosening Restrictions on Merchants for Card Acceptance

    Prohibiting card networks from imposing rules on merchants, such as those that limit merchants’ ability to discriminate among different types of cards or levy a surcharge for credit cards is one of the most popular remedies designed to hold Interchange rates in check.

    The GAO reports that removing the anti steering rules appears to have various advantages. Merchants could surcharge or refuse certain cards, make cardholders using rewards cards more aware of and to bear more of the cost of the rewards from which they benefit. This option also may require the least intervention, as merchants could decide whether to add surcharges or refuse certain cards based on their own customer mix. In addition, the potentially anticompetitive effects of these rules are also the subject of a … more

  • GAO Interchange Study Option 4: Allowing Merchants and Issuers to Directly Negotiate Interchange Fees

    This option involves granting antitrust waivers to allow merchants and issuers to negotiate Interchange rates. Collective bargaining by commercial groups, such as groups of merchants or businesses, can violate U.S. antitrust laws, an exemption from those laws would be necessary to facilitate such a process.

    Valid concerns exist that such negotiations could harm small merchants and small issuers, which do not have as much leverage as larger participants and, in some cases, lack the resources to participate in bargaining sessions. It would be difficult to ensure that small issuers and small merchants benefited from collective negotiations. Small merchant would find it difficult to participate in such negotiations because of limited resources.

    A significant legal barrier to implementing … more

  • POS PIN Entry Device Vulnerabilities

    Compromised point-of-sale (POS) PIN-entry devices (PEDs) equipped with tapping mechanisms designed to capture PIN and card data have recently been found in the U.S. marketplace. Visa has received an increasing number of reports regarding POS PED theft from merchant store locations. Evidence indicates the POS PEDs are being physically removed from their locations and replaced with modified devices designed to skim account and PIN data. Surveillance has shown that suspects in most of these cases were able to remove and install a POS PED in under one minute. This type of fraud typically occurs in merchant locations with “after-hours” operations where there is minimal customer traffic or employee supervision over cash registers.

    Visa strongly recommends that merchants use … more

  • Rare Praise for Credit Card Acceptance

    I read the New York Times article New York’s Cabbies Like Credit Cards? Go Figure with interest as it told the story of  how New York’s cabbies originally resisted accepting card payments and how card acceptance has emerged as an unlikely savior for New York’s taxi industry. 

    In the beginning, when forced to adopt card acceptance, drivers went on strike citing the burden it placed on drivers.  A short two years later overall ridership, revenue and tips for drivers have all increased. 

    Name another industry right now where you will read the following statements from merchants, trade associations and government commissioners about credit cards being good for business.

    “It’s better,” said Naveed Shah, 35, a driver for five years, … more

  • Vantage launches new site dedicated to B2B payments

    Vantage has launched a new web site at focused on addressing the specific payment needs of small and mid-sized (SMB) business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) enterprises. offers payment acceptance policies, strategies and best practices to lower cost, increase productivity and enhance security.

    Today’s most successful SMB are using a mix of technology and best practices to effectively manage their accounts receivables to increase cash flow and working capital. Managing credit risks, using lockbox services to automate paper-based processes and following AR best practice invoice tracking and follow up are being viewed as smart strategic decisions, giving SMB a competitive advantage once reserved only for big business.

    Likewise, … more

  • Hiding in the Price

    As you know I follow the debate on the merchant fee called Interchange.  Interchange is the largest component of the discount rate paid by merchants when accepting a credit card payment.  There are strong lobby efforts by merchant associations and according to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), for each consumer payment card purchase--at the mall, at the grocery store, at a gas station or on the Internet--the merchant is charged a fee and these fees are ultimately passed on to all consumers in the form of higher prices for goods and services.

    The concept that Conyers exposes is that of embedded costs which are hidden but are ultimately borne by the consumer. 

    What’s crazy to me is that while so many seem to get this concept in the context … more

  • Vantage Points adds Reward Partners

    Vantage Card Services’ seven year old Vantage Points merchant loyalty rewards program is pleased to welcome New Vantage Points Rewards Partners just in time for the Holidays!



    Sam's Club





    American Express


    Dell Computer

    Golf Smith

    Jiffy Lube

    Pet Smart

    Harry & David

    and many, many more...

    Vantage Card Services was recently recognized in a leading payment industry trade magazine for it’s Vantage Points merchant rewards program as an example of a customer retention focused organization.     Merchants earn Vantage Points accepting MasterCard, Visa and Discover and redeem their points for rewards from nearly 200 distinguished program partners. 

    This one-of-a-kind program is simple to … more

  • Vantage Wayback


    Have you ever used the Wayback Machine?

    The Wayback Machine allows users to browse through over 150 billion web pages archived from 1996 to just a few months ago. I used it to craft this brief history of Vantage.

    We launched our first web presence as far back as the end of 1997 but the first archive I find is a view from October 1999. That’s a decade ago and just months before the dot-com bubble crash. If I recall, we used Microsoft FrontPage to develop these early versions (we still do all our web development in house today):

    And while our site has grown, our messaging hasn’t really changed. In the first paragraph on the October 2000 home page we begin to push the concept of “Interchange … more

  • Fed to consider National Data Breach Law

    According to a Bank Info Security article, House hearings may start later this year or in early 2010 to address the increasing problem of data breaches. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center report, 407 breaches and nearly 220.6 million records have been exposed so far in 2009.

    The current environment seems to be more government regulation on things than less. The purpose of hearings is to discuss the way data is retrieved, transmitted, intercepted and stored and to see how government can regulate aspects of IT -- including companies involved in finance, health, welfare and safety.

    However, before the federal government tries to regulate how the private sector handles and stores data, Congress should consider updating the 7-year-old Federal Information Security Management Act … more

  • Visa moving to chip and PIN in Australia

    Visa Australia announced it was moving to chip and PIN technology for all of its credit cards, with signature transactions to be banned by April 2013.

    Visa's move to kill signature-based mag-stripe transactions by 2013 will require financial institutions and retailers to upgrade over 14 million visa cards, half a million point of sale terminals, and thousands of ATMs.

    While fraud in Australia remains low by world standards, this aggressive rollout of new technologies will strengthen security reducing counterfeit, skimming and online card fraud. 

    Is the U.S. next? more

  • Keys to a Level 3 Merchant Account

    Accepting Commercial Cards

    Commercial credit cards are being used to replace inefficient and expensive paper purchase order processes by businesses, corporations and government agencies with payments estimated to reach $185 Billion by 2010. Accepting commercial credit cards like Corporate, Business, Purchasing and GSA cards are an important component of a company’s payment policies.  Optimize your commercial card acceptance with a Level 3 merchant account. 

    Keys to a Level 3 Merchant Account

    Insist on an Interchange pricing structure Interchange is the largest cost component of delivering merchant services and for merchants accepting commercial cards, eliminating non-qualified surcharges are especially important. Direct Interchange pass through pricing is the most … more

  • PIN Debit Punishment Pushed Back

    Visa and MasterCard set a mandate effective July 1, 2010 to ensure that all installed PIN pads are using the most up to date triple data encryption standard (3DES) for processing PIN debit transactions.  In an effort to enforce this mandate, fines were slated to be imposed on those deemed out of compliance.  While technically, the July 2010 deadline is still in place, the threat of punishment has been pushed back.  The new policy isn’t threatening fines until Aug. 1, 2012, however Vantage will continue working with our clients to ensure compliance by July 2010.

    The most interesting part of the article as reported on StorefrontBacktalk was that several of the nation's largest chains were threatening to abruptly cut off PIN debit at the deadline, possibly switching to … more

  • US Financial Transactions Exceed 100 Billion in 2009

    As reported by BUSINESS WIRE -- For the first time in US history, the number of consumer and business transactions including checks and electronic transactions for debit cards, credit cards and automatic payments will exceed 100 billion by the end of 2009, according to Moebs Services. 

    Type of 100B Transactions in 2009:

    Debit card transactions, 33 percent

    Paper checks, 24 percent

    Credit card transactions, 23 percent

    Automatic Payments (ACH), 20 percent

    Mike Moebs, CEO provides noteworthy analysis:

    Based on current transactions, our projections show that debit cards and automatic payments are taking over at an increasingly rapid rate from the traditional checking account for most Americans

    Over the past 30 years, paper check usage has dropped from 85 percent of all … more

  • An Inconvenient Tax

    An Inconvenient Tax - Official Trailer from Life Is My Movie Entertainment on Vimeo.

    An Inconvenient Tax sheds light on one of America’s messiest problems — a fundamentally broken tax code that affects every part of people’s lives. With the U.S. Congress making over 16,000 changes to the tax code in the last two decades alone, many Americans want something better, but few know where to start. This feature-length documentary film reveals the many ways Congress uses the tax code to achieve political goals that have nothing to do with raising revenue. It also tackles the controversial issue of tax reform through a non-partisan presentation of U.S. tax history and current proposals to fix the code. In a time when America faces fiscal crisis, An Inconvenient Tax brings a … more

  • More Intelligent Merchant Rates

    As a merchant, do you feel the fees you pay for accepting card payments are too high?  I’ve not talked to anyone in business who thinks they aren’t paying enough for merchant services.  If you’ve been following the Interchange debate, you realize the Interchange fee paid back to the issuing bank is the target of reform.  And while Interchange reform is a healthy debate, for most businesses, it’s beside the point.  They don’t get Interchange pricing.

    Most small and mid sized businesses don’t pay Interchange pricing, they pay discount rates and service fees set by their service provider, processor or bank.  The most common pricing structures are based on formulas, bundles, tiers and definitions invented by their payment … more

  • Establishing Payment Acceptance Policies

    Does your business have policies in place for each of payment method you accept? Payment policies are critical in protecting the financial health of a business. Small businesses without payment acceptance policies are vulnerable to fraud.

    We strongly advise that the best practice before accepting any form of payment is to know your customer.  Be mindful, watch for any red flags and take action to delay delivery until you gain a comfort level with the validity of your customer and their payment method.

    It is especially important for merchants to understand that card payments are a convenience form of payment, not a guaranteed form of payment. Since the rules and regulations are written in favor of the cardholder, merchants must be diligent in protecting their business against … more

  • Not all Prepaid Debit Cards are alike

    Recently I’ve seen a few stories like this one in the New York Times: Prepaid, but Not Prepared for Debit Card Fees. In the article, author Andrew Martin explores the numerous fees many card companies are charging their customers. The moral of this story from my perspective is that it pays to shop around. Not all prepaid debit cards are alike.

    Avoid buying a prepaid debit card. We advise consumers wanting a prepaid debit card to get a payroll debit card instead. Consumers can get a payroll debit card from their employer or sign up directly with a payroll card provider (for example online at and then simply provide the card’s routing number and account number to their employer for direct deposit.

    Payroll cards have lower costs than prepaid … more

  • Go Green With Your Pay

    The American Payroll Association is part of an initiative to eliminate the use of paper paychecks nationwide. Currently, employers can go paperless in about 20 states. We’re tackling the rest state by state, and we need help from employers! We’re posting sample letters pre-addressed to the state officials in those states that currently keep employers from enjoying a paperless payroll. If you are an employer, please download a copy of the letter, personalize it, and send it on company letterhead.

    The focus of the request is to allow employers to mandate direct deposit. Where employees do not provide their bank account information, employers should be able to provide paycards instead of paychecks.

    Please join the effort!  Sample letters can be downloaded from the “ … more

  • Restaurant Trends: Make your restaurant online order capable

    According to the September 2009 Technomic American Express Market Brief, consumers of all ages have already embraced online ordering. Their research shows online ordering from a computer has become quite popular.

    % of Consumers who have Ordered Online:

    54% of 18-20 year olds46% of 21-2450% of 25-3444% of 35-4423% of 45-5430% of 55-6429% of 65-747% of 75+

    Incentives were found to be effective in luring customers to online ordering. Nearly 58% who have ordered food online note they have done so in response to an offer they saw on a website, while 37% have been influenced by an offer received in an email.

    For those who have ordered online from a computer, seven of 10 (70%) report that their most recent order placed was a repeat order.

    Bottom Line: If you have a web site … more

  • Interchange ruled to be Interest

    According to Bloomberg, after a decade-long battle, a U.S. Tax Court ruled in favor of Capital One Financial Corp. saying that the bank’s income from Interchange fees that merchants pay on customer purchases should be regarded as interest subject to tax-deferral rules. The Internal Revenue Service argued the fees are taxable upon receipt.

    Interchange “compensates lenders for the time value of their money,” Tax Court Judge Harry A. Haines wrote in the decision. “Interchange rates take into account other factors such as credit and fraud risk, processing costs and Visa’s and MasterCard’s efforts to maximize their business.”

    This decision affects an estimated $48 billion in fees U.S. credit-card issuers collect each year.  The court ruled … more

  • The future of peer-to-peer currency?

    A digital currency for Microsoft Outlook? Social Networks? WSJ's Andy Jordan talks to currency renegades tired of big-government centralized cash, and desperate to make their own (legal) money systems.  On the new currency frontier are several examples including Ven and Attent are showcased.    According to Wikipedia, Ven is a virtual currency used by members of Hub Culture to buy, share and trade knowledge, goods and services with anyone in the network and can be spent at any Hub Culture Pavilion. The currency is currently linked to the U.S. dollar at a rate of 10 Ven to the dollar and trades against other major currencies at floating exchange rates. Ven first appeared as an application in Facebook on 4 July, 2007. In late 2008, the currency became tradeable to anyone … more

  • The Merchant Interchange Debate Continues

    This week the National Retail Federation and the Merchants Payments Coalition released a 14-page report, entitled, “’Swipe Fee’ Reform--International Lessons” lobbying in favor of regulating Interchange. Focusing on what other countries are doing around the world and arguing that Interchange fees are ultimately borne by consumers, the MPC’s report can be found at:

    On the same day, as reported in Reuters, The Electronic Payments Coalition issued the following statement: Today, the Electronic Payments Coalition released key evidence from several sources, demonstrating conclusively that consumers would be hurt by interchange regulation in the form of higher fees, fewer benefits, and zero savings at the cash register. Despite the … more

  • Prepaid Visa Payroll Cards Replace Expensive Paper Checks

    PlatinumPay Thousands of employers currently offer Visa payroll cards to employees and for companies looking to go green, streamline payroll operations and lower costs, paycards are only gaining in popularity. The Visa paycard is designed as a financial tool; providing employees a way to participate in their company’s direct deposit program. U.S. employers are realizing significant savings while helping their employees avoid the escalating costs associated with check cashing fees and delays in receiving their checks via mail or pick-up.


    The benefits of direct deposit have been well documented for years. Payroll professionals all tend to agree that increasing direct deposit and reducing, or even better, eliminating the antiquated paper check creates a positive impact to employer … more

  • Tabs, Tips and Chargebacks -- Best Practices for Restaurants, Bars and Night Clubs

    A common problem in F&B industry is dealing with payment card issues related to running tabs and adjusting tips. Recent developments require F&B establishments (F&B) to evaluate their current procedures.

    New Fees Two new card company fees (effective October 2009) to consider:

    Misuse of Authorization System fee -- a merchant obtains an approval code and doesn't use it. Visa will assess a $0.045 per occurrence.  

    Zero Floor Limit Fee -- a merchant settles a transaction without a valid approval code (invents an approval code, approval code typo), Visa will assess a $0.10 per occurrence.

    With these new fees, F&B will need to research how their POS systems operate and how their merchant provider bills. Issues to be addressed include any pre-authorization strategies, … more

  • Merchants Go with Prepaid Wireless

    GPRS prepaid wireless plans are becoming popular alternatives for merchants using fixed wireless (wireless terminals that require a power outlet). With SIM chips costing less than $10 and one-time activation less than $6, GPRS prepaid plans feature no contracts, no gateway fees, no transaction fees and no overage fees. Prepaid wireless plans range from a 12 MB plan (approximately 1,440 transactions a year for less than $100/year) to a 120 MB plan (providing approximately 19,200 transactions a year for just over $200/year).

    Prepaid GPRS SIMs will work with Verifone’s Vx terminal lines. Using the exact same GPRS network, prepaid plans are more flexible and less expensive than traditional wireless coverage plans. Prepaid wireless plans are good for one-year or up to the MB plan … more

  • The Complete B2B Payment Solution Seminar

    Vantage will be conducting an in-depth training seminar for its Payment Analysts in San Jose, CA on August 28th. The focus of this seminar will be to provide insight into business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) industries and payment methods including Level 3 merchant services and trade credit outsourcing. Targeted B2B payment solutions represent a relatively untapped market and presents opportunities for merchant level sales professionals to take the next step in their payment industry career by focusing on B2B transactions as a business payment consultant.

    Level 3 Merchant Services topics will include:

    The commercial card market for business, corporate, purchasing and GSA p-cards

    What is a Level 3 Merchant Account and what are the requirements

    An in-depth look … more

  • Don't Be Afraid of Accounts Receivable

    Many small and midsize businesses (SMB) we consult with are afraid of implementing policies and procedures to better manage their accounts receivable (A/R) because they are scared of losing customers. The thought is that if they enforce the credit terms established during contract negotiations that their buyers will simply find someone else to do the job.

    Are you scared of your customers? Is this fear preventing you from achieving A/R best practices? Don’t be afraid of making sure your customers pay you on time. The strength of your A/R processes sets the tone of your ongoing working relationship. If you allow buyers to explore how far they can push their payables and get away with it then what are you teaching your customers? Are you broadcasting that you are not good at managing … more

  • B2B suppliers accepting commercial card payments

    As reported in a recent U.S. Banker article titled P-Cards Have Promise, approximately 16 percent of B2B suppliers accept commercial cards for U.S. B2B payments citing Interchange fees as a factor limiting p-card growth.  

    We have found through our extensive work in the B2B payments space that many businesses who are accepting commercial card payments are not qualifying for the lowest Interchange rates available.  For those businesses who don't accept commercial cards, a misunderstanding of costs is often the reason. Two of the most common problems business face is not having the proper merchant account pricing structure and using the wrong payment processing technology. 

    For many small businesses, they started accepting commercial cards because a large customer … more

  • Capitalizing on Your Cash Flow


    How important do you consider your cash flow?Many small businesses focus the majority of their attention on sales but cash flow is king.  This video recommends: 

    Shorting your cash flow cycle

    Taking Early Pay Discounts

    Cutting Costs

    Using Lock Box services to process and deposit payments 

    A good way to improve cash flow is to outsource your trade credit.  Trade Credit Express is a business payment platform to outsource your trade credit administration and accounts receivable (A/R) financing providing your business with the payment speed of accepting a credit card, while extending improved trade credit terms for your customers. 

    Outsourcing your trade credit administration is a smart strategic decision.If your company is … more

  • Card Number Truncation on Merchant Receipts

    Update: March 2011

    There are federal laws, various state laws and association rules which require merchants to truncate the cardholder copy of receipts.   It is the merchant's responsibility to comply with applicable laws and regulations regarding truncation.  Please check your POS and terminal receipts to insure you are in compliance.

    Seven (7) states have passed legislation that requires merchants to truncate both cardholder and merchant receipts.  The states are:

    New Mexico - as of 01/01/2004

    Wisconsin - as of 08/01/2005

    Colorado - as of 01/01/2006

    Tennessee - as of 01/01/2007

    California - as of 01/01/2009

    Alaska - as of 07/01/2009

    Nevada - as of 07/01/2009

    Washington State - as of 07/26/2009

    Additional states have legislation in progress which may … more

  • Visa Implements U.S. List of Registered Independent Sales Organizations

    Vantage Card Services, Inc. is a registered Visa ISO.  Merchants can now verify compliance status on Visa’s U.S. List of Registered Independent Sales Organizations, available at

    Many Independent Sales Organizations (ISOs) are unregistered.  The public nature of Visa’s new U.S. List of Registered Independent Sales Organizations will encourage banks and merchants to obtain information on ISOs to ensure a better understanding of their business partnerships.  Now that listing information is readily available to merchants, the hope is that fewer unregistered ISOs will be allowed to solicit merchants. 

    In addition, the payment applications that merchants use and that ISOs sell, implement and support should also be on Visa’s list … more

  • Wholesale Rates for your Merchant Account

    I recently saw this ad posted June 23, 2009 on the Orange County Craigslist touting "Wholesale rates for your Merchant Account!"

    The ad reads: "Wholesale rates for your Merchant Account!We meet or Beat any offer: Are you currently processing credit cards with another processor? SAVE thousands of dollars with us by cutting out the middleman. Chase Paymentech Solutions is the Number One Bank Card Acquirer in the World with lowest rates guaranteed at over $500 Billion Visa MasterCard Sales Volume. Call me Now at to take advantage of this limited time offer. a JPMorgan Chase ISO/MSP"

    How familiar does this pitch sound to you?  I would like to hear your thoughts on this style of advertisement and its effectiveness.   

    Are "wholesale rates" really … more

  • Healthcare Merchant Account Scam Alert

    Medical professionals should be aware of a scam currently being perpetrated by unethical merchant account providers. Outbound calls are being placed to medical practices accepting credit cards claiming that they must reprogram their credit card terminal to be HIPAA compliant.

    Vantage has received numerous calls over the last few days from our healthcare clients inquiring about these calls and asking, “Are credit card transactions covered under HIPAA?”

    According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, transactions conducted between subscribers or patients and health plans or health care providers are not transactions for which the Secretary of Health and Human Services has adopted standards.

    If an individual (i.e., a subscriber or a patient) uses his or … more

  • Outsourcing Credit

    Companies have long benefited from outsourcing.  Popular trends in outsourcing include the business services of payroll, accounting, tax, data entry, human resources, help desk, customer service, lead generation, IT and software development.  A strategic decision to outsource can increase efficiency and allow companies to focus on their core competencies.  Outsourcing can lower costs, make more efficient use of time, labor, capital, technology and specialized resources. 

    Retailers long ago discovered the benefits of outsourcing consumer store credit.  Card companies like MasterCard and Visa have built payment systems with economies of scale that deliver effeciencies and costs savings.  By accepting card payments, sellers do not have to worry about the credit … more

  • Not all merchant service providers are created equal

    We receive calls daily from agents inquiring about the Vantage program. Many of these calls have the same common theme. They go something like this recent paraphrased email exchange…

    Prospective Agent

    I have recently been recruited by a merchant services provider to become a sales person for them. 

    I'm writing to you because this provider does everything you tell your customers on your web site not to do...we lease our equipment to merchants; we have qualified and non-qualified rates and we charge fees to get everything set up. 

    I want to be sure that I'm with the "right" company.  I would appreciate your guidance.

    Vantage Card Services

    Thanks for writing. We applaud your research. 

    The leasing commitment, monthly payments and buy-out clause means … more

  • Interchange Bill Reintroduced in Congress

    H.R. 2695, The Credit Card Fair Fee Act, was reintroduced with slight differences from its 2008 version.  The bill would grant limited antitrust immunity to Interchange rates negotiated between merchants and Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. with a representative of the U.S. Department of Justice attending the negotiations.


    U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., the Democrat who chairs the House Judiciary Committee introduced the bill saying “It is not an attempt at regulating the industry and does not mandate any particular outcome; this legislation simply enhances competition by allowing merchants to negotiate with the dominant banks for the terms and rates of the fees.”


    Right now small and mid sized businesses pay the same Interchange fees as larger chains.  … more

  • myRealRate featured by Microsoft

    myRealRate is making news on the official Microsoft Silverlight site

    A showcase of next generation experiences using Silverlight, myRealRate allows you to compare your real rate with other merchants and discover your true costs for accepting credit cards. uses Silverlight, a rich internet application development environment, to deliver peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, which helps business owners better evaluate their merchant services.

    What is the average cost for accepting card payments in your industry? Are your merchant card processing fees above average or below average?  How can you lower your Real rate?  Find the answers here.


  • The PCI Compliance Fee Gouge

    Just like everything else, a lot has changed since our original post on this topic on June 4, 2009.

    Today the card associations require that all merchants regardless of size validate Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) compliance with this data protection standard.

    Compliance with PCI DSS has always been very important to protect your business. It’s only the validation requirements that have changed. The fees being charged for PCI Compliance are not uniform throughout the industry. Some merchant account providers charge monthly, some annually and some both and these fees can really start to add up.

    Merchants need to be aware of how and when PCI fees are billed to avoid being gouged with excessive fees. Merchants should also know that they may choose to … more

  • PCI 360 Education Program

    The MasterCard Academy of Risk Management has introduced a complimentary initiative to raise awareness and promote the adoption of PCI. The program provides a holistic and informative platform for participants to increase their understanding of PCI DSS through sessions led by payment industry and data security experts.

    The PCI Merchant Education Program provides a complete view of the PCI DSS through a series of on-demand webinars designed for merchants. These events are designed to:

    Gain the knowledge needed to become PCI compliant

    Learn directly from industry security experts

    View recorded webcasts on your own time

    Take advantage of materials to educate your team and new employees  

    The current course curriculum includes:

    PCI Perspectives: A … more

  • The growing power of peer comparisons in finance

    Two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit social networking or blogging sites, according to a new Nielsen report. Social Media is changing how we interact with each other and is shifting the power to the community.

    One of the most powerful social network tools are peer comparisons. New financial web portals like Mint, Geezeo and ING’s CompareMe allow consumers to see how similar people are managing their finances and investments. These online anonymous peer comparisons are demonstrating that there is strength in numbers.

    Now business owners can use to anonymously compare payment card processing expenses with what others are paying for merchant services within their industry. myRealRate is a rich internet application delivering peer-to-peer knowledge … more

  • GAO to Investigate Merchant Interchange Fees

    According to The Washington Post, The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act that President Obama recently signed into law includes a provision to investigate the fees that businesses pay to allow their customers to use credit.

    The The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is supposed to report its findings to Congress in six months, along with any recommendations for legislation. The agency is charged with examining whether merchants are restricted from revealing the fees to customers and to what extent merchants are permitted to discount for cash purchases.  It will investigate the ability of merchants of varying sizes to negotiate interchange fees and exactly what costs are incorporated into the fees.

    The GAO issued a report last year on the impact that … more

  • 10 questions to plan your payment acceptance strategy

    Often entrepreneurs give little thought and wait until the last minute to address the issue of how they will collect payment.  Without the proper research, they fall victim to unfavorable contract terms and put in place poor business practices that expose them to fraud and losses.  However, with a little forethought and planning, business owners can lower their cost, improve efficiency and reduce their risk.

    10 Questions to Plan your Payment Acceptance Strategy

    Of course every business is unique but there are some basic questions to start:

    Who will my customers be?  Consumer, business, corporate or government clients? 

    What type of payments will I accept?  What payment methods will my customers prefer? 

    When will I be paid?  After … more

  • Google Knol - The Bottom Line on Merchant Rates

    Vantage has contributed a new Google Knol titled "The Bottom Line on Merchant Rates". 

    Today it is a near necessity for most small and medium-sized businesses to accept credit card payments.  Until recently, merchants had no resource for comparing rates with each other.   myRealRate creates a nationwide database for comparing and sharing card processing expenses.  Business owners can calculate their Real Rate to accept card payments and then benchmark their rate against others of the same size within their industry to identify savings.   Sharing with the merchant community is the next step in achieving lower merchant rates.

    We invite you to write a review for the knol at … more

  • When will next generation payment technology arrive?

    While the payments industry is trying to improve security measures around the existing mag-stripe technology, its inevitable that an entirely new technology will be needed.  Right now the focus is on updating from one outdated mag-stripe terminal to a new, better, more secure, mag-stripe terminal.  However, as discussed in Smart Card Talk, there is almost unanimous agreement that the security model for payments in the U.S. is broken.

    The main fundamental weakness of the industry: we have no way to prove identity between the consumer and the merchant.   Fraud rates in the U.S. are on the rise and the situation is only getting worse.  Law enforcement cannot keep up with growing and more sophisticated cross-jurisdiction investigations or prosecute offshore criminal … more

  • Visa Beats Forecasts

    Visa posted better-than-expected quarterly earnings Wednesday as the credit card network increased prices and cut expenses. The company also benefited as consumers used debit cards more.  Net income rose 70 percent, to $536 million, or 71 cents a share, for the second quarter ended March 31, compared with $314 million, or 39 cents a share, for the period a year earlier.  On an adjusted basis, quarterly net income rose 38 percent, to $553 million, or 73 cents a share. Analysts had expected earnings of 64 cents a share, according to Reuters Estimates.  Net operating revenue rose 13 percent, to $1.6 billion, while total processed transactions — which represent transactions processed by VisaNet — increased 6 … more

  • Interchange & Access Fee changes

    While minor adjustments have been made to the Interchange fees that issuing banks earn; the real story this spring are changes to fees earned by MasterCard and Visa. Beginning in April 2009, MasterCard will increase its Acquirer Access Fee for processing by 270% by raising this per transaction fee from $0.005 to $0.0185. In July 2009, Visa will follow suit by increasing its Acquiring Processing Fee 290% from $0.005 to $0.0195.

    The MasterCard Acquirer Access Fee and the Visa Acquiring Processing Fee are set and paid to these publicly traded card companies. Merchants should be aware of these changes.  Merchants with small tickets will experience a greater impact from these changes.

    Since 2005, Vantage has monitored, recorded and reported on Interchange changes impacting merchants.& … more

  • Industry Watch: Terminal Retirements

    Vantage would like to take this opportunity to remind merchants of pertinent upcoming PCI DSS mandates and impacts:

    Effective July 1, 2010, acquirers must ensure their merchants use only compliant applications.

    This Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) compliance mandate is just around the corner and impacts the entire payment industry.  As a result, terminal equipment vendors are discontinuing production of hardware and replacement parts.  Payment applications previously supported are being fully retired. 

    Some merchants using late model terminals will need to upgrade within the next 14 months.  We highly recommend that merchants avoid purchasing used or refurbished terminals.  Also, please be aware of a rise in proprietary terminals … more

  • PCI DSS Resource: Prioritized Approach

    The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) has released a new resource for achieving PCI DSS Compliance.  This new resource is referred to as the Prioritized Approach and it is intended to provide best practices that will help merchants identify and reduce risk to sensitive data.

    The tool groups together the requirements of PCI DSS v1.2 into six key milestones for merchants to consider in achieving their PCI DSS compliance. It also offers guidance on how to focus PCI DSS implementation efforts in a way that expedites the security of cardholder data. 

    Additional benefits of the Prioritized Approach are:

    An increased awareness of cardholder data security

    Assistance for businesses to identify highest risk targets

    The creation of a common … more

  • Proactive Accounting

    Payment card processing expenses directly affect the bottom line profits of businesses.  Proactive accounting professionals can help their clients by introducing them to educational resources.  In fact a recent survey by Ajilon Finance polled over 500 finance and accounting professionals and found Accountants are spending more time on cost-cutting initiatives and on risk-assessment initiatives, as well as providing general financial advice to their clients. 

    For many companies, accepting credit cards is essential.  Because of this, businesses and merchants can benefit greatly by having a resource to learn more about the specific cost of opening and operating a merchant credit card processing account.  Making this decision without the proper knowledge and research … more

  • Google Checkout moves to tiered credit card processing rates

    Beginning May 5, Google Checkout's fees will transition to a new tiered fee structure based upon a merchant's monthly sales processed through Checkout.   While this new fee schedule appears to be similar to PayPal, Google's transaction processing rate will vary each month based on your prior months sales volume. The new pricing plan will also eliminate the credit for Google AdWords advertising, discontinuing the processing promotion that was part of the original fee structure for Google Checkout.  Fees apply the same for Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover payments.  There are no monthly, setup, or gateway fees.  However, for cross-border transactions, there will be an additional 1% fee assessed per transaction.   To learn more about … more

  • Peer-to-Peer Lending

    Merchant Cash Advance proposes to lend money to merchants based on their credit card receivables.  However these lending options are very expensive.   Is peer-to-peer (P2P) lending an alternative to merchant cash advance? 

    Companies, such as Lending Club, Prosper, and Loanio, are connecting people who need money with those who wish to lend it.  Utilizing P2P lending, borrowers can access the money at a lower interest rate than they would if they used even more traditional bank lines or a credit card.  At the same time, individuals who have money to invest get better returns than either the stock market or any bank savings are delivering today.

    P2P lending may be worth researching for merchants considering a merchant cash advance program. more

  • More people go with Visa

    In a new global ad campaign, Visa changes focus to the advantages of plastic over paper cash and checks.   Consumer perceptions of credit card brands has been trending negatively because credit limits have been reduced and cards are being canceled.  The new campaign is designed to play up the security, control and convenience of using a Visa cards.  Visa launched and as part of the campaing.  more

  • State Laws on Receipt Truncation

    In addition to federal law and various state laws which require merchants to truncate the cardholder copy of receipts, three (3) states now require merchants to truncate both the cardholder and merchant copies of receipts.  Now six states (see updated entry

    States Requiring Full (Cardholder and Merchant) Receipt Truncation:

    Colorado - as of 01/01/2006

    Tennessee - as of 01/01/2007

    California - as of 01/01/2009

    Under the current legislation in Colorado, Tennessee and California, a merchant is required to truncate both the cardholder and merchant copy of the receipt by masking the card number and the expiration date as follows:

    Card number truncation is defined as masking all but … more

  • MasterCard Beats Estimates on Price Increases

    MasterCard Inc., the world’s second- largest credit-card network, rose the most in three months of New York trading after beating analysts’ profit estimates by raising the price of processing international purchases.   Along with cost-cutting, it appears from its most recently announced increase for April 2009 that raising prices is the strategy MasterCard will continue.

    The continuing adoption of credit and debit cards worldwide has cushioned the effects of a U.S. slowdown.   Visa and MasterCard, which collect fees to shuttle payments between financial institutions, are insulated from rising credit-card defaults because the networks process transactions and don’t make loans to cardholders.  Banks that issued Visa and MasterCard to cardholders … more

  • Visa Reports Q1 Earnings

    The first thing of note is that the report is based on a one quarter lag which means Visa is really reporting on the end of 2008, not Q1 2009.  While this better than expected quarterly report represents approximately 40% of their total revenue, fiscal 2009 is off to a slow start and projected to slow further in the coming quarters.

    However the resilience of Visa can be seen in the contribution of debit products in the US as consumers continue to more frequently use debit as a method of payment.  In fact, 95% of the volume in the Visa system comes from people that use debit cards which don’t have a credit limit or a credit card from people that either pay their bill in full every month or occasionally revolve and never revolve at more than 50% of their line.  Visa is … more

  • MasterCard increases its fees by 270%!

    In an upcoming April 2009 initiative, the MasterCard Acquirer Access fee that is currently in place and being billed at a pass through cost of $0.005 per authorization is being eliminated and replaced with Network Access and Brand Usage (NABU) fee which will be billed at a pass through cost of $0.0185 per item.   This MasterCard change will greatly impact all merchants, especially those with small transaction sales.  Merchants should be prepared for this major change starting with April 2009 transaction activity.  Merchants should guard against providers that may try to apply these MC item fees to their Visa or Discover sales. 

    Read more about April 2009 Interchange adjustments...


  • Open Letter from Ted Hardison, CEO, Vantage Card Services

    As a merchant in these difficult economic times, you are looking for every way possible to cut costs and survive.  And there seems to be no shortage of merchant account providers soliciting your business, offering to lower your rates for accepting credit cards and promising the big savings you are looking for.  However, now more than ever, merchants must use caution when selecting financial firms to process their payments.

    Primarily a commission only sales force, many of the representatives walking through your door selling merchant accounts today will likely not be in the industry in a few months.  A good number of the organizations they represent may not be either.  With these challenging market conditions: lower payment card transaction volume, fewer new merchants … more

  • A Leading Merchant Services Provider

    Just about every company today call themselves the “leading” provider of something (read almost any press release).  Many of the brochures and sales people you talk to promote their company’s size.  Formal rankings tend to use metrics like sales, profits, assets and market share.  But does this equal leadership? 

    Missing from this “leading” definition are things like marketplace ethics, management practices, commitment to fair and honest conduct and business integrity.  Take for example the big brand name bank on the corner who is selling credit card terminals on four year lease plans that overcharge merchants by thousands of dollars.  Or the rep who tells you there is no contract while hiding the terms and conditions fine print. … more

  • Alternative Financing Solutions

    For 6 million small businesses operating in a struggling economy, these are anxious times.  We’ve witnessed the credit markets freeze, massive bailouts and the most far reaching reordering of our financial system since the Great Depression.  During these tough economic times, more and more businesses are being introduced to alternative financing solutions:

    Merchant Cash AdvanceWith tightening credit markets, merchant cash advance has moved from lender of last resort to lender of only resort for many.  But understand that these funds are very expensive.  Even at reputable companies promoting the lowest rates in the industry, the annual percentage rate of interest can calculate to over 40%.   So it’s important to ask yourself: Is the investment I& … more

by Ty Hardison

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