Debit Cards

Largest Merchant Acquirers of 2013

April 12, 2014
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According to the Nilson Report, the 10 largest merchant acquirers of 2013 were:

1. Bank of America
2. Chase Paymentech Solutions
3. First Data
4. Vantiv
5. Elavon
6. Wells Fargo Merchant Services
7. Citi Merchant Services
8. Global Payments
9. Heartland Payment Systems
10. WorldPay

The only 2 changes in the top 10 were:
First Data fell from 2 to 3
Citi Merchant Services fell from 6 to 7

What Debit Card Interchange Reform?!

August 1, 2013
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debit cardAfter years of debating over the law to cap debit card interchange fees and its eventual enactment, a federal court has struck it down. The 21 cent cap is gone but not because it was deemed unfair to banks but because the court thinks the cap should be even lower.

Story about it on CNN

I wrote about the law several times over the last couple years. In the beginning, it was unclear as to what a debit card fee cap really meant, as I myself even explained it incorrectly the first time or two. The majority of folks believed the cap applied to the end user, the merchant, which helped to encourage small businesses,journalists, and even consumers to rally around it.

But when the law actually went into place, not much really changed because it didn’t have much to do with small businesses at all. The debit card reform law capped the amount of interchange fees that an acquiring bank pays a card issuing bank. The merchant wasn’t even involved although the acquirer can pass their new savings on to the merchant, but they don’t have to.

Many acquirers did pass some of the savings on but merchants went and did the opposite of what they promised. Their call to have their swipe fees lowered initially was so that they could lower their retail prices and and pass the savings on to consumers. Consumers believed this logic and supported small businesses to get this law implemented. A study by the Electronic Payments Coalition however, found that 67% of small businesses kept their prices the same or raised them.

There was clearly a lot of misinformation around this law and now it’s been struck down.

Two big misconceptions:
merchants will pay a maximum 21 cent debit swipe fee: Wrong
small businesses will turn their debit card fee savings into lower prices for consumers: wrong

My previous articles about debit card reform:

The Winners and Losers of the Debit Card Fee Ruling

ETA Expo Recap

May 3, 2013
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FUNDEDRecap of the ETA Expo as it pertains to Merchant Cash Advance:

  • Just about every funder has an ACH program or is working on implementing one.
  • Many funders are licensed lenders or are working to become licensed in the states where it may be necessary. There actually seemed to be a lot of excitement about this. Funders are finding comfort in being subject to state mandated regulations as it probably raises their legitimacy and it will make their businesses easier to value when trying to raise money or sell.
  • The ACH repayment market will be larger than the split-funding market this year. There’s no doubt in my mind about this. That means that ACH funding is now the primary protocol behind Merchant Cash Advance.
  • Almost everyone is working hard to build up their technology. I got a personal demo of RetailCapital’s ISO/Agent system in addition to Capital Access Network’s new CapTap. Both are great. Capital Stack also has a beautiful platform.
  • Stacking is the issue of 2013 as I heard that word uttered probably every 30 seconds for a whole week. I know the NAMAA folks are talking about it but I don’t know what the consensus is. It’s important to keep in mind that many funders aren’t NAMAA members and that affects NAMAA’s ability to dictate policy. Capital Access Network, the largest funder in the industry isn’t even a member.
  • Speaking of NAMAA, they refaced their website and it looks A LOT better. I see only 14 members listed but it’s my understanding that there are closer to 20 of them.
  • Factor rates are all over the place. Swift Capital has a new 1.099 program, which has got to be the first one to fall under the 10% threshold aside from Amex’s Merchant Financing. Higher risk deals however still operate in the 1.49 and up range. There is no one-size-fits-all product anymore.
  • There were several direct lenders walking around that I had never heard of and they are apparently doing significant monthly volume. More and more people are getting into the funding business.
  • It’s exhausting trying to keep up with the news surrounding On Deck Capital. They are on a very deliberate path and what we keeping seeing and hearing is them just checking things off on their to-do list. I bullet-pointed my theory on DailyFunder in response to a few posts.
  • Discover and Priority Payments threw great parties.
  • New Orleans has a lot of charm.

Make sure to check out my updates and photos that I’ve finally posted from the ETA Expo on DailyFunder and feel free to add your own if you were there.

Dozens of photos from the show

Also read: Soul Mates: Merchant Cash Advance and Silicon Valley VCs

Credit Card Purchases with SafeKey

March 24, 2013
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SafeKey is a nice little feature that American Express is now offering. A password is required in order to make an online purchase with the card. My question is, why isn’t this mandatory for all credit card purchases with all cards? 99% of the time, no one questions whether or not I am the person on the card I’m using. No wonder credit card theft is such a big business and real threat.

Your Life or Your Bank Statements

February 20, 2013
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“Um, I don’t feel comfortable sending them to you because they’re private.” One of the most interesting things I experienced as a broker and underwriter is the amount of times I heard merchants tell me their bank statements were too private to send in. I understand it’s not exactly the same thing as telling someone your phone number, but if you’re applying for a loan or intend to sell your future receivables, this doesn’t really cross the line as being too personal.

bank statementLet’s be honest here, there’s plenty of folks who get defensive over this simply because they’re overdrawn and they don’t want the lender to see it. I’ve heard every trick in the book, “the last 2 months statements are lost and my bank refuses to send me copies”, “I switched bank accounts yesterday and my old bank won’t send me my previous statements now”, or “I’ll send them over as soon as I have 100% final approval on the loan.” These excuses won’t work and they set off red flags with underwriters. Besides, if you lie about something during the application process and then proceed to sign a guarantee on the loan agreement that you’ve disclosed EVERYTHING, then you’ve already placed yourself in breach of contract or worse, you’ve committed fraud.

But on the flip side, just as many applicants are worried that submitting their bank statements could lead to identity theft. Maybe there is a slight chance it does, but probably only if you’re sending them to someone that already has all of your other identifying information like your social security number. That’s the “interesting” part I spoke of earlier because few people flinch when filling out their social security number on the application. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to induce worry in businesses that want money. What am I trying to say is that waiting until late in the application process to do research on the lender or broker is too late. You need to be 100% confident in the recipient of your personal information before you even fill out the preliminary application on the first day.

social security numberWhen it comes to identify theft, Your social security number, name, address, and date of birth is really all it takes for you to be fully compromised. The rebuttal on the bank statements is always “But I don’t want someone to know my bank account number because then they might try to take money out of it.” Really? Have you ever written a check to someone? Have you ever signed up for direct deposit? Have you ever seen a waste basket full of bank receipts next to an ATM machine? I hate to say it but your bank account information is already public and you probably give it out to people on a daily or weekly basis. Routing numbers are shouted from the rooftops and you can see that for yourself at If someone is going to try to debit money out of your account, your bank statements aren’t really necessary. It’s sad, but it’s true. Financial institutions review and audit businesses that debit their customers, but sometimes bad guys slip through the cracks. Generally if an unauthorized debit does happen, you are not liable for the loss. According to

Since December 31, 1995, a seller or telemarketer is required by law to obtain your verifiable authorization to obtain payment from your bank account. That means whoever takes your bank account information over the phone must have your express permission to debit your account, and must use one of three ways to get it. The person must tell you that money will be taken from your bank account. If you authorize payment of money from your bank account, they must then get your written authorization, tape record your authorization, or send you a written confirmation before debiting your bank account. If they tape record your authorization, they must disclose, and you must receive, the following information:

The date of the demand draft;
The amount of the draft(s);
The payor’s (who will receive your money) name;
The number of draft payments (if more than one);
A telephone number that you can call during normal business hours; and
The date that you are giving your oral authorization.

If a seller or telemarketer uses written confirmation to verify your authorization, they must give you all the information required for a tape recorded authorization and tell you in the confirmation notice the refund procedure you can use to dispute the accuracy of the confirmation and receive a refund.

In the event these rules are violated and a debit happens anyway, the FTC advises this:

If telemarketers cause money to be taken from your bank account without your knowledge or authorization, they have violated the law. If you receive a written confirmation notice that does not accurately represent your understanding of the sale, follow the refund procedures that should have been provided and request a refund of your money. If you do not receive a refund, it’s against the law. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately. Tell the bank that you did not okay the debit and that you want to prevent further debiting. You also should contact your state Attorney General. Depending on the timing and the circumstances, you may be able to get your money back.

It’s important that you know these rules, but it’s twice as important to do a background check on the financial service company before you send them ANYTHING. Your social security number is your crown jewel. Be smart about who you send it to. And as for your mysteriously missing January bank statement? There’s a pretty good chance your story about where it went or why it’s never coming back isn’t going to work. Good luck and safe funding!

– Merchant Processing Resource on iPhone, iPad, and Android

Avoiding Credit Card Fraud

January 7, 2013
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credit card fraudMany small businesses that weren’t able to utilize traditional credit card processing services are delighted to find that there are now applications where they can accept credit card payments using a smart phone. However, before you jump on the bandwagon, it only makes sense to do your due diligence as to how to avoid credit card fraud. Just because you can process that card via your cell phone doesn’t necessarily mean you should. You don’t want to get caught holding the bag (and paying for) products after finding out you’ve been “had.”

As a matter-of-fact, not matter what services or devices you use to accept credit cards, as a small business owner you need to institute policies and practices to avoid credit card fraud. Here are some of the basics:

When accepting cards in-person at the point of service.
It is amazing at how just asking one simple question, “Can I see some valid ID?” can make all the difference. Always ask for a valid form of picture identification (such as a driver’s license) before accepting a credit card. If the customer isn’t able to provide ID, then DO NOT process their payment. This means asking for the card and identification BEFORE it is swiped. When you have both the card and identification in hand, check the back of the credit card for the customer’s signature and match that signature with the one on their valid ID. Again, if they haven’t signed their card, or the signatures don’t match, don’t process their payment.

Many small business owners may have an issue instituting the above policies with repeat customers if they have not used the policy previously. Now, this is going to be a decision each individual owner needs to make. You may indeed have long-term customers that deserve your trust, but they may not. At the very least, should you decide to accept their payment without a valid ID and/or their signature is missing on the back of their credit card, let that customer know that this is a “one time pass” and they must be able to provide both next time they make a purchase. You might be hesitant to do so, but letting the customer know that you are pursuing this policy to protect your customers. For example, costs associated with theft (including credit card fraud) must be covered by increases in pricing.

When accepting credit card payments over the phone or online.
The best way to avoid credit card fraud when taking payments over the phone or online is to get all the information you can to identify that the person making the order is, indeed, the owner of that credit card. This means reading off the name exactly as printed on the card. It means not only the full credit card number, but also the 3 digit verification number on the back of the card.

Often a purchaser will want the order shipped to another address. This is why you need to ask for both the billing address and shipping address. It is also why having an address verification feature is critical.

Many credit card processing companies monitor purchasing patterns at your place of business. For example, should there be a sudden increase in the number of credit transactions that can serve as a red flag and you will receive an alert. However, taking steps to avoid theft and fraud (not simply credit card fraud, but also shoplifting, employee fraud, etc.) should always be addressed proactively by small business owners themselves.

Guest Authored
– Merchant Processing Resource

Job Losses Possible Threat to MCA Industry / Google Penguin Kills Survivors / No Debit Card Savings

May 6, 2012
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How sure is this recovery?
A few months ago, all signs pointed to a roaring recovery. As the data comes in each month, it’s looking less and less like a definitive thing. Sure the unemployment rate is going down, but mainly because hundreds of thousands of people are giving up on searching for jobs. The Wall Street Journal recently analyzed a less popular statistic, the civilian labor participation rate. At present, the percentage of Americans working is at its lowest point since 1981.

At the same time, the nation’s largest banks are cutting back on loans to businesses yet again. It makes one wonder if the explosive growth being experienced in the Merchant Cash Advance industry will start to fizzle out in the 2nd half of this year.

Google Penguin wipes out the survivors
If you used blog networks like BuildMyRank to game Google into ranking your site higher, you probably noticed your website got whacked in late March. After years of spending precious money on marketing, 2012 brought upon the realization that leads generated from organic searches are not only possible, but free. This is of course before you factor in the thousands and tens of thousands that MCA funders and ISOs are spending a month on SEO. But since many SEO tactics are doomed to fail and because Google’s algorithm can change at any time, investing in organic rankings is incredibly risky.

For example, one mid-sized MCA provider secretly shared that they had spent two years and nearly a hundred thousand dollars to get the rankings for the keywords they wanted on Google. Leads were just finally starting to come in on a daily basis when out of nowhere, they got thrown back to page 25. Blog networks were a big part of their strategy and when Google cracked down on them, the MCA provider’s presence on the Internet went down with the ship.

Some MCA companies survived the blog network armageddon only to become extinct on April 24th when Google made a key algorithm change to help defeat web spam. This major update has become notoriously known as Penguin. If you were a victim, you may need an SEO crisis management plan.

In any case, the changes at Google immediately affected unemployment in India, the country that most U.S. companies turn to for SEO services. As their clients sites disappeared from search results, so too did their contracts. At least that is the gag story surrounding a photoshopped image that has been going viral around the Internet.

Protestors riot outside Google’s headquarters in Mumbai, India. The face on the desecrated signs are of Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s anti-webspam team. P.S. this is a joke. 🙂

Read our previous coverage on Merchant Cash Advance and SEO:
The SEO War for Merchant Cash Advance
The SEO War Continues

Debit card savings not being passed along
Remember when all those small business owners got their swipe rates reduced? Oh wait, that didn’t happen. The Durbin Amendment limited the interchange rates, which are the fees that acquiring banks pay to card issuing banks. The rates and fees charged to the small business are still left to the discretion of Merchant Service providers. Sure they can lower the cost if they so choose, but there’s no law that dictates they have to. It seems the Durbin Amendment victory was all one big misunderstanding for America’s retailers. We’ve been following this law since December, 2010. ISO&Agent Magazine just published an article titled, Unintended Results Plague Durbin Amendment. Are they seriously just figuring this out now?

Published by: Merchant Processing Resource

The Debit Interchange Fee Battle Continues…

February 7, 2012
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It’s the story that won’t ever die. First it was Dont Make Us Pay and now it’s Where’s My Debit Discount? It’s the latest campaign in an epic struggle between the big banks and congress. Unless you’ve been in a coma for the last two years, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act passed on July 21, 2010 and it granted the Federal Government authority to regulate debit card interchange rates. In the year that followed, billions were spent by lobbyists to either diffuse the law or make it stick.

The law has been in effect for several months now but it seems the war isn’t over. The Electronic Payments Coalition is back on the campaign trail to repeal the Durbin Amendment. This time they’re offering proof that consumers are not receiving the savings they were promised.

Without recapping all of the particulars, the news was rampant with misinformation and the chronology of events is difficult to remember. That’s why we have memorialized it with articles that covered the developments of it since December, 2010. How did the war play out? Read below:

Electronic Payments Industry Changing Forever – All points bulletin | December 17, 2010 | In it, we slammed the Federal Government and Senator Dick Durbin for a law we believed would lead to the extermination of the entire banking system. We predicted that rewards on debit cards would immediately disappear, as would the entire concept of debit cards themselves over time. We also surmised that quality, fraud protection, and assurance would suffer.

Debit Card Costs May Be Put on the Consumer – Don’t Make Us Pay | February 18, 2011 | We discovered, an organization representing consumers in the fight against debit fee regulation. We encouraged people to sign up.

Congressman Steve Israel Replies to Our Concerns About Debit Card Reform | February 22, 2011 | We signed the petition and received a letter back from Congressman Steve Israel.

Say Goodbye to Debit Cards | March 11, 2011 | We acknowledged that our predictions were coming true. JPMorgan announced that consumers would likely face a spending cap of $50 – $100 per purchase when using their debit cards.

Debit Interchange Fee Study Act: A Few Good Senators Try to Stop the Madness | March 17, 2011 | At this point our inbox had filled up with emails from people accusing our website of being a secret front for the major banks. The term ‘astroturfing’ came up more than a few times. In our article on this day, we reminded the public that banks employed millions of average Americans, and that they would likely be the ones to suffer if regulations forced monetary losses. We praised the Senators who were trying to muster up support for a bill to put the Durbin Amendment on ice for a few years, while the impact of reform could be studied further. The bill was not successful.

Debit Card Rewards Go the Way of the Dinosaur | March 23, 2011 | JPMorgan announced they will terminate rewards on debit cards for all of their customers as a result of the Durbin Amendment. This affirmed one of our original predictions.

Wells Fargo, Chase, SunTrust Cancel Debit Rewards Program | March 28, 2011 | More of the big banks followed suit.

Interchange Regulation and Reduction | April 16, 2011 | We presented evidence that reform would fail by outlining what happened in Australia when they enacted similar regulations ten years earlier. Small businesses did not save money and consumers did not benefit.

Debit Card Fee Reform is Gaining Steam in Canada | April 18, 2011 | Inspired by the U.S., The Canadian Government Begun Taking Another Crack at Limiting Debit Interchange Fees.

Save My Debit Card Video Finalists | May 9, 2011 | We covered the results of the competition held by Some of the videos made by consumers to save their debit cards were pretty funny.

Debit Card Fee Reform to be Finalized June 29 | June 28, 2011 | We made our final prediction on what the interchange cap will be.

Blackjack! 21 Cent Debit Card Interchange Fee Plus 5 Basis Points | June 30, 2011 | Regulations were written as Federal Law. Many sections of the original legislation were clarified, specifically that the fee cap is limited to interchange, the amount card issuing banks make per transaction. There is no cap on the fees that retailers pay at the point of sale. The only party that appears to have been affected are the card issuing banks. Acquiring banks and merchant service providers are not required to lower fees or to pass down the savings to retailers.

And the Misinformation Continues | July 12, 2011 | BusinessWeek had just featured a story about a small restaurant owner that was thrilled that her debit card fees would soon be only 21 cents per transaction. We blasted the story as being factually incorrect since the law did not place any cap on the point of sale. We highlighted the fact that so much misinformation had gone around, that retailers did not realize that interchange fees are the fees acquiring banks pay to card issuing banks. Merchant service providers still control the amount retailers pay. They are not required to share the savings at all. Our e-mails to BusinessWeek did not receive any response.

15,000 Exempt From The Debit Card Interchange Fee Standards | July 14, 2011 | 15,000 banks were apparently exempted from the debit card reform law because they had less than $10 billion in assets. It becomes evident that the law will have strange consequences since it only applies to the largest banks.

Don’t Make Us Pay Goes Quiet | August 7, 2011 | The consumer movement appeared to have been a secret front for the major banks. A closer look revealed that there may never have been a consumer movement at all.

Revenge for the Durbin Amendment | October 3, 2011 | Bank of America announced a plan to charge their customers a $5 monthly fee to use a debit card.

Don’t Make Us Pay is Back At it Again | October 21, 2011 | Months after the “consumer movement” disappeared, it appeared to rise again when they sent out a mass e-mail.

Where’s the Debit Discount? | December 11, 2011 | The Electronic Payments Coalition (EPC) released a report that illustrated consumers were not experiencing the savings that retailers had promised they would pass down when the debit card fee cap went into effect. The EPC is the same group behind the movement.

Law to Reduce Debit Card Fees to Retailers Has Opposite Effect | December 12, 2011 | The new law was found to have caused certain retailers to pay higher debit card fees than previously. Retailers began learning that they may not be getting the savings they thought they had won.