Setting up the necessary bank account and equipment to enable you to accept card payments is a quick and straightforward process. In most cases your system can be up and running in less than a month. The main things you need to do are:
- Set up a merchant account with an 'acquiring bank' to process card payments. See setting up a merchant account for your business.
- Install the necessary equipment. Most card payments are processed using terminals or integrated tills where cards are swiped through or inserted. Your acquiring bank may provide you with a terminal on a monthly rental basis.
- Connect your terminal or integrated till to a standard telephone line so that transactions can be processed. This can be an existing phone line, but most businesses use a dedicated line.
- Discuss with your acquirer if you need to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requirements given the way that you are handling card payments. The PCI DSS is a worldwide security standard developed to protect sensitive cardholder information. Find PCI DSS guidance and forms from the PCI Security Standard Council.
Merchant accounts, in agreement with your acquirer, normally allow you to accept all major debit and credit cards - including Visa, MasterCard, Maestro and SOLO.
To accept and process a number of major charge cards - including American Express and Diners Club - you must reach a separate agreement with the charge card company. Your acquiring bank may be able to help you with an application.
If you are interested in accepting contactless cards, you should ask your acquiring bank about this too.
Read the UK Cards Association's guidance on contactless card payments.
Card payment training
Before accepting card payments, make sure your employees are trained in how to:
- use the terminal
- avoid fraud - see payment card security measures
- respond to any problems, such as a card not swiping properly or the terminal failing