Paul Downs: Credit Cards

Paul Downs: Credit Cards

We’re continuing our series with guest writer, Paul Downs, author of the forthcoming book Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business


One of the best things about writing for The New York Times was the opportunity to shine a light on the shabby treatment I received from large institutions that I am forced to patronize. Prime example: credit cards. Everybody who sells to the public needs to accept them, but the process of choosing a provider is usually given little thought by business owners pressed for time. That’s my story: I was dazzled by a skilled salesperson when I signed up, and then didn’t pay any attention to my monthly charges. It cost me a lot of money. My bank was charging me more than 4.5% of each transaction. After a long shopping process, I was able to bring that down to about 2.5%. This currently saves me about $15,000 a year.

I wrote 6 posts on this subject. This is a relatively long read, and illustrates a distressing tendency in our modern financial culture: if a bank can find a way to rip people off that takes ten thousand words to describe, they’re home free.  No reporter has the time, and few publications have the space, to tease out the precise nature of the shenanigans. Well, I’m not a reporter, and I had the time to follow this story through to the end. And of all of the stories I wrote about, this one has had the longest life. I’m still getting a couple of emails every month from readers, thanking me for shining a light on this sordid business.

I’m putting all six posts below, but if you want to do less reading, just read the first and last. The comments for all of these posts are a minefield – some people have useful information to add, others are just shilling their own credit card companies.

If you haven’t paid any attention to your processing fees since you opened your account, this is a good time to dig into it. A couple of percent on every credit card transaction adds up to real money. And this fall, you’re going to need to start accepting Chip and Pin cards. You might be replacing your Point of Sale card reader anyway.

In the last post I made two recommendations for provider review sites:  Cardfellow and Merchant Maverick. As far as I know, both of the are providing real, unbiased information. The Cardfellow blog, in particular, is very interesting. There may be other sources out there that are comparable. It’s hard to tell – this corner of the economy is infested with shysters and liars.

Whew! That was a lot to say on a complex subject. On to the links:

What You Need to Know About Processing Credit Cards

My Search for Reasonable and Understandable Credit Card Processing

My Search for a Credit Card Processor, Part 2

My Search for a Credit Card Processor, Part 3

Choosing a Credit Card Processor (And Drawing Some Conclusions)

Processing Credit Cards and Anger

Paul Downs

Paul Downs started making custom furniture in 1986, shortly after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in engineering. Downs has only one line on his résumé but he has a wide variety of skills gained in twenty-four years of running his business. His clients range from individuals and small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, all branches of the military, and foreign governments. Downs lives with his wife and three sons outside of Philadelphia.