An Internet site linking up apartment owners & renters
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 14th, 2009 is a site that is designed to reward renters if they pay their apartment complex electronically instead of a check.  Instead of writing a check, they can pay with their credit card and receive reward incentives from their credit card company.  Some of the consumers that used the service has stated that it is nice to receive rewards for a bill you must pay anyways.  It appears that they charge the consumers $9 to use the service, which is not great.  By paying a fee, I do not see how any rewards from your bank would be beneficial as the service fee is eliminating any benefits.

On top of charging the consumer, they charge the apartment owner a percentage while covering the credit card processing fees themselves. ClickPayRent’s CEO made the comment that they struggled for a long time trying to find the right credit card processor. He mentioned it required extensive negotiations to find a processor that wouldn’t charge too much. I’m guessing he hasn’t ever heard of or was told about Interchange plus pricing. One thing surprised me is he found a provider that would allow him to surcharge the transactions. Since they are not a government entity, they are not allowed to add a surcharge to their transactions. Since it is all credit card based and cash isn’t accepted, I’m not quite sure if this would still fall under that rule or not, but it is a very fine line in any event.

Open Mind Commerce Cart Review
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 14th, 2009

Today, I’m reviewing a relatively small shopping cart, called Open Mind.  It is another company based in the UK and is only being used by about 500 merchants, so it is very small compared to other carts.  You may be able to receive very personalized service though.  In 2004, they were building customized carts for their merchants.  A few years later, they decided to create a commercial platform that could be used by all of their clients.  The cart is licensed based but does include one year of free hosting.  You can also install it on any ColdFusion hosting server.  In regards to pricing, I think it is very steep, at $500 US dollars.

One of its strengths is it is the only commercial cart available designed specifically for the UK, according to Open Mind’s CEO.  US merchants could use the cart, but from what I can tell, it isn’t really suitable for them.  Getting support International maybe troublesome.  They do claim that the cart is fully PCI compliant.  It doesn’t give the merchants the ability to store the credit card processing data, which has its own downsides, but it is for the best. This seems to be a nice cart for a company located in the UK, but not a merchant in the USA.

When the small business turns to franchising
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 11th, 2009

Many small business owners are struggling today.  Some are working more than 60 hours a week.  One example is Nathan who built up his Sure Signs business for 18 years.  He was concerned with the level of involvement  he has on a daily business and what would happen if he would disappear.  His wife wouldn’t have a clue where to begin.  Nathan starting looking at franchises, Fastsigns in particular.   He took the plunged, invested $60K and reopened under the new name.  The following June, he has his best month ever.  Things have been slow during the fall, but Nathan said that was the best choice he has ever made.  Nathan recommends you do extensive research and once you make your decision and go with it, there is no turning back.  He also mentioned that since you are going with a big brand, that can come with some buying power when dealing with vendors, such as with your credit card processing companies. I do not know the details, but I’m sure franchisees like Subway have some unbelievable deals. I think merchants should also ask themselves, what kind of service will I receive for the kind of pricing I’m paying. It may be great pricing, but you may be telling yourself, “I got what I paid for.”

Amex is targeting young adults with responsible spending.
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 11th, 2009

Amex has been running a campaign recently targeting consumers that want to be more responsible with their credit card usage. Amex has always been known as a card that requires you to pay your ball in full, but do not incur interest charges and other bank related fees. That also means young people have never really been interested in them. That may have changed now. They introduced a card call the Zync Card. It comes with a small annual fee and consumers get to participate in their rewards program. The downside is not every merchant accepts Amex because Amex has always charged more in credit card processing fees. I personally do not see much of a benefit with Amex when you have Visa & MasterCard that give out as good or better rewards. Plus, V/MC are the default cards, every merchant accepts them if they are accepting any type of card, whereas Amex is a luxury. That is why most consumers that carry an Amex card, also have a V/MC as too many merchants do not accept their card. Times are definitely changing and who knows what we will see in 3 to 5 yrs from now.

Some consumers are earning frequent flier miles on the tax payer expense
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 10th, 2009

What if I were to tell you that you could have earned frequent flier miles on your credit card for free?  Apparently the US Mint was offering free shipping on bulk orders of coins.  The consumers purchased the coins with their credit cad that gave them frequent flier miles.  They would then take the coins to the bank to pay off the credit card.  How much did it cost them?  Nothing, besides some time & effort, but they earned a total of two million miles!  It cost the mint and US tax payers around $6 to ship 500 coins and around $1 million worth of coins were shipped.  That would make it more than $12K in shipping costs as well as the credit card processing fees they incurred.  How much value is 2 million miles?  Around $40K!  It’s a good thing the US Mint has put an end to this as it shows you there are some people will take advantage of anything if given the opportunity.

Miva cart becomes a hosted platform
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 10th, 2009

Miva has introduced a new hosted platform.  All these years, you had to install the cart on your own server, but now they have introduced a hosted solution. The price for the service starts at $50 and goes up to $130 a month. The shopping cart is the same as the self-hosted solution, but should be easier to install, manage and operate for many ecommerce business owners. Other good news is the credit card processing integration will not change. Their self-hosted solution still accounts for around $4 million of their annual sales and no one knows how well the hosted solution will perform. In comparison of other hosted ecommerce store solutions out there, their prices seem some-what comparable, except they start a higher than other popular choices. This may have to do with their name and the fact that they have 50,000 merchants using their service. However, just because it is used by a lot of people, that doesn’t mean it is a great product as there are other companies that provide a great solution for a lot less.

The biggest credit card thief has been brought to justice
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 10th, 2009

Albert Gonzales is now safely behind bars, the person that was behind the two largest data breaches ever occurred in the US during 06 to 2008.  These two breaches were the ones associated with the TJMaxx & Marshall theft and the one related to the data breach at Heartland.  Data breaches such as these have been plaguing the credit card processing industry for several years now. The good news is these two big data breaches are only tied to a small ring of hackers. One’s that are not computer geniuses. One of the ways they obtained some of the credit card data was to drive around town looking for wireless networks that were not secure. Hopping onto the unsecured network and then install a sniffer program that sniffed out the credit card data as it passed along in the network. This is a good wake up call for any merchant transmitting credit card data through a wireless network, it is not recommend regardless. Even if your network is secure, it is better to be on the safe side.

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