Question: Can I mandate a fee passed on to my customers to account for excessive credit card fees?
Answer: In my research merchants are restricted in charging any additional fees to customers specifically to recoup merchant processing fees charged by the bank processors. Simply put merchants have to bury the fees charged in the sales price of menu items as an overhead cost.
Lately we are seeing merchants provide a cash discount of up to 3% for customers willing to pay cash for their menu items. This allows the customer to decide whether it is worth saving the extra discount to apply towards the total menu items price plus applicable sales tax that applies. What else can we do?
I have taken the time to research this area of fees and will offer two pointers. First, have your account statement analyzed immediately. Credit card companies are now so competitive and computerized that the fees charged are not for customer services but basically a commodity no different than cheese being bought and sold. Also, since the industry is so regulated many of the improprieties have been flushed out of the system. Credit card processing has become a buyer’s market as long as the merchant service provider has a track record and processes through one of the top five processors on the back end.
Therefore have a few merchant service processors or agents analyze the fees you are being charged on your current statement and first approach your current provider for any possible adjustments. You may get angry at your sales person claiming they needed to make a profit for customer service but most companies provide an adequate toll free number to contact for any questions on processing and an online access to allow you the ability 24/7 to review all transactions processed normally for free.
Secondly, create a system to monitor the fees being charged to you on a monthly basis comparing the original contract of fees to be charged to the resulting monthly account statement after transactions have been processed. Many times there are hidden per transaction fees when customers use a Corporate Card or additional batch processing fees or statement fees and the list goes on and on. Most merchants are not trained to monitor these fees and since restaurants run on less than a 4 to 6% net income margin a 3 to 4% credit card fee can be the difference in making a profit for the day!
Question: Why is my bank charging me fees to download or export my banking transactions to my accounting program such as QuickBooks or quicken?
Answer: First we are teaching restaurateurs to instill a system to check banking transactions daily due to so many fraudulent transactions taking place that if gone unnoticed small amounts not materially causing concern to your bank balance can add up to thousands of dollars in total at the end of a month. And if your bank does not alert you to unusual activity this can go on for months.
You want the ability to electronically be able to download a file to import into your accounting software that represents the total cleared transactions from the bank in a given date range. Most banks provide this service for free and enable the restaurant owner daily to monitor discrepancies in charges.
Also having the ability to view pending banking transactions also allows you to stop the potentially fraudulent transactions before they become a cleared transaction.
Inquire with your current banking institution as to their online tools availability regarding electronic capability of retrieving cleared transactions and their procedure to notify you of irregular or unusual pending transactions based on your purchasing habits established over time. Many banks will have two services: direct connect which is fee based on a subscription monthly basis or a Web Connect feature which is normally free but takes a few extra steps to retrieve the data.
For example, I notify my bank before I travel in and out of state such that any transactions of retail establishments or vendors that are not in proximity of my travel area provided a hold is placed on my business check card via email or text until I phone the bank to confirm the unusual pending transaction. This simple check has saved me at least once a year over the past few years of headaches and lost cash flow.