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How to Accept Credit Card Payments: A Guide for Small Businesses in Australia

With the progression of consumer and business technology, it is more important than ever to accept a range of card payments and mobile payment options. With the right approach, your customer should be able to purchase goods from your business – regardless of their circumstances or chosen provider. 

More specifically, with credit card payments being one of the most popular payment methods, it is integral that your business accepts them. By understanding the steps involved in processing credit card payments with any processor type, you can set your business up for success and accessibility alike.

How to Accept Credit Card Payments in Person

Accepting credit cards for customers in person can be a quick and easy process, provided that you have the right set-up.

Regardless of your chosen point of sale or EFTPOS terminal technology, you can conduct payment processing in person using similar basic steps.

EFTPOS Terminals and Credit Card Readers

When accepting credit card payments in person, common payment services for businesses include an EFTPOS terminal or credit card reader.

When processing payments with a terminal or reader, numerous mobile payment options, like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, or even overseas payment types such as WeChat and Alipay, can be included.

How Does Accepting Credit Card Payments in Person Work?

When accepting credit card payments on an EFTPOS terminal or credit card reader, the steps taken include the following:

  1. The customer swipes/inserts/taps their credit card or mobile device on the payment processor.
  2. The processor communicates with the customers’ issuing bank to check fund levels or credit limits and potential fraud.
  3. If approved, you will be credited with the transaction amount.

Other Considerations

If you choose to accept in-store payments from credit cards, there are some additional aspects to consider: 

  • Some providers will offer add-on benefits including free EFTPOS machine features when you choose to use a terminal or reader. 
  • The costs associated with a terminal or reader, and whether it is purchased outright or leased through your provider 
  • If your provider offers solutions to eliminate merchant fees and terminal rental 
  • Whether the provider offers 24/7 customer support.

How to Accept Credit Card Payments Online

When incorporating online payment methods into your business, you can accept credit card payments in two ways; through your own online business or a third-party website. Regardless of your choice, you will also need a merchant account and a credit card payment gateway to process sales.

Setting up a Merchant Account and Payment Gateway Service

When setting up a payment gateway service for your website, you must integrate a virtual shopping cart or an online payment form. This payment processing requires entering a contract with an acquiring bank or a payment solutions provider you trust, so your customer’s card information can be processed. 

The process of online payments, regardless of chosen payment gateway providers, is fairly simple. It requires: 

  • The customer will enter their details on your online store’s checkout page. 
  • The acquiring bank approves or declines the purchase. 
  • The online store will complete the sale when approved, and the customer’s credit card network will transfer the funds to your existing merchant account.

What is a Merchant Account and Do I Need One?

A merchant account, sometimes known as a merchant facility, is an online bank account you can set-up to accept credit card payments online. When a customer makes a purchase, the account temporarily holds onto the money before moving it into any linked business account. You will require a payment gateway before setting up your merchant account.

What is an Online Payment Gateway Service?

A simple payment gateway will accept online payments by inputting customers’ card details. Once the details have been approved through the gateway, your merchant bank will receive the funds at settlement. Additionally, all payment gateway providers will manage the security of the customer’s card details, taking that responsibility off your plate.

Using a Third-Party Payment Processor

Third-party payment processors are organisations that accept credit cards online without you needing a merchant account. This simplifies the process significantly, as all of the necessary components to accept online payments can be found in one place under the supervision of your chosen processor.

A new business owner may use a third-party processor due to the accessibility and low costs. Merchant accounts often come with set-up fees and can be known for charging ongoing fees.

Therefore, utilising a third party can cut out these account fees while also lowering the chances of credit card fraud through extensive anti-fraud measures. This way, both your merchant account and your customer’s bank account can remain safe.

Other Services that let Customers Pay with Credit Cards Online

Beyond these more conventional means, plenty of other merchant services allow customers to pay online with their credit card details. You may find one of these options suits your business better.


Short for ‘bill payment’, BPAY allows for bills to be paid through online banking. It can accept payments from credit cards, along with other payment options, by the customer using the BPAY customer reference number and biller code through their online banking.

 Businesses are more comfortable using a billing system than immediate payment upon given services and may choose to use BPAY, particularly due to the lack of payment processing fees.

Direct Debit Services

A direct debit will allow a service provider to withdraw money from an elected account. The amount can be set as a fixed amount or a variable, and can also be paid at a set date or at regular intervals. This makes it an excellent choice if your business provides a product or service for ongoing use.

Global Commerce Websites

If you are more interested in selling your product rather than creating your own website, you can choose to host your products through a commerce website. These websites can distribute your goods internationally with great efficiency, hosting the payment gateway to make the process easier for you. If you are a small business just starting out, websites like Amazon or Etsy are a great way to get started.

Considerations When Accepting Credit Card Payments Online

There is plenty to consider when choosing to accept payments online, particularly in regard to your security and any potential fees:

  • Know the fees involved with your chosen online payment gateway or merchant account before signing up.
  • Your chosen services should provide a 24/7 support network.
  • Always check the set-up process for your services, including how long they may take. If you are opening up your first business, you may want to ensure that your payment gateway and/or merchant account is set up ahead of time.
  • Ensure you and your customer’s payment details are secure with your service of choice.
  • Your chosen payment platform is compatible with the design of your website, as well as its hosts and services.

How to Accept Credit Card Payments Over the Phone

With most payment providers, you can process credit card transactions over the phone (also called MOTO payments). To do this, you manually input your customer’s credit card details into your EFTPOS terminal. This includes the credit card number, expiry date, and CVC/CVV.

Fees and Costs of Accepting Credit Card Payments

When you accept credit cards in your business, there will always be fees and costs. This applies to both credit card payments online as well as in-person transactions on a reader. It is always best to check on what kind of fees are associated with your payment method of choice before signing up, as many rates vary depending on the risk of accepting these payments (and the risk is on the merchant if there is a charge back).

Payment Processing Fees

Most credit card payment services will charge a small processing fee whenever a transaction occurs. This is commonly calculated as a percentage of the transaction, plus a fixed amount determined by your provider.

The fees can change depending on the level of service you have chosen from your provider, your location, and what type of credit card is used in the transaction. With Smartpay, you can eliminate your in-store card transaction fees with Smartpay Zero Cost™ EFTPOS.

Set-Up Fees

Some online payment services may charge a set-up fee when you create a payment gateway or merchant account with them. This is usually a one-off payment, or a small ongoing fee for utilising their services. The cost is often calculated by the size of your business and what type of service you choose.

Account Fees

Commonly set up as monthly or yearly charges, account fees cover the costs of hosting an account with your chosen payment solutions provider. They are a fixed fee calculated by the size of your business, the package and/or features you have chosen from your provider, as well as estimated online sales or in-person transactions.

How to Choose the Right Method For Your Business

The ideal solution for your business entirely depends on the method you want to process credit cards. If you are looking to process transactions online solely, consider whether hosting your own website, or seeking third-party aid, is best for you. The costs, ease and accessibility of these payment options are the most important aspects to consider.

To accept payments in store, a credit card machine should be your first choice. However, choosing a machine that offers flexible payment methods, such as contactless, Apple Pay, Google Pay and more, will cater for a larger amount of your customer base.

Smartpay’s EFTPOS machines offer all of this and more! Our terminals are suitable for small businesses, offering machine portability, 24/7 support, secure payments, and a stress-free machine set-up. If your small business is ready for credit card payments, get started with Smartpay today!

Want to know more about surcharging?

If you’re keen to learn more about how surcharging on EFTPOS works, or what you could save, find out more about SmartCharge. To talk about how surcharging could work for your business get in touch with the team at Smartpay.