The Great Credit Card Conundrum

We rely on credit cards and other cashless forms of payment as business owners and consumers. As a result, we roll points, cash-back schemes and fee schedules into decisions about what we use and what we accept. We have our thoughts, but what are yours?

Here are ours.

We’re seeing more fees as a business and as a consumer. As a business, we can absorb fees on small amounts, but for large amounts, the fees are too large. In one recent month, we collected $4,300 in credit card sales and paid almost $67 in fees. We realize there’s a convenience factor that makes sense for us to pay the fees. We don’t have to spend time (which has a cost) to stamp checks and then use a mobile banking app to deposit each check. We can take the stamped checks to the bank, but that’s travel time. If you have a business, what role do fees play in your decision about whether to take a credit card?

Of course, if you have a business with walk-in traffic, you can get a break on fees. But that only works up to a point. For example, if you buy a car for $35,000, it would be nice to pay with your credit card and earn points or cash back. But if you’re the car dealer, you’ll absorb fees in the neighborhood of $1,000. Neither party in that deal benefits; only the bank benefits. How do you navigate this as a consumer or business?

Many nonprofits ask you to absorb the fee when you make a donation. Do you check the box to pay the fee?

In your business, do you prefer an alternative to credit cards, such as an ACH or a check? One benefit of taking a credit card is that can streamline your accounting system.

As a consumer, do you sometimes balk at putting your credit card number on the internet when you buy online or over the phone? If you’re afraid of having your credit card info exposed to hacking by entering your card on a website or giving it out by phone, you should know that a transaction in a store or office involves using the internet, and someone in that chain can be hacked.

You should also know that anyone who takes your credit card number by phone is NOT allowed to write down the full card number. They should be entering it on another website that will display only your last four numbers once it’s verified.

We are seeing one advance in using credit cards – or their numbers – in restaurants. We’ve never liked the fact that servers take your card to a location you can’t see to enter your card info. That disappearing act is the most serious threat to your card’s security. Having your server process your card at your table is better, but then your server is standing over you while you decide on the tip. That’s uncomfortable.

A better solution involves the use of your phone. When your server presents your bill electronically, there’s also a QR code you can scan. That puts it all on your phone. If you are set up to pay through your phone, you can add the tip and pay the bill without ever pulling out your physical wallet.

As we move farther into a cashless society, we can help you – as a business or consumer – to set up your technology to be more efficient and secure. And we can answer any questions you may have about how to use what you already have. Give us a call – 973-433-6676 – or email us.

Cybersecurity Checklist

We doubt the Russians or WikiLeaks are looking into your computer, but there’s a good chance somebody is. Want to get ahead of any possible problems? Try this checklist.

  • Update your software – Security patches are almost always the feature of any software update for your operating system and application software, including Internet browsers. You can set your computers, servers and mobile devices to notify you when an update is available or have it installed automatically. Do it. It’s as simple as that.
  • Limit admin accounts – There are two things to shore up here. First, limit the number of people in your organization – or household – who have administrative rights to your system. The more people who have access to the inner workings of your system, the more possibilities there are for somebody to leave an electronic door open to an invader. As another precaution, always run your PC as a non-administrator unless strictly necessary.
  • Enable your firewall – This should be a no-brainer. It’s the first line of defense against hackers infiltrating your entire IT system or any computer in your system that goes out onto the Internet. Make sure you have it set to manage inbound and outbound traffic.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-spyware – This goes hand-in-hand with enabling your firewall. These programs are designed to stop viruses, worms and other forms of malware. They can also stop pop-ups and other threats. Make sure every computer and device (where appropriate) is regularly scanned by the anti-virus and anti-spyware software, and don’t let licenses lapse.
  • Beware of wireless – Enable encryption, turn off SSID broadcasting and use the MAC filtering feature. Be wary whenever out of the office using Wi-Fi.
  • Protect mobile devices – Always use passwords, screen locks and auto locks on mobile devices, and encrypt data transmissions when possible.
  • Use strong passwords – The latest research shows that longer passwords are stronger, and you should always have a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Change your password often and don’t use anything that can be related to your email address.
  • Backup your files – We can’t emphasize this enough – and we strongly encourage you to back up files offsite, on a cloud-based server. Have an automated backup and recovery plan in place for key data residing on your network vital for every computer user and organization. We’ve talked about ransomware before, and have securely backed-up files is your best protection.
  • Trust your gut – This is worth repeating, too: If a website, email or window on your PC offers you something that’s too good be true, ignore it or delete it. If something looks odd or out place, ignore it or delete it. Most companies, especially banks and credit card companies, don’t ask for personal information in an email. Don’t click a link. Instead, log back on to your browser and go to the website address you’ve used before to see what that company has to say.
  • Train your staff or family – Most cybersecurity breaches happen because of human error. Train your staff or your family members on how to be more secure while using computers and mobile devices on the Internet. Remember how you’ve told your kids not to talk to strangers or get into a stranger’s car? It’s the same in the cyber world.

We can help you with any of cybersecurity concerns and needs. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to get answers to your questions or to set up a training session.