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What Is the Best Way to Allow Clients to Pay with Credit Cards?

Published: 27/06/2017

Eric in Florida says:

Years ago I accepted credit cards, but the fees got too expensive. Most of my clients pay with a check and some cash at the shoot. I invoice some of my good agents and receive payment in a week or two.  Some clients pay late but will offer their credit card which I can’t accept at this time. What is the least expensive way to take credit cards?

One of my agents suggested I take PayPal, but have no experience with PayPal and wanted to know if you have any experience with that?

I think every small business like real estate photographers should take credit cards just as a convenience for your clients.

The least expensive way for businesses to take credit cards is They have no monthly fees and charge you just 2.75% per swipe or 3.5%+$.15 per keyed-in transaction. They give you a free swipe gadget (card reader) to plug into the headphone jack of your smartphone. You can also email invoices so that clients can use their credit cards to pay. They service US, CA, NZ, UK, and AU.

PayPal costs slightly more per transaction and also has a card reader for smartphones. I use PayPal for selling books and video from this blog only because I can sell to people in almost every country on the planet. The only place I've found that PayPal doesn't work is in a few small African countries.

If your clients are in the same country that you are doing business in is a good solution for taking credit cards. PayPal will work fine too. I use both and have never had any problems with either one.

Larry Lohrman

31 comments on “What Is the Best Way to Allow Clients to Pay with Credit Cards?”

  1. In addition to Square, we use MoonClerk to send payment links to clients (which can also include an upfront amount and monthly recurring payments (for commercial real estate, for example).


  2. Don't forget that if you take credit cards, people will spend more. Make them pay cash and they will book less. Even though it costs 3%, you do get paid immediately, so it's usually worth it. I've use PayPal virtual terminal for years as it works great. And you get annual reports at the end of the year for IRS. Highly recommended.

    PayPal takes all major cards too.

  3. Most invoicing/book keeping software offers credit card payments. I use Quickbooks online for my invoicing and book keeping needs and also use their credit card processing. What's great about that is when I email an invoice to a client, there is a "pay now" button on the invoice. It's all synced up with my bank statement too, and invoices get marked as paid instantly, so things are really fast and easy all around.

  4. Years ago, it was expensive to accept credit cards. That usually meant you had to have a merchant account at your bank with a fixed monthly account fee + rental of card reading terminal and modem + per transaction fees. No more!
    I use Waveapps for my invoicing, accounting and CC payments. Everything is done online so I never have the burden of maintaining a client's credit cards on file or otherwise. I believe the CC fees are the same as Square, Quickbooks and Paypal at 2.7-2.9%. Before Wave, I used PayPal.
    It's worth it for ease of the Payor and Payee. Of course, I will accept checks but I do not miss checking the Mailbox or trips to the bank to deposit checks, plus my clients can easily pay even while they are traveling. The costs of the transaction fees should be built in to your CODB and factored in when setting your shoot fees. It's pretty minor when you consider the convenience it allows. Like Lee pointed out; not accepting credit cards could actually mean that you're leaving money on the table in terms of potential revenue.

  5. More and more, my clients are using VENMO. it is a phone app with instant transfer. The put in your phone number, an amount and hit send. Best if all, there are no fees.

  6. I use Venmo app to recive most of my payments - love it. My clients either send mo ey themselves using their Venmo app or I send them the request, which they fullfill.
    Venmo is a part of PayPal, you connect it with your bank account or credit card.

  7. Second for Quickbooks. I use it primarily for convenience as everything is synced up. It also has a function for accountants to log in remotely if needed so they can review your books.

    I've honestly bumped all my rates to incorporate the cc fees about 4-5%. If someone pays by check I just count it as a small bonus. If someone wants a "discount" for some reason I will negotiate a 3-5% discount for payment up front with a check. They feel they get something and I don't mind it since I don't have to pay the fees.

  8. I use to take checks and cash only, but it was harder for them to pay right away for whatever reason. I've been using Paypal for a year now and I just send a link to my clients and they pay quickly, usually on the same day or the next. In rare occasions I've had clients that forgot to pay. I send them a reminder a few days later and they pay right away. I still take checks and cash if that's what they prefer, but I found that most of them prefer Paypal.

  9. I use PayPal and have been very happy with them. I do some work out of town frequently on ranch and energy business (oil field) shoots, so being able to send a PayPal invoice and get paid with a company CC beats having to wait for their A/P people to do their bi-monthly or monthly payments! The fees don't eat up that much in my opinion. I think if you're cutting your margins so close that you can't afford a 3% fee, you need to reevaluate your rates!

  10. I've used Square for years. There's no way I would do this without being able to take credit cards on site. It's convenient for me, and convenient for the client. And I don't have the time or desire to be chasing agents down two or three weeks later for a check. For long-term clients, or those other than real estate, such as architects, design-build companies, etc., I accept payment within 30 days.

  11. PocketSuite is easy and inexpensive to use. I have been using it for almost two years and have had great success with the tool. The agents confirm with a credit card number, then at image delivery I push the charge button on my phone and the money is in my account the next day. If I get a check our cash I just mark it as paid. PocketSuite has both an I-phone and android versions. No need For a card swipe, the client adds the credit card info from their end. So no more asking for payment, just a Professional money transaction.

  12. I have been taking credit cards since 1983.
    The costs of taking cards is a straightforward business expense. Price your services appropriately and it becomes a non-issue.
    Accepting credit cards improves sales. PERIOD.

    For years I researched various processors. All promised ultra low processing fees and easy to read statements.
    These are lies.
    An ultra low rate is only available for a "qualifying card" which is less common than sequential lottery wins. Adding to costs are statement fees and interchange fees. Neither of which is mentioned by a salesperson and only a footnote in written disclosures.
    Careful analysis of my costs over the years determined that my effective rate varied between 2.8 and 3.5%. This despite always looking for the best rate.
    I now use Square.
    Simple set up, fast payment, dead simple reconciliation.
    On top of all that I actually get a consistently excellent rate.

  13. I've been using Square and works great. I can send an email with a Pay button. Also, I can use my cellphone as a card reader, so I kill two birds with one stone.

  14. I've been using Freshbooks lately and have been happy with that. Been using Venmo to collect rent but never considered it for my photography work. Problem is that the money comes out of their bank account and so there might be times when they need to use credit card instead and so the billing process might be inconsistent. For some reason I thought Venmo couldn't be used for business but I must be wrong on that.

  15. Use Pocketsuite. 2.5% cc fees. Invoicing, booking, and contracts + more built in. Minimal design ensures maximum productivity. Collect cc over text invoices or keep cc on file and charge at will, whatever your policy.

  16. It is at questions like this that I see where most photogs go down the wrong road. Put down the camera and all your other toys and take a course in starting and running a profitable business.....

    The cost associated with any of your services should always be passed on to your clients in one way or another. Raise your fees 5% and move on.

    Bottom line... this is a service and to deny a convenience to your clients to save a few dollars is short sighted.

  17. In PocketSuite you even have a switch to pass a 3% charge over to the client and get 100% of your price. If you are going to use it, check your local laws on charging that to the client In Texas only governmental entities can pass the fee onto the card holders.

  18. I use Paypal. I can invoice right from the web site and I can access the funds right away. No waiting to transfer funds to my checking account. All of the services charge nearly the same rates as makes no difference, so it's mostly down to convenience. I keep my accounting system offline as anything online is eventually public. Many people already have a PayPal account if they purchase items from eBay, so they probably already have it set up and it gives them several options of what account the funds are sent from.

    If you keep your customer's credit card details, you could be liable if they are stolen. I sleep better not having them on file.

  19. Square (Squareup). I've also been down the Commercial bank and merchant account avenue. The banks make it hard to do business with them, lot of fees associated with just 'having' the account. As rates got more expensive, I finally sat down to do the math. In my case, I'd have to push almost $10,000/mo before a commercial bank would break even with what my Squareup fees might be. Even then, the bank tools did not compare to the offerings (including the app, website, etc.) to Squareup.

    I have only taken two forms of payment in 4 years. Credit card. Or check, in response to invoicing my commercial accounts. It just makes life so much easier for everyone. This afternoon, I booked a shoot 3 weeks out. Customer, "...I'll pay now, I just want to get it booked, paid for, and be all set." Me, I'm happy to have his funds set aside in the bank until services rendered.

    The other thing, with very rare exception, is that I require payment before booking the shoot. Pay-before-click. I've only had to charge a customer a missed-shoot fee once. I cannot see too many people honoring that fee though, if they hadn't already paid in the first place.

    Last thought, as for the expense, it is part of my cost of doing business. So, when I'm determining my cost structure, that's simply one of my costs. Its not an unplanned or after-the-fact expense.


  20. Its all about convenience, for your clients and for you.

    I don't care what it costs, I just factor that in to my fees. If the fees go up, then when my annual fee structure comes out, I just pass that codb on to the clients along with anything else.

    Those that stress about the cost of transaction fees should consider the futility of it when you are more likely to take a real hit with fuel prices that are always fluctuating and can change overnight. There was a time that I started a surcharge for fuel because it just increased to over $5 a gallon.... until my new fee structure came out.

  21. Apologies for bumping up this older thread, but I am looking for some help. I'm at my wits end regarding setting up to receive credit card payments and need a solution which works.

    • I have a one-person photo and video business in a small region with a pool of about 50 active real estate agents.
    • Since about 2010, I have accepted checks only after invoicing my clients, and most would prefer credit cards (I do not get paid at the time of the session).
    • I use Wave accounting (since 2015) and use their very good Invoice platform to create records and print PDF invoices (which are attached to emails sent to clients). Wave offers to accept credit card payments into their system but I do not wish to use that feature, for various valid reasons.
    • Square and other similar solutions have their own invoicing systems which apparently you must use, if not being paid in person, as in my case; I invoice with Wave.
    • I have tried the Paypal route but the payments are often held for 30 days (unacceptable) because Paypal thinks I'm selling "merchandise" rather than a service. It is hit-or-miss AND most agents here do not wish to sign on to Paypal anyway.
    • I like my current invoicing system and wish to keep it, and want to simply add the option for my client to use a credit card if they prefer that over a mailed check.

    Is there a site -- other than Paypal -- without their own in-house invoicing system, that I can refer people to so they can make a secure CC payment to me based on the email and invoice I have sent to them?

  22. PS: I've inquired at my own local bank for this payment acceptance option (Wells Fargo), but my business volume is just too small for their consideration AND there is a large sign-on and monthly fee I couldn't afford anyway.

  23. Just go with Paypal's Virtual Terminal. Super easy to use. They are just holding funds until they can establish you are legitimate. I use it, and they release funds immediately. Never have problems with Paypal.

  24. There are more virtual credit card processors than Square and Paypal. You may be looking for a chunk of Unobtainium in trying to find one that will work with your accounting system that isn't an addon service of your accounting software company. If it's a huge deal for you, you may need to look for a more professional accounting package that includes a banking interface and has a CC processing addon with rates similar to Square and PP. Banks such as BofA and WF aren't going to want to deal with you unless you are doing a lot of business each month. It's doubtful that their service is going to add any value to a small RE photographer.

    I take payment at the time of the shoot, but there are a few agents/offices that I will invoice. If I am sending an invoice through PayPal (which is who I use), I generate the invoice first in my accounting program (AccountEdge) and use the invoice number from that invoice to override the invoice number on the PayPal invoice. Agents with a PayPal account know to just send me money through PP and I'll apply it to their account. Those without a Paypal account need me to send them the PP invoice. BTW, if you send an invoice through PP, the client can pay without having a PayPal account if they are using credit/debit. I haven't had any issues with PP holding payments on me. If they do, they're toast unless the issue is on the payer's side.

  25. Thank you as well, Ken. I use a full online accounting system (Wave) but do not want to use their CC or deposit services -- nevertheless, will check out what you recommend. Keep in mind, I am just a one-man (and a dog) show one step away from pushing a grocery cart down the highway - Ha.

    Thanks all!

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