What’s a Good Payment Service?

There was a lot of news coverage like Credit card fees being imposed by councils, says Which? earlier this week.

People seemed outraged that councils were making a small surplus over the year in total. Interviewees suggested that councils should just include the cost of taking payments in the amount charged.

Of course, councils are sort-of not-for-profit, so they’ll just set prices to include the credit card fees and make a small surplus on other cheaper forms of payment over the year in total. So everyone who uses bank transfers will pay more because credit card fees are high! Will that be next year’s scandal?

Presumably that’s what happens in France, Germany and other countries where sellers can’t charge more for credit card payment. That, or you just don’t accept credit cards, like many German retailers never used to. What else can they do?

It’s a bit odd of Visa to claim it costs more to accept other forms of payment. Cheques are horrendously expensive if you only get a few, but seem to get cheaper if handled in bulk. Domestic bank transfers and cash also seem cheaper than Visa to me.

Sellers seem to be asked explicitly to assume much more fraud risk in order to accept credit cards, too. Mind you, with the amazingly slack approach of most US retailers to cards (no chip-and-PIN and they usually don’t bother to even check the signature – I cut up the card I used in the USA when I arrived home), I’m surprised there’s not more card fraud.

I’m also a bit surprised Bath and North East Somerset (which neighbours my home district) is paying 2% on credit card transactions. Our co-op has been offered deals about as good as that and we don’t do anything like as many transactions. We’ve not yet taken one up because the setup paperwork is a pain and the setup and maintenance fees usually suck. It feels like it doesn’t matter what you do with money, bankers still get rich.

Even though I keep looking (like in 2007), it’ll probably happen: we need to act again, because some overseas customers seem unwilling or unable to register with a site to pay (and some payment sites have ethical questions too), while international bank transfers are even more expensive and an even bigger pain.

Besides card payments, we’re considering opening a currency trading account and a Euro bank account. Anyone done these and do you think they’re worth it or not? And do any Eurozone banks allow a UK company to open an account without a member visiting in person? I’ve found few possibilities, after looking at banks in seven countries so far.

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