Reading your merchant statement and finding the rates and fees you’re being charged can be like playing “Where’s Waldo?”. One reason is because there are nearly as many different statement formats as there are merchant acquiring companies. Also, because of how competitive the industry has become, many monthly statements don’t completely disclose the rates being charged. And sometimes they are completely hidden.
I know of banks that don’t even send a statement out. If a merchant wants details of what they paid they have to logon to an online account to find it.
It’s War Out There!
One reason for this is the competitiveness. You have to remember that credit and debit cards make up part of a 2 trillion dollar industry. Money is like a magnet – it attracts Most merchants are being contacted continually by competing processors trying to get them to switch processors, by promising “lower rates”, etc.
So, to prevent a sales agent from another processing company from taking a merchant away – some processors make it as hard as possible for a competitor’s sales rep to walk in to a business, analyze a merchant statement, and do an ‘apples for apples’ comparison.
That being said, there are still some basic keys to look for when reading your statement. Here’s what I look for in analyzing a merchant statement, in order:
- One: The pricing structure – how has the account been set up? Which pricing model does it employ? Is it using tiers (e.g. 3-tier; 4-tier, etc.) or – is it using “Interchange Plus”? (NOTE: most merchants are on a tier pricing model, which, in my opinion guarantees they’re being overcharged. Also, there are other pricing structures but tier pricing is by far the most common)
- Two: The monthly fees (sometimes called “Other”) – next, I look to see what the monthly fees are. This can include: a statement fee; monthly service fee; account maintenance fee (normally, you’d only see one of these although I’ve seen two – or, you may see the equivalent fee but using a different term); PCI fee; batch fee; and gateway or access fees. Any miscellaneous, but not monthly fees can also show up here – e.g., an annual fee or semi-quarterly.
- Three: Processing Fees – this is where the discount rates will be listed. If you are on tier pricing the best statements will print an itemized list showing the “qualified”, “mid-qualified”, and “non-qualified” (the 3 tiers) rate. If you are on Interchange Plus, you’ll see a list showing all the different cards you took, followed by the actual interchange rate for the card, the “dpi” (discount per item), plus the processors mark-up expressed as basis points and a transaction fee (or per item, depending on the term used to list it).
- Four: Authorization Fees – here’s where you’ll find fees that go to VISA and MC. They’ll show up listed as access, authorization, and /or WATTS fees. You could also find here AVS fees (address verification); assessment fees; brand usage fee; risk fee; settlement fees, IAS fee (Issuer Access & Settlement).
- Five: Third Party Fees – 3rd parties means networks other than VISA & MC that are included in your statement. This would include American Express, Discover, and the debit networks if you are using pin debit
Part of the problem in reading a merchant statement is different processors use different category names and different terms to identify charges. That’s why I began by saying it can be like playing “Where’s Waldo?” While there are common terms used for certain fees there is also a wide variation used, depending on the acquirer (the company you signed a merchant agreement with).
Again, part of this is due to an attempt to hide what’s being charged and make it difficult for a competitor to analyze a statement. While that’s ‘somewhat’ understandable – in my opinion it’s a disservice to the merchant. Integrity demands transparency. Maybe if processors were more merchant oriented they’d have a lower turnover and would not have to worry about competition so much. At least that’s my opinion.
This has always been a great question, and there are many different schools of thought on this subject.
A person could argue products like software, eBooks, and virtual information are amongst the most marketable as they are easy to duplicate and have no shipping costs. It’s true a virtual product can absolutely simplify your post-sale process, however are they truly the best overall product strategy? In my opinion it all comes down to the demand, then the numbers. Calculate what price you can create or retain a product for and then calculate what price you can sell it for while keeping in mind advertising, shipping, and other expenses that fall between those two processes.
Determine your total costs from start to finish. I wouldn’t even consider selling a product or service that fetches me any less than 80 percent gross profit per unit, unless it had a great backend or up-sell strategy or some type of recurring subscription based profit model.
lf you find that managing inventory or working with suppliers and drop shippers is more slanted towards your personal experience then work with a product that feels comfortable with you, you will benefit from the familiarity. The importance of comfort might just be the most influential factor for me when choosing a product to wrap around your marketing. Many people want to sell online but have no idea what products to sell. In my experience selling something for profit alone with no personal passion can be a mistake and I have found that building an email list for marketing and growing your brand is a cheap effective way to get started quickly.
5 Products you can sell and make money using “email marketing”.
Digital products and virtual services. Digital products are easy to duplicate, store, and ship digitally via email or file sharing service.
Affiliate marketing programs. Many companies online look for enthusiastic individuals to resell their products or services. Scrolling to the footer of a business’s website will typically link to any affiliate program if offered. You can also search for specific affiliate programs that suit your needs.
Trendy products that are in demand. Great way to let product buzz and word of mouth help your cause. The Google Trends tool will show you the current trends of your product ideas based on total search volumes. This can be a great way to determine what’s currently popular.
Start your own business. Get creative and bring your ideas online with a website or product page selling your creations, products or services. Accepting payments is easy these days with services like PayPal and all you need to do is promote your website using email marketing.
Freelance writing services, or create a blog. Writing can be an interesting and rewarding way to make money online. You can publish and sell eBooks, blog posts can generate revenue from ads or affiliate links, sponsors, or you can write about your current products for sale.
When sending email in large volumes always be sure you choose a true high volume, web-based email marketing software that can grow with your ongoing success.
First of all, what is considered a risk? If we are going to identify the risks we will need to know what to look for. I have heard risk defined as the effect of uncertainty on objectives. That definition is all right but a bit too vague. To effectively identify risks for a particular project or initiative, I think you have to be a bit more specific to the objective.
As risk relates to the Project Stream™, best practices would dictate that each level is completed before the next level begins. As indicated in the diagram above, overlapping levels (as shown) will result in incidental risk and compromised results. This is a common occurrence and typically happens when levels stretch out and do not have a disciplined schedule for milestone start and completion.
“Delays have dangerous ends.” – William Shakespeare
When the project start and finish date are fixed, milestone durations should be planned with contingency durations. Otherwise any expansion of a milestone duration may compromise the adjacent milestones or possibly even the overall project risk.
Risk management scheduling is a critical part of project planning. The more time you spend crafting the schedule, the better chance you will have of project success. If you plan it well, you will be able to use the process schedule to effectively manage the project scope, schedule and budget.
“True nobility is exempt from fear.” – William Shakespeare
Make a Plan, Have a Plan. You will be glad you did!
Don’t be afraid to look to the past when crafting your plan for the future.
The commercial real estate sales industry can be very rewarding to brokers and agents. That being said it requires focus and consistent effort if you are to reap real rewards and become a top agent.
Many salespeople join the industry with the hope that ‘things just start to happen’ as part of working for an agency or brokerage; unfortunately those salespeople do not last very long at all. After 6 months or so the reality of the market ‘kicks in’ with few if any commissions coming in.
It takes about 3 months of real effort to change your personal market conditions and your income. It is not a stop and start process. Things should happen to a plan and that will be a plan that you implement every day.
The agency or brokerage that you work for has little to do with the listings and clients that you create or serve. When you start working in the industry, start working hard on your commitment to personal success and progress. You will need a business plan or something similar that keeps you on task.
So what do you need to make the industry work for you? Try these for starters:
A good database that you keep up to date in all respects
A list of prospects and clients in your database that you can talk to in a continual way
Market knowledge and skills relating to your specialist property type
Sound and established negotiation skills for listing, inspections, marketing and negotiation
Excellent documentation skills relating to your property type, contracts, leases, and any other supplementary documentation
Personal drive and a passion for prospecting and selling
Excellent marketing skills in both direct, and indirect marketing
Communication skills that are advanced for the complexities of property sale, leasing, negotiating and closing.
Good time management and documentation processes that allow you to start the day early with momentum and results.
Targets and goals that you can track.
Exclusive listings that you control for your clients.
Referral opportunities with established clients and prospects.
Clients that trust you and your skills to help them resolve property problems.
To give momentum to these things it requires deliberate effort. Every agent or broker has plenty of opportunity to rise up in the ranks of the market. The key to making it happen is ‘personal activity and planning’.
It should always be remembered that the commercial real estate industry and market is under change. As brokers and agents we should adjust to market conditions and not wait for the market to come to us.