Paying by card in your business. What do I need as a professional?

9 min Reading time

Card payments are extremely popular: almost all Belgian consumers have one or more payment cards. Do you also want to allow your customers to pay with their card in your business?


3 possible payment solutions

  • A fixed payment terminal that you place next to your cash register.
  • A mobile payment terminal that you can place next to your cash register but also take with you on the road.
  • A card reader (pinpad) linked to your smartphone or tablet for payments on the move (or at the cash register).

Besides these three methods, you can also use your smartphone or tablet to receive payments via an app. How to choose the best method?


# Step 1: Which card payment solution is best for my business?


Which payment solution is best for your business depends on your own needs and requirements. Three questions for you:

  1. Do your customers always pay at the cash register?
    -> Then a fixed terminal is the best choice.
  2. Are you often on the road (e.g. market vendor, general practitioner, stand holder at fairs,...? Or do you offer your customers the option of paying at their table or on the terrace (e.g. in the hospitality industry)?
    -> Then a mobile payment terminal or a card reader linked to your smartphone or tablet could be an option.
  3. If you only receive a few payments per month, the card reader linked to your smartphone or tablet is usually sufficient.

Important: for a mobile solution you must have a WiFi or mobile data connection at your business or on the road. A fixed device can also connect via an internet cable.


# Step 2: Which cards should I accept?


Once you have decided which payment solution is right for your business, you also need to decide which cards you want to accept. Only debit and/or credit cards or also other cards like electronic meal vouchers or company cards?

Most payment solutions can technically support all types of cards. As a merchant you decide which payment cards your customers can use in your business.

What payment cards are there? Show less
  • Bancontact is a Belgian payment system. Every Belgian debit card is provided with Bancontact. It does not exist for foreign cards and is not accepted by payment terminals abroad either.

  • Maestro makes it possible to pay with the bank card both in Belgium and abroad (all over the world). Every Belgian debit card is equipped with Maestro. It is issued by Mastercard.

  • Mastercard Debit, Visa Debit & V Pay make it possible to pay with the debit card both in Belgium and abroad (all over the world). In Belgium these debit cards are not yet issued by the banks.

  • Mastercard and Visa make it possible to pay with your credit card in Belgium as well as abroad (the whole world). These payment systems are only connected to credit cards (not to normal debit cards). Most credit cards issued in Belgium carry Mastercard or Visa. Visa and Mastercard are the most used credit cards at home and abroad (all over the world).

Which card should I choose? Show less

Here are a few questions to help you make your choice:

  • Do you have many foreign customers or business customers?
    -> Then it is interesting to definitely accept credit cards. In very touristy regions, it may also be important to activate Asian equivalents of Mastercard an Visa, such as CUP and JCB.

  • Do you have customers who mainly make small payments (e.g. newsagent, baker, …)?
    -> Then it is best to limit yourself to debit cards.
    If it is almost exclusively local customers, then perhaps only activating Bancontact will suffice.
    If not, Maestro, Mastercard Debit, Visa Debit or V Pay can be added. This way, you can be sure that everyone can pay with a debit card.

  • Are you active in the food sector or do you sell ecological products?
    -> Then definitely consider accepting electronic meal vouchers or eco cheques as well.

# Step 3: What does it cost?


There are several elements that determine the cost. Are we talking about buying a device or renting a payment terminal? Can you use your own tablet? Is the software included or do you have to buy it separately? Do you pay a monthly subscription fee with lower transaction costs or do you only pay transaction costs?

Should I buy or rent a payment terminal? Show less

In the long run, a purchase may be more advantageous, despite the initial purchase cost.

Did you decide to buy a payment terminal? Then you also take out a maintenance contract for technical support, software updates, etc. Do bear in mind that a payment terminal that you have purchased may no longer meet the requirements of rapid technological developments after a few years.

How much does it cost me per transaction? Show less

The cost per transaction is composed of various fees:

  1. An "interchange fee" to the institution issuing the card (usually the bank). The amount depends on the type of card (fuel card, commercial card, electronic luncheon vouchers, etc.) and on the country of issue. This cost component was limited in 2015 by a European regulation to a maximum of 0.2% of the total amount for all debit cards and a maximum of 0.3% of the total amount for European consumer credit cards. In Belgium, we went a step further: the interchange fee for debit cards may not exceed the maximum ceiling of 0.056 euros.

  2. A "scheme fee" to the companies that manage the various debit/credit cards (Bancontact, MasterCard, Visa, etc.). This fee covers the costs incurred by the card scheme for its part in the transaction.

  3. A "service fee" to the acquirer or processor (e.g. Worldline, CCV, Europabank, etc.) for the services involved in the entire transaction process. The service fee may not cover the costs of exceptional processing, such as transactions processed outside the European Union. These costs can still be charged separately by the supplier of your payment terminal. It is therefore important that you analyse your contract carefully.

The cost of digital payments will therefore differ according to the terminal you choose as a merchant (fixed or mobile), according to the formula, such as buying or renting, and according to the type of cards you want to support. As a merchant, it is important to enter into dialogue with the chosen card processing company (Acquirer) in order to properly define what exactly your business needs.

In practice, the previously mentioned cost elements will translate into your invoice as follows:

  • The acquirer may work with a fee plan that combines the three previously mentioned fees. In that case, you will be charged a fixed fee per transaction. Advantage: the cost per transaction is stable, regardless of the country where your customer's card was issued and regardless of the type of card (e.g. fuel card, commercial card, electronic meal vouchers, etc.).

  • The acquirer can also work with a transparent fee that separately calculates the three aforementioned cost elements per transaction ('Interchange ++'). This amounts to a variable fee per transaction. Advantage: you will probably end up cheaper than the above-mentioned fee plan, depending on the card type, country of issue, etc.

  • Finally, the acquirer can also work with a package that consists of a monthly fee. This usually includes a specific number of transactions. The advantage: you have a clear overview of your costs every month.

Not every acquirer offers the above options. So you will not always be able to choose. So be sure to check the rates with various providers.

Some interesting facts:

  • Some acquirers work with specific rates for small amounts. Be sure to ask about this if your business mainly deals with small amounts.

  • Credit cards often work with a percentage of the total transaction amount. This is in contrast to debit cards. There is often a fixed cost per transaction.

  • Some contactless payments have an impact on which card scheme is used behind them. Why? Because some 'wearables' only support a certain card scheme. So sometimes it can happen that the contactless payment fails because your terminal does not support the right card scheme. Please contact your acquirer to activate the correct schemes.


# Step 4: How do I find a payment solution provider?


There are plenty of payment terminal providers active on the Belgian market. We make an attempt to list them below:

Your bank may also offer the possibility to purchase a payment solution from them. Be sure to contact them for more information.