Distributors, Shippers Eye Surcharging to Stay Afloat Amid COVID-19 Outbreak
Logistics is one of the many sectors currently grappling with the impacts of COVID-19 on the bottom line. The need for seamless supply chains is paramount, with much of the world looking to the industry to feed families, maintain infrastructure, and even deliver essential medical equipment to front-line healthcare workers.
Although the industry is among the most essential businesses, prudently managing costs through an economic downturn is still vital, as shippers and distributors are feeling the strain. One area they’re likely struggling with during this time? The cost of accepting credit card payments.
Transaction Behavior During COVID-19
Just within the last month, we’ve seen a major change in how payments in the shipping and distribution sectors are made. Based on an analysis of CardX transactions during the crisis, buyers are relying on credit cards more heavily than before to finance purchases—which is also driving up processing costs when distributors can least afford the hit to their already closely managed margins.
Since March 1, 2020, the number of card transactions is down about 40% generally, but credit card purchases have been affected very differently than debit card purchases. The average size of a credit card transaction has increased almost 50%, whereas the average size for a debit transaction is roughly stable (up 5%). These shifts can result in increased costs for businesses who accept cards.
What is Credit Card Surcharging?
To balance the need for credit card acceptance with the necessity of maintaining margins, distributors would be wise to consider an increasingly popular business solution: credit card surcharging.
Surcharging, introduced in 2013, enables businesses to pass fees on to customers when they choose to use credit cards for convenience or rewards. Moreover, surcharging enables a multitude of other benefits, like eliminating legacy payment options that can lead to errors and delays, as well as the ability to optimize and track payments for better reporting.
In a competitive business landscape, the ability to accept credit cards can be a major differentiator, enabling customers to pay however is most convenient for them, whether that be credit, debit, or cash.
Why Businesses Should Consider Surcharging
Now With COVID-19 moving an increased volume of payments to online or “card not present” transactions, there is a heightened need for businesses to respond to the new reality in credit card payments. This is especially important as fees for “card not present” transactions on commercial cards are set to increase again, with Visa and Mastercard recently postponing their “spring update” increases to be rolled out in July 2020.
With customers relying on credit cards more heavily than before to finance their purchases, distributors realize the need to offer card payment options. However, the cost can be daunting. For many merchants, the cost of accepting credit cards is the second-highest operating cost, after payroll—and every year merchants spend more than $100 billion in card processing fees.
Surcharging can be an essential tool for distributors in these uncertain times, adding up to 3.5% to their bottom lines. Forty-six states across the U.S. allow surcharging on credit card payments, which especially helps merchants with high average sales and tight margins. For a distributor, with EBIT margins hovering around 6%, a customer using a credit card can eliminate half or more of a sale’s profitability.
Yet, despite the benefits of surcharging, many distributors still aren’t aware that surcharging is a viable option for their businesses or are overwhelmed with compliance regulations. To make surcharging work for their businesses, warehouse and distribution companies can turn to payment solution providers to comply with the rules, handle the implementation details, and align internal technology with compliance teams.
Leveraging a payments solution provider can help distributors not only maintain their profitability, but also set up surcharging transparently, educate their customers about payment options, and comply with card brands’ rules and each state’s specific regulations.
Amid the pandemic, distribution companies need a solution that enables customers to pay in whichever form is most convenient for them, without creating a new operational cost. Surcharging helps warehouse and distribution managers strike this balance and sets them up for long-term success, even after the coast is deemed clear.