Turn Your Merchant Processing Fees into Charitable Dollars

The first quarter of the year is a perfect time for businesses to reconsider their gifting strategies for the year and as a result of the Payment Card Interchange Fee Settlement, one business has figured out a way to turn their merchant service fees into charitable dollars.

Most business owners don’t know that in most states, they can now recoup their merchant processing fees by charging back their patrons for that particular expense. As I’ve presented this concept to my local business merchants, it has been warmly received but they are concerned that their existing customers might object. Well, I would say that’s fair….so it begs the question of how to do it and turn it into something positive.

One of my clients has a great answer! As we sat in her office chatting about our kids and catching up with each other’s lives, a lightbulb suddenly went off in her head. “If we started charging our patrons, I could take all of those dollars that we save in merchant service fees and put them towards charitable causes! How could our patrons complain if 100% of those fees are going back to those in need?”

No sooner than half an hour after I walked out her door, she had written a memo to her company CFO, encouraging consideration for a change of systems to all of their locations nationwide, to encourage every one of their affiliated day spas to give back to the community with their new-found dollars. With this effort, she and her family, friends and co-workers could expand their efforts and current givings to the many beneficiaries for whom they already provide, allocating more hours and dollars to projects such as serving those in poor countries, and increasing awareness of sustainability.

To sum it up, what a great brainstorm of an opportunity to turn business costs into something that benefits mankind and the environment. So I say to that: “Onward we roll into better economic times with more business owners choosing to mirror these concepts to benefit those in need in a more collective way.”

Is Your Consultant Watching Out for You?


Many of us hire consultants or vendors to look out for our best interests, but in reality, we, as business owners, need to be minding our own stores, and sometimes checking up on our own “trusted advisors.”  Just because our advisor may not have mentioned a particular cost-reduction strategy, does not mean we need to close our ears and not be looking for additional methods during these trying times in our economy.

Here are several things you may want to be reviewing in order to further reduce the cost of running your business:

1) Take a look at your existing contracts to insure that your vendors are giving you the most appropriate level of service, for the most appropriate rates.  For example, if you are using a particular waste management provider, examine whether they are coming to dump too often and is the dumpster only half full?  Collecting fewer times should cost you less!!

2). Consider consolidating similar services.  For instance, you may have several loans from several banking institutions.  It may make sense to consolidate them in an effort to achieve better interest rates from a single source.  Similarly, several waste management providers may be serving several of your locations.  Maybe one provider can handle everything and then some, like adding recycling and liquid waste disposal services, in order to achieve greater cost savings.

3)  Are you taking credit or debit cards from your customers? Check to see if you are being charged fair merchant service fees.   Are your merchant service statements clear and easy to understand, or are they difficult to read by design?  Are the new reductions in interchange fees being passed on to you from your processor?  You may want to hire a consultant on a contingency basis to find your hidden charges.

4)  Keep your eyes open for publications that discuss all of the available tax advantages of which you can benefit.  Don’t just assume that your accountant has considered everything as it relates to your business.   For example, if you have purchased a building within the last 15 years, there may be some ways to significantly increase your cash flow by implementing a different way of handling how the asset is depreciated.  (And when I say “significant”, I mean significant!)

5)  Review your shipping vendor agreements.  Are you aware that between three and five percent of shipping transactions result in error, and you are entitled to refunds because of it?  Check to see if you are capturing all of the errors and subsequent refunds by hiring a consultant (on contingency) to review your contracts and their errors.

All of these are simple cost-reduction strategies that can be overlooked by your existing vendors and/or consultants.  Always be looking out for minding your own store, because cost savings strategies are simple and just around the corner!


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Ashley Berg

CEO, Bottom Line Plus, LLC

Ashley Berg, is the CEO of Bottom Line Plus, LLC, a firm that advises employers and commercial property owners on offering over 100 different solutions that enhance the bottom line.  She is part of a national organization that has saved over $300 million for companies utilizing these cost saving programs. Over the course of her 30-year career, she has served in health care, insurance, and printing solutions industries as a “business advocate”. Ms. Berg is a mother, wife, volunteer, and athlete. She offers nationwide coverage, but resides in St. Augustine, FL. You can find out more about Bottom Line Plus, LLC on their website or send Ashley an email: ashleyberg@bottomlineplus.net

How to Prepare for Your Initial Cost Recovery Meeting

Your accountant has recommended that you sit down with a “contingency-based” savings consultant that is geared toward helping you find errors in many different areas:  workers compensation expense, waste management, merchant service fees, tax bills, wireless service, shipping and freight services, monitoring vendor insurance coverages, and the like.  The whole concept can be overwhelming.  You think to yourself, “Where will we begin to determine how to save?”  You might even think to yourself that you just don’t have time to delve into something of this magnitude.  Well, time is money, and most businesses want to stick to their core business, without having to learn about each and every service listed above, so many hire a cost recovery advocate to take care of finding money to put back on the bottom line.

Here are four tips to maximize the efficiency of your initial visit with this cost recovery advocate: 

1.  The person most interested in the bottom line should be at the meeting.  It’s fine to delegate the gathering of these few documents but the direction has to come from the top down and the owner of the company or franchise or commercial property owner has to drive the process.

2.  Be prepared to gather a few past bills, whether it’, tax, merchant services, wireless, freight, etc.  Nothing fancy, just something your cost recovery advisor can review to see if there are “inappropriate” charges.  From there, a proper baseline can be established with your cost recovery advisor.

3.  Don’t assume that everything you’re doing is correct.  If the focus is on the bottom line, be open to looking at small changes that may yield big returns.  For example, a simple review of your processes may indicate the need for a small administrative change on the front end.  Remember, garbage in is garbage out.

4.  Be ready to move forward.  Recognize that while you waste time in making a simple decision, you can waste money.  In most cases your cost recovery can begin immediately and there’s no reason to wait, particularly if your consultant is paid based on what they save.

In summary, don’t fret about your initial meeting.  The concept is simple…if both parties are focused on the bottom line, then the goals are in sync and the effort is minimal.  Just “do it”!