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Smart Ways to Manage Your Merchant Account for Long Term

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How to Apply

blank You don’t have to tell us how tough it is to win a high-risk merchant account, we hear about it every day from our callers. Luckily, because First Financial specializes in high-risk merchant accounts, every day, we ease minds and get scores of businesses on the path to accepting credit cards. Adult related services, golf club manufacturers, travel agencies and airlines all have one thing in common: relegation to the high-risk merchant account category. Despite a few extra steps, businesses in these industries and 30 or so more niches run profitably. Here at First Financial, we urge applicants to rid the term “high-risk” of its typical, negative meaning and instead consider it just another category that requires a few more steps before credit card money payments start pouring in.

Once a business has proven its reliability and business potential to a merchant services provider, it doesn’t relish the idea of going through the whole process all over again. That’s why it’s key to skillfully manage the high-risk account you win to avoid charge backs and other issues that the processor could see as a red flag. We find that lots of these red flags simply amount to oversights typical of the hard-working, thinly stretched entrepreneur. Still, knowing exactly how to run your merchant account can save you hassle, time and money and hopefully win you a dedicated merchant service provider that stays with you for decades.

Avoid Chargebacks by Providing Helpful, Available Customer Service
We tackle the biggest issue first. A high rate of chargebacks (returns) is the number one reason so many large banks refuse to even speak to the businesses in the 30+ high-risk industries. Airlines and travel agencies get chargebacks when travelers decide last minute that Las Vegas is too just crowded and Yosemite calls to them instead. Golf club manufacturers get chargebacks when their clubs DON’T turn buyers into LGPA tour competitors (imagine that!).

While many put chargebacks in “the price of doing business” category, conscientious customer service reduces them significantly. Giving your ideal clients easy ways to contact you—rather than the merchant service provider—reduces your chargeback rate significantly. Make your business transparent and easy to contact by making the following adjustments to your website and other customer contact points.

• Clearly post email addresses and phone numbers on your website.

• Create Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube channels where customers are free to post their opinions, complaints and even praise. Recognize that every business now has customers posting criticism and praise every day. Most readers can differentiate the crackpots from the reasonable people.

• Consider setting up an email newsletter that keeps your customers in contact with you. Make it clear that the newsletter’s purpose is to support the customer’s optimal use of your products and services.

While this level of transparency can intimidate some business owners, rest assured that research consistently confirms that customer service representatives and others easily turn complaining customers into brand evangelists simply by listening to customer complaints, sympathizing and rectifying any errors.

One of the most respected ways to indicate a business’ transparency is to make sure to include complete descriptor information on the consumer’s monthly credit card statement. Make sure the consumer can read the full company name and complete customer service number. High-risk merchant accounts get cancelled when incomplete phone numbers or business names appear. Ensure your contact information is correct by running a test transaction.

Other ways to limit chargebacks include:
• Manually review transactions where the customer’s authentication request was declined. Consider calling the buyer.
• Create and disclose all return, privacy, refund, return and cancellation policies.
• Review and batch transactions on a daily basis.
• Insist on proof of identification upon delivery for high priced items.
• Cancel orders immediately upon client request.
• Consumers change credit cards frequently. Work with your merchant account provider to set up automatic credit card updates.

Demonstrate Client Service
In the era of digital marketing when businesses have to provide all kinds of value before winning a sale, businesses must go the extra mile to forge lasting relationships with each and every customer. Merchant service providers appreciate signals that a business works to benefit its clients. Express client services take the form of emails to customers to report when an order is shipped that also provides the tracking code. Emails that explain an order is on backorder also indicates to merchant service providers that the high-risk business operates for the benefit of their customer base. Finally, satisfying customers demanding refunds may feel like short-term pain, but long-term reliability and respectability. Even if a business wins a chargeback dispute, that chargeback still remains on their record. Is it worth it?

Fast Response to Merchant Services Inquiries
When the merchant services agency contacts the business to discuss a dispute, a fast response reassures the agency that the business operates in a responsible, efficient manner. Business occurs between people. A merchant services representative that gets a satisfying, friendly answer from a customer service representative or business owner will of course view that case more favorably than the business without this courtesy.

Take the Time to Monitor Accounts and Use Fraud Protection
Increasingly sophisticated Internet criminals attempt fraudulent purchases in hopes for a return that results in cash. Always manually review your monthly statements and consider calling buyers that seem suspicious. Do not ship until you’ve established the buyer’s sincerity.

Most merchant services offer fraud protection that block transactions from countries notorious for high levels of fraud. It also compares each credit card transaction against reliable standards to reduce instances of fraud.

First Financial Merchant Services Welcomes Businesses In High Risk Industries
First Financial has found the merchant service providers who are hungry to get businesses in high-risk industries accepting credit cards. With the majority of American consumers using credit cards more than other payments at a rate of three to one, any business that wants to reach optimal cash flow must accept credit cards. Apply for a high-risk merchant account here. Follow us on Facebook to get smart budgeting and saving tips!

How Terminated Merchants Get Card Processing Services

blank Have you been surprised with a terminated merchant notice? You’re not alone. Each year, tens of thousands of business owners get the same notice for both legitimate and unnecessary reasons. Terminated merchants have several options available. Landing in  “Terminated Merchant File” (TMF) doesn’t mean you’re out of business. While these designations are confusing and even infuriating now, rest assured that A+ rated First Financial can help get you back to accepting credit cards fast.

Terminated merchants turn frown upside down

 

Who Controls TML and MATCH?

For a long time, the term “terminated merchant list” served as a casual designation indicating that a merchant has become “black-listed” with even high risk merchant account service providers. MasterCard made the system official by creating a database about businesses and their owners whose merchant account services providers had terminated them. They gave the new system the acronym MATCH for “Merchant Alert to Control High Risk.” At this time, most in the industry use this terminology.

Understanding Why Your High Risk Card Processor Dropped You

When terminated merchants get in contact with us, their designation “MATCH-listed” has come as a surprise. Many only realize their business is on this list after seeking a new credit card processor. The MATCH list was the first place the new processor went when considering this new high risk merchant account. Presence on the MATCH list is the quick and easy way the new processor finds rationale to turn a business down—AFTER collecting the application fees. If you’ve been placed on the MATCH list, the only way of removing your name is by contacting the processor or bank that put you there. Only that entity has the legal authority to remove you. Disputing the designation with the bank or merchant processor may require a lawyer’s help, and some lawyers specialize in this niche. Legal expenses can be worth it considering the MATCH listing remains active for five years. Understanding why your processor placed you on the MATCH list will prevent this hassle from happening again. Generally, the acquiring bank or processor finds out that while you were with your previous processor, you committed one or more “disqualifying acts” that exceeded the level of risk they contracted to undertake. Typically, your contract listed these acts and informed you that committing them qualified as a breach of contract and justification to end the relationship. Disqualifying acts include:

  • Excessive deposits for transactions without cardholders authorization
  • A conviction for credit or debit card fraud in any federal, state or county court
  • Evidence of counterfeit activities
  • Excessive chargebacks caused by business practices or procedures
  • Evidence of money “laundering”
  • Sufficient evidence that merchant is engaging in fraudulent activities.

On the other hand, keep in mind, too, that banks and card processors SOMETIMES MAKE MISTAKES. If you feel your MATCH listing is an error, by all means fight it. Beware “Guaranteed Acceptance” Offers for Terminated Merchants In an effort to bring in application fees, some shady businesses imply or even claim that their high risk merchant account processors accept all terminated merchants. Merchants apply and wait a few weeks or even a month, only to learn that they didn’t qualify after all. First Financial’s carefully screened and selected processors specialize in terminated merchants in high risk industries. These processors are aware from the beginning that the merchant is on the MATCH list. They strive to make the relationship work. Further, A+ rated First Financial merchants get:

  • the most competitive rates in the high risk niche
  • highest levels of security and encryption permitted by the U.S. government
  • the most current processing equipment
  • quick response time and courteous support
  • simple approval process and set-up

The ability to accept credit cards can make or break many businesses. Get your business

7 Things You Should Know About Having a High Risk Merchant Account

7 Things You Should Know About Having a High Risk Merchant Account

Conceptual business illustration with the words merchant account
Having a high risk merchant account is a necessity for some businesses. Learn more about this type of account with these seven facts.

If you have an online business, accepting credit cards as a form of payment is absolutely critical to your success and your bottom line.

But if your business is considered high risk, finding the right match can be a daunting task.

So, what do you need to know about having a high risk merchant account before you begin looking for the right company to serve your needs? Here are nine things you should be aware of before you make a commitment.

1. Determine if Your Business is Considered High Risk

Before you select a merchant processor, you need to know if your business is even considered to be high risk. The criteria can vary widely between providers, but one of the first things they look at is if your industry typically has a high rate of fraud or chargebacks.

If you’re not operating from the United States, this is another potential indicator of high risk. Certain categories like firearms, drug paraphernalia, or even auction sites may also be considered high risk. Find out if you fall into this category first so you can be prepared for the next steps.

2. Prepare for Higher Fees and Longer Contract Terms

If you have a high risk merchant account, you can expect to pay more in processing charges and billed account fees. The reason is that your processor is taking you on as a risk, so they’re passing the cost of that risk on to you.

You’ll also likely have to keep your contract with the processor longer than you would if you were not a high-risk client. On average, high-risk accounts must stay with the same processor for three years or even longer.

An auto renewal clause is usually included which can force you to remain an ongoing customer for periods of a one-year minimum after each renewal. If you want to cancel, you’ll likely get hit with an early termination fee.

3. Check Available Plans for Your High Risk Merchant Account

Merchant processing plans can vary, so shop around until you find one that offers terms you can live with. Traditionally, these fees are charged on something called an interchange-plus pricing plan, although your rates will be higher than a low or no-risk account.

Find out if you can get a flat-rate pricing plan which will make billing a lot easier. If you discover that a merchant processor is charging extremely high per-transaction charges, you may want to steer clear. Compare rates and plans until you find one that’s within a reasonable amount.

4. Be Aware of Rolling Reserves

The term rolling reserves refers to money that is set aside from the proceeds of your sales in order to cover certain expenses. These reserves will help pay for things like chargebacks, and they’re put in place to protect the merchant processor.

Since many high-risk accounts tend to go out business, these reserves are there to cover any unexpected costs to the merchant processing company. If you’re new in business, you can almost guarantee that this is a requirement. However, as time goes on, the rolling reserves should decrease as long as your account remains in good standing.

5. Read the Fine Print

Any reputable merchant processor will give you a contract that spells out all of your fees and terms. Make sure you read this thoroughly before you make a commitment.

Look closely for different clauses that could cause you to pay even more than you expected. Some companies claim to specialize in high-risk accounts so they feel that they can charge their merchant accounts exorbitant fees. Do your homework and never sign anything until you’re completely comfortable with the terms and the cost.

If you’re ever in doubt about a potential merchant processor, ask your fellow business owners who they recommend. You can also read reviews online to find out which ones most high-risk customers are happy with, and which ones to avoid.

6. Security Measures will be Added

A quality payment processor will add some layers of additional security to your account. This can actually benefit you since it will help prevent fraudulent transactions and dishonest chargeback claims.

Requiring things like CVV2 verification is a good thing since it protects you and your processor from fraud. Ask your provider about what kinds of security measures they take to protect themselves and your business from unscrupulous transactions.

7. Develop a Good Track Record

If you really want to lower the costs associated with a high risk merchant account, work diligently to prove your salt. This could mean anything from reducing or completely eliminating chargebacks to consistently showing a profit for a long period of time.

The longer your business does well and maintains its reputation, the better off you’ll be in the eyes of the merchant processor. Some providers may even reward their high-risk accounts with lower rolling reserves over time or even reducing fees as time goes on.

Ask several potential merchant processors what kind of benefits they offer high-risk accounts if they do well. You might be surprised at the progress and positive benefits you can reap once the business is more established.

Success is Possible

Even if you operate a high-risk business, there’s no need to despair. With a few helpful bits of information and a little research, you can find a quality high risk merchant account that will serve your needs well.

Visit our website for more information about: High Risk Merchant Services.

How to Find High Risk Merchant Services for Ecommerce Stores

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20 years ago, it was amazing to have a book come right to your door from a little online store called Amazon.

Today, what’s even more amazing is that you can run your own little online store and send your own crafts and other products to your customers’ doors. Online services like Shopify and Miva have made it easy to open stores, bringing in side-hustle level money or even creating full-time gigs.

Collecting money is a critical aspect in online business success. Luckily, the ecommerce platforms make it easy to connect with merchant processors to make accepting credit, debit, PayPal and more payments simple. You will need both a merchant service provider and a payment gateway. It may be a few steps, but accepting a wide variety of payments only takes filling in fields online. You the ecommerce platform about the merchant service and payment gateway you want and follow the instructions to connect both to your bank account and website.

The good news is that technology has progressed to the point where vendors can have a store without a website. Google Shopping, Facebook Stores and Instagram shops sidestep the need for a website. Merchants simply list their inventory on their ecommerce platform and feed it out through a line of code.

Even better, most ecommerce platforms accommodate any merchant service provider you choose. To pick the right one, consider your business’s potential expansion and make sure your plan will accommodate that growth. Also, ask the merchant account service what specific features they offer for ecommerce shops.

Test All Software and Hardware

Quality software and hardware require a trial run before unleashing your business upon a market. It also gives you a chance to check out the customer service that comes with your ecommerce platform and your merchant account. Run through some experimental purchases. Get this done because when a glitch occurs in real-time with a real customer, you want to be able to get it taken care of quickly and with little thought or research. You risk not only alienating customers but ending up with chargebacks and returns.

Understand Fees Involved

Merchant account service charge a percentage for all transactions plus a flat rate for each transaction and a fee for each month. If the merchant service is asking for application, setup, programming, annual or termination fees, be wary. These fees are often considered unethical, and the competent providers do not require them.

Depending on the type of ecommerce business you run, you may be better off paying more up front but allows you to have a greater number of transactions each month. You have to look at your business and crunch the numbers to see what works best for you.

Finally, look in the fine print for “transaction volume caps,” or other charges. These can eat into your profits. Set daily or monthly transaction caps could prompt your provider to shut your account down. That’s the last thing you want if a surge in sales arises during a promotional or holiday offer.

Merchant Services Help You Increase Your Sales – Call 1 (800) 950-0212

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4 Ways to Reduce Your Merchant Credit Card Processing Fees

Credit card processing fees just come with the territory. That customers spend 20 t0 50 percent more when using credit cards should reassure you that accepting them feeds your profits. Use these tips to keep even more of your profits when you reduce your merchant credit card processing fees.

Find the Processor that Wants You

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Just as lenders can specialize in certain types of borrowers, processors like to stock their portfolios with merchants that meet carefully selected criteria. They marshal the software and hardware that caters to different transaction amounts and volumes. They may also design their offers by a merchant’s average ticket price (ATP) or lifetime value (LTV). That’s why you should evaluate several merchant processors to see which wants to work hardest for your business.

This said, make sure that processors offering low rates also provide sufficient services and aren’t hiding fees. When you find a possible processor, check its Better Business Bureau rating. Create a spreadsheet and get answers to the following questions:

· What is the total interest rate when including all fees?

· What are the application, cancellation, statement and service fees? Can these be waived?

· Do you require contracts? What are the terms?

· How can I get a lower fee per transaction?

Those not willing to work with you do not deserve your business. Review the answers other merchant account services. Always read the fine print.

Hardware Considerations

Leasing credit card terminal means you’ll end up paying up to 20 times the machine’s cost. Typically, leases run for three to five years. While the terminals cost $200 to $400 up front, leasing can run from $40 to $70 each month. Keep in mind that you can also consider mobile credit card readers that plug into smartphones. These include Paypal Here, SparkPay, Intuit GoPayment and more.

There are also a handful of new mobile credit card readers merchants can consider. These inexpensive devices plug into a smartphone or tablet and allow credit cards to be accepted from anywhere. Examples include Square, Etsy, Intuit GoPayment, Paypal Here, Spark Pay and Amazon Local Register. Evaluate them to determine which fit your sales type and volume.

Remember to Swipe Rather than Entering Manually

When the merchant enters the cardholder’s information manually, they’ll pay more in fees per transaction than if swiping the card. Accounting software Intuit tells us that this is because processors know that manually entered transactions can be more easily hacked by thieves. A credit card’s magnetic strip or EMV chip has the most state-of-the-art security features. When a merchant enters numbers manually, those security features are not engaged. With risk of fraud high with manual entry, processors balance their risk by charging more. If you have to retrain cashiers, do it.

Use Minimum Sales Amounts to Maximize Profits

Convenience stores and restaurants have credit card use minimums for good reason. Small transactions with thin margins can make the sale a money loser. Some merchants worry that a minimum could cut sales. If customers push back on this policy, explaining the costs involved usually helps them understand.

All it takes is putting up a note that says you accept credit cards, but require a minimum sale of $10 or $20. If a customer doesn’t understand, simply explain that the cost of processing plastic can be burdensome.

Today, all businesses must accept credit and debit cards. With all of the additional payment methods requiring a processor, no business can go without a merchant account. The fees involved should not scare you away from providing your customers a wide variety of ways to pay.

Merchant Services Help You Increase Your Sales – Call 1 (800) 950-0212

14 Forgotten Items and 14 Places to Sell Them to Pay Off Your Cash Advance

blank As much as we want to believe the future is bright, many Americans still struggle to get ahead.  Saving enough for a home down-payment or credit card consolidation can seem daunting.

Renowned online financial planning publisher Bankrate explains that that more than three in four Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and 76 million Americans struggle to keep food on the table. Believe it or not, 80% of American adults are in some form of debt. Even though the majority of us depend on debt to maintain our current lifestyle. Many depend on the cash advance to repair cars and computers or pay the medical bills that keep us earning.

The largest online marketplaces include:

CraigsList: while you set the price, people will still offer less. Still, you stand to get more on craigslist than selling to a pawn shop because you’re selling direct to the end consumer. There’s no middle man needing his or her cut.

Close5:  the reselling newcomer in App form, Close5 only lists people with items within 5 miles of you. Like CraigsList, you can set the price, but buyers will try to haggle.

eBay:  unlike CraigsList, eBay operates on an auction system where you set a starting price and hope it moves up from there. You can also choose to not sell if you don’t get the amount you want. An eBay account is very simple to set up. Keep in mind that you will pay shipping.

Pawn Shops:  the best place if you need cash fast. Managers have certain prices and set margins they must stick to, however, leaving less for you.

Those who looking to escape debt or pay off credit cards or a cash advance should look to the items in their homes they no longer need. This step not only brings down your interest payments, it declutters your home. Review this list for good items to sell and the best outlets to sell them:

  • tools: CraigsList, pawn shops
  • phones: gazelle.com and a GameStop near you
  • video games: GameStop, especially if you’re buying new games or Amazon’s Trade In program, now an eBay company, also takes used video games
  • music, videos and DVDs: Second Spin is the largest re-seller of used DVDs, Blu-Ray and videos. DeClutter and com are other possibilities
  • sporting equipment: A Play It Again Sports store near you. Otherwise, CraigsList, Close5 and pawn shops.
  • appliances: CraigsList, Close5 and pawn shops
  • books: bookscouter.com (especially for text books) and Amazon’s book buyback program
  • clothing: high quality, gently used clothing is best turned over to a consignment store. Popular lines get the best return on eBay or CraigsList. There’s also the new ThredUp which sends you a bag in which to send your old clothes. This outlet tends to prefer designers like Ann Taylor, Calvin Klein, etc.
  • kid’s toys: especially when put together in age-appropriate bundles and sold on eBay, Close5 or CraigsList
  • jewelry: estate jewelry shops and consignment stores. Get appraisals first!
  • music instruments: Local music stores, but they will want a slice of the profit. With Close5 and CraigsList, you sell directly to the parent.
  • furniture: consider Close5 and offer to deliver. Shipping costs for big items will cut into your selling price. If that doesn’t work, look around eBay to see what your piece may be worth and try to get that at a yard sale.
  • cameras: Keh Cameras still takes film cameras, but better prices are for the DSLRs. It also takes vintage cameras for higher prices. Otherwise eBay. Again, look around to see where the better prices are.

 

Steps to Start Generating Cash from Your Forgotten Items

  1. Check unused rooms, basement, attics, trunks of cars and garage. List all of it and beside the list, write the marketplaces you’ll try first and second.

Don’t let your emotional response guide you. If you know you don’t need that item anymore, let it go. It will be of much use for others. Family members, living and dead, will be proud of you for getting your finances in order.

  1. Set up your accounts on sites like eBay and Craigslist.
  1. Take pictures of the items you are about to re-sell. Remember, make it appealing. Try many angles of the picture so the customers can check every side of the item. Borrow a friend’s DSLR to get the best shots and Google how to light items correctly.
  1. Check the shipping costs at usps.com so that so you won’t lose money when shipping an item.
  2. Finalize the list and check the complete list of items you have. Explore how much similar items are going for on eBay, CraigsList, Close5 and others. If you’re selling jewelry, silver or gold, make sure to get an appraisal first.
  3. Create listings for every item. There are many ways to simplify this process, but some find listing on Saturdays or Sundays keep them on track better.
  4. Check messages once in a while. Buyers will have clarifications or questions regarding your product and their messages will come frequently. If you have more bidders, higher prices in the end.
  5. If you already sold and shipped a product, immediately leave feedback for the buyer. Ship the items immediately as possible to avoid negative feedback and win good reviews.

First Financial helps Americans get the cash they need at the most competitive rates. In the digital era, we set up and help you manage your cash advance, business loan or merchant services 100% online. We specialize in products for all kinds of borrowers, including those with fair and poor credit. We’ve done the work to find appropriate lenders that keep you solvent!

Multi-Level Marketing Enjoying Upswing

graphic of multilevel marketing account

blank Next time anyone hints that multi-level marketing is a “fringe” business, let them know that in 2015 it brought in $40 billion, a level on par with the pet and cosmetics industries.

Recently, a Forbes article even positioned multi-level marketing as a solution to America’s current retirement savings crisis. After conducting his own research on the multi-level marketing industry, the once-skeptical Forbes author and self-proclaimed retirement activist Robert Laura states, “I no longer perceive these types of opportunities as money-making pyramid schemes. Instead, I now see it as a way to enhance many of the personal aspects of retirement.”

Laura isn’t alone. Some of the nation’s strictest number crunchers concur.

IBIS World, the renowned resource for industry trends, reported that direct selling companies (aka the multi-level marketing industry) has shown annual growth each year over the past five. IBIS World predicts that, “the industry is expected to continue to grow, driven by improved consumer confidence.”

The Direct Selling Association Growth & Outlook Survey also forecasts a robust future for multi-level marketing. Not only has the industry grown every year since 2009, the 5.5% increase in revenues from 2013 to 2014 entices anyone looking to make a living selling unique products through community connections.

Springboard Your MLM Business on 2016 Trends

As much as industry pundits’ perspectives support multilevel marketing’s potential, staying current on the prevailing trends in the industry maximizes sales. Consider:

• Tie-ins Boost Sales: Tailor your product to your clientele, regionally. Tie in your product with a popular local festival, or any other popular seasonal event. Whether it’s a tie-in to a new Star Wars movie, or maybe a “back-to-school” sale bonanza, incorporating a fun theme keeps customers upbeat, and certain you’re looking out for them.

• Technology/Mobile Boosts Sales. Hit up your home base for any and every mobile solution they have. Leverage their sales and marketing apps, presentations and the screens that help you sign-up new recruits and customers via smartphones. Make sure ease of online payment is evident on these apps.

• Social Media and Email Keep You Connected. The Facebook group you create gets your messages to your team on a platform they most likely check daily anyway. Email (no more than weekly!) to both team members and customers keeps your business top of mind.

• Videos Familiarize. Don’t forget to post videos of yourself using new products, and then feel free to email/post on Facebook and YouTube. When your potential customers can see the product in action, they get more excited about experiencing it firsthand.

multilevel pyramid of people
A+ Rated First Financial Offers High Risk Merchant Accounts for Multi-Level Marketing Companies

Multi-level marketing revenue has gained ground since the economic downturn. Many Americans who lost their jobs in the wake of the recession established direct selling businesses as a means of income due to the relatively low start-up costs. As we approach 2020, the industry is expected to continue to grow, driven by improved consumer confidence, improving employment figures and disposable income. To get the multi-level marketing merchant account customers trust and appreciate, apply today!

Student Loan Consolidation Services Industry Outlook for 2016

Students learning about loan consolidation business

blank If you are in the business of providing student loan consolidation services, you may be concerned about the negative news coverage. Recent findings tell us concern over reliability is nonsense. In 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau declared the student lending crisis overblown.

The truth remains that banks consider student loan consolidations less risky than school-issued loans. Original loans go to students in the midst of their studies. Some haven’t even declared a major yet. Consolidation loans, on the other hand, require that the student has graduated, is employed, and has a track record of repayments on outstanding consumer debts. These three criteria reflect an individual in a far less risky situation.

Another benefit of student loan consolidations over government loans is that the enrollment application process is easier to navigate and less complex than enrolling for a Federal student loan.

Industry growth

The whole student loan consolidation service industry has grown. In the United States, the outstanding student loan debt currently stands at more than $1 trillion dollars. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s did an analysis that indicated 1.58 million student borrowers were enrolled in a repayment plan that was income-driven.

Changing Trends

The student loan consolidation industry is starting to change. The latest trend indicates that rather than focusing solely on a student’s FICO score, loan consolidators are looking more towards a student’s earning potential based on the college diploma earned. Even with a low FICO score, a student can still be considered creditworthy with a degree in a high-salary subject (engineering, e.g.).
Another trend bodes well for the industry. Graduates are still able to refinance a federal student loan through a private consolidation service without losing the protections from a federal student loan.

Federal Student Loans Are Not Necessarily Secure

Once you convince your clients that private student debt consolidation works as well for recent graduates as public version, success in the student debt consolidation industry follows.

Explain to clients that the government itself in in currently debt by more than 19 trillion dollars. If a student gets a federal loan, it is basically backed by that national debt. Federal funding for a student’s education runs the risk of becoming null and void. A private firm student loan, however, is backed by private lenders, and potentially more reliable.

silhouetted students against city backdrop

The Merchant Account Connects the New Grad and the Loan Provider

You may have already learned that your student loan consolidation business falls into the high risk category. Don’t panic about obtaining a merchant account. First Financial specializes in high risk industries and will make sure you can process the payments coming in. Read about our student loan services merchant accounts here!

Considering Freelance? Website Design Industry Outlook for 2016 & Beyond

FF BP April W1 2016 Image

blank Web designers are a lucky lot. Creative colleagues, new projects and ever-changing technology make for constant stimulation and growth.

Those who have been working at agencies or in a corporate setting for a while sometimes feel they need to stretch their wings as entrepreneurs. The freedom and prestige to own your own business can prove irresistible despite concerns over steady income, staying on task and finding affordable health insurance.

Pros and cons fill any career choice. Perhaps the best way to make your decision is to gauge your personality type. Entrepreneurs tend to be tenacious risk-takers, plagued by creativity and a desire to break rules and make something new. For this lot, self-employment satisfies like nothing else. Life as a corporate employee could feel stifling. Each reader has to determine whether they have the capital (typically twice as much as planned), time (typically twice as much as planned), family understanding, tenacity and willingness to work. If so, this post should allay any concerns about the future of the web design industry.


Experts Agree: Web Design, Development and SEO Has a Robust Future

If you’re a web designer, developer and/or search specialist with entrepreneurial spirit, you’ve got some trends on your side.

First, according to research from Graphic Design Degree Hub, the average freelancer makes 45% more than the individual working for an agency or corporation. The average web entrepreneur makes $68,000 where her nine-to-five colleague gets $46,800. Seventy-five percent of all freelancers make over $65,000 per year.

Secondly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ outlook for web designers is glowing. Where demand for the average American job will increase by 7% until the year 2024 (less than one percent per year), the American economy will call for 27% more web developers (nearly 3% increase per year).

Backing up this need for web design, IBIS world finds that the industry will grow 5% yearly. Currently a 24-billion-dollar market, web design will keep adding another one billion per year of closed business over the next decade. By 2024, web design will be a 35 billion dollar industry.

Google’s preference for mobile-friendly design poured significant revenue into the pockets of web designers who needed to upgrade websites to render on smartphones. Who knows what the next big shift will be? Entranced by technology upgrades, website owners will always need upgrades as platforms and software continue to evolve. These trends only mean more revenues for web designers and developers.

The Entrepreneur’s Two Biggest Concerns: Recession & Responsibility

Many talented employees feel intimidated about going out on their own because the future can seem so uncertain. In 2014, just one in seven web developers was self-employed. Recessions do emerge about every seven years, and they can cut back on business. An economic downturn affects both employees and the self-employed, however. Surprisingly, about half of freelancers report they aren’t impacted by recessions. Further, recessions cause employee layoffs, and in those cases, all income is cut overnight. Finally, since the downturn of 2008, the government has put controls into place to make sure instability never gets to those levels again.

Recessions tend to be beyond the entrepreneur’s control. What about the aspects of entrepreneurship that are within one’s control. These can be just as intimidating.

Budding entrepreneurs handle not only all the creative aspects of the new job, but they are
• the accounting department (handling all estimates, invoices and collections),
• the marketing department (getting new clients),
• the IT department (paying for all computer repair, paper, ink, etc.)
• and administration (handling all calls.)

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Each solopreneur must set up an accounting system, IT solutions, supplies and merchant accounts to accept client’s credit cards. As mentioned above, if wearing 17 different hats feels fun rather than overwhelming, you’re cut from entrepreneurial cloth. Whichever career path the web designer chooses, he or she will have well-paying work for life!

Get Customers’ Contact Info During Busy Holiday Season and Win All Year

Two women shopping
blank ‘Tis the season when throngs of holiday shoppers inevitably create increased traffic to your retail or internet-based business. Did you realize that 40% of U.S. consumers plan to spend more even more on their holiday shopping in 2015 than they did last year? It would be a waste NOT to grab those customers’ contact information, so that in the future those same customers can continually be reminded of your products or service. How can you acquire your customers’ coveted contact information without seeming pushy? It’s easy, if you follow these five simple
suggestions.

1. Have a raffle contest
Is there a particularly popular item that your customers are craving? Offer it up as a raffle prize! You can also offer up gift cards or perhaps “50% off!” offers as potential prizes. Have entry forms available for customers to fill out, and then ask for their email and/or home address. You can also hand the entry forms to your customers after they make a purchase. (Be sure to include some text on the form indicating that the customer, by filling it out, is giving your store permission to contact him or her in the future.)

2. Provide email-only coupon deals
Consider placing sign-up sheets in various spots within your retail shop for customers to fill out in order to receive online-only emailed coupons. You can even consider providing a monthly e-newsletter if time permits, in which your customers will be guaranteed exclusive savings if they sign up. This is also a great opportunity for you to tout those new products, and build up momentum for future sales.

3. Have a holiday-themed coloring contest for children
Parents are overjoyed to include their offspring into the joy of the season. This is why you should have a holiday-themed coloring contest where children can color in a picture of, perhaps, a snowman holding your product, or even a Santa figure touting your service. In the event that a particular child should win the coloring contest, parents will be required to fill out their contact information on the lower corner of the coloring sheet, including their email address and phone number. Voila! You now have your customers’ contact information.

4. Encourage your customers to post their holiday photos with your product.
Did you know it is predicted that by 2016, 25% of all retail ecommerce sales in the U.S. will take place through a mobile devices? Take advantage of those cell phone-savvy customers by encouraging them to post their selfies with your product onto your social media locations (i.e., Facebook/Instagram/company website). You can even provide a fun holiday-themed store backdrop for these customers pose in front of. If it’s an online business, ask your customers to post a photo of them holding your product while wearing an “ugly Christmas sweater,” for example. You can then get their coveted cell phone numbers or email addresses, and send them special deals in the future.

5. Just ASK for your customer’s contact information when completing a sale.
Be vocal and ask your customers for their contact information when you’re completing their sale, so that they can receive special discounts or freebies. You don’t want to be too pushy, though, if they refuse. Also, once you get their contact information, don’t go overboard with the email offers. The a monthly or quarterly email deal should suffice. If you overdo those emails, your customers will simply delete all future emails from your business. So exercise good judgment when it comes to making follow-up calls and/or emails.

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First Financial Will Help Your Business Attract New Customers this Holiday Season

Take advantage of the holiday crowds, and parlay those customers into future shoppers that will continue to be excited about your products or services. As long as you get their contact information, your business can continue to remind these customers about the wonderful merchandise you carry. First Financial can help your business grow. We are the nation’s leading provider of merchant accounts, particularly for the high-risk borrowers. Apply for a small business merchant advance here. It only takes a few minutes. You can also follow First Financial on Facebook for even more tips on how to successfully

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