Receiving Credit Card Payments

Quite often we get questions from conference organizers on how to accept credit card payments. This is a short guide on how that works, what is required and the costs involved.

What is required?

If you want to receive credit card payments you need a contract with a financial institution called acquiring bank or short “acquirer” that accepts payments for the products or services on behalf of you and transfers the payments to your bank account.

The contract of a merchant (i.e. a conference organizer) with the acquiring bank is referred to as merchant account. The acquiring bank exchanges funds with the issuing banks of the credit cards and pays the merchant for their daily payment card activity. You may collect the credit card details of your clients (i.e. participants) for instance using a payment statement that is printed by the participant and sent to the organizers by mail or fax.

For automatic online payment services a payment service provider is required, too. These institutes offer merchants online services using an e-commerce gateway (also known as merchant gateway) for accepting electronic payments. Some providers offer a variety of payment methods including credit card, real-time bank transfer and special services like e-wallets (PayPal.com, Skrill.com).

ConfTool Pro already integrates the interfaces to the gateways of several payment service providers. However, there are very many of them, and in every country different institutes offer these services. So if you need to make use of an e-commerce gateway, please contact us first. Please note that we charge a fee for the payment module and for creating the link to the e-commerce gateway of the payment service provider.

We do not charge extra fees for the use of PayPal, Stripe and Skrill with ConfTool Pro, the according modules are already included. These payment systems can also be used to receive credit card payments.

Parties and Costs Involved

In order to be able to receive payments by credit card, some additional costs will have to be borne by the merchant (the conference organizer), as several parties are involved in the payment process:

  • The client (cardholder, customer, consumer, or participant) is the person that pays for a service or product to a merchant (conference organizer). The client may pay a fee of 1% - 3% for foreign transactions; the merchant pays all remaining fees.
  • The Credit Card Association is an alliance of card-issuing banks such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. They assign licenses for the use of their credit cards and set the transaction terms for merchants, card-issuing banks, and acquiring banks.
  • The issuing bank is the financial institution or organization that issues credit cards to cardholders (participants). This bank bills the cardholder for repayment. They deduct an interchange fee to the merchant. These “fixed rates” (rates based on the amount of the transaction) are set by the card association.
  • The acquirer (acquiring bank) is the financial institution or organization that accepts payment for the products or services on behalf of the merchant (conference organizer). They charge acquirer fees, varying at the acquirer’s discretion (see below).
  • The payment service provider charges an internet gateway fee and/or a processing fee (see below).
  • There are even other parties involved such as the card transaction network that implements the mechanics of electronic transactions between the institutes. However, this is usually not of your concern.

Please note: Many acquirers have special contracts with one or several payment service providers. The merchant (conference organizer) may require only one contract with an acquirer that includes an e-commerce gateway service. The acquirer fees may consist of several components. The following terms, wordings and fees vary and are therefore examples:

  • Application fee: Charged once to establish the contract, usually between €200 and €500.
  • Setup fee: Charged once to setup the e-commerce gateway for online payments, between €0 and €350.
  • Statement fees and/or service fees may be charged regularly, e.g. per month. Many institutes offer different contracts (“plans”), e.g. if the monthly fees are higher, the transaction fees get lower.
  • Interchange fee: A rate per transaction of 0.2% - 2.2% of the total payment (this depends on the credit card association, according to the information we got). By EU regulation from the end of December 2015 on interchange fees, these fees have been capped from 0.2% - 0.3% for VISA and Mastercard within the European Union. Hint: It also has an impact on merchant contracts signed before the end of 2015.
  • Acquirer fee: A rate per transaction of usually about 1.5% - 3.5% of the total payment.
  • Gateway transaction fee: Fee per processed credit card transaction. Usually between €0.20 and €0.50.
  • Chargeback fee: If a transaction is cancelled by the client, the acquirer may charge an (quite substantial) extra fee.
Credit Card Fees Explained
Click on image to enlarge

Important Hints

If you think you have to offer card payments, i.e. as you have many international (especially American) participants, please consider the following:

  • Does your organization or an affiliated organization already hold a merchant account? If not, consider the costs: For smaller events already the application fees may be an inacceptable burden.
  • For payments within the EU always offer bank transfer (wire transfer). This payment method is fast (it must take less than 3 working days within the EU) and (usually) free if both accounts are in Euro. 
  • Consider payment service providers such as PayPal or Stripe, for which you do not have to establish your own merchant account, as alternatives for your Credit Card payments. There are also transaction fees of about 3% - 4% involved, but no setup or statement fees. Please see this external link "[Getting Paid] How to Choose Between PayPal vs Stripe vs Merchant Accounts" for more background information.
  • Please note that Credit Card (or PayPal) payments are reversible payments. This means that the customer may cancel a payment usually up to 60 days after purchase. Sometimes the merchant is even charged for such cancellations.
  • Please also consider that credit card payments are sometimes subject to fraud, also for conference registrations. One example is people who register as participant with grifted card details to get an invitation and visa to the hosting country.
  • Before you conclude a contract with an acquirer: 
  • Ask for all fees involved. 
  • Ask for the minimum term of agreement and how and when you have to cancel the contract after the event.
  • Ask how long it takes until the money is credited to your bank account. Some acquirers credit the amount after 60 or 90 days.

Available Gateway Modules for ConfTool Pro

Currently we can provide modules for ConfTool Pro to link the participant registration to the following payment gateways. Please note that the merchant account has to be created and provided by the organizers, i.e., it is not provided by ConfTool GmbH.

Already included in ConfTool Pro are modules to connect the system to:

  • PayPal: Available in many countries, conditions and supported payment methods vary depending on the country of the merchant.
  • Stripe: Available to merchants in many western countries to accept card payments without user account from anywhere. Currently no monthly or setup fees.
  • Skrill [formerly Moneybookers]: Available in many countries, usually integrates more payment methods than PayPal, but monthly fees apply.

An extra module (causing additional fees) for ConfTool Pro is required for:

Further supported payment systems:

  • iDEAL online bank transfer (Netherlands)
  • KU Leuven Payment System (via Ogone/Igenico), Belgium
  • ICS UCI payment gateway (University of California, Irvine, US)
  • University of Maryland ECM Electronic Payment Redirect to Sallie Mae, US
  • UBC ePayment Web Service (University of British Columbia, Canada)
  • ETS payment gateway (Ecole Technologie Superieure, Quebec, CA)
  • University of Southampton Web Payments, UK
  • WMP M+ XPay Payment Gateway of Aston University, UK
  • UNIGE payment gateway (Université de Genève, Switzerland)
  • EPFL Service Central de Paiement en Ligne  (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne)
  • SUPSI Payment Gateway of USI (Universita della Svizzera Italiana, Switzerland)
  • Payment Gateway of the Universidad de Málaga (Spain)

Receiving Credit Card Payments at the Conference Venue

The above gateways can generally also be used to receive credit card payments at the conference venue if you give your participants the option to access PCs in the registration area. However, sometimes these payments will fail, as the gateway system or bank will notice that the client is not at his home (country) and they will therefore block the payment for security reasons. The participant can then try to call his/her bank to clear the payment, but also that does not always work (depending on the bank and gateway).

There are several alternatives for so-called "card present" payments that allow participants to pay locally with their card and result in lower payment fees: Either ask your acquirer how much they charge for a local point of sale (POS) terminal, or have a look at the following options that only require a smartphone and a plastic payment card reader. The companies listed below have the advantage of not charging monthly fees for this service. Their systems can usually also be used for debit card (e. g. Maestro) payments.

No responsibility is taken for the completeness and correctness of this information. Feedback is welcome.