ABCs of Credit Card Processing

ABCs of Credit Card Processing

Learn more about the basics of credit card processing from Best Card, a WSDA endorsed company.

By Jennifer Nieto
President, RJ Card Processing
DBA Best Card, a WSDA Endorsed Company

If you’ve looked at your monthly bills, you know that credit card processing fees can be complicated, hard to understand, and unnecessarily expensive. It doesn’t have to be this way! With just a little bit of information, you’ll be able to understand where the costs come from and what they should be.


Rather than look at any individual card (which is how many companies try to claim low fees) it’s best to look at your effective rate by taking the total amount paid in all rates and fees and dividing it by the total amount run in sales for the month. Example: $420 in fees ÷ $20,000 processed = 0.021, or 2.1%. Best Card’s average dental office pays an effective rate of 2.1%, which means they pay just $2.10 to process $100 in sales.


Any time you run a card there is an exact fee that has to be paid to the card brands depending on the type of card run (the system will automatically know the card type) and the method in which the payment was run. This cost is known as Interchange and is the direct cost that any credit card processor has to pay; there are more than 1,200 different cards, each with their own Interchange cost. In this way all processors have the same “price floor” and it is what is charged on top of this where processing companies compete. That said, there are specific things that you can do in the office to limit your Interchange costs and save additional money, including:

  • Have your staff ask for debit cards, as debit cards are far cheaper than credit cards to run (there’s no risk to the card company they won’t pay their monthly bill and there are no perks/rewards to pay). Debit cards can cost a fraction of credit card sales.
  • Swipe the card or use the chip for the lowest rates rather than hand-keying in the card number. If the card is present, there is a lower risk of fraud which results in the lowest possible transaction cost on all card types.
    • When you process card-not-present transactions (keyed cards), make sure to enter the street address and zip code associated with the card to avoid additional fees and get a slightly lower rate.
  • The PCI Security Council mandates annual completion of a self-assessment questionnaire (SAQ), and quarterly network scans if using ethernet/online connectivity. Best Card maintains >90% compliance as we send emails and assist to get merchants compliant. We prepare thousands of cost comparisons and see processors charge $18.95-$39+ per month in non-compliance fees on approximately 70% of analysis requests, and this is what the industry as a whole is reporting. Get compliant!


In addition to the Interchange costs, there are also Card Brand Fees, which are many small fees charged directly by the card brands for access to their networks (Dues and Assessments, FANF, data kilobyte usage, etc). While all processors pay those same fees, many processors surcharge above the actual cost. Best Card pass them through exactly at cost.

Just because all credit card processors have the same costs doesn’t mean that they charge their customers the same price for their services. There are a few popular pricing models:

  • Interchange Plus: Pass through all card costs with a fixed surcharge percentage (and sometimes per transaction fee). We are seeing more processors (especially those with autopost of payment into dental software) add additional surcharges to some or all cards to boost their profit. Best Card offers any WSDA member Interchange + 0.30% + $0 per transaction, which is significantly below the industry average.
  • Tiered: Group all cards (see above Interchange) into 3-6 “Tiers” based on similarly priced cards. Some processors may have a base rate and surcharge for “non-qualified” cards that have higher Interchange cost. If you see Qualified, Mid-Qualified or Non-Qualified on your statement you’re likely on tiered pricing.
  • Flat Rate: Charge one fee for all cards, or sometimes a card present fee and a more expensive card-not-present fee. These rates can be very high because they have to make sure the processor isn’t losing money if there are too many transactions with higher cost cards.
  • Convenience Fee: While there are a couple variations, this includes have your patients pay the fee for accepting cards, generally at very high rates well above your normal cost. This not only has extensive reporting requirements with the card brands, but some states do not allow passing a surcharge onto the customer and patients tend to respond negatively.


While any pricing method can be competitive, Interchange and Tiered are usually the most competitive pricing methods, assuming you have an ethical processor. If your processor is looking for ways to boost their profit at your expense, then any system might be more to their benefit than yours.


Best Card is WSDA-endorsed for credit card processing because we offer exclusive rates for WSDA members, have excellent customer service, and are committed to keeping costs low for dental offices. The average dental office saves $2,768 (24%) annually. We also have software options that can automatically post payments into most popular dental software. If you’d like to see what Best Card can save your practice, email a recent statement to or fax it to (866) 717-7247. Questions? We’d love to answer your questions so feel free to call toll free at (877) 739-3952. 

Jennifer Nieto is president of RJ Card Processing Inc. (d/b/a Best Card). Formerly, Jennifer was the director of finance for the Colorado Dental Association and an FDIC Bank Examiner/CPA. Best Card is currently endorsed by more than 25 medical and dental associations or their affiliates because they offer great expertise and pricing in the credit card industry.