Accepting Credit Cards

Are you accepting credit cards or planning on doing so. This has been several years of trial and error and just when I thought I had it all figured out I learned something new. Let me share with you what I have learned.

All the different ways to have a merchant account:

Virtual terminal (online) – this usually means the card is not present and you are manually keying in a credit card or you have a shopping cart or purchase button on your website.

Mobile (phone, iPad/tablet or computer) – the Square, most merchant accounts will offer you a swiping device or PayPal type of accounts.

Card reader (card reader machine, magnetic swipe and now chip) – where you swipe the card and you can also manually key in the purchase. cardreader

Telephone – with almost all of these you can call in a charge at usually a higher rate.

Merchant fees

The state of California does not let you pass off the merchant fees to the customer. What you are allowed to do is offer a discount for paying by cash or check.

The most common credit cards are Visa and MasterCard. American Express recently sent me a notice that they were changing their fees to be the same as the fees for Visa and MasterCard.

There are two fee structures:

  • The percentage rate you are charged for each transaction and a transaction fee.
  • The merchant fees you are charge
  • The flat fee programs like Square or PayPal

Costco is a good example:

On Site & In Store = 1.38%    .19 each transaction (card swiped)

Online = 1.99%                        .25 each transaction

On-the-Go = 1.38%                 .19 each transaction (card swiped)

The cheapest rates you will get are for when you have the card present and swipe it. Costco does seem to have the cheapest rates. You pay $5.00 fee for your monthly statement and if you have the card present and swipe it you can have 1.38% rate and .19 per transaction.

12/10/16 – Update
I have recently experienced using Stripe as a merchant account. It only allows for a shopping cart on your website or mobile device and the use of a plugin to create the shopping cart. Though it does seem to have the lowest of merchant charges. 2.9% + .30 per transaction, no monthly fees and no PCI charges. Stripe to me is a bit confusing and does need a web developer to set up. They are constantly coming up with new platforms that may eliminate the need for plugins but I would encourage you to look closer and what it offers. 

I prefer to have the ability to place a purchase button on my website for workshops or groups. This is a virtual account. What I have learned is that if you want to swipe cards you should get a merchant account for that, you will get the best rates and fee structure. Then if you wanted to do virtual you can still log in and run credit cards, you can also use a card swiper (but you will be charged at your virtual account rate) and you can place purchase buttons or a shopping cart on your website.

Sounds clear but it gets more complicated.

There are 4 types of cards for the most part:  (this is just an example)

  • Basic Credit Card = Qualified Card @ a rate of 1.99%
  • Rewards Card or Business Cards = mid qualified @ rate of 2.65%
  • Corporate cards = non qualified @ 2.89%
  • International Cards = I didn’t use this but I think the rate was over 3%

I understand why merchants often want to switch to square or PayPal where you are charged 2.75% as a flat fee.  Fact checking the rate I see that Square is going to offer a chip reader. This may be the best way to go. What I still need to find out is can you swipe or chip the card as well as do online purchase buttons.

So far with all of the companies I have spoken with you would need a merchant account to use a card reader machine and a second account if you wanted it to be virtual. I can swipe cards with my virtual account but I will not benefit from the lower rates I get when the card is present. It all has to do with risk, they prefer you have the card present and now use a chip reader, second is card present and magnetic swipe and last is not having the card present and either manually keying in the charge or having them online with a shopping cart or purchase button.

Having the ability to log in and make the charges when I want to has been useful to me. I have many clients that will pay me at the end of the month and I can log in when it is convenient for me to run the charges. I like to do all my billing at one time. The marketing rule of thumb has been that the easier you make it for someone to sign up and pay for a workshop or group you increase your registration by 8%. I know if print out a form and plan to send a check or credit card information I might procrastinate and then not do it at all. So accepting credit cards has been helpful in my practice. Learning about the right merchant account has been a nightmare. A final example of the nightmare. When I was speaking with the account person, asking them to go over my account, I learned the rate charged could change by how much information I put on the form. I had noticed with Costco all they wanted was the card information and zip code. With the current service I use I put in credit card info as well as name, full address and email if the person wants an email receipt. I had no idea this made a difference apparently to MasterCard, Visa and American Express it does.

I hope that my research has been helpful and if I can help in any way developing your practice or accepting credit cards please contact me at

Licia Ginne




Technology Withdrawal and It’s Use in a Private Practice


First computer- Imagine trying to get this to sit on top of your desk.

It wasn’t until I was out of town, and the small town I was in had hit and miss WI-FI and cellular coverage that I went into technology withdrawal. I didn’t realize how much I relied upon these tools. I had planned on my vacation to make several business calls and to follow up on some projects but the irregularity of the service made the task frustrating and not worth it. I had experienced this before where I had gone on vacations and left all the technology behind this time I was not prepared and it woke me up to the limits of technology in how I practice and market my psychotherapy practice.

I am embarrassed to admit this but since I have left Los Angeles and now live in Santa Cruz, CA I am bit surprised at the amount of people who don’t use computers (compulsively). I think the surprise is more related to feeling of Silicon Valley being just over the hill.  I have been talking with a old high school buddy and her last computer crashed a while back and she is waiting to gather the funds to purchase a new one. I have been offering some advice and trying to help her out on how to purchase a computer.  But I am really not talking about the financial aspects I am talking about people who already have a computer but don’t use it very often.  My recent trip to Mendicino, CA also shed some light on what happens to me when my iphone and ipad can’t get access to anything! I started to go through technology withdrawal,  I missed having what we so fondly call the answer machine. Watching a movie ever wonder who that actor is or what other movies they were in, quick reach for the phone, ipad or computer and straight to for the answer. Last night I wasn’t sure if I could freeze roasted chili peppers another quick google to find the answer.

I am currently helping ICP the psychoanalytic institute I belong to strengthen their live streaming program. Now what this means is I helped to find a knowledgeable technician who could evaluate what we need and how to improve our sound quality. The institute offers many of its workshops to long distance participants over a program www., it is actually a very good program for an inexpensive price if you are looking to do live streaming You can use it free but for only 45 minutes at a time, great way to test it out. If you want more information about contemporary psychoanalysis and the programs they offer go to and on the events page you can join their email list and you will be notified of all the programs and most come with continuing education credits.  Working on this project always adds to my knowledge of computers and live streaming, Chris Killen has been helping us and he sent me over a short article on the first things to do when you open a computer, some great tips. I want to offer it to you here.

Also if you’d like to contact Chris for a consult here is his information:
Chris Killen
AMA Pro Racing/

Now how does this all tie into psychotherapy. I promised I would keep you informed of my progress as I continue to grow my psychotherapy practice here in Santa Cruz, and finding technology is as helpful as I’d like. I’ve also known marketing is not one tool its the use of many tools. Like all my consulting clients I too complain there is never enough time to get it all done and patience is required.  Every city has its own rhythm and Santa Cruz has always danced to its own drummer.  So as I have done over the years is to find the middle ground where I feel comfortable. It’s what I teach those that I work with on practice development. You have to push the boundary of comfort for yourself and for me that boundary is I tend to get a bit shy in groups and its hard for me to introduce myself where I don’t know anyone. So I have signed up to speak at the Santa Cruz CAMFT Chapter on Friday, September 12, 2014 on the clinical aspects of working with all types of addictions. I have found the Santa Cruz Psychoanalytic and Psychotherapy Society and look forward to attending and meeting more people. Building a network is so important and slowly I begin to create the network that I need, for people to know my work and me to know theirs. The process is slow and takes a support team, when it gets disappointing it helps to have someone offer support to get you back out there. The biggest lesson I learned is to make sure you are in a supportive environment where you feel comfortable. Now its finding that network.

Licia Ginne, MFT
Individual, Couples and Group Psychotherapy
Private Practice Development
831) 471-8647




Private Practice Do You Consider Yourself a Business?

So when did marketing become a dirty word?TMCprofile5

I have been consulting with private practice practitioners for over 7 years and what I find most common is the struggle to think of a healthcare practice as also a business.  We are in the helping service and feel we must help others before we help ourselves. Most of us came into the world of therapy because we had been helped by it and wanted to help others. We all went through long and costly years of school, but most of us never had a class or internship that taught the business of psychotherapy. We struggle with networking, knowing our value, how to set our fee and whether or not to be on managed care or insurance panels. I think most of us just followed the mentors we trusted. Our caseloads can be enough to handle without having to try and do the paperwork, insurance billing, collecting and marketing.

Major first step start to think of yourself as a small business owner and that means thinking about how much you make, how much you want to make and what it costs to run your practice. Running a practice includes your office, phones, etc. but also your marketing budget, which frightens many of us. Your investment in your therapy practice is an investment in yourself. I have made it my business to learn how to do things with as small an investment as possible. The initial outlay may seem overwhelming but there are ways to do things on the less expensive side and remember this is an investment that over the years will keep giving you a return on your dollar. I work with people with all kinds of budgets but what I have found is if I have to spend money to make something look professional it is worth the investment because it represents me in the world. You can have a designer create a website from $500 – $15,000. You can use wordpress and get templates but I have always found even with templates it helps to have a professional do some final tweaking so it looks professional. You can manage the costs by doing as much of the work as you can.

Some of the people I talk with seem afraid of marketing. Most often you are marketing and don’t even know it. When I opened my first office, I shared space with a friend of mine, neither one of us had any clients but we had a lovely office all ready to go. It was a risk and we knew we needed to take the risks to get started. There are lots of ways to get going that minimize the costs and risks, like renting space part-time. I think many of us have a hard time networking and feel uncomfortable attending group events. Think about your school or training programs and start networking with the people you met there. Wherever you are in your career start networking, start developing a referral network. Let people know where you are, what you specialize in and how you can help people. I’ve spent time, money and energy going to school, interned for next to nothing, studied for my license and now I have to go out and sell myself?

Well, the brief answer is yes

The longer answer – You are not selling goods. You are investing in yourself and I will not hide the unpleasant truth you are selling your expertise, skills and experience. The good news is it can be done with creativity, beauty, grace and a tremendous amount of professionalism and ethics.

Licia Ginne, MFT