The vacation industry has long known that allowing consumers to pay for big-ticket items with a credit card is likely to increase sales – on everything from airfare to hotels, tour guide services and more. So what happens if your business has to set deadlines for refund requests? This is the situation for many cruise lines, which, because of planning and myriad tax, fee and customs issues, have adopted a deadline-driven cancellation policy on booked cruises.
Buying Habits of Consumers
Consumers are fickle, and as any retailer can relate, many may change their minds after getting their purchases home and return them for a refund. Cruise lines, like the airline industry, have adapted to these circumstances by instituting a set of payment deadlines and refunds. Many offer full refunds when cancellations are made three months in advance or longer and partial refunds when cancelled 30 to 60 days in advance, with no refunds within two weeks of the sail date.
This may be considered a risky policy by some domestic and offshore banks who offer merchant services such as credit card processing. In turn, cruise line companies may find it more difficult and even more expensive to offer payment processing services to its customers, as many payment processors will approve cruise lines depending on how they view the risks.
Shop for Your Best Fit
Like any consumer, cruise lines should shop the merchant service provider that offers the best fit for them. When shopping for payment processing solutions, here are some best practices to keep in mind.
- Look for payment options that can expand with technology. A decade ago, nobody could foresee that consumers would be able to deposit checks into their accounts by simply taking a picture of both sides of the check and emailing it to their bank. What’s next? Businesses should ask questions about how merchant banks are using and plan to use advances in technology to make things easier on their customers.
- Help setting up or installing payment processing for their company. Banks should be able to offer options such as terminals, payment processing software, mobile credit card readers and combinations of these payment methods that cover all the options consumers have to pay for goods and services, including in-person and online sales.
- Ensure your customer’s credit information is securely transmitted and stored. Look for services with encrypted transactions and storage procedures.
- Lower fees for online credit or debit purchases. In today’s market, competition should work in your favor by helping to keep transaction fees down. Look for gateway payments that are measurably lower than other credit card processing options. Other fees, including those for statements and minimum processing amounts, could also be flexible.
- Customer service should be a high priority for your business. The last thing you want is to have trouble on a Saturday and find that your merchant bank is closed for the weekend. Phone and email support, live chat support and even FAQs on the bank’s website are things that should come standard.
Do Your Homework
It’s always a good idea to fully examine your options in anything that affects your business, including your customers. Don’t forget some of these research basics: Use the Internet to compare merchant services providers; ask other businesses for references; and check with the Better Business Bureau.