What Types of Credit Cards Should Law Firms Accept?

When deciding to accept credit cards at your law firm, it’s important to keep in mind that different card brands carry different processing rates. The key to maximizing profits while minimizing fees is to carefully study what kinds of cards clients want to use and how those fees affect your firm’s bottom line. First and foremost, credit cards are here to stay, and firms that accept credit cards see a decrease in year-end write-offs and a better cash flow.

Cards Are Convenient

Most Americans have at least one (and often more than one) credit card, and for many, it’s their favorite way to pay. Credit cards are easy to use, often earn the user points or perks, and can be a safety net for unexpected expenses. They’re easy to use for customers, allowing for immediate payment in person, over the phone, or remotely with secure invoicing. Businesses, too, benefit from accepting credit cards. Most importantly, funds are quickly processed and deposited into business accounts.

The best credit card processing solutions integrate directly with a law firm’s existing accounting software. When integrated, there’s no need to manually input card information. Plus, these are proven technologies, and setup and integration take as little as an hour or two before payment processing can begin. This convenience comes at a cost, though: credit card processing fees. They’re a necessary part of doing business with credit card companies, usually between two or three percent of each transaction. By being selective about which cards are accepted, law firms can minimize fees and save hundreds or thousands of dollars each month.

Different Fees

Credit card commercials show deals offering cash back, travel points, gas discounts, and all kinds of other perks to get users to sign up. These perks are great for credit card users. However, the cost of these perks is paid for, in part, by card processing fees charged to the business accepting credit cards. Processing fees vary by card issuer.

There are four major credit card brands: Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. Visa, MasterCard, and Discover make up 80 percent of total credit card spending. These companies run on open networks with a wide variety of issuing bank partners. Because of the scale and scope of these networks and transactions, processing fees are as low as possible for merchants. But things get a little trickier with American Express. American Express accounts for only 10 percent of total credit card spending (though consumers are more apt to use this card when they can, because of the better perks it offers).

What matters more to law firms accepting payments, though, is that the average processing fee for American Express is much higher than Visa, MasterCard, and Discover. Visa, MasterCard, and Discover usually charge businesses a rate of about 2 percent per transaction.

An American Express fee is typically 2.89 percent for a similar transaction. While this difference is less than one percent, for a firm that processes even a handful of credit card transactions per month, those fees add up to thousands of dollars per year.

Limiting accepted credit cards to only Visa, MasterCard, and Discover will minimize processing fees. Some firms might be worried about losing American Express card holders, but they shouldn’t be. Nearly all American Express card holders also carry a Visa or MasterCard. Unless a business is in a retail situation, it won’t see any significant loss by not accepting American Express.

Analyze Your Costs

Because of all of the variables associated with processing credit cards, total processing costs can vary from card to card and service to service. Dedicated credit card processing companies can offer more competitive rates and better support than banks. In fact, many banks outsource credit card processing to a third party processor (and pass along a markup to their customers).

Regularly reviewing credit card processing rates is a must, and partnering with a dedicated law firm credit card processor can really help your law firm stay on top of its bottom line.

This article is an excerpt from Best Practices: Credit Card Types. Contact ClientPay for the full white paper.


ClientPay provides integrated payment processing solutions that leverage technology to turn the error-prone and time-intensive task of payment acceptance into an efficient, accurate, and cost savings process for law firms. Click here for more information.

Return to Forefront main page »
Thomson Reuters Elite Headquarters
800 Corporate Pointe, Suite 150, Culver City, CA 90230
© 2015 Thomson Reuters
Thomson Reuters