Mr. Carr

Finance & Investment

Before You Swipe That Card: Do You Know What Fees You're Paying?

By Bob Carr, Chairman & CEO, Heartland Payment Systems

Every time you swipe a guest's credit card, your hotel is charged with transaction fees. Since most of your bills are likely paid by credit card, the amount you pay in these fees are substantial. Yet, do you understand what you pay and properly manage that expense?

If you are like many hoteliers, you may not drill down into credit card processing costs - first because you may not have the time, and second because the statements you receive from your payments processor are probably very confusing. If you take a good look at your statements, you will discover that fees vary wildly based on the type of card used and can reach as high as 5% on each payment.

That may be because every transaction is passing through up to 12 middlemen, each of whom tacks on its own processing fee. Then, there are the hidden fees, penalties and questionable business policies that many card processors bury in the fine print. The end result is you may be paying more per transaction than you have to.

The Merchant Bill of Rights is a set of industry standards designed to promote fair credit and debit card processing practices. The primary objective of this advocacy initiative is to educate business owners and hoteliers like you so you can effectively manage the complexity and cost of card acceptance.

First and foremost, The Merchant Bill of Rights focuses on your right to transparent business practices. Too often, business owners pay for card processing without knowing what is really happening behind the scenes. Let's drill in to some of the transparency issues The Merchant Bill of Rights targets - starting with middlemen.


A card transaction involves four entities: a bank, a card company (Visa, MasterCard, etc.), a network connection, and a processor. The processor operates the computer systems that authorize transactions and convert them into cash that is debited from the buyer's bank and credited to the seller's bank.

Surprisingly, the card processor can bring as many as 12 parties - many of whom are not necessarily needed - to the table. These can include (1) an independent contractor representing (2) a salesperson representing (3) an agent representing the bank or processor. That's just the beginning.

Then there can be (4) a referral group, (5) an accounting firm or (6) a non-processing bank. Let's not forget (7) the software company and (8) its salesperson and (9) the dealer who sold the card processing equipment.

Last up, roll in (10) the IP gateway provider, (11) its salesperson and (12) the network service provider. Had enough? Each one may be inflating the processing fee and siphoning a cut of every sale your hotel completes.

The Merchant Bill of Rights says you have a right to know how many people are involved in your payments transactions - and who they are. When more than the four required parties are involved, that's a sign you might be paying too much.

The solution is easy. Call your card processor and ask how many people are piggybacking on transactions. While some card processors will have extra parties tacking on fees, others will help you contain your costs by not involving any extra agents or contractors.


Are you confused by complex contracts and dense monthly statements? If so, you are not alone.

Many hoteliers struggle to make sense of what they're being charged for processing services, who is charging them and what services they need or can live without. Here are some "gotchas" to watch out for:

Every business, no matter what size, deserves to be treated fairly and honestly by business partners - especially when the cost of doing business is so high. There are scads of complexities and nuances in the card processing business, but the right processor should simplify the process, not make it more confusing. Studying up on The Merchant Bill of Rights is a great first step to leveling the playing field and gaining control of card processing fees.

Know your rights. Only then will you have the power to control costs, eliminate unnecessary charges and decide who gets a portion of your piggybank.

Bob Carr is chairman and chief executive officer of Heartland Payment Systems ¯ the nation’s fifth largest payments processor and the official preferred provider of card processing, gift marketing, check management, payroll and tip management services for the American Hotel & Lodging Association and 38 state lodging associations. In line with Heartland’s commitment to merchant advocacy and education, Mr. Carr spearheaded The Merchant Bill of Rights ( to promote fair credit and debit card processing practices for all business owners. He has also been a driving force in the enhancement of payment card security with E3™ (, Heartland’s end-to-end encryption technology. Mr. Carr can be contacted at Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
General Search:

OCTOBER: Revenue Management: Measuring All Hotel Revenue Streams

Natasa Christodoulidou

Revenue Management, also known as yield management, may be defined as the process of analyzing, anticipating, and impacting consumer behavior to maximize the profits from a fixed perishable resource, primarily hotel guest rooms and airline passenger seats (Christodoulidou, Berezina, Cobanoglu, 2012). Revenue management, including overbooking and dynamic pricing, has been an enormously important innovation in the service industry (Netessine & Shumsky, 2002). For example, a number of airlines overbook their reservations for a particular flight by 14% since on average they expect a 10% to 20% no shows on flights. The Marriott hotel chain credits its revenue management system for generating additional revenue of about $100 million per fiscal year. READ MORE

Kristie Dickinson

Revenue management continues to be one of the most important aspects of profitably operating a hotel, though it also remains one of the most difficult to grasp fully. Last year, I wrote an article on the Top 5 Questions Hotel Owners Should Be Asking About Revenue Management, which focused on conversations that owners should be having with their operators about setting goals, analyzing data and how best to measure results, all good primer leading up to budget season. To further the discussion, I will highlight some specific issues below that bear relevance in today’s market READ MORE

Steve  Van

We have all heard the old cliché that “less is more”, and, while there is a grain of truth in the notion that simplicity and clarity are sometimes preferable to complexity, the reality is that, regardless of the circumstances, more information is almost always a better bet. Today we are seeing the tension between these two ideas play out in the hotel industry, where revenue management has exploded with new approaches in recent years–almost all of it facilitated by an avalanche of previously ignored or unavailable data. Consider just how sophisticated revenue management has become in the hotel industry. READ MORE

EJ Schanfarber

The revenue manager of an individual hotel or hospitality entity has become the “quarterback” of modern hospitality strategy and, in many ways, operations. He or she reviews past game data, surveys the competitive environment, consults with coaching staff (ownership and brand standards) and listens to teammates (especially the general manager and director of sales) before hitting the field on any given day and making a complex play call. As we know, with revenue management, a lot of things are in motion at once before we can determine and allocate “which rooms, when, at what rates.” READ MORE

Coming Up In The November Online Hotel Business Review

Feature Focus
Architecture & Design: Original, Authentic and Localized
Corporate hotel developers once believed that their customers appreciated a homogenous design experience; that regardless of their physical location, they would be reassured and comforted by a similar look, feel and design in all their brand properties. Inevitably this led to a sense of impersonality, predictability and boredom in their guests who ultimately rejected this notion. Today's hotel customer is expecting an experience that is far more original and authentic - an experience that features a design aesthetic that is more location-oriented, inspired by local cultures, attractions, food and art. Architects and designers are investing more time to engage the local culture, and to integrate the unique qualities of each location into their hotel design. Expression of this design principle can take many shapes and forms. One trend is the adaptive reuse of existing facilities - from factories to office buildings - as a strategic way to preserve and affirm local culture. Many of these projects are not necessarily conversions of historic properties into grand, five-star landmark hotels, but rather a complete transformation of historic structures into mixed-use, residential, and hotel projects that take full advantage of their existing location. Another trend is the addition of local art into a hotel's design scheme. From small sculptures and photography to large-scale installations, integrating local art is an effective means to elevate and enhance a guest's perception and experience of the hotel. These are just a few of the current trends in the fields of hotel architecture and design that will be examined in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.