Dentist Credit Card Processing

Credit card processing has become an important aspect of a dental clinic’s finances. Whether you’re a dental surgeon, orthodontist, or other dental professional, upgrading your payment features to accept credit cards is essential. Not only do you avoid the stress of preparing invoices, but you also offer your patients a convenient payment method. 
One of the many issues with credit card processing for dentists is excessive billing. You will often find a particular dental clinic locked down with payment processing firms with bottleneck contracts. And all dental practices have particular factors to consider. Top among them include smooth integration with management software and systems, HIPAA compliance, and accepting different cards. 

This in-depth guide on dental credit card processing will provide you with the relevant information for credit card processing. We will look at the basics and how to select a suitable processor. With PaymentUSA’s transparent services, you can enjoy superb dental practice merchant services that respect patient data, with strong security and privacy. 

Why Choose PaymentUSA for your Dentist Merchant Services?

A general question many of our new merchants ask is, who are we? And why take our recommendations for credit card processing seriously?

PaymentUSA is a top payment processor that helps bridge the gap between merchants (you) and consumers via modern and secure payment methods. With our standard global dental practice merchant services solutions, we have helped several dental offices to maintain a transparent financial system by changing how they accept payments. Our long list of successful merchants at PaymentUSA speaks for itself. 

Besides, we have an educational blog where we educate merchants like you with honest information about credit card processing. You can think of us as your reliable partner and processor to change how your dental practice can accept payments. 

Credit Card Processing for Dentists: An Introduction to the Basics

Whether for a retail store, hotel, or practice like yours, the process of receiving credit card payments is the same. You will need a merchant account to accept all credit card payments. However, a percentage of the payment will go to the credit card processing company, which pays several parties involved. 

Here are a few terms you might see – 

  • Credit card processor: the company that processes or facilitates your credit card transactions for your dental practice. 
  • Markup: the part of the fees that go to the credit card processor.
  • Interchange: the part of the fees that go to the issuing bank (your customer’s bank). . 
  • Assessments: the part of the fees that go to the credit card network. 

You need to understand that the assessment and interchange fees are non-negotiable, as they are the same for all processors. So, like all payment services, the payment processor will add its markup fees. This is where you need your negotiation skills – to find low markup rates.  

Most of your patients may have a particular concern about whether they can pay for your services with a credit card. Since there are higher numbers of Americans who prefer to use credit card payments, you could lose patients if you don’t accept this payment type. 

Should Patients Use Credit Cards To Pay?

A crucial part of merchant services for dental practices is allowing payments via credit cards. We understand that the entire bill for your services might be a large sum, which could be disturbing to your patients. Hence, facilitating credit card payment applications will put you in the right position with your patients. 

The entire process revolves around giving your patients a convenient method of flexible, later-date  payment. You just need the right dentist credit card processing services that will help you with fraud prevention technologies and a chargeback policy that protects your practice. 

Why Dental Credit Card Processing is Different

There are huge differences between credit card payments at retail establishments and dental credit card processing services, ranging from costs, special considerations, and equipment. 

Costs and fees

When you compare your practice to retail services, chargebacks are less common. Hence, your business is deemed “low risk.” Charges and fees are lower and the rates between the issuing, acquiring, and payment processors are low. 

Before we begin describing which of the costs will favor you, let’s discuss the pricing models for merchant services for dentists. There are two major models, each with its variations. 

- Interchange plus pricing

By far, this is the most direct billing method you will come across. It lets you enjoy competitive rates since it clearly separates your markup fees from the rest. With the interchange plus pricing model, your payment processor will add the interchange and assessments to your invoice and attach the markup in a separate bill.  

Although transparent, the interchange plus model is not a foolproof option. First, you must confirm that the assessment and interchange fees you receive are at the cost price, with a low markup. The main type of interchange plus pricing model is the subscription styling or “0%” model processing. 

- Tiered Pricing

Also known as bundled pricing, the tiered pricing model is a more opaque option. Here, your processor will bundle your fees into separate tiers. You will find a three-tier model more common, although there are others. 

With a three-tier model, transactions can be: 

  • Non-qualified
  • Mid-qualified, and
  • Qualified transactions.

Your processor will then decide which tier the transaction is supposed to enter. Depending on where your payment provider places the transaction, the rates differ. Fees for non-qualified transactions are higher than those for qualified transactions. 

With this model, your rates can change at any time at the processor’s discretion, even without notifying you. Transactions previously in the qualified tier can be moved to the non-qualified tier. Hence, don’t be surprised when the processing bill becomes higher at the end of a new statement. 

The tier in which transactions appear depends on your processor, not the card network. We recommend sticking to the interchange plus pricing model as it is more transparent.  

Processors set different rates for various dental practice merchant services. Hence, don’t base your choice of a payment processor on referrals from your colleagues in other dental practices. We will discuss this later. 

There are still other components of fees that could impact your billing format or reflect on your HIPAA compliance.

- HSA/FSA/CareCredit

Part of choosing a  credit card processor for a dental office is whether they can accept FSA/HSA cards and other types of health-unique cards like CareCredit. These cards are only possible if you have the correct code from the merchant category code (MCC). 

Merchant category codes are issued once a business opens a merchant account. MCCs are location and field-specific. Hence, you will find unique MCCs for healthcare providers. If you have the correct MCC, you can accept these health-unique cards. This method will attract its own extra billing.

- Filing Cards

To enable faster checkouts at the end of an appointment, dentist credit card processing services encourage the use of keeping their patients’ cards in file. However, many practices worry that this is not in line with HIPAA guidelines. If you take precautionary steps to ensure the proper security of all patient data, then you can use this method. 

We do not mean you photocopy details of the patients’ data and keep hard copies or use an unsecured spreadsheet to store card numbers. Instead, you can use options that comply with regulations or guidelines set by PCI. 

Thankfully, most payment processors – including PaymentUSA – offer “card vaults” so you can store card information securely. Hence, you don’t need to ask for payment information and can charge quickly in the future. 

Please note that this is a form of card-not-present transaction. It comes with higher processing fees, primarily because of its associated risks. If you’re sticking to this method, remember to ask for permission before charging it. Failure to do so may result in a chargeback, or patients will file for a reversal. Experience too many chargebacks and you will lose your merchant account. 

Thankfully, credit card processing for dental offices receives the lowest number of chargeback requests. You can also appeal the chargeback requests. However, we recommend avoiding this stress by getting confirmation first. 

Specialty factors

Another important aspect distinguishing dental credit card processing from others is the unique factors dealt with. For instance, dental office credit card processing services need space to accommodate unique cards like the Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and the Health Savings Account (HSA) cards. Also, they need impressive options that comply with HIPAA standards or do not fall under the purview of these regulations. 

Furthermore, dental practices need special processors that can easily allow a smooth integration with their management tools and software, for instance, Dentrix. 

Tools and equipment

Another top advantage that credit card processing for dentists brings is the equipment your practice needs. You may not need the full cocktail like the retail establishment – like POS systems, scales, or barcodes, but only a virtual terminal or credit card machine with a computer and internet connection. 

HIPAA and Credit Card Processing for Dentists

Unlike many practices requiring HIPAA clearance or compliance during setup, credit card processing does not. This is because it falls outside the purview of HIPAA requirements since it only needs to accept cards for payments. 

When it comes to HIPAA, there are two business types. They include –

  • Covered enterprises
  • Business associates

Covered enterprises are in direct contact with patients’ confidential files and information. For dentists, your practice is in this category. With business associates, all third-party companies that partner with the covered enterprises fall into this category.  

Several credit card processing firms do not fall into either category since they are considered banking partners and do not need access to a patient’s medical information. However, there are some exceptions. 

For instance, should your processing provider handle other management services, they must sign an agreement. Examples of these services include accounting, invoicing and billing, and patient management. To protect your practice from lawsuits, ensure that your payment processor offers services outside the scope of HIPAA regulations. 

Patients’ personal information

You can teach your staff not to include patient details, including treatments, in online payment portals. These pieces of information are not relevant to your payment processor. So your staff need not share these details. 

Invoices and receipts

Another requirement that could bring HIPAA compliance into play is invoices or receipts. For instance, your payment processor must use encrypted networks when sending emails or text messages. While many payment providers offer physical receipts, the best credit card processing  providers like PaymentUSA stick to auto-generated email invoices by default. 

This is one of the requirements you should consider when picking out a payment processor. Ask questions about their policies regarding HIPAA compliance. You don’t want to end up with a provider of credit card processing that does not consider HIPAA regulations. 

Dental credit card processing services and management systems

As we said, a business agreement must be signed first if you can’t find a payment processor that doesn’t need access to your patients’ files. Hence, your processor could come in contact with two specific types of practice management systems. 

  • Integrated processing
  • Non-integrated processing 

The Integrated method will automatically send the payment information to your patient’s folder. It saves human effort but has strict limitations on what your payment processor can access and use. Hence, it may cost you more. 

With the non-integrated option, you can easily access and process cards, but it requires manual input. Hence, you must confirm that the patient has paid in your management system. Therefore, you have to use external tools like a credit card machine, encrypted online form, or card reader to enter the details of the transaction and confirm it. Since the credit card machine won’t communicate directly with the management system, you’ll have to tick “paid” on the patients’ folder manually. While you save money, it also allows you to choose from a number of processors. 

Dental Merchant Services and PCI Compliance

Now that we have established that merchant services for dentists and retail establishments differ, there is one standing rule: PCI compliance. 

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS), commonly known as PCI, is the standard security regulation all businesses that accept credit cards must abide by. While HIPAA is for healthcare practices like your dental practice, PCI is different. Many payment processors add a charge for PCI every month, others don’t. Whether your desired processor charges you or not, compliance must be maintained. 

There are six aspects to compliance:

  • An encrypted card processing network 
  • Protection of all data for the cardholder
  • Security firewall against malware
  • Strict measures in place to control access
  • Regular testing of all networks
  • Creating policies and keeping them up to date. 

Ask your payment processor for details regarding PCI compliance and their strategies. 

How to Take Credit Cards at your Dental Practice

To successfully accept dental credit card processing, you need two components. The first is a reliable payment processor

If you’re already accepting cards, you’re in a better position to receive offers from top payment processors. We will discuss how to choose a leading provider for your needs. 

To accept credit cards, there are a few boxes to tick first. 

Merchant category code, Health Savings Account, and Flexible Spending cards

Once you sign up for open dental merchant services, you will get the MCC. As we stated above, the MCC gives you the authority to accept health-specific cards like HSA and FSA. Speak with a payment processor on how to get one for your practice. 

Please remember that not all health account cards are limitless, even with your MCC. If this is the case, let your patient confirm their health plan and ensure the treatment falls within the card’s limits. Like general cards, a health-specific card will decline payment if insufficient funds exist.


Since you don’t need sophisticated tools like retail establishments, you can easily select from a number of tools to use, such as:

  • Virtual terminal
  • Cards on file
  • Credit card machine 
  • Practice management integrated software like Dentrix.

A virtual terminal allows you to offer dental credit card processing services online instead of on a physical machine. You only need to enter the card’s details into a form your processor provides, which can be swiped or typed in. 

Unlike a virtual terminal, a credit card machine needs you to type in the details manually. The advantage here is that some machines accept different processors. So you can still use this equipment if you change provider. 

Practice management tools like Open Dental or Dentrix may be limited by processor. Hence, confirming with your processor if they support any practice management system is essential. 

Choosing the Right Processor for your Dental Practice

The best credit card processing for dental office providers depends on several factors, including your personal preference and practice. 

A comparative analysis is one of the best ways to know which processor is best for you. You can get quotes from different payment providers without necessarily having to share contact information with them. When you compare, you can get an idea of the fees involved and whether they operate a tiered pricing model or interchange plus. 

Next, when you find a merchant services provider to talk with, ask questions and control the conversation. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Inquire about their pricing plans and structure. 
  • Inquire if they offer free equipment or to re-engineer your existing tool for easy integration.
  • Speak about the possibility of cancellation fees, especially as you should not pay for them. 
  • Ask them about their fees, and ask that they are locked down in writing. 

We understand that you may need to set up dental industry merchant services for your practice. However, taking your time to handle this process will save you stress in the long run. 

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