What You Can Learn About Social Media from Big Bird

What You Should Learn From Big Bird

They say that you learn everything you ever needed to know in kindergarten. As far as a social mediastrategy for your business, that may very well be true.

In the first presidential debate on Wednesday night in Denver, President Barack Obama and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney faced off over a slew of domestic policy issues, including the growing deficit, taxes and small businesses. When Romney was asked about what he would do to decrease the federal deficit, one of the programs he said he would stop funding was Public Broadcasting Service. One of PBS’s most popular shows is Sesame Street, on which the 8-foot-tall yellow bird is a star.

“I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you, too. But I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it. That’s number one,” said Romney.

Related: LinkedIn Gives Company Pages a Facelift

Almost instantaneously, Big Bird became a social media sensation. Twitter handles were created – @FiredBigBird and @BigBirdRomney — among others. The debate was the most tweeted political event in history, according to Twitter’s political branch, with 10.3 million Tweets in 90 minutes. Every minute, there were 17,000 tweets for “Big Bird” and 10,000 tweets per minute for “PBS,” Twitter’s political communications arm tweeted.

Even President Obama’s administration got in on the action. The handle @BarackObama tweeted “President Obama: ‘Thank goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird.’” In addition, then there were the Facebook memes: image montage including Big Bird and his Sesame Street cohorts.

Related: 3 Steps to Generating Buzz with a YouTube Contest

Here are three things that entrepreneurs can learn from the Big Bird social media explosion:

1. Emotional is best. The reason that everyone got so up in arms about Big Bird, during a presidential debate chock full of economic policy no less, is because people care about Big Bird. “It is something that is dear for people,” says Silvina Moschini, the CEO of Intuic, a social media agency that consults the likes of Twitter, Google and MasterCard. People remember Big Bird from their childhood, or they know that their own children are fans of Big Bird. “Touch the heart and it will become viral,” says Moschini.

2. Make it visual. Big Bird is more than 8 feet tall and bright yellow. He’s hard to miss. “In social media, everything is about having a visual story to tell,” says Moschini. Not only does it grab people’s attention, but it also gives users something to be creative with. “There were images of Big Bird served on a Thanksgiving dish and Big Bird waiting on an employment line,” says Moschini. People react to the images and share them.

Related: 3 App Options for Converting Facebook Fans Into Customers

3. You have got to be on top of your brand on social media. The worst thing an entrepreneur can do is not respond when his or her brand is on stage in the social media world. Things happen quickly. Really quickly. And you can’t have your head in the sand.

Entrepreneurs “really need to understand how this dynamic works because some people at large companies and the small companies are afraid of social media,” says Moschini. “Just because they are not present does not meant the people will not talk about them.” If something negative is said about your brand online, for example, you need to be at the ready to deal with the repercussions.

 

How to Properly Close Your Business

How to Properly Close Your Business

Much like discussing funeral arrangements while you’re still young and healthy, the topic of closing your business isn’t something many entrepreneurs want to contemplate.

But the numbers aren’t in the favor of small-business owners, the U.S. Small Business Administration reported that an estimated 552,600new companies opened for business in 2009, while 660,900 businesses closed up shop. Things look even worse if you’re in the food service sector where the National Restaurant Association says 30 percent of new restaurants fail in the first year, with another 30 percent failing within the next two years.

There’s just no skirting the issue that for whatever reasons, sometimes companies must close up shop. It could be a lack of funding, bad business decisions, an economic crisis — or a combination of all of these.

Adding to financial woes, many doomed businesses fail to properly terminate their corporation or LLC, leading to a raft of unexpected charges associated with the dissolution of the company. There’s a right way and a wrong way to close up a business, according to Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com. Here are her suggestions on properly closing a business:

1. File your final tax return.
When closing a business, you must file an annual tax return for the last year in business – even if you were in business for only a portion of that year. All corporation and LLC tax return documents, including Schedule K-1s, have a denotation that this is the “final tax return.” Check that box, and then contact the IRS to close your employer identification number (EIN) account.

2. File your final employment tax return.
Tax related matters also include filing a final employment tax return if you have (or had) employees. And don’t forget to make the final federal tax deposits for your employment tax return as well.

Related: 75 Items You May Be Able to Deduct from Your Taxes

3. Deal with dissolution documents.
Unless you formally dissolve your business, the government will have it listed as an ongoing entity, accruing taxes and fees. Filing dissolution papers is especially important if you have partners or other owners in the business, as it prevents future confusion about ownership and liability.

4. Take stock of what you have and sell it.
Inventory and sell any assets that the business may have remaining, and be sure to report all business assets using IRS Form 8594 (the Asset Acquisition Statement). You might be able to recover some of your business losses by selling your inventory and equipment.

Related: Five Steps to Painless Inventory Management

5. Cancel licenses, permits and insurance policies.
If you have city, town, county, state, or federal licenses for your business, contact the issuing authorities to cancel them. Also, be sure to contact your insurance broker to cancel business liability and workman’s compensation insurance, and notify your employee-based health care provider about the closure.

 

Forget the iPhone 5. Apple’s iPad Mini Might Be Better for Business

Forget the iPhone 5 Apples iPad Mini Might Be Better for Business

Business owners will be wise to leave the buzz about the forthcoming iPhone 5 to consumers. Apple’s rumored iPad Mini should be the better option for businesses. The smaller version of the iPad will reportedly measure 7-inches and will likely be announced in September.

If you plan to be among the first to order one of these devices, here are three reasons an iPad Mini would be a better business tool than the iPhone:

1. Small tablets are better sales tools.
Good luck creating a presentation on an iPhone. The screen is small and your pitch could be interrupted by a call, a text message or any other notification.

When it comes to making sales presentations on-the-go, nothing beats the high resolution iPad Retina display. But at $499 for the basic 9.7-inch iPad model — with 16GB and no access to cellular data — it might not be worth the expense for cost-conscious sales teams.

But a scaled-down, less expensive version should be. The Galaxy Tab by Samsung, the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire can cost just $199. Assuming Apple’s new mini-tablet beats the Nexus 7 and Galaxy Tab for screen quality, the new tool holds promise as a slick, low-cost presentation tool.

Related: 6 Tips for Building Better iPad Presentations

2. It’ll be more versatile.
Judging by the performance of smaller iPad competitors, shaving off a few inches shouldn’t equal less productivity. Mobile apps such as email, reviewing and editing documents, video conferencing, task lists and social media work just as well on a 7-inch screen as on the 9.7-inch iPad screen.

The Google Nexus 7, for example, is easier to read and type on than a full-size iPad, and you can hold it in one hand and enter data with another. With that kind of versatility, and added functionality, a smaller tablet can become more of a go-to business tool than an iPhone, or any other smartphone.

3. It runs on the same operating system in a better business package.
Apple’s upcoming operating system, iO6, promises better Facebook integration, video conferences that use cellular data and — most exciting for road warriors — better maps. Apple’s answer to Google Maps is expected to include 3D environments, turn-by-turn navigation, and real-time information about traffic and accidents.

So, the iPhone 5 will likely to be a faster, sleeker version of the 4S, with improvements to voice tools like Siri and wireless mobile commerce tools. But, barring any unforeseen development, the iPad Mini will operate on the exact same OS. The Mini’s slightly larger size makes it easier for users to see a busy email inbox and work with apps that manage complex spreadsheets.

That means the iPad Mini will do most of what a business needs an iPhone to do, but in a package that’s better suited for mobile businesses.

 

The Fiscal Cliff: 3 Tax Changes You Need to Know Are Coming

The Fiscal Cliff: 3 Tax Changes You May Not Have Heard About But You Need to Know Are Coming

Dozens of tax changes are going to take effect at year’s end. The “Bush-era tax cuts” get talked about the most, but there are several others that don’t get as much attention that entrepreneurs need to know about.

In some cases, tax breaks are set to expire at the end of 2012 and in other cases, new taxes are going into effect starting in 2013. Taken together, these tax changes are called the “fiscal cliff” — and business owners are fretting over it. Nine out of ten small business owners are concerned about the impact of the “fiscal cliff” are worried that Congress won’t act to prevent the tax changes, according to a recent survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The most publicized “Bush-era tax cuts” is a package of tax breaks initially introduced in 2003 and 2005. Without Congressional action, cuts on individual income tax rates will expire at the end of the year, resulting in a 3 percentage point increase on most rates in 2013. The nation’s highest earners, individuals making more than $388,350, will see a 4.6 percentage point increase, going from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.

Related: Visa, MasterCard Settlement: What You Need to Know

Here are three more important tax changes you probably haven’t heard of, and how they could affect you:

1. Payroll taxes will go up. While President Obama signed an extension for the payroll tax holiday, it’s over at the end of the year. Without Congressional action, employee payroll taxes will increase to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent. “This is huge,” says Mark Kohler, a certified public accountant in Irvine, Calif., and a partner in the accounting firm Kohler & Eyre. “This is the one that is going to affect small business owners immediately.”

The 2 percentage point difference effectively doubles to a 4 percentage point tax increase for small business owners paying the self-employment tax, explains Kohler. While traditional employers generally pay half of the payroll taxes on behalf of employees, many new business owners serve as both the employer and employee, so they have to pay both sides of the tax.

2. The early tax deduction for business equipment will end. If you purchased a piece of equipment for your business this year, you can deduct half the cost on your taxes right away and it counts as depreciation. Unless Congress acts, starting in 2013, the depreciation rules will return to normal, where you can only deduct the cost of a piece of equipment gradually, over the life of the asset.

“By taking away depreciation, it makes the cost of expanding the business more expensive,” says Kohler. “That is why this bonus depreciation going away is really brutal.” In other words, if you are thinking about new equipment, consider buying before the end of the year to be certain you get this tax break.

Related: Trying to Win a Government Contract? Avoid These 3 Mistakes

3. The tax meant only for the super-rich could soon affect you. The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) was set to prevent wealthy individuals from driving their tax bill too far down with deductions but AMT also affects LLCs, partnerships, and S Corporations, says Bill Fleming, managing director at PricewaterhouseCoopers. This tax strips out many deductions and then imposes what is effectively a flat-tax of either 26 percent or 28 percent. You have to pay whichever is higher — your tax bill calculated under AMT rules or under the regular tax rules. Practically speaking, “people who are between $150,000 of income to a million or two million dollars of income are likely to be subject to this AMT,” says Fleming.

The original idea behind AMT is to make sure wealthy people pay their fair share of taxes However, the tax is being scrutinized because the threshold has not been adjusted to keep up with inflation, resulting in more middle class Americans are being affected by the AMT. If Congress does not retroactively implement a new AMT rate for 2012, a lot more taxpayers will be subject to this higher tax rate and will have to pay more. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the AMT will only impact about 4 million filers in 2011, but will hit 31 million filers in 2012, under current law.

 

How Green Power Can Benefit Both Small Retailers and the Environment

How Green Power Can Benefit Both Small Retailers and the Environment

You’ve bought compact fluorescent light bulbs for your store, offer reusable shopping bags and stock your shelves with eco-friendly products. What else can you do to show your commitment to the environment?

Consider switching to green power. While the upfront costs of green energy can be substantial, the investment can pay off in lower energy costs down the road.

The first step is to decide on the type of alternative energy program. There are a variety of ways you can reduce your store’s use of traditional energy sources, such as coal and gas, or compensate for some of the carbon emissions they generate. The most clear-cut approach is to install power generators, such as solar panels or a wind turbine, at your store. You also could buy energy from a utility that commits to obtaining some or all of your power from green sources.

Then there’s the option of purchasing renewable energy credits for wind, solar, biomass and other alternative power projects. You don’t use the renewable energy yourself, but your purchase helps America develop green-energy resources and reduce the use of traditional power sources.

Related: Going Green is Growing Important to Small Businesses

Here are some tips from other retailers, both big and small, for how to start moving to green power:

Install your own green energy source. An on-premise power source reduces utility bills and shows customers your commitment to cutting carbon emissions.

While solar is the most common choice, it won’t work for stores in rainy climates or areas blanketed by trees. For instance, Brian Great, owner of The Great Escape restaurant in Schiller Park, Ill. found solar wasn’t a good fit for his site, which adjoins a forested area. Instead, he installed a parking-lot wind turbine. He spent $315,000 on the turbine, which now provides between 50 percent and 70 percent of the restaurant’s power, and expects the investment to pay for itself within 10 years. Because of the wind turbine, Great estimates that 200 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air each year.

Some large retailers use multiple sources of green power. For example, Whole Foods Market uses rooftop solar panels, as well as fuel-cell technology and a power unit fueled by cooking oil waste. You may think your landlord won’t allow such technology, but Whole Foods has found many of its landlords receptive to its requests to install solar panels, says Kathy Loftus, who oversees the company’s energy program.

Seek financial help. Be sure to investigate possible state or federal financial assistance, which is usually available through programs of varying duration. Great says he received a 30 percent federal rebate through a short-term federal rebate program for his wind turbine that refunded more than $100,000 of the $315,000 price tag.

Work with an energy producer. Many utilities are moving to diversify and provide more green energy, making it easier for retailers to plug into a cleaner power source.

At Clark’s Market, a grocery chain based in Aspen, Colo., owner Tom Clark connected with theClean Energy Collective (CEC), an alternative-energy producer in Carbondale, Colo., that is hooked up to Clark’s local energy grid. Clark’s paid to add 40 solar panels to CEC’s large, existing solar array. Now, energy from the CEC solar panels is delivered to the stores through Clark’s existing utility.

Related: Bars Go Green

Capitalize on the promotional power of clean energy. Green energy can provide marketing, as well as environmental, benefits. Great says his eye-catching wind turbine, with its 32-foot blades, has garnered free publicity for his restaurant. “It’s a heck of a lawn ornament,” he says. “We’ve been on all the TV stations, and school kids come out here on buses on field trips to learn about the environment.”

PrAna, a maker and retailer of yoga and outdoor clothing, purchases renewable energy credits that fund wind-power projects because wind fits the company brand. “Prana” means “breath” in Sanskrit, according to Nicole Bassett, the company’s sustainability director. “It was really smart,” she says, “because of how it ties into our marketing and our branding.” Starting in 2005, the company began a public education media campaign, positioning prAna as an “ambassador” for wind power and noting the environmental impact of its wind-power purchases.

 

Start small. Whatever approach you take to investing in green energy, it’s best to begin slowly with a test program or pilot project. For instance, when the Kohl’s department store chain started buying renewable energy credits in 2007 to offset its use of non-renewable power, it purchased only enough to offset 8 percent of its energy use. By 2010, the company had ramped that up to 100 percent. Starting small gives you a chance to try out the organizations that produce energy or sell credits and determine if a program if a good fit for your budget and your environmental goals.

Check credentials. If you’re shopping for renewable energy credits, also make sure you buy from a reliable provider certified by the consumer watchdog program Green-e, says prAna’s Bassett. Some providers of the credits didn’t invest in green projects or double-sold the credits of a single plant’s output, she says. She recommends two reputable providers: 3Degrees andBonneville Power Foundation.

 

What the IPO Market Revival Means for Start-Up Funding

What the IPO Market Revival Means for Start-Up Funding

Facebook defied expectations of a boffo IPO. But,as I wrote in May, its disastrous outcome did not spell doom for startups seeking funding. Two months later, two successful IPOs look to help revive investor’s interest in tech investing. And that should be helpful for your venture.

To be sure, Facebook stock has lost 25 percent of its value since it went public May 18 at $38.50 a share. But by July 19th, two big pricings clocked in above their previous ranges. According to CNBC, Kayak Software plans to sell 3.5 million shares at $26 a share — above its previous $22 to $25 a share range.

And Palo Alto Networks priced at $42 — above its expected range which had been upped earlier this week, according to CNBC. While the stock is not cheap at that price, it’s in an attractive industry — network security — and has a strong market position, experienced management and strong growth. And it popped 26 percent on its opening day.

Related: What Facebook’s IPO Debacle Means for Startup Funding

What does this mean for your start-up? First of all, you have to be pretty big to go public. But if you’re not there yet, consider what Asheem Chandna, whose firm Greylock Partners owns 22.3 percent of Palo Alto Networks, recently told me he looks for in a startup before investing.

Chandna likes to invest in companies with:

  • A CEO who is both frugal and humble while able to get customers to “believe that the startup represents the next generation and deserves to earn their business”
  • A good fit between the market needs and the startup’s product and technology capabilities — they must be better than competitors
  • Strong missions, excellent founders and the ability to recruit talent
  • An ambitious, yet realistic product road-map
  • The ability to deliver a “minimally viable, awesome product” and to “iterate rapidly” in response to customer feedback.

Related: A VC Reflects on Instagram, the Dot-Com Bust and What It All Means for Hungry Startups

If you’ve got this, then the revival of the IPO market means investors will have more money burning holes in their pockets that could find its way to your company’s coffers.

 

Decline in Small Business Lending Persists, Report Says

Small Business Lending Drops by 453 billion

Even as the economy showed signs of recovery in the wake of the Great Recession, lending to small businesses contracted last year, while large businesses received more loan dollars, a new government study shows.

In the year ended June 2011, banks had $606.9 billion in outstanding loans to the nation’s small businesses, down 6.9 percent, compared with $652.2 billion for the same 12-month period ending in June 2010, according to the recent annual report on small business lending by the Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy.

Small business lending has been declining since June 2008, when banks had $711.5 billion in loans outstanding to small businesses. The report noted that this trend is in part because banks are afraid to lend to smaller businesses and fewer companies are applying for loans.

Related: 3 Signs You May Need to Ditch Your Bank

“As economic uncertainty persists, capital markets serving small businesses remain cautious about providing more capital, while small businesses are hesitant to acquire more debt,” writes Victoria Williams, the author of the study and from the Office of Economic Research at the SBA Office of Advocacy.

Meanwhile, loan dollars for large businesses rose by 5.8 percent during the 12 months ending June 2011, compared with the previous year.

The report is based on data from banks’ Call Reports and from Community Reinvestment Act Reports. Loans made to businesses for less than $1 million are assumed to be going to small businesses.

 

Subway’s Tweets Top List

Subways Tweets Top List

The Subway sandwich franchise outperforms its dining-industry peers in communicating with customers over social-media platforms, says a recent survey of U.S. consumers.

Nearly 49 percent of respondents found Subway’s social-media response “satisfactory” or “very satisfactory,” according to the poll of nearly 600 people conducted in May by London social customer-service firm Conversocial and a New York University professor.

That beats out nearly 42 percent for McDonald’s, 41 percent for Starbucks, some 39 percent forBurger King and more than 25 percent for 7-Eleven.

So what does Subway do to impress customers, at least the ones in this survey? We put that question to Paul Bamundo, who heads up Subway’s social-media team.

“With nearly 15 million friends on our Facebook page and over 555,555 followers on Twitter, we spend a tremendous amount of time not only sharing news about special promotions at Subway, but also listening, responding and amplifying customers’ stories or their concerns to make sure they know they are being heard,” he says.

Recent tweets indicate that the company often takes on a playful tone, while also retweeting, sharing pictures and responding to people who tweet about their Subway meals. Some examples:

“It has definitely changed the landscape of customer service for all of our franchisees by providing a platform for consumers to share their feedback in real time,” Bamundo says. “This gives us a better opportunity to learn from our customers.”

Subway founder Fred DeLuca and the company’s chief marketing officer, Tony Pace, are keenly focused on the benefits that social media can have for the company’s global brand, Bamundo says. The franchisor has more than 37,000 restaurants worldwide.

“It’s almost like having an instant focus group,” he says.

“One key differentiator I see for us over other brands on social media is our focus not just on increasing our likes and followers, but rather on truly engaging our fans with interesting content. We want to utilize our social channels as a medium for actively communicating with our customers,” Bamundo says.

Still, when it comes to engagement, it appears that Subway and all the chains could do a better job.

According to Conversocial’s multi-industry survey, 55 percent of respondents also described their experiences communicating with companies over social media as either “disappointing” or “significantly lacking.”

 

For Microsoft Office Users, Newest Version Might Cause Headaches

For Microsoft Office Users, Newest Version Might Cause Headaches

The new features that come with the recently announced Microsoft Office 2013 — such as a touch-friendly interface and new Internet-oriented collaborative features — are sure to be useful tools for businesses large and small. But when it comes to switching from an older version of Office to this one, the interface is so drastically different that it might be too much for many users to make a quick adjustment.

And for companies that are already using plug-and-play apps such as Google Apps or Zoho, upgrading to the new Office might not be a consideration at all.

So, does the new Office make the case for replacing the tools you already use? Here are our initial impressions of the free Office 365 preview and what they mean for small-business users:

The new Office embraces change.
Combined with Microsoft’s upcoming Surface tablet and its Windows Phone mobile OS, the new Office software can help open new opportunities for firms that have been hesitant about using touch-based tools. With its tile-based look, buttons are large and navigation for complex programs such as Excel is simple.

With rival Google claiming that 4 million businesses use its Google Apps office software suite, Microsoft needed a cloud-based makeover. The new Office’s integration with SkyDrive means documents can be accessed via a desktop app, Web app or mobile device. Contacts can be culled from Outlook, for example, and ported into social media.

And the download time is quick. Users can be running the upgrade in less than 15 minutes.

Related: Microsoft Upgrades Office for Cloud, Social

The learning curve will be steep.
While the new features can be useful, a business that upgrades from an older version of Office to this one might be overwhelmed by how different it is.

For example, the new Office uses the “Metro” style interface used in Windows 8, eliminating the old-fashioned virtual desktop, that showed a user’s documents, and making it so that you never have to leave the app. It’s now possible to search the web and upload photos from within Office itself. That’s a major shift in thinking from shrinking a window or clicking into another tab.

Another feature, called Resume Reading, lets users immediately pick up where they left off in a document, even if they were previously on another computer. While handy, it might be distracting or disorienting for some. Veterans of previous Office iterations will have to learn a new way of thinking.

And even though collaborative features have elegant interfaces, they can be complex to learn. There is a dizzying array of buttons for everything from launching a meeting to sharing comments or documents.

Related: Why Microsoft’s ‘Surface’ Might Be Your Next Tablet

More work to do when it comes to the cloud.
Many team features in the new Office are improved but, at least in this early demo, Office is not the collaborative engine Google Apps is. Basic documents are still aimed at single-person editing. And it can be slow for teams to learn to work together in real time. Collaborative team sites have to be set up and administered for working on different documents and projects.

Will you upgrade to the new version of Microsoft Office or continue using the tools you currently have? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

Visa, MasterCard Settlement: What You Need to Know

The Visa and MasterCard Settlement What Entrepreneurs Need to Know

Last week’s multibillion dollar settlement with credit card giants MasterCard and Visa affects millions of retail entrepreneurs: It will give them a break on some fees and allow them to charge additional fees of their own.

A group of merchants filed a class action lawsuit against the credit card giants back in 2005 claiming that Visa and MasterCard violated antitrust laws in the way they set transaction fees. The settlement amounts to $6.6 billion, according to a statement from Visa. MasterCard is set to pay nearly $800 million, while Visa’s portion is $4.4 billion. A number of banks will be on the hook, as well.

The settlement still has to go through a number of approvals, including the U.S. District Court, which could take as long as a year, according to Erica Harvill, spokesperson for Visa.

Here are three ways the settlement could affect your small business:

1. You will get a discount on transaction fees. As part of the settlement, Visa and MasterCard have agreed to issue a 0.1% discount on transaction fees for 8 months. So, if you accept Visa or MasterCard, you will save some money on your processing costs. The deduction will start at a time to be decided in the final settlement, according to Jim Issokson, spokesperson for MasterCard.

The cash savings isn’t viewed as much of a bone to the retail industry, though. “The money is significant but money is only temporary — it’s here today and spent tomorrow,” says Mallory Duncan, general counsel to the National Retail Federation, in a statement. Many merchants wanted a more permanent solution to this complex issue — one that implements “changes in the rules that bring about transparency and competition,” says Duncan.

If you’re concerned third-party credit card processing companies are going to pocket the savings without passing it along to the merchants, Issokson says not to worry. The credit card giants will keep the savings in an escrow account to distribute directly to the merchants, he explains.

Related: 5 Questions You Must Ask Your Credit Card Processor

2. You will be able to charge more when customers pay with a credit card. Before this lawsuit, Visa and MasterCard did not allow U.S. businesses to tack on fees. Under the settlement, merchants will be able to do it, they just have to keep the surcharges reasonable and tell customers what they are charging. The new rules are expected to take effect in early 2013, according to the statement from Visa.

Still, the “merchant doesn’t necessarily want to be the first one on the block to start surcharging, because they can irritate loyal customers,” says Phil Hinke, the founder of MerchantFeeSavers, dedicated to helping business owners understand the industry. In other words, just because you can hit your customers with a fee doesn’t mean it is a good idea.

“The clear losers in this latest round of the battles over merchant interchange fees are consumers,” according to a statement from the Independent Community Bankers of America.

Related: 5 Ways to Get Paid Faster

3. If you live in a state where surcharges are illegal, none of this applies to you.Surcharging is prohibited in the following 10 states, according to a research report from investment firm Sterne Agee: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas. It is possible that states will change their laws, but none of that is known right now.

Despite the settlement, the card giants and the companies that process the transactions for them can still hit you with new fees, warns Hinke. Therefore, some merchants are rejecting the settlement, saying it is it a temporary Band-Aid for an industry that needs a major overhaul. “This proposed settlement allows the card companies to continue to dictate the prices banks charge and the rules that constrain the market,” says Tom Robinson, the Chairman of the National Association of Convenience Stores, speaking on behalf of the 3700 members, in a statement.