Square Guide

Interac Debit 101: The Ultimate Guide for Small Business

Table of Contents

Intro

What is Interac Debit?

Interac Debit is a secure and convenient payment option that allows your customers to make purchases securely and conveniently with funds directly from their bank account. Many Interac Debit cards include a feature called Interac Flash, which is a contactless enhancement that allows Canadians to pay by tapping their card at NFC-enabled point-of-sale readers.

Canadians have been using Interac Debit for more than 20 years, and today it’s the country’s preferred payment method. In fact, Interac Debit transactions account for 56 percent of card transactions in Canada, and more people pay using Interac Debit than cash.

Interac Debit transactions account for 56 percent of card transactions in Canada.

Why should I accept Interac Debit?

Interac Debit payments are better for your business for three key reasons: they’re prevalent, secure, and convenient. Let’s dive a little deeper.

Prevalence

As we mentioned before, Interac Debit is the most popular form of payment in Canada. In 2016, there were 28.7 million active debit cards in Canada—up from 24.8 million the previous year. Interac Debit transactions now account for more than half of card transactions in Canada, and more people are paying with Interac Debit than cash.

Security

Thanks to advances in chip technology, Interac debit card fraud has fallen by more than 90 percent since 2010. All ABMs, Interac debit cards, and POS terminals have converted to chip, which means Interac debit cards are protected from fraud tactics like counterfeiting, transaction replay, and card-not-present transactions.

In the instance that a fraudster does get the better of you, you won’t be liable for losses resulting from circumstances beyond your control when you use Interac Debit, Interac Flash, cross-border debit, and Interac Online service. Interac’s zero liability policy also includes losses resulting from technical errors and system problems.

Convenience

As a merchant, it’s important to accept the payment types that Canadian customers most prefer. Interac Debit pulls directly from customers’ bank accounts so it helps them avoid overspending, and Interac Flash makes it easy for customers to tap and go. These convenience factors for customers makes Interac Debit convenient for merchants too—say goodbye to chargebacks and say hello to quicker-moving lines.

How to Accept Interac Debit Payments

Accepting Interac Debit cards in person

There are two ways that Interac helps customers pay for goods or services in person:

Interac Flash
Interac Flash is a contactless debit solution that allows customers to make purchases under $100 quickly and securely by holding their Interac Flash-enabled bank card or mobile device with Apple Pay or Android Pay near a payment reader at checkout. To accept Interac Flash, you must have an NFC-enabled reader like the Square reader for contactless and chip.

Apple Pay with Interac

Interac e-Transfer
Interac e-Transfer is a convenient way to transfer money between bank accounts. It’s often used for things like paying someone for your share of a group trip, making a large purchase, or paying rent to your landlord.

All you need to accept an Interac e-Transfer is an email address or mobile phone number, and a mobile or online banking account at a participating bank in Canada. Once you’re notified of payment, you can access the funds almost immediately. If you don’t bank online, you can register with your bank account number on Interac’s secure website and funds will be available in 4 to 6 business days.

The transaction limit for Interac e-Transfers are set by each financial institution so your customers will have to contact their bank directly to find out what their limit is.

Accepting Interac Debit payments online

Like Interac’s other payment options, Interac Online allows your customers to safely pay for goods and services through your website, directly from their bank account (if they bank online). Many studies show consumers are worried about sharing financial details with online merchants—Interac Online helps to alleviate these concerns.

Interac Online redirects customers to their financial institution’s online banking portal to authorize the payment and then is returned to your website.

When you choose to pay with Interac Online, the online merchant’s checkout page will redirect you to the Interac Online gateway page, prompting you to select your financial institution. Then, you’ll login to online banking and select the account you want to pay from. Finally, confirm the payment amount. Once you confirm the payment through your bank’s secure online banking, you will be returned to the merchant’s checkout confirmation page, where your order will be processed.

Complete list of Interac products

  • Interac Debit - Interac Debit transactions move money electronically and in real time between the customer’s bank and the merchant.
  • Interac Flash- Interac Flash allows customers to make an NFC (contactless) payment by holding their card over an NFC-enabled terminal.
  • Interac e-Transfer - Interac e-Transfer allows anyone with an email address or mobile phone number and Canadian bank account to send or receive money. Interac e-Transfer is available to both personal and business accounts.
  • Interac Cash - Interac Cash lets card holders use a PIN to withdraw money from any Canadian ABM, 24 hours a day.
  • Interac Online - Interac Online gives customers an alternative way to securely pay online with funds withdrawn directly from their bank account.
  • Cross Border Debit (International Services) - Interac also offers Cross Border Debit service, which allows Canadians to shop at participating United States retailers or to receive cash back at all supermarkets and most pharmacies.

What is HCE and why should I care?

Host Card Emulation (HCE) is a technology that allows a mobile device to emulate an NFC payment card without a secure element (like a physical chip embedded in the device and controlled by a third party).

This means that contactless mobile payments don’t need to rely on cooperation from carriers. Merchants and banks can add HCE mobile payment functionality to their own mobile apps. In 2014 RBC became the first bank in North America to add HCE to their mobile app, allowing Canadians to use Interac Flash with their phone regardless of their mobile network or SIM card. An increasingly number of banks and credit unions are following suit.

FAQ

Five Frequently Asked Questions About Interac Debit

What is an IDP purchase?

An IDP purchase is a purchase made using Interac Direct Payment.

How do I know if my debit card is co-branded with Interac?

Look for the Interac logo in the bottom right corner of your physical card or in your mobile wallet or app. If your debit card is enabled for Interac Flash (contactless debit), you’ll also find a contactless symbol (below) on the front or the back of the card.
contactless symbol

Using credit cards vs. Interac Debit online

To send an Interac e-Transfer, all you need is an email address, online access to your bank account at a participating financial institution, and the email address or mobile phone number of the person that you are sending money to.

Is there an interac US equivalent?

In the U.S., debit cards are issued by banks or credit unions—like in Canada—and co-branded by Visa or Mastercard.

What’s the best way to send money from the US to Canada?

The best way to send money from the U.S. to Canada is to use a bank transfer.