If you want to accept online payments for your business through your website, there are many things to consider. You will need a merchant account which is a business checking account to where the online payments will be deposited. Your website will require the necessary source code to accept secure payments in real time. This code will allow the customer to submit payment information with 128 bit encryption on a secure server. He/she will know if the payment was accepted and the money should be deposited in the merchant account in 2 to 5 days.
What options do you have? Well, this depends upon your business, budget, merchant account, website, web hosting and web developer. Some business applications are refused, because the credit card companies do not wish to accept payments for these products or services. Most refused businesses include gambling sites, escort services, porn sites, illegal or questionable services.
Some new businesses simply use PayPal to accept online payments to save money. There are no monthly gateway fees, application fees or batch fees. You can use their shopping cart code or customized code with your own shopping cart code. Using your own shopping cart allows the flexibility of accepting alternate forms of payment.
Disadvantages to PayPal:
1 - The customer must become a member (free), fill out a form, wait for the listed accounts to be tested and then return to the site to make a purchase. Customers that leave the site may not come back to the site to make a purchase.
2 - PayPal looks unprofessional in comparison with sites that accept the major credit cards directly.
3 - Not all countries use PayPal, though many do.
GoEmerchant has different choices at different prices for e-commerce sites. They offer web hosting and allow you to choose their shopping cart or your own. They will handle online processing and include it with your web hosting fees in one monthly fee.
VeriSign is expensive, but widely known and trusted for verifying accounts. They partner with MerchantEsolutions for third party processing who stipulate that online payments must be within the country. A better solution is Online Data Corporation (Update: now iPayment) who will allow you to apply for a merchant account online in real time.
Echo, short for Electronic Clearing House, developed the online processing. They offer competitive prices. Other processors may require you to pay additional fees such as application fees, batch fees and numerous other fees. They may even force you to have a merchant account with their bank instead of your own local bank. There is one company I shall not name in this article who offers a free TV or other equipment, if you sign with them. Who would trust these people? I read complaints about them. Please be careful when choosing a third party processor. (Update: Intuit acquired ECHO back in early 2008.)
Once you have chosen a third party processor, your web developer must include the necessary code in your website for the shopping cart and the link to the processor. The necessary information will be transferred to the processor site where it is securely processed. Having your own shopping cart is recommended, so you can accept payments with any processor you choose. Some shopping carts only work with authorize.net or 2checkout.com payments, because they were created for them. The shopping cart chosen for your website must be able to work on your server. PHP carts will not work on Windows servers and ASP, ASP.NET will not work on Unix or Linux servers. Cross-platform carts such as CGI carts will work for most servers with a few adjustments.
So make sure you have all the necessary information about your website and read the fine print for each processor. Processing payments on the Internet is convenient for customers and safe for you.
Yvette Kuhns, Power Pages Web Design, April 17, 2003
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