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What to look for when choosing a payment gateway.

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Your ability to accept and process credit and debit card transactions online and in person is directly linked to the payment gateway that you select. While there are many payment gateway services available to choose from, their capabilities and costs vary dramatically. As you explore viable options for your business' payment processing needs, you’ll want to focus on the following factors:

Upfront costs.

All payment gateways have setup requirements and those with more complex platforms may charge a higher fee upfront. Keep in mind that some service providers offer fast setup and enable you to begin accepting and processing credit payments without paying a dime initially. While it is important to keep operational costs to a minimum, a higher priority is to find the right payment processing platform for your needs. After narrowing down the options based on other factors listed here, you can compare the upfront costs to find the best overall option available.

Annual and transaction fees.

Annual and transaction fees are operational costs associated with the ongoing use of payment gateway services. Annual fees often cover software updates, customer service enhancements, and ongoing support, and other provided services that can impact your overall experience as well as your customers' payment experiences. Some providers charge a fixed fee per transaction, while others are a percentage of the transaction’s value. There are usually caps set on these fees. Be advised that the plan that is most affordable for you may be dependent on the average amount of your transactions. Because these fees impact net profits regularly going forward, understand their true cost to your organization before deciding to work with a specific payment gateway provider.

Supported credit cards and currencies.

Needless to say, the more payment options you can offer your customers, the better. Most payment gateway providers allow for Visa and Mastercard transactions. Your ability to accept these payment methods may meet most of your customers' needs. However, you may also need or want to accept other types of credit cards, such as Discover, American Express, and others. If you cannot process your customers’ preferred methods of payment, you may frustrate them or even lose their business entirely. Additionally, if you regularly (or even periodically) do business with foreigners, your payment processing provider will need to offer currency conversion.

Setup time and effort.

Establishing a payment gateway for your business could take as little as a few hours or as long as several days. Keep in mind that the gateway must also be integrated into your operations after the initial setup, for example embedding it into your website. Some payment gateways are designed with setup and integration simplicity in mind, while others may require you to use available customer service and support extensively. You may reduce the setup time and effort when you review the compatibility of the gateway platform with your website. Some platforms are specifically designed for websites with specific features or capabilities and they are much easier to integrate and setup as a result.

The user interface.

Your customers’ experiences with your company are directly affected by the payment process. This experience typically begins when the customer inputs billing and credit card information into the interface. When this experience is slow, frustrating, or confusing, customers may be inclined to abandon items in their shopping cart and turn to one of your competitors. Your business understandably spends a lot of time, energy, and money on marketing and advertising. The last thing that you want is to lose sales at the payment stage. Thoroughly research user interfaces. You can even test them out yourself before you finalize your decision about which payment gateway provider to use.

An ironclad commitment to customer service.

Your business pays for the provider’s customer service and support through your annual fee, so this service should truly be helpful. It also should be courteous and available in a timely manner. If your payment gateway provider offers limited hours of operation and is based on the other side of the world, accessibility will be minimal should problems arise. Before deciding on a gateway provider, identify where the customer service reps are physically located, what business hours they hold, and what their qualifications are. Try calling the customer service department yourself a few times to determine how easy it is to reach a live person and how helpful they actually are.

Payment gateway security.

Fraud, identity theft, and other similar crimes involving credit cards are unfortunately commonplace these days. Your customers may have personally been impacted by these crimes previously, or they likely have heard at least a few shocking stories about the effects these crimes have had on others. Many shoppers today prioritize transaction security and may decide to leave your website or establishment if you cannot provide a secure payment platform. By selecting a payment gateway provider that maintains high standards for payment security, you can reduce the likelihood that your customers may be affected by these crimes. If your customers are affected by identity theft or other issues through your website, you may experience a tremendous backlash from negative publicity. Therefore, be sure to look for a gateway service provider that maintains strict compliance with relevant security organizations.

While the assumption that all payment gateway service providers offer a similar overall experience is easy to make, you can now see that they differ dramatically. From their fees and functionality to their services, setup requirements, and more … there are many factors that require close review before you decide which provider to use. Get started by identifying your needs and creating a list of providers that meet those needs. You can then compare costs, the quality of customer service, and other factors to finalize your decision. Good luck!