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What you need to know about accepting credit card payments online.

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If you want to run an ecommerce business, it is essential that you accept credit card payments online. Without this capability, your retail company is sure to struggle. Take steps to learn all about what goes into these internet-based electronic transactions to ensure that you make the right decisions to cement your future success.

A guide to payment processors.

There are three different methods that you can use to accept your customers’ money when they purchase your products and services online. They include the following:

  • Merchant account combined with a payment gateway — This is the most traditional of your options and combines a special kind of business bank account designed specifically for accepting payments with a payment gateway that connects your store to your merchant account. This gateway performs the same function as a point-of-sale (POS) solution at a brick-and-mortar store, facilitating all aspects of the payment transaction among the involved parties. In order to get this combined payment option, you will need to fill out applications for both components. Also, be ready to pay fees that may vary according to which products you ultimately choose. The benefits of this account-gateway combo are that customer service is often quite robust, you tend to have more control over security features, and options can be easily customized.
  • All-in-one packages — These combine merchant accounts and gateways into one seamless entity. Getting started is easy with these packages, which allow you to accept all major credit cards. Transaction rates are low and you may not even be required to pay initiation costs if you get a basic membership. Thanks to the hosted checkout/payment pages that these services provide, your customers’ sensitive credit card information never goes through your own servers. Instead, the hosted checkout payment pages use one-time tokenization to ensure security and compliance with credit card industry standards.
  • Simplified credit card processing options — These streamlined solutions take the ease of all-in-one packages a step further by making the customer’s checkout experience even more seamless. That’s because the shopper never is directed away from your website to finalize the transaction. Setup is incredibly fast and easy, often occurring within minutes. Most of the companies that provide these product suites do not charge setup or monthly fees and you will not have to pay extra money to have a merchant account or payment gateway.

Questions to ask potential payment service providers.

All credit card processors and accounts are not created equal. Furthermore, you may need to live with the choice you make for several years. For these reasons, it is important to ask several important questions before selecting your provider. These include the following:

  • What will it cost to process each specific type of transaction for personal, business, reward, and debit cards? Do fees vary according to the transaction amount?
  • What are your rates for processing different payment types: Manual entry, swiping, and remote/online?
  • Is there an additional fee for the payment gateway?
  • What fees are involved in refunds? Do I recover any of my initial fee amounts if a customer makes a return?
  • Are there early termination fees or other hidden costs in the contract?
  • Are there any additional monthly charges such as batch and statement fees? What, if anything, will change after the initial promotion period?
  • Is there a monthly processing fee if my sales volume falls below a certain amount?
  • Is there a limit on the amount I can process should my business grow quickly?
  • What kind of ongoing customer support do you offer?

It is vital that you obtain complete answers to all of these questions and any others that come to your mind. Remember, if a claim seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Some thoughts about websites.

It probably goes without saying, but your website should be the beating heart of your ecommerce business. If you have already set up a site that you’re happy with through a site builder such as WordPress or Wix, it isn’t difficult to add payment options. Your best bet is to take advantage of your site builder’s pre-existing add-ons, extensions, and plug-ins. If you have not made your page with one of these template sites, find a payment processor who supports customized payments. When you use these payment buttons, you can dictate many of the options that customers will see during their buying experience, including whether items go into a shopping cart or directly to checkout.

On the other hand, you have even more options if you don’t already have a site that you want to use. Ecommerce shopping cart software is an all-in-one hosted solution with domain, hosting, online sales, product management, and even multi-channel capabilities. These allow you to sell your products from your site, via social media, and online auction sites through the same shopping cart. Most shopping cart packages have a robust suite of add-ons from which you can choose; however, you can also search for whatever else you need on the app market. For example, the ability to accept recurring payments may be particularly important to your business model if you offer ongoing or subscription services. If that describes your business, before signing on with a shopping cart company, be sure that you can add this capability either through internal or external resources.

Although having your own website is a huge plus, there are other payment options that you can try in lieu of (or in addition to) your own domain and pages. These include online invoicing, form builders, and selling your products via social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. As well as becoming a vendor on online marketplaces like Etsy and eBay.

The internet has opened up the global marketplace to virtually any entrepreneur with products to sell and a keen desire to rise above the competition. As you can see, accepting payments online is by no means a simple process. Nevertheless, millions of business owners are successfully making electronic transactions via the internet each day. There is no reason why you should not join this lucrative commercial revolution.