Online Credit Card Processing

The benefits of accepting credit cards online

The ability to accept credit cards online is the lifeblood of any business selling goods through an online eCommerce store.  It is also important for businesses that are mobile or require flexibility.  There are several great options for online credit card processing, but there are things you should consider before making a choice.

First things first

The first step is to sign up for online credit card processing services, otherwise known as a merchant account.  Your merchant services provider will help guide you through the steps necessary to accept credit cards online depending on the solution you choose.  If you are running an online store, you will be required to use a payment gateway.  A payment gateway is basically a “bridge” between your store and your merchant bank.  It ensures that transactions travel securely from one place to the next.

What happens next

Once a customer enters his credit card information, the information is securely forwarded to your Merchant Bank’s Processor through the payment gateway.  Next, the specific credit card network (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) receives the transaction from your Merchant Bank’s Processor. Finally, the bank that issued the credit card receives the transaction and makes the decision to approve or decline the charge.  Once approved, the money from the transaction is deposited into your bank account, minus the processing fees.

It is important to choose a online credit card processing company that makes setup easy and offers low fees.

What to look for when choosing a merchant services provider

When you start to investigate merchant services providers you will find that some don’t charge any fees but have higher processing costs.  Others charge an assortment of fees. Make sure you know which fees you will have to pay with your online merchant account.
If you are required to sign a contract, read the contract carefully and look for extra costs such as cancellation fees, setup fees, or monthly minimums.

A point of confusion is that terms may be different depending on the solution you choose to accept credit cards.  Retail credit card processors usually offer “tiered pricing” that is generally determined by how a card is swiped. For example, if you own a retail store and swipe a card into a terminal that would most likely generate lower fees than if you took the information over the phone.  However, the exact opposite might apply for an internet based company. In addition, the majority of mobile credit card processing services offer flat-rate pricing.

What will it cost to accept credit cards online?

In addition to the different pricing packages set out above, there are a wide variety of additional fees depending on which processor you choose. While it is common for processors to charge a per-transaction fee, some charge an additional monthly or gateway fee. Some merchant accounts do not include any additional fees, but have higher processing costs. Others charge an assortment of fees but have lower processing rates. In the end, the amount of your monthly transactions and the average amount of your individual sales will be factored into whatever terms you are offered.  Keep that in mind when looking for a solution that fits your budget.

What you should expect from your online credit card processing company

Accept all credit cards

Regardless of which merchant services provider you choose, you should expect to be able to accept all major credit cards and debit, including MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and American Express.  As a result, you will never miss a sale!

Secure transactions

Your processor should offer use of a well known, trusted payment gateway like authorize.net.  This ensures that all of your transactions are encrypted and securely transmitted to your Merchant Bank’s Processor.

No lengthy contracts

A processor that is secure in his services will not require a lengthy contract.  Instead, he will provide high quality services that will keep you coming back month after month.  If a processor is requiring a lengthy contact, you may want to look elsewhere.

No cancellation fees

Another important thing to avoid is cancellation fees.  If you are unhappy with the service provided to you, or even choose a different path, you should not incur a fee for services you won’t be using.

Excellent customer service

Your processor should provide you with the customer support you need in the case of questions or issues.  You should be given a phone number and email address to reach them.  Most importantly, a customer service representative needs to be available when you need them.  24/7 support is always best.

Data Security

Make sure your processor is proactive when it comes to data encryption and security regulations.  All solutions should meet the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). But security doesn’t stop there.  Processors will expect you to comply with the standards too.  You will be required to complete a Self-Assessment Questionnaire on an annual basis.  Your processor may charge an annual fee for reminding and helping you to complete the questionnaire.  Why is this so important?  A recent study revealed that 96% of merchants that had data breaches in 2011 were not PCI compliant.

What are my choices if I want to accept credit cards online?

Online Stores / eCommerce
If you are running an online store, you will want to look into a payment gateway.  It provides security for online credit card processing.  You can use a payment gateway in two ways.  First it can be used to process sale on your eCommerce website.  Second, you can key credit card information in directly from your computer keyboard. Read more about payment gateway services.

Mobile businesses
If your business is on the go, mobile credit card processing could be the thing for you.  Credit cards are scanned using a mobile credit card swiper.  Read more about mobile credit card processing solution.  Another option is wireless credit card processing.  Wireless credit card processors are light weight and flexible.  They have an internal battery that charges for many hours at a time.  Read more about wireless credit card processing.

Now you are prepared!

In conclusion, no matter what type of solution you are looking for that enables you to accept credit cards online, it is important to carefully research your options.  Ask LOTS of questions. Specifically ask about additional monthly, setup and cancellation fees.  If you are required to sign a contract (no lengthy ones please!) make sure you read it thoroughly.  If you do this you will find the perfect online credit card processor for your business.

 

 
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