Accepting payments online: the basics
Doing business online is appealing for many reasons, but many merchants have questions about what they need to do to start accepting payments online. To begin with, you need a merchant account, an online payment gateway, an encrypted link for your shopping cart, and a secure checkout procedure. When setting up both these components, it’s helpful to decide what type of online payments you want to accept.
Begin by evaluating how your customers typically pay. Do they use cash? Checks? Credit and debit cards? It’s important to meet your customers’ demand for their preferred payment options. At the same time, it’s important to consider the payment types you want to accept. Are you equipped to accept checks as securely and easily as credit and debit cards? What about gift cards? Answers to these questions are important as you choose an online payment solution that’s right for your business.
Accepting credit and debit cards is a given today. Many providers offer one combined service that facilitates both instore and online card payment transactions. Ask your point of sale system reseller and your payment processing provider how you can accept payments online and instore in a streamlined fashion. Be sure to ask about setup and any necessary service fees for setting up a website (if you need one), a shopping cart, and integrating important security features. Be sure to find out about site maintenance, and consider whether you want to handle updates or rely on a provider.
Another thing to think about is whether you want to accept aggregated account payments. An aggregated account is a more complex merchant service that essentially allows your customers to pay direct from their bank account. Although there are several types of these accounts, PayPal is among the most well known. There are several advantages to an aggregated account. Setup is generally more simple and affordable. Customers can pay faster. And in general, it’s easier to qualify for an aggregated account than a traditional merchant account. For these reasons, many smaller businesses choose to begin accepting online payments via an aggregated account.
eChecks are an additional online payment option. Although not as popular as credit and debit cards or aggregated accounts, eChecks are still a viable alternative for online payments. With an eCheck, customers input the same information they would for a physical check, which links to their personal banking account. Processing an eCheck does not require a merchant account, but does rely on organizations like the National Automated Clearing House Association.
Fees to process eChecks tend to be slightly lower than processing other payment types, but require customers to do a lot more work. eCheck services are most useful for 1) reoccurring or automatic payments, 2) some companies that prefer this payment type, and 3) those consumers who are more comfortable filling out an online check than submitting their credit or debit card information.
When venturing into online payments, it's important to know your options first. Follow these guidelines, and look to a trusted provider like Vantiv that can help you find the right solutions for your business.