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"Understanding E-commerce Payment Gateways and Merchant Accounts"

What does it take to accept credit card payments online?

The following article explains the entire process in simple terms - including everything you need to know about what's required to process online payments...

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"Accept by Phone is one of those ideas that works just like it sounds. You can process payments from a client quickly by dialing a toll-free number, entering your client's credit card number through an automated system, and then authorizing and processing the payment, all in a few seconds...

Dennis Kennedy
DennisKennedy.com

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"Accept by phone was an excellent way for our new business to begin accepting credit cards, without the need for complicated contracts and expensive equipment..."

Eric M. Jukes
Capital Region Limousine

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Whenever you read about an Internet enterprise, you come across terms such as 'e-commerce payment processing' and 'payment gateway'. If you are new to the field, it's a good idea to educate yourself on the similarities and differences between a merchant account and a payment gateway - or an "e-commerce" payment processor.

If you're planning on selling your products on the net, then read this article to understand more about how payment processing works, how much it costs, and what options exist for you...

Here's the basic definitions:

What is a merchant account? A merchant account is a special type of bank account offered to you by a financial institution on a set contract. This will enable you to accept/receive credit card payments and conduct transactions. This is an approval-based service, with separate fees and terms and conditions.

A merchant account enables you to accept credit card payments from your customers. Depending on the merchant service, you may also be able to accept debit cards and e-check payments as well.

For an online business, you'll need to sign up for a payment gateway once you set up a merchant account - which will also give you a shopping cart system whereby your customers can buy and pay for anything they choose from your selection of products.

The advantage with the merchant account is that it can automate your business - people will be able to deposit money into your account on the web, 24 hours a day.

What is a payment gateway? A payment gateway, just as the name indicates is the direct link between the shopping cart and the bank that processes the payment. This is usually done online, in real time and it involves authorization, processing and management of all online transactions. As soon as the payment is authorized the enterprise would have to access their gateway graphical user interface to complete the transaction.

As you can see, the primary difference between the merchant account and the payment gateway is that one is the license by which you are permitted to accept payment by credit cards, while the other is the vehicle of receiving online payment including that of credit cards.

You should be aware that having access to payment gateway does not entitle you to receive and accept credit cards. The merchant account is a different entity/ feature that has to be applied for and obtained before you can accept payment through credit cards. That said, many merchant providers also offer payment gateway services. A popular payment gateway is Authorize.net.

Often when you set up your business you will be referred to open some payment gateways or other services through which you could accept credit card payments without having to pay for set up charges that you need to pay when you apply for a merchant account. Sometimes, these may be advantageous in comparison to a regular merchant account if you're sales volume is low. Read more about the comparison between 3rd-party gateways and a merchant account in this article: Paypal - or a "Real" Merchant Account?

(In general, if you're planning on doing any kind of volume with your business - and I'm guessing you are - it's better to just get a merchant account of your own. It's more reliable, it's more affordable in the long run, and you have more control of the payments being processed - as well as access to card/customer information)

Remember, a payment gateway will seldom include the permission of receiving credit cards, while many merchant accounts actually offer the setting up of payment gateways as part of the extra features attached to the contract with you.

Both the payment gateway and the merchant accounts are critical steps in setting up your online business on the way to complete automation. In fact, you may not realize how many sales you're losing until you bite the bullet and get a merchant account with a gateway...

Find out more about small business credit card processing >>

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With Accept by Phone, swiped transactions are only 2.69% (keyed transactions are 3.49% and $0.19 per transaction).

No signup fees, no monthly fees, no PCI fee, no monthly minimum, and no cancellation fee.

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