UPDATE: Since this post was written over 8 years ago, I have started using Stripe as the best payment processor for websites. Now, there are many online payment options but my go to payment processors are Stripe and PayPal. I usually offer both services on my websites because some people prefer PayPal instead of entering their credit card. I use Stripe for all credit card processing on my websites. It’s the easiest, cheapest option that I’ve found. If you need help with taking payments on your site, please send us a message, we would love to help you with your website!
There are several ways to accept payments on your website.
One of the easiest ways to accept payments is with PayPal. Many people have paypal accounts and will be able to pay you through your website if you accept paypal as a form of payment.
I’ve heard some people say that they don’t like PayPal and they don’t trust them, but I have to disagree. I’ve been using PayPal for over 15 years and I’ve never had a problem. Every problem I’ve heard about either included someone that did something wrong OR the complaint was on a website where the website was trying to talk me into using a different service to take payments. I’m not convinced that PayPal is a bad thing. I like PayPal.
PayPal is easy to use. You can just put a PayPal button on your website by building the button in your PayPal account and then copying and pasting the HTML code that PayPal provides once the button is built. You can encrypt the button code if you want. I don’t see a real need for this, but the option is there if you want to use it.
You can also set up subscription buttons and donate buttons with PayPal. Just build the button, copy and paste the HTML code into your web page.
If you want to accept credit card payments through PayPal, you’ll need a PayPal business account. You will have to pay the credit card fees. You can check at the paypal site for the current credit card fees. Other than the fees per transaction, there are no monthly charges to use these PayPal buttons on your site.
Google checkout is another option that you may want to use. I’ve been so happy with PayPal that I haven’t checked into Google checkout, but I often run across it when I’m purchasing things from other websites.
There are small business sites with ecommerce options built in such as Yahoo!’s small business website options. These types of sites or hosting can get pretty expensive each month.
If you want to accept credit card payments on your site without being sent to another site such as PayPal or Google to actually take the payment, you will need a merchant account and gateway service.
You can get a merchant account at your local bank just as any small business who wants to take credit cards would do. Once you have a merchant account, you must sign up for a gateway service such as Authorize.net to connect your website to the merchant account. The merchant account will have a couple of different types of fees. There is usually a monthly fee as well as a percentage of the credit card payment. This percentage is often different based on what type of credit card is used. There is also a monthly fee for the gateway service. There can also be a fee which is a percentage on each transaction with the gateway service as well.
These fees can add up. This is one reason I like PayPal so well. PayPal has an option called Website Payments Pro which allows you to take credit card payments on your site without sending your customer to PayPal. Your customer will never know that PayPal is processing the payment for you, unless you tell them, because they never leave your site. There is a monthly fee for the service as well as the credit card fees for each transaction. The monthly fee may be a little higher at PayPal for this service as opposed to getting a merchant account and gateway service, but I’ve found that when all the fees have been added up, I come out just as well or better with PayPal.
One thing to keep in mind if you plan to take credit card payments on your web site is that storing credit card numbers on your site can be pretty risky. You can encrypt the credit card numbers, but to use the credit card, you must decrypt the number. If you can decrypt the number in your code, then someone that hacks into your system can also decrypt the numbers. I personally don’t like to store credit card numbers. The risk is just too great. Many of the gateway services (as well as paypal) will store the credit card numbers for you for certain types of payments (such as recurring payments). This helps me sleep better at night, so it’s worth the extra cost.
Accepting credit cards on your site doesn’t have to be difficult, but it’s not one of the easier things you’ll do either. Even though all the gateway services that I’ve used have a test environment where you can test your code, testing is often fairly difficult. Once you get things working in the test environment, you still must test with real credit cards. If you test very much, your credit card company may think some type of fraud is going on and start declining your card. I speak from experience here 🙂
If you have more questions or need more help accepting credit cards on your site, please let me know!