How To Accept Payments Online: 5 Steps And Best Payment Processing Providers
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If you are going to sell things online then one of your first steps has to be figuring out how to accept payments online. There are a lot of payment options these days for online merchants. Everything from credit card processors to Cash on Delivery. (C.O.D.) The options available to you will depend on your geographic region. Some payment processors only work in certain regions of the world.
In most areas, you have multiple options for accepting payments from your customers. In these cases, it’s always best to have more than one set up so that your customers have choices. Too many can also be bad because then your customer has to stop and think. A confused mind will say no. So don’t overwhelm your customer with options.
Online Payments Related Terms You Should Know
Before we begin, let’s define a couple of terms that you are going to see throughout this article so that you know what I mean when I use them.
What is a Payment Processing Software
This is software that you install on your website that allows you to securely take payment information and transmit it to the payment gateway. Modern payment processing software does not store any payment information on your server for security purposes. Your payment gateway stores all of that information.
What is Payment Gateway
This is the company that is responsible for actually processing your payment. The popular payment gateways are Stripe, Paypal, Apple Pay, etc. Your payment processing software will connect with one or more payment gateways.
What Is An Online Storefront
This is a fancy term for “your website that sells things”. Your online storefront is usually running on a server that you have some level of control over. You can install new payment processing software, add new productions, and process transactions.
Why Should You Use Payment Processing Software?
The short answer to this question is that, unless you want your customers to call you each time they want to complete an order and give you their credit card number over the phone, you are going to need payment processing software. The good news is that most payment processing software is free because the vendors charge you per transaction, not per software download.
By incorporating payment processing into your online store you:
- Make it faster for your customers to complete orders
- Make it easier for your customers to complete orders
- Make it more secure for customers to complete orders
- Make it easier for you to detect and deal with fraud
As an added bonus, most online payment processing software will interface with your payment gateway and allow you to easily research old payments and print out reports for bookkeeping.
Now that we all agree on the terms we are using, let’s move on the steps you should take to accept payments online.
STEP 1: Setting Up Secure Payment Processing
When it comes to payment processing software, security is paramount. Most top-tier web hosting partners spend a lot of time securing their system against common threats. That being said, you are going to have to do your part as well.
Make Sure You Have A Secure Certificate
The first thing you need to do before you start setting up your payment processing software is to make sure you have a secure certificate. Making sure that your website is served securely has to be done before you do anything else.
Most top-tier web hosting partners make “Let’s Encrypt” certificates available to all websites for free. At SiteGround for example, with your hosting account you get a Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate to protect your domain and subdomains. This is a great place to start. If you are in more sensitive industries like banking on healthcare, you may want to invest in one of the certificates that not only provide security but also proof of identity. These are more expensive and not really necessary unless it is a standard in your industry.
💡 TIP: About storing payment information locally
Make sure your payment processing software doesn’t store any payment information locally.
If you are using a pre-written module or plugin in one of the major ecommerce platforms, this is handled for you. However, if you are hiring a developer to create you a custom payment processing software package – not a great idea – then make sure that they do store things like credit card information locally in your database.
STEP 2: Facilitate Credit And Debit Cards
Currently, credit cards and debit cards are the predominant way of paying for goods online. In almost every situation, small merchants are going to pay a fee that is around 3% of the total transaction plus a “processing fee”. The percentage you pay to your payment gateway can get smaller as you sell more but it is usually 3%.
Payment processors like Stripe and Paypal will take a lot of different credit and debit cards. The actual options available to you depend on your geographic region. Setting up one of these processors is the easiest way to get going in payment processing. If you are using WooCommerce as your online store platform, setting up credit and debit card options will be easy. There are several Payment Processors that work with WooCommerce from which you can choose. Check in the following video how to enable them.
STEP 3: Set Up Recurring Billing
If you sell memberships or subscriptions, recurring payments are important to you. They are a bit trickier than one-off transactions. Even so, all of the major payment processors now support them so they aren’t difficult to enable.
Recurring billing requires regular access to the customer’s credit card number. You do not want to store this information locally on your server. Your payment processor stores it for you on their server. When it’s time, they decrypt the number and then process your subscription for you. Again, there is no reason for you to ever store the payment information on your system.
If you are using WooCommerce to build your online store, watch as I explain how to enable and manage subscriptions in the video below.
STEP 4: Accept Mobile Payments
Mobile payments are starting to take off thanks to Apple Pay and Google Pay. These systems were originally designed to allow customers to pay for goods at a physical store with just their phone. These days though, many online merchants support using a mobile phone to pay for goods and services. Apple Pay and Google Pay are still the leaders but Venmo and PayPal also offer a mobile payments option.
Mobile payments are attractive to users because neither you, nor the payment gateway actually get their actual credit card number, a one-time number is generated and used for this specific transaction. Because the number is only good for this specific transaction, if it leaks out or gets stolen, the consumer is still protected.
Mobile payments are easy to set up because they work through existing payment gateways. If you sign up with Stripe, you get the option of using Apple Pay and Google Pay in addition to the other credit and debit cards supported.
STEP 5: Accept Cryptocurrency Payments
Crypto is the new kid on the block. While most of the mainstream payment gateways do not yet accept cryptocurrencies, it is possible to install payment processing software from payment gateways that specialize in cryptocurrencies. Specifically, Coinbase has plugins for both WooCommerce and Shopify to allow those stores to accept most mainstream cryptocurrencies.
How To Choose A Payment Processing Solution?
So with so many options available, how are non-technical site owners supposed to make a decision on which payment gateways to use and which payment processing software to install? We actually have a detailed video on how to choose the best payment processor for your eCommerce shop.
However, the short answer is:
- Survey your customers and/or friends and see what credit cards that use
- Sign up with a payment gateway that processes those cards
- Look at what other options you may want to add. (Mobile or Crypto)
By following that plan, you will support the payment options that are important to the majority of your customers first and then set yourself up for the future.