If you have an online business and want to make money for your products or services, there’s no question you need a payment gateway.
In the simplest terms, a payment gateway is the process that transmits a credit card, debit card or PayPal transaction and authorizes (or declines) payment from your customer to you. Your payment gateway will verify each customer's billing information, verify funds for each customer's payment method and approve requests, allowing your business to issue a confirmation number. Moreover, most importantly, it pays you.
The question, however, is with a plethora of payment gateways out there, how do you select the best one for your business? Here are few things to consider when choosing.
External vs. Internal
First, you need to determine if you want an external (or hosted) gateway or internal (integrated) gateway. An internal gateway will allow customers to pay without ever leaving your site, while an external gateway will take customers to the gateway’s site for payment. The biggest advantage of external gateways is that they are responsible for PCI compliance and data security. While an internal gateway will keep customers on your site, you will be the one responsible for safely storing your customer information and complying with security rules and regulations.
If something goes wrong, you want to be able to solve the problem quickly to avoid lost sales. Check out the gateway’s policies to find out if they have 24/7 support and how that support is provided.
Modern vs. Traditional
You will also need to determine if you want to go with a traditional or modern gateway. With traditional payment gateways, businesses must have a separate merchant account for customer payments to be deposited. They are a bit more time-consuming because you have to apply for a merchant account, which can take four to six weeks, but their per-transaction fees are typically lower.
Modern gateways, on the other hand, eliminate the need for a merchant account and can deposit funds from customer transactions directly into your bank account. They are quick and simple to set up, but they also typically have higher per-transaction fees and are almost always external, requiring customers to leave your site.
Even if the gateway is internal, you still need to make sure the company you are working with adheres to strict security protocols. Protection of your customers’ data is paramount.
If you want customers to set up a subscription of some sort, you will want to make sure you select a gateway that allows automatic payments.
The cost of gateways come in two forms — transaction fees and the purchase price of the actual gateway. While some gateways are free, they typically charge higher transaction fees. Some transaction fees are per-transaction while other companies offer a set number of transactions per month for a flat fee. Shop around to see what makes the most sense for your business.
The good news is that once you select a gateway, it is not a life-long commitment. Test it out, see how it works for your business, and if you do not like it, you can always find another one.