Choosing a Merchant Account
You have product or service and people keep asking you if they can order online. But you have to tell them that they can’t buy directly from your website because you don’t offer a way for customers to purchase online. So, you are losing sales and making your customers unhappy.
We want to help you change that.
We have some information for choosing a merchant account and ecommerce solution so that you can sell products online.
What is the difference between a Merchant Account and a Payment Gateway?
Before you go looking for an ecommerce solution for your website, you need to learn the difference between a payment gateway and a merchant account.
A payment gateway is a service that sends payment transactions to a credit card network such as Visa, MasterCard, or American Express. The payment gateway service collects your money from your customer and sends the money to you (the merchant) by depositing the money to a bank account.
A merchant account is a service that keeps money collected via a payment gateway until the money is sent to a normal bank account. A lot of online merchant accounts also have a payment gateway that collects funds from the customer.
In this article, we are going to look at online merchant accounts that have a payment gateway so you can start to sell online.
What do you need to think about when you select a Merchant Account?
As you begin your search for a merchant account provider, consider the following questions. Your merchant account must be able to meet the unique needs of your business.
- Do I need payment forms. These are forms are where the customer inputs their credit card information.
- Do I need shopping carts? Shopping carts are an ecommerce solution where the customer browses through your website and adds items they want to purchase.
- Am I selling digital products that get downloaded immediately such as books, games, or images?
- What foreign currency do I want and need to accept? Or am I happy with just US dollar or Canadian dollar sales?
- Do I need recurring or subscription billing features? This allows me to charge my customer every day, weeky or month.
- Do I want my merchant account to process payments online only? Do I also want to take credit card payments in person with a mobile credit card reader? Or do I also have a storefront where I will want to connect to cash register?
Once you find a few merchant accounts that meet your needs, ask yourself the following questions about each of your choices.
- Do I need an SSL certificate on my website to use with the payment gateway service?
- One of the more important questions is does this service integrate with my current website or platform? Or do I want to use this opportunity to start over and build a whole new website and integrate with a new ecommerce solution?
- How much are the processing and transaction fees?
- How much are the annual fees that I need to pay the provider?
- Does the service integrate with my accounting software such as Quick Books, FreshBooks or other accounting solutions?
A tip to finding the right merhant account provider, is to focus on the very basic items that you need.
Here are several platforms that support ecommerce integration
To sell online, you need more than a payment gateway to collect money and a merchant account to hold money. You need an ecommerce website or shopping platform that enables users to browse, select, and buy.
If you already have a web platform that enables ecommerce transactions, look for merchant accounts that integrate with your platform. If you are starting from scratch, consider using one of the following ecommerce platforms to launch your store. Each of these options offers integration with merchant accounts.
Shopify is immensely popular. It’s easy to get started with as you can make beautiful and professional websites with no technical skills. They offer pre-made templates so you can just pick from a template and begin adding your products and logo. They also handle all the web hosting so you don’t need to mess with that. Finally, they offer integration to many different payment gateways. Also these guys won’t bust your wallet as you can get started very cheaply. So this is a great option for folks who are just getting started selling online.
Square Payments is a merchant account that offers both online and in-person payments. Square is perhaps best known for its mobile credit card reader. The mobile credit card reader is called a “dongle” and it plugs into your smartphone or iPad. When you make a sale your customer hands you their credit card and you swipe the credit card through the dongle. The secure transaction is transmitted within a couple seconds and you receive a response back from the credit card network. Most merchants add more equipment to the Square credit card reader. For example, many merchants add iPad Stands to hold their iPad, receipt printers that automatically print out a receipt, automated cash drawers and bar code scanners. This stuff may sound difficult to setup but its not. It all help you present a professional presence to your customers quickly and easily. If you’re a merchant at a craft show, or farmer’s market, for example, these things are must haves when you’re selling from your booth.
WordPress is a major and insanely popular website builder. Ecommerce has taken off with WordPress and one of the reasons is the ease and availability of Woo Commerce plugins. Woo Commerce is a company that makes beautiful, professional and amazing WordPress themes. They also make plugins which are computer programs that you simply load into your WordPress site. One of the plugins is the Woo Commerce Plugin. This plugin enables you take online payments. It integrates with many different payment gateways. So you’ve got some great options here.
The Top 5 Merchant Account Providers
There are many merchant account providers but we’ve culled the list to 5 providers. These are some of the most popular providers in the market today. They are some of the easiest providers to get started with.
Paypal is probably the most well known of the payment gateways and merchant account providers. They’ve been around for well over twenty years. You’ll get a merchant account and payment gateway in one solution. You’ll also get the ability to take credit card payments in person with a mobile credit card reader that plugs into your iPad or smartphone. Consumer trust PayPal and their brand can help you make sales.
Stripe is becoming a leading merchant option due to its powerful API options, which allow users to customize it to match a website or app’s unique payment gateway needs. Stripe’s founder, Patrick Collison, explains Stripe what he and his company created. Stripe has a lot of features and they are constantly adding more. If you don’t have technical chops that’s not a problem because they are easy to integrate. If you already have an ecommerce solution such as Shopify, Magento, WordPress, Prestashop or most any other solution out there, don’t worry. Stripe will have you covered. If you want to hire an engineer or you yourself have technical skills, you’ll be pleased by all the work that Stripe has put into their pre-made code libraries, API design and clean documentation.
Authorize.net offers a ton of features. You’ll get a payment gateway, merchant account, mobile credit card reader, recurring payments, pay forms and much more. This company has been in business for well over 20 years and they know how to service the needs of small merchants and businesses that are just getting started selling. Authorize.net pumps in value into their offering. You’ll get recurring payments for subscriptions along with fraud detection and prevention tools. Because they’ve been around forever and a day every ecommerce solution on the planet knows them and there are many pre-made integration solutions that are already done for you.
A PayPal company, Braintree provides options for all the basics plus some new transaction methods such as Apple Pay, Venmo, Coinbase, JCB, and Diner’s Club.
Once you set up a payment processor that meets your requirements, you will no longer disappoint your customers when they ask if they can buy your product or service online. You’ll be able to send them to your online platform and start bringing in extra revenue as they make purchases directly from your website.