Online payment options for your business

An e-commerce site can range from a full 'online store' that mimics a real life store, allowing customers to search a catalogue, put items in a cart and then pay for them, through to a simple page that links customers to a third party payment system like PayPal or even an online auction site when they want to make a purchase.

There are a number of options for receiving online payments. You can set up payments on your business website using:

  • a merchant account
  • an online payment service
  • a payment service operated by some internet service providers.

These options suit businesses that operate online stores and expect high volumes of transactions.

As an alternative to building payment capacity into your website, you can link from your website to specialist services like online payment providers or online auction sites.

A third option is to generate email invoices from your website. These can give customers options like internet transfers or credit card payments by mail or phone. These options might be more appropriate for businesses with less frequent transactions and simple product ranges.

Some businesses offer customers a range of payment options, such as paying online with a credit card through the business's website, or using PayPal, or making a phone credit card payment.

Online payments through your website

Building e-commerce transactions into your website allows customers to order goods or services and make secure and private payments for their purchases through your website. This is likely to be the best option for businesses with extensive online stores or catalogues.

You can build e-commerce into your website through:

A merchant account with a bank

To pursue this option you will need to establish a merchant facility with your bank that lets you accept credit card payments online. Some banks even offer software to help you set up an online store.

Talk to your bank about how they can help and what costs are involved. It can be worth shopping around as different banks have different fee structures for merchant accounts and internet payment gateways.

An online payments service provider

There are a number of services that will process payments on your behalf through a payments system built into your website. Companies like PayPal and Paymate offer various payment options for businesses, and charge fees for doing so.

A payment gateway

A payment gateway, such as eWAY, links your shopping cart to your bank's merchant facility. Some small businesses choose this option because it can be easier and quicker than setting up a merchant account with a bank, while avoiding some customers' dislike of multi-step payment processes like PayPal.  

Some web hosting services also provide payment facilities. Ask your web host or designer for information about how they can help you.

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