Boost Sales With Numerous Payment Options

Debit Cards
If you want to get the edge on your competitors, you may want to look into setting up your site to accept debit card payments online. Here's why: Debit card use is becoming hugely popular. In fact, according to AllBusiness.com, although credit card purchases have been expanding by about 15 percent for the past five years, debit card purchases have been growing even faster--at a rate of more than 50 percent per year. By the end of 2005, credit and debit cards are expected to account for 43 percent of all purchases in North America, proving that you can no longer ignore customers who want to pay by debit card over the internet.

But before I tell you how accepting debit cards online will help your business grow, it's important that you understand how debit cards work, as well as the different types that are currently in use.

When a payment is made using a debit card, the funds are immediately withdrawn from the purchaser's bank account. There's no "pay later" option with a debit card. With a debit card, you pay now.

There are basically two types of debit cards. The first is a signature-based card that has a Visa or MasterCard logo on it. You can use these cards anywhere Visa and MasterCard are accepted. If you're already accepting credit card payments online, you should be able to accept this form of payment as well. Just check with your merchant account provider.

The second type is a personal identification number (PIN-based) debit card. I'm sure most of you have at least seen this type of card used at offline stores--you swipe your card through a small reader and enter your PIN number, making this type of debit card impossible to use over the internet...until now.

A company called UseMyBank has developed software that allows purchasers to access their own bank accounts and pay for goods and services in real time. The process is nearly identical to paying bills online with your bank, and the money is immediately taken from your account, just like when you use a debit card.

Here's how it works. If your customer decides to use this service to purchase a product, they'll be asked to select their bank, as well as which account they want to pay from. You're then immediately notified of their payment and can start your delivery process. One of the best features of this service is that your customers don't have to give up any of their credit or banking information to you, making this one of the most secure options available.

And in addition to providing another payment option for people who don't like to use credit cards for online purchases, this method also targets teens, who represent a huge market but who often don't have access to credit cards.

UseMyBank is currently available only in Canada, but the company is launching its service internationally in the second quarter of this year. That's why I'm giving you this information now--so you can stay ahead of your competitors by providing your customers with the newest and easiest ways to pay online.

For more information about how you can offer your customers this payment option, just go to UseMyBank's websiteand have a look around. Signing up is straightforward, and the site should be able to answer all your questions.

Offline Payment Options
In addition to providing the online payment alternatives I've been talking about, it's still very important that you give customers the option of ordering and paying offline to ensure you capture the maximum number of sales. Many people are still nervous about giving out their credit card information over the internet, despite secure servers, and some customers will always want to speak with a live person. Giving your customers the option of speaking with a "real" person adds credibility and a human element to your online business.

Another benefit is that the person taking the call can answer customers' questions as well as help "close" the sale by encouraging customers and giving them the final push to buy. To make sure you're able to capture the orders of these customers, you should also have a toll-free number available 24/7 and offer an order form customers can print out and fax or mail.

Final Thoughts
If you're not already accepting credit cards directly from a secure order form on your site, you're missing out on a huge number of sales. With 90 percent of all online purchases being made with credit cards, you literally can't afford not to offer this payment option on your site.

However, even if you're set up to process credit cards online, you can't leave your site off limits to the millions of people who don't have or want to use credit cards. To tap into this lucrative market, you've got to provide some of the alternative payment methods I've mentioned above.

And don't forget that in addition to PayPal and debit cards, there are still lots of other online payment methods, including e-checks, e-wallets, person-to-person e-mail payments and so on, that you may want to explore.

Making it easy for your potential customers to do business with you is essential to your online success. That doesn't mean you need to provide all the payment methods available, but if you're serious about maximizing your sales, it's good to know what's out there so you can make sure you're taking advantage of the options that best suit your type of business and customers.

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