From the February 2000 issue of Startups

Virtual inventory, virtual employees, virtual storefronts...what's real about virtual business? Several e-commerce products can make the processing of credit card transactions real...real-time, that is.

Many vendors can enable you to offer real-time credit card processing on your site. The cost to you: a small percentage of each transaction.

WorldSubmit, a search engine submission company in Milpitas, California, has been using Authorize.net since its 1998 start. "Our company couldn't exist without real-time transactions," says CEO Sheffield Nolan, 31. "[Authorize.Net's] products are secure and reliable."

How does it work? Real-time credit card transactions require processing through what is called a secure socket layer (SSL). SSL ensures the connection between you and your customers is safe for transmitting sensitive information. Without SSL, information can be intercepted.

Building a secure site requires special programming knowledge. By using one of these services, you eliminate the need to learn advanced programming, secure the rest of your site or deal with credit card transactions manually.


Shannon Kinnard (shannon@ideastation.com) is president of Idea Station, an e-mail marketing agency in Atlanta, and author of Marketing With E-Mail (Maximum Press, $24.95, 800-989-6733).

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Following are some of the leaders in real-time credit card processing. (Make sure they work with the bank that you use for merchant credit card status.)

  • Cybercash (http://cybercash.com): One-time fee starts at $300; monthly fees start at $40; 10 cents to 20 cents per transaction.
  • Signio (http://www.signio.com): Its Payflow service costs $99 for set-up, charges $19.95 per month and offers unlimited transactions.

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