Payment-processing systems lie at the heart of all e-commerce operations. Your site won't survive unless customers can pay for their items with minimal disruptions and maximal convenience. One of the best and most popular ways is to accept credit-card payments online.
Credit-card processing requires an Internet merchant account with a bank. Because not all banks support Internet merchant accounts, check with yours to see if it does or if it's affiliated with a bank that does. Most banks charge a one-time setup fee, in addition to a fee for each transaction. Costs for transaction fees vary widely, from 1.65 percent to 5 percent of the gross sale, plus 10 to 40 cents for transaction, batch and statement fees.
Finding an Internet merchant-account provider can be tough, as entrepreneur Tom Dowling, 41, learned. He's the founder of Infinity Graphics , a company in Glendale, New York, that offers custom imprinting on mouse pads, mugs, clipboards and promotional items. He looked to his local bank for the service when setting up shop in 1996, but he says it was "pretty clear from their response that a merchant account was not forthcoming. I wasn't established long enough, I didn't have a storefront, and I worked out of my house."
After researching trade and business journals and other Web sites, however, Dowling finally found a provider, CardService International, that allowed him to accept online orders and process telephone and retail orders. Other credit-card payment-processing services worth looking into include Signio , CyberCash and Authorize.Net . You can also try your Web hosting company, which should offer these services or be willing to help you set them up on your site.
Setup fees for the service range from $500 to $1,000, followed by a monthly access fee of between $40 and $80. A per-transaction fee of 20 to 60 cents may also be added. And if you use your hosting company for this service, it will probably charge you a comparable fee or include one in its rates.
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Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines.