Q: I want to accept credit cards online and by telephone as payment for my products. What kind of equipment do I need?

A: To compete in an online environment, you need a fast, secure transaction processor you can trust. To process your transactions safely, securely, quickly and affordably, you need the virtual (i.e., not physical) equivalents of point-of-sale hardware and software to process credit card and check transactions in a non-face-to-face environment, such as in cyberspace or over the telephone.

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Learn more about setting up a secure site with Secure Electronic Transactions: Introduction and Technical Reference by Larry Loeb.

You need to be sure your transaction processor provides you with the right products and services to conduct business online:

  • A secure payment gateway enables you to accept credit cards, purchasing cards and checks electronically, safely and securely and translates the information from your Web site into a format that can be read by an electronic processing system. Be sure your transaction processor offers a secure, fast and reliable e-commerce software package. A secure payment gateway supports all your sales, returns, real-time authorizations, captures, batch settlement processing and refunds. State-of-the-art technology provides you with numerous benefits, including fraud screening of every transaction you submit and real-time reporting via your Web browser.
  • A virtual terminal enables you to process transactions from any Internet-ready PC. It eliminates the need for point-of-sale hardware at your site, and it provides you with a convenient, easy-to-use Web-payment interface.

There are other payment-posting tools for more sophisticated Web sites to enable them to conduct e-commerce. These tools integrate quickly and easily into your Web site, with a full range of payment options and compliance elements (i.e., to help you comply with MasterCard and Visa rules and regulations).

  • A shopping cart or the ability to integrate with an online shopping cart allows customers to shop on your Web site electronically, usually with an online catalog or listed product choices. Items selected are gathered into a shopping cart-which is actually a temporary database-where the costs are collected and tabulated. The virtual shopping cart is an electronic form of the physical shopping cart found in a grocery store.

Options found in various types of shopping carts may let your customers review:

  • All the items in his or her cart
  • The quantities in the order
  • The calculation of shipping, handling, currency exchanges and sales tax that are handled automatically at checkout time
  • Customer support 24/7, preferably in multiple languages, provides the ability to serve diverse merchants and businesses. Be sure to look for a transaction processor that offers you both telephone and e-mail support. Many secure payment gateways offer only e-mail support. A gateway such as the LinkPoint Secure Payment Gateway offers all its merchants 24/7 telephone and e-mail support.
  • Secure encryption technology ensures the safety of your transactions. Look for a processor that supports card verification and validation-CVV2/CVC2 are applications that protect MasterCard and Visa transactions-and provides address verification for further security. Today's sophisticated encryption technology provides safe, convenient, cost-effective and rapid payments between consumers, merchants and their banks over the Internet. Be sure your processor uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), a protocol designed by Netscape Communications that allows encrypted, authenticated communications to travel across the Internet. Web site addresses that begin with https indicate that an SSL connection will be used. SSL provides you with three important elements: privacy, authentication and message integrity.
  • Virtual check capabilities allow you to accept checks electronically over the Internet as a payment option for your customers' purchases.
  • Wireless terminals provide mobile merchants, such as taxi drivers, transportation and delivery services and merchants who sell at trade shows, sporting events, swap meets or other mobile venues with a mobile commerce payment solution. Be sure your transaction processor offers merchants on the go secure, reliable transaction processing with a top-quality wireless point-of-sale terminal or specialized payment software used with a PDA or other handheld device.

You will find that setting up an online or mobile business offers exciting opportunities. For more information about establishing a merchant account for an Internet, mobile or a traditional business, please e-mail me or visit the Cardservice International Web site and click on "Online Inquiry."


Tim Miller is COO of Cardservice International and has more than 15 years of experience in the credit card processing industry.


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.