How To Take Payments On Your Website

    June 17, 2005

After my two-part article about selling things on your website, I had several people ask for more details on billing companies and shopping carts. So here goes.

If you were to Google for billing card companies, you’d find out that there are thousands of places out there. Most of these companies have set up a merchant account for their own companies, but added the right to accept payments for other companies. So any person with a merchant account, who pays the extra fees to accept other company’s payments, can sell their services online.

As with anything else, online or offline, be sure you know who you are doing business with. Be advised that I have only dealt with CCNow and PayPal. The other companies I talk about I have not used myself, but they are popular on the Internet. Still check them out well to be sure they offer the services you need.

Of course, you could always set up your own merchant account, but unless you are doing a lot of sales, I wouldn’t suggest going this route. When you set up a merchant account you have to pay a set-up fee, annual fee and a fee per transaction. They will also charge a fee if you want a credit card machine. You have to sell a lot of items that are making you a lot of money, to make this profitable. A company may also require you to sign up with Verisign to ensure your site’s security. If you live in an area with a Sam’s Club, I would suggest checking them out. They have the lowest fees of any merchant account company that I have been able to find. Costco also has good prices.

When you are looking for a billing company, you need to check out several things.

  • Do they take credit cards?
  • Which credit cards do they take?
  • Do they take checks?
  • Will they accept payments from people in other countries?
  • Do they charge a set-up fee?
  • What do they charge per transaction?
  • Do they charge a monthly or annual fee?
  • Do they require that you sell a minimum amount each month?
  • If you don’t sell the minimum amount they require, what fee will they charge you?
  • Once you know what a billing company needs to do for you, check out these companies.

  • CCBill – Among other things, they offer E-tickets. This lets members subscribe to your pay site by issuing usernames and passwords after subscribers pay their fee.
  • – Easy to use, they do charge a fee of 9% on the transaction, but you can only sell products, not services. They also have a shopping cart you can use.
  • – This company specializes in helping you with international purchases.
  • – They have some limitations on what you can charge a client.
  • Itransact, Inc. – They offer check processing for your site. If you have a merchant account, you can use it through them too.
  • Instabill – To use their service you have to pay a set-up fee and pay an annual fee.
  • Merchant – They offer merchant accounts and credit card processing.
  • – Very inexpensive and easy to use.
  • StormPay – They let people make payments via e-mail.
  • Besides a billing company you may also need to consider getting a shopping cart for your site. If you are selling only one item on your site, you won’t need a shopping cart. But if you’re like me, and selling several items, then you will want a shopping cart. Without a shopping cart, a person can only buy one item at a time. They would have to complete the entire transaction for one item. Then go back to your site and start all over again for the next item. It makes it very difficult, which means that you will lose a lot of sales. With a shopping cart, people can select as many items as they want and the shopping cart will keep track of everything. Then when they’re ready to pay for all the items, it’s just one simple transaction. Keeping things as simple as possible for the client is one of the keys to success on the Internet.

    Here are some companies offering shopping carts.

  • 1Shopping – They charge a monthly fee.
  • CCNow – See their listing under Billing Companies.
  • Miva – This is a very powerful shopping cart.
  • PayPal – See their listing under Billing Companies.
  • Yahoo – They offer 3 different packages, charge a monthly fee and take a percentage of each sale. They will also drop ship your orders, so you never have to ship anything, Yahoo does it all.
  • The above companies have the cart on their site and you send people to them during the buying process. You can also download shopping cart software onto your server for your visitors to use. Be sure to check with your hosting company to be sure the software you want to download will work on their server. The following link lists free shopping cart software. However, know that you often get what you pay for, and that technical support may be poor or nonexistent with this free software. So check out Online Orders . They have a section on their site that, as of this writing, lists thirty-nine free shopping carts.

    Many billing companies also offer a shopping cart, usually for free. For example, I use PayPal on my site and they have a free shopping cart that works in conjunction with their billing service. The purchase process is easy and I can even change the look of their shopping cart to be similar to my site.

    Some website hosting companies also offer billing services and shopping carts. You may want to go this route so that everything for your website is done through one company. However, if your hosting company doesn’t do a very good job hosting your site, I don’t think you’d want to trust them with your billing and shopping cart service.

    Here are a couple of website hosting companies that offer shopping carts and more.

  • ValueWeb – They offer shopping cart and credit card processing.
  • Westhost – They have the Miva Merchant storefront and shopping cart software and Payquake for payment processing.
  • As with most things on the Internet, you have a lot of choices. To make a choice that’s right for you, know what you want and consider the points I’ve mentioned above. When you have a billing and shopping cart company that meets your needs, and your client’s needs, it will make everyone’s life easier and make you more money.

    Jeff Colburn is a website designer and writer. His goal is to make the process of creating or updating your website easy and simple for you, while creating a website that meets all your needs and expectations. Jeff can also create all of the copy for your website.

    To see a sample of Jeff’s work go to The Creative Cauldron. It’s an award winning site filled with information for writers, photographers, artists and other creative people.

    Copyright 2004 Jeff Colburn