One of the questions we get asked the most is ‘how do I take payments on my website?’. Well this post should give you some of the answers.

The first thing to understand is there two main actions that take place when a credit card is processed online. The first is ‘Authorisation’. This process does the actual checking of the card, name, date number, funds, etc. Once it passes this check it’s on to the next stage called ‘Acquiring’. The process of moving (acquiring) funds from the buyers card to your bank account (merchant account).

So if you already have a merchant account...  in other words, you can process credit card payments via a terminal at your shop counter or by some other process, you are already half way to taking payments on your website. By virtue of having a merchant account with your bank you will have what’s known as a Merchant ID or MID.

To take payments online all you need is the online authorisation facility. This is essentially a third-party service that sits between your website and your bank (MID). Once the buyer clicks the ‘process order’ button on your website the total is sent to the ‘Authoriser’ where they fill in their card details. If all is OK the an instruction is sent the ‘Acquirer’ via your MID to proceed the transaction.

If you don’t have a merchant account you still have a number of options, number one amongst these is PayPal. This is both the authoriser and the acquirer, negating the need to get a merchant account from your bank. It’s simple to set up and will handle the main credit cards as well as other PayPal accounts. In the past PayPal has had somewhat of an image problem, some seeing it as the ‘poor man’s solution’. There was also a perception that PayPal was for just for others with PayPal accounts. However these issues seem to be in the past now and PayPal powers ahead as an excellent payment gateway solution for even the biggest of sites. We have even had customers saying to us that they will only buy from sites with PayPal.

The only downside, here in Ireland, is the lack of authorisation for ‘Laser’ cards, however this is becoming less of an issue as Laser is being replaced more and more with Visa Debit.

You can choose to apply to your bank for a Merchant account, but be warned this can be a long and bureaucratic process. It some cases this can take longer than it takes to develop your website. There is also no guarantee that your application will be successful particularly if you are a start up. And even some established business may find it hard.

Here at Equinox we find quite a few business who don’t have merchant accounts will start their website using PayPal as they wait for a merchant ID. Once obtained we add in Realex, Worldnet, etc as another payment option for the customer.

So if you have a MID already you can use any of a number of service providers such as:

Realex : Irish

Worldnet : Irish

Sagepay : UK 

WorldPay : UK (Worldpay can also be both Authoriser and Acquirer)

If you don’t then check out PayPal, or even if you do you can add it in as another payment option for your customers.