Accepting credit cards, whether online or off, used to be a convenience that not all retail outlets offered. Cash and checks were the most often used way to pay for things. In the beginning days of the Internet, being able to buy something online was a novelty. Now, it is a necessity. In order for retailers to survive, accepting credit cards is a must. However, getting a merchant account can be costly, and it is subject to the vendor having excellent credit and a reasonably long-standing relationship with a bank. There are also various transaction fees, equipment purchase or lease costs and set-up fees to take into consideration. Fortunately, having a merchant account is no longer the only option for a business just starting out. Credit cards can be accepted through a number of services without requiring a merchant account.
Accepting Credit Cards Without a Merchant Account
Determine what your needs will be for taking credit cards. Will you need a processor that allows you to take credit cards online and off? Are you selling products or services? Are you selling something digital, such as an eBook or report? Different credit card processors specialize in different areas.
Investigate the various third party payment processors available. They include Paypal; iBill, ClickBank, CCNow and many others. (See Resources.) Decide which one best suits your needs. Some have set-up fees or higher transaction fees than others, but provide other services such as immediate transfer to your bank account.
Sign up for an account. This will require an email address and may require a bank account, physical address, contact phone number and in some cases a Social Security number, depending on your level of sales and needs for the account.
Incorporate the service into your website. You may need to know some basic HTML or other Web development techniques for this. Often, the website of the payment processor will help you create your payment "button" so that your customers can easily purchase from you. If you have a large catalog of items, you may want to consult with a Web development professional so that specific programming can be incorporated into your site.
Be sure that your website is secure. The program you use should have a security certificate. This will be evident if your customers are sent to a page that says "https://www.yourstuff.com" rather than the standard "http://www.yourstuff.com."
Make sure you understand the fees of the processor you use.
Always read the "fine print" of any website you give your bank account information to.