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One option many of our sites want is the ability to charge people (via credit card) to do a search. The national app doesn't handle the credit card processing - we're told that's something we'd have to set up for each site.
My initial question is - how do I even begin looking for information about how to do credit card processing? I've found some information from a large company - but they seem so expensive. Can someone recommend good companies to go with, sources of information, etc.? Would it be better to go with a large, well-known (but more expensive) company, or are some of the smaller, less expensive, companies just as safe and secure? Any advice is appreciated!!
Credit Card Merchant Account
-The account with your bank that allows your business to accept credit cards
Internet Payment Gateway
-The system that allows your website to communicate with your merchant account. Many gateway providers (like AuthorizeNet, for example) can help you find a merchant account provider, if you don't already have one.
Shopping Cart/Online Ordering Software
-This is the software that "powers" the online order form and website "shopping cart" area. It is important to find a shopping cart that works with your payment gateway. Most shopping cart software websites will list which payment gateways they work with, so that's also a good place to start researching gateway providers.
Secure Site Certificate
-You website's SSL certificate (From Thwte, Versign or GeoTrust, that I know of) is what allows your webserver to handle transactions securely. This is the easy part. :)
Some services, like PayPal, ProPay, CCNow, and others, will perform the function of BOTH a merchant account and payment gateway. Your transactions would actually be processed through their merchant account via their processing system...
This can also be more economical for a small or internet-based business who may be subject to higher fees for a regular merchant account. Generally, you pay a percentage of each sale to your merchant account provider and a percentage (plus a fee, in many cases) to your gateway provider. These "all in one" services can actually save money in some cases, because their single, higher, per transaction percentage/fee is lower than the combined fees of both the merchant bank and gateway provider.
Clear as mud? You may understand why I don't relish setting up small business e-commerce sites...
Regarding a merchant account - these sites may already accept credit cards for their "brick and mortar" business. Would they already have a merchant account or is that specific to online ordering?
Thanks for your notes...
Visit the "site search" link at the top of this page, and search for "shopping cart"... The #1 thing to do is find a shopping cart system that can be easily adapted to your needs, and then you can get a gateway provider that works with the shopping cart you choose.
Most good shopping carts are configurable to work with the top three or four gateway providers, so finding the right cart is the hard part. However, you also want to consider how you're going to handle multiple clients charging customers through what sounds like one site...
It may end up being easiest for your company (who will be running the central site I take it) to get a quick and easy account through ProPay, CCNow, or whoever your shopping cart will work with, handle the transactions yourself, and redistribute the funds to the groups participating in the site.
I can't even imagine what a hassle it would be to set up multiple payment gateways for multiple clients on ONE site... ugh.
Now...depending on who the merchant account provider is, they may or may not be able to use the different online payment gateways, because of the platform they are on.
Of course when you call the gateway guy (typically re-sellers) ..they usually say "it should work with no problem, if your platform is not compatable, we'll just get you a new "merchant ID"...which means they want you to change the processor (kinda bait and switch, as they really don't care about the gateway revenue, the big bucks are in the processing).
The best way for you to get any "clear" info for specific cases, is to talk to the tech support departments of the the provider and the gateway. What you learn from them will let you sort out the facts.
Don't apply for a gateway account (authorize.net, etc.) until you make the calls.
Accepting checks is attractive if the search fee is relatively small. It is worth researching.
don't be fooled into thinking that a provider is expensive after only looking at the initial costs. get some figures and processing costs for various providers then sit and work out how much you will pay based on $XXX per month and so on - you'll often find those providers that appear cheaper will work out considerably more expensive. also, adding the e-commerce facilities bring in more revenue - the increased revenue should more than cover the costs of setting up.
can you explain more about the multiple sites? how many sites altogether? are they all separate businesses? if you would like to sticky mail me with some URLs and more information, then i may be able to recommend a couple of providers that may be able to process for multiple sites from just one account.
Crazy_Fool, here's a run-down of how things are organized. In our state, we have 17 sites that provide child care referrals to parents (among other things). Each site is independent - I believe most, if not all, are non-profit. Each site will probably want to do things a little differently, so I'm not sure the single account would work well for us. Some sites are in rather metropolitan areas and will possibly get a lot of traffic. Other sites are very rural and will get little traffic (they may not end up charging a fee at all).
I'll keep exploring all the options and eventually hope to do what you suggested regarding cost/benefit.
you might want to look at changing the entire system so that all sites are part of one large site and offer one or two "standard" payment options - this would make it easier to get a single credit card account that covers all sites and easier to set each site up.
Check out merchantworkz.com..it has some really good info on getting a merchant accounts...
( I am no way associated with that site..just that...I have read it inside out..)
Also..I suggest...you read some merchant account providers sites...a few of them also have very good info...I really can't post those url's here...sticky me...incase u need them...
ideavirus - thank you for that link, I will take a look!