Every good web site has a compelling call to action.
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If possible, you'd love that call to action involve your site visitor handing over some money to you.
Unfortunately, they can't just reach through the Internet to hand you some cash, but luckily the world has an amazing electronic payment system that allows people from all over the world to buy things from you and the money magically appears in your business banking account.
That's right. Accepting credit cards on a website allows you to expand your business and grow your revenues in ways you never thought possible before.
But how does a business owner transform a website that is primarily focused on marketing into a full-throttle, money-making commerce engine?
How To Accept Credit Cards Online
To accept credit cards online, you need to set up a merchant account or work with a third-party company that already has a merchant account.
The first method, establishing a merchant account, is a little more work and costs a little more, but it gives you more margin on the sale and more flexibility to customize the customer experience.
If you expect to do a ton of transactions, like to have control of your customer experience from start to fininsh, and you are good at implementing complex things, this might be the route to go. Talk to your local banker and they will set you up with a merchant account.
The other option is much simpler. At the point of purchase, you simply hand the customer off to somebody else. They run the credit card and, assuming everything goes well, you are notified of the sale and will get the cash in your hands in short order.
However, the third-party wants their cut. Above and beyond the credit card processing fees, you'll have to pay them a service fee.
If you don't mind giving up a little margin, these third-party services, called payment gateways, are the way to go. The other big advantage of using a payment gateway is time to market. You can sign up for an account in the morning and be taking orders by late afternoon. It's very straightforward.
If you're new to ecommerce, we recommend that you start as simply as possible. That means it's best to sign up with a third-party credit card processor.
Some top payment gateways are Paypal, Amazon's Webstore, Yahoo Stores, Google Checkout and RegNow. There are many other ones, but those are a few that come to mind. Their websites clearly explain how to start taking credit cards on your site, and you'll be up in running in no time.
So, long story short, a payment gateway is a great way to get started with taking credit cards online.
If business is good, you can always change to your own credit card merchant account in the future.