If you are operating your very first start up business, there are probably several things you do not know about accepting credit cards online. For starters, did you know that your acquiring bank has to register your business with Visa and/or MasterCard if you operate within certain high risk industries? Or did you know that a refund and chargeback are two similar, yet very different, types of transactions?
Do not let this overwhelm you, though —no one expects you to know everything. Your friendly credit card processing expert is here to help! The following is a list of five factors every startup merchant should consider when accepting payments online.
Research Your Online Credit Card Processing Options
Every online credit card processor is different. Some may only offer domestic merchant accounts to businesses in the United States. Others may provide offshore merchant accounts to businesses worldwide.
If you are considering selling internationally, you should look for online credit card processing services that offer multi-currency solutions. Being able to process major credit cards also plays a role in the success of your startup business. While Visa and MasterCard may seem like the obvious choices, research your target market(s) and see what credit card brands they use.
You Need a Payment Gateway and Shopping Cart
Two questions I often hear are: what is the difference between a payment gateway and a shopping cart and do I need both? A payment gateway works on the back end of your website and sends your customers’ credit card information to the issuing bank for approval.
A shopping cart, however, works on the front end and allows customers to store the items they wish to purchase and then pay for the goods. They work together so synonymously that it is easy to mistake one for the other or misunderstand why you need them both.
Prevent Chargebacks to Prevent Merchant Account Terminations
A chargeback is a type of transaction that occurs when your customer contacts his or her credit card issuing bank for their money back and they occur for a variety of reasons.
However, too many chargebacks will result in your acquiring bank terminating your merchant account. For this reason, you must prevent chargebacks as well as dispute the ones that you can. Ways to prevent chargebacks include:
- Always ship goods as you promised on your website
- Include detailed, accurate product and service descriptions on your website
- Call to confirm orders to avoid fraudulent credit card purchases
When it comes time to dispute a chargeback, gather all documents that support the validity of the transaction and submit them to your payment processor. Your payment processor will forward your documents that support your dispute to your acquiring bank, which will forward them to the customer’s credit card issuing bank.
Get an SSL Certificate for Your Website
Short for Secure Socket Layer, SSL certificates authenticate your website, encrypt the connection between your server and your customers’ Web browser, and protect credit card information from theft. Not only are they a PCI compliance requirement, but they also help you gain trust with your customers, allowing them to feel safe providing their personal information over your website.
Mobile Website Optimization Is a Good Investment
I recently read an article on the future of e-commerce. It discussed how phases tend to last three to five years and we have transitioned into the phase of mobile shopping. With 1.8 billion smartphone users and 19% of Americans using tablets, just imagine how much revenue you are missing by having an outdated website.
Since screens on mobile devices are significantly smaller than traditional computer monitors, you need to optimize your website for mobile viewers. This means fewer graphics and highlighting select items.
In your journey to become an e-commerce merchant, what tips do you have to share with other business owners? What do you wish someone shared with you when you were first starting out?
Photo credit: itsecurity.vermont.gov
Meghan Faye Wolff is the senior copywriter and marketing specialist at Instabill—an international credit card process that offers high risk merchant services. Meghan writes website content and blog posts as well as manages the company’s social media. For the latest e-commerce news, follow Instabill on Twitter @instabill_com.