The online shopping industry is flourishing, hence the need for business owners to facilitate easier and more varied payment methods. With internet adoption increasing worldwide, more people are shopping online, as evidenced by the following statistics:
- In 2018, 8 billion people around the world purchased goods online, according to data from market research firm Statista. In dollar terms, that amounted to $2.8 trillion, and projections indicate that global e-retail sales will reach $4.8 trillion by 2021.
- Analysts predict that 95% percent of all retail sales by 2040 will be e-commerce transactions.
- Fifty-three percent of online shoppers prefer to pay with their credit cards, according to data compiled by Shopify. Digital payment systems, such as Apple Pay, are at a close second of 43%, while 39% of shoppers use their debit cards.
What is a payment processing company?
When customers purchase your products or services using their debit or credit cards, the payment processing company, or payment processor, handles the transactions on your behalf. It relays information to your bank and the customer's bank, and verifies whether the transaction is valid or not.
Simply put, a payment processor functions as the bridge between sellers, buyers, the card networks, and the banks to make the buying and selling experience a smooth one for all the parties involved.
Popular payment processors include PayPal and Amazon Pay, and there are dozens of other solutions to choose from as well. [Looking for a credit card processor? Read which companies we evaluated and recommend.]
Considerations for choosing a small business payment processor
If you're an online merchant, the right payment processing platform can be a godsend. It can accept numerous types of payments, and, importantly, it ensures that you get paid. There are five key things to look for when you are shopping for a payment processor
Cost and fees
There's always a cost to convenience. In the case of payment processors, average fees range from 1.7% to 3.5% per transaction, depending on the processor you use. Some processors charge a flat, monthly fee but lower per-transaction fees. There are also incidental fees, such as in the case of chargebacks, so check each provider on your list before making a decision.
Most third-party payment processors nowadays don't require long-term contracts or charge early termination fees; many allow businesses to pay month to month. However, there are merchant services that require businesses to sign contracts with a term ranging from three to five years, so carefully research services and ask if you will be required to sign a multi-year contract.
Technology and equipment
For online transactions, a payment gateway, which encrypts financial data entered via your website, is a necessity. Some payment processors come with their own payment gateways while others use third-party gateways such as Authorize.net.
If you have a brick-and-mortar location, these are some other tools and equipment you will need:
- A credit card terminal
- A point-of-sale system
- Mobile or tablet readers for on-the-go payments
Look for a payment processing company with a proven team of reliable, responsive, and knowledgeable customer service professionals and that offers customer support 24/7.
The best payment processors support multiple ways that customers can pay you, particularly the options that are commonly used in your country, industry or territory. If you're an international business, you want your payment processor to recognize multiple currencies. Aside from accepting credit and debit card payments, your processor should ideally also accept mobile wallet payments.
7 payment processing solutions to try
For business owners intending to appeal to a growing base of online shoppers, clearly, a move toward more flexible payment solutions is in order. Sure, there's always PayPal, but if you're in the market for other payment tools to try, here's a list of payment processing services to consider.
Founded in Iowa, money transfer services company Dwolla launched in the U.S. in 2010, positioning itself as an alternative to then payments processing giant PayPal.
Opening an account with Dwolla is free; customers can use Dwolla to transfer funds for one-time, recurring, and even mass payments.
Dwolla is available online; there is also a mobile app for iOS and Android users.
Established in 2008 and designed to be used for money-pooling, donation initiatives, WePay pivoted to focus on lending its intuitive, user-friendly payments processing platform to businesses.
As an interesting side note about WePay's history, it was the fundraising service of choice for participants of the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011, which led to a huge boost in WePay's usage and general visibility.
WePay is available on mobile and charges a fee of 2.9% plus 30 cents per successful credit card transaction. (There is a fee of 1% plus 30 cents for ACH transactions.)
Gaining traction for its less-complicated "only pay for what you use" pricing model, Stripe charges a straightforward 2.9% plus 30 cents per successful card transaction. There are no setup or monthly fees to fret about, and Stripe's data and reporting feature shows you transaction information in real time.
Stripe supports more than 100 currencies. It also processes bitcoin and ACH transactions for fees starting at 0.8% and at a maximum of $5.
Recently, Stripe released Stripe Atlas, which allows business owners from anywhere in the world to incorporate a U.S. company, open a U.S. bank account, process payments, and receive tax and legal guidance from Stripe's consulting partners. Stripe is available both on the web, and there is a mobile app for Android and iPhone users.
Free accounting software ZipBooks is an alternative to QuickBooks among freelancers and owners of small to midsize businesses.
ZipBooks offers cash flow management tools to small businesses, like invoice financing. Its business model is built on the premise that many businesses need short-term help when cash flow temporarily runs low and that business owners are willing to pay a small fee for assistance.
In addition to making next-day payments into a company's bank account based on an outstanding invoice, ZipBooks also offers more traditional payment tools like credit card processing and PayPal integration.
ZipBooks builds sophisticated productivity tools into its accounting suite, such as time tracking, bank account integration and recurring invoicing.
It's a cloud-based accounting tool available either as a responsive web application that works well on any device or as a native iPhone app.
5. Braintree Payments
Founded in 2007 and acquired by PayPal in 2013, Braintree lets merchants process credit and debit card payments, as well as payments from customers using PayPal, Apple Pay, Android Pay, bitcoin and Venmo.
Braintree caters to a range of businesses, including subscription-based, direct sales, service-based, or marketplace-based merchants. Braintree has a straightforward pricing scheme starting at 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction for cards and digital wallets.
Other pluses of Braintree include no minimum transaction or monthly fee requirements and no hidden costs for fraud protection services.
Bambora, formerly Beanstream, has been in business since 2000. A versatile omnichannel platform, Bambora can handle varying transaction types: e-commerce, EMV, mobile payments, batch processing, recurring billing, over-the-phone, and mail-in payments.
Bambora charges 2.9% plus 30 cents per successful card-present transaction and 2.8 plus 30 cents for card-not-present transactions.
Venmo is a PayPal-owned payment processing service that allows you to request, send, and receive money from other Venmo users.
You can directly send money to a person's Venmo account and even link your bank, credit or debit cards. Money from your Venmo account can be transferred to your bank account in one business day.
Venmo is available through Apple's App Store and Google Play. Venmo is only free when making payments via a bank account or certain debit cards. For credit card and some debit card transactions, Venmo charges a standard 3% transaction fee.
Online shopping and online payment processing are fast becoming the new normal, and it would do your business well to expand your payment processing capabilities to suit the needs and preferences of your customers.