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How to accept online payments on your website

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Last editedMar 20232 min read

In the age of digital communication, it is possible for virtually any business to operate in a genuinely global manner. Thanks to the reach of the internet and online commerce, it is now almost as easy for a merchant to sell items to someone on the other side of the world as it is to sell to someone just around the corner. In order to take advantage of this commercial freedom, your business needs to know how to accept payments on your website. Here at GoCardless, we work with businesses all over the world, acting as payment processing partners offering the full range of payment options. For many businesses, the fact that we make it easy to set up bank debit payments, including recurring payments, enables them to operate on a subscription basis. For others, such as websites selling individual products, the focus is more on one-off rather than recurring payments, and GoCardless can provide the speed, ease of use, security and efficiency which enables merchants of this kind to maintain their cash flow and build the broadest possible customer base. 

Even if you opt to work with GoCardless as your payment partner, it is still useful to understand exactly how to accept online payments on your website, so this article sets out some of the possible alternatives, as well as explaining how they work. 

How to accept online payments on your website using credit or debit cards

If you opt to work with GoCardless, then taking payments via credit or debit card becomes completely seamless, but it is also possible to set up the process of taking these payments yourself. 

If you opt to take debit or credit card payments on your own behalf, then you need two things:

Merchant account 

A merchant account should not be confused with a business bank account. In practical terms, your merchant account acts as a holding area, keeping funds secure until a payment has been fully authorised and those funds can be transferred to your account. You can set up a merchant account with the majority of high street banks, and the bank you choose doesn’t have to be the same as the bank for your general business account. 

It is also possible to access a merchant account via an Independent Service Organisation (ISO) such as WorldPay. No matter which option you choose, it comes with costs, as anyone providing merchant account services levies at least some of the following charges:

  • minimum monthly fees

  • authorisation fees

  • one-off payment fees

  • discount fees

The precise nature of the cost of creating a merchant account varies, depending on the details of your contract and the nature of your business. If you run a bricks-and-mortar store, then you also have to pay to invest in a physical card reader, while online merchants need a payment gateway (see below). 

Payment gateway

In simple terms, a payment gateway is a piece of software which acts to connect your online store to a payment processing network. It acts to authenticate and secure any transaction by a customer, capturing the details of their payment card and passing on the charge to be settled. It acts as a bridge which passes information between your merchant account and a payment processing company, in a manner which ensures that this information – including your customer’s personal and payment details – remains secure at all times. In many cases, a payment gateway is provided in addition to a merchant gateway, but if you want to use a specific third party payment gateway, you are free to do so. 

How to accept online payments on your website securely

We’ve already mentioned the security aspect of a payment gateway, but also be aware that, in order to accept card payments, your business needs to be Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. This means that all of the data provided by customers using payment cards need to be stored securely and in compliance with the relevant Data Security Standards (DSS).  

We can help

GoCardless is a global payments solution that helps you automate payment collection, cutting down on the amount of financial admin your team needs to deal with. Find out how GoCardless can help you with one-off or recurring payments.

Over 85,000 businesses use GoCardless to get paid on time. Learn more about how you can improve payment processing at your business today.

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