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Getting Paid

You could have the best Web site and product on the face of the Earth, but if you make it difficult for people to give you their money, then they won't. The key is to give your customers a choice of payment methods and show security where credit cards are concerned.

Go to: Credit Cards - Collecting Details, Processing | Other Methods

Credit Cards

A question I keep getting asked is "how do I accept credit cards on my Web site?"

There are two separate issues to be considered: collecting the details and then processing those details in order to put the money in your bank account.

Collecting Details Securely

There's a lot of talk about how secure SSL encryption is compared with military-grade encryption like PGP, but the real issue for you, as a webmaster, is "how can I convince my customers to give me their card details?" There's one answer: your Web order form must show as secure in a browser (blue line in Netscape, closed padlock in MSIE). This means hosting your order page on a server which is set up with SSL encryption, whether or not it's your own Verisign certificate.

If your hosting service can't offer you a secure area for your order form then you can get one from me. Two things to note: I don't offer credit card processing and I don't do full shopping cart systems if you have hundreds of products. Here's an interesting email from one of my clients a few weeks after I set up a secure form for him:

We started out with a toll free number for order taking. We assumed (wrongly) that most people would feel uncomfortable with using the online form. We were as far off the mark as possible. Our numbers show about a 40:1 ratio of people using the online form versus calling the subscription department or sending payment to us directly. What we learned is people don't want to get off the net to make a phone call and most people seem sophisticated enough to realize that the card information is as secure (if not more )as giving your card to a waiter in a restaurant. Hope this helps. Anyone doing business on the web needs an online secure form. (You can quote me on that!)

Paul Rubin
Historical Data Systems, Inc

Card Processing

So what do you do with the card details once you have them? Well, actually, you should consider this before you start thinking about secure forms, but I wanted to get my plug in first. Sorry.

The first thing you should try is to go to your bank and ask if they can set your business up with a merchant credit card account. This can be very difficult if you're only a small business or an individual, or if they find out you're doing business on the Internet (they'll wince when you mention this word). Take it from me, I applied to several banks several times and most of them said 'no' straight off the bat. It took a lot of perseverance and bloody mindedness before I was accepted which is why, for about a year, I used an online service to process my credit card orders for me.

Online card processing services charge higher rates than your own merchant account would, but if you can't get an account (highly likely) then this is your only alternative. They'll process your orders and send you a monthly check, minus commission.

There's a large list of them in Yahoo's Merchant Services category.

Other Methods

The vast majority of people will want to order with their credit card using your secure online order form. However, not everybody will. The more payment methods you offer, the less barriers will be between you and your customer's money.


This hasn't really taken off because it involves a complicated setup process, both for the merchant and the customer, so it seems to have died a death.

Phone And Fax

Some people will want to call or fax you with their credit card, mail a check, or whatever, so don't overlook the simple things like displaying these details.


It doesn't hurt to have a PGP public key (PGP site) but for general commerce it's not much good because very few people know how to use it (sadly). I've only ever used my key once to take a card payment.


If you're outside the USA, like I am, you might be tempted to display prices in your local currency. Show your prices in US dollars because everybody understands dollars and you want to avoid uncertainty about pricing. The trouble of converting to your currency is a small price for you to pay for a sale! Just put a disclaimer at the top of your order form mentioning that the cost might vary by a few cents because of currency conversion. This is what I do, and nobody has ever batted an eyelid.

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