The main reason that some people take opportunities when they arise, and others do not, is that some people are ready.
They have their business plan ready and all they need to do is take advantage of the opportunities.
Where can you find the right business plan?
If your business is based in the United States - click here
If your business is based in the U.K. - click here
Ideas To Action.
Part 57 - Online Payments.
If you are like many small businesses, you collect payments mainly through cash or checks. While this might be working for you at the moment, adding online payments provides a number of advantages to your business and your customers. People are increasingly comfortable paying online. In fact, websites that do not support online payment can be seen as being out of step.
Online payments are faster than manual payments, since you do not have to wait for the check to arrive or for it to clear. The whole process – from submitting an online payment to updating your bank account – can take a matter of seconds. The end result is improved cash flow for your business, and almost immediate confirmation of transactions.
In addition, the online payment service lets you know right away if the person making the online payment has sufficient funds to cover the transaction – rather than finding out a week later when the check bounces.
Automated payments also save you the trouble of depositing the check and recording the payment manually. Once you set up online payments for your website, they are automatically processed. You do not handle or store any credit card information. Any updates to member records are handled automatically.
Of course, anything of value comes with a cost, and in this case, your payment provider will charge you a fee per transaction, and some charge other fees as well – such as setup fees or monthly fees. However if online payment helps you grow your business, they will be taking a slice out of your much larger pie, and everyone’s a winner.
Understanding online payment terminology
There are several terms that are used almost interchangeably when describing online payments:
Though they are distinct, with subtle differences, they all refer to a service or application that acts as a financial middleman between your business and your customer, and between both of your business and its bank accounts. Each facilitates the completion of online transactions, and the processing of online payments.
- Payment gateway - A payment gateway is a service that receives the online payment request from your website and directs it to the payment processor.
- Payment processor - A payment processor is a service that validates the purchaser’s credit card details (e.g., those of your member, donor, or supporter) and checks if they have sufficient funds in their account to cover the payment.
- Payment provider - A payment provider (or payment service provider) is the company that operates the payment gateway or payment processor services. In some cases, the payment gateway and payment processor are combined into a single service known by either name.
- Payment service or payment system - Where a payment provider offers multiple types of payment gateways – with different features and pricing – each type is referred to as a payment service or payment system. For example, PayPal is a payment service provider that offers a number of payment services or payment systems such as PayPal.
- Merchant account - A merchant account is another important term to understand. When an online transaction is successfully completed, the funds are transferred from the purchaser’s account to your businesses merchant account, a special kind of bank account used exclusively to hold funds received from credit and debit card transactions.
Anatomy of an online transaction
To fully understand how online payments work, let us follow a transaction from start to finish. In this way, you can see how your business and your payment service provider interact.
To get started with online payments, you typically need:
- a merchant account – though some payment systems (such as PayPal) do not require a merchant account or can provide you with one
- an account with a payment service provider
- a web page with a button (e.g. Join, Donate, Buy) that initiates the transaction process – you can use code provided by your service provider or specialized shopping cart software
Once you have set up your web page and connected it to an online payment service, visitors to your site will be able to pay online for products or services. The online payment process begins when the visitor clicks the button to pay online to purchase something from your online store.
Once you have made the decision to accept online payments on your site, another decision looms: which payment service provider should you use? There are a multitude of providers, each with a different focus and set of options. Some are geared toward smaller or larger businesses, and some specifically to non-profits. Many provide additional features such as anti-fraud protection, but at a cost.
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