If you’re running an online store, you’re going to need a way to take payments from your customers. After all, isn’t that the point of selling online?
And the best way to do that is through using a payment gateway.
These are services that make it easy for you to take payment from your customers and put it right into your bank account. And they have all of the functionality built in, whether it’s credit cards, debit cards or something else.
And they are arguably the most crucial part of the entire ecommerce process. Unless you are using a completely custom solution, you must have a payment gateway in order to function as an online store.
So let’s walk through four of the top payment gateways that will work for you no matter what type of online store you are running.
What is a payment gateway
So first things first. A payment gateway is essentially your key to taking payments online. According to BigCommerce, a payment gateway is “a merchant service that processes credit card payments for ecommerce sites and traditional brick and mortar stores.”
Essentially, payment gateways act as your cash register for your website. Everyone needs to use it in order to check out and “take” their purchased products.
There are three methods for how gateways complete the transaction. The first is to completely redirect the user to a separate website to enter in their payment info, which is primarily used by Paypal. The second is to complete the checkout process on your website, but run the payment off site, which Stripe does. And the third is to keep the entire process on your website.
Why do payment gateways matter?
Well, the answer is pretty easy. They help you take payments from a customer in a super easy way. If it wasn’t for them, you would have to build out your own code to take payments and send them to your bank account. And that would either take a lot of time or simply be impossible for you.
Most gateways have extensions or plugins that work with any of the major services and content management systems. For example, there are WooCommerce add ons for each of the four gateways we’ll talk about today.
Plus, for the most part, payment gateways help you with PCI compliance, which is basically a set of standards for taking payment and credit card information. Most, if not all, will collect the card information rather than leave that on your website. While there are other aspects of compliance, such as using HTTPS and having an SSL certificate, keeping card info off of your website is a big deal.
Simply put, payment gateways just make everything a lot easier for you and your customers.
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Stripe is honestly my preferred payment gateway when dealing with online payments. It’s really the perfect gateway for any small business.
For starters, Stripe makes it much easier to manage customers. The Stripe dashboard shows a whole lot more data, which is key if you’re trying to keep track of trends. You can also keep track of customers, invoices . You don’t really get that with Paypal unless you get one of their business plans.
Also, the Stripe add ons for top plugins like WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, Give and others make it super easy . There’s no need for users to be taken to another screen or have to remember login credentials for Paypal. They can just enter in their information like they would anywhere else.
Stripe does take a cut of each sale you make, which is essentially their way of making you pay for it. But it’s no different than Paypal I’ve found it to be well worth it.
It’s simple as that, and Stripe keeps things simple, yet powerful.
Speaking of Paypal, while it isn’t my favorite, it’s still a very solid choice for any small business.
For starters, it has the best name recognition for everyday customers. Most people have never heard of Stripe, but they have heard of Paypal. So they’ll probably be a bit more trusting in using that service. Plus, some people will likely have a Paypal balance that they can pay with without having to enter credit card information.
Plus, the set up for Paypal is a little bit easier. For a number of Paypal extensions, all you need is your Paypal email instead of a bunch of different keys. And for the most part, users will be sent to Paypal to enter in their information, meaning you don’t have to worry too much about credit card security and all that on your site. You will, however, need to manually make withdrawals to you bank account.
So if you need something basic and known, Paypal is a pretty good way to go.
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If you’re looking for something a little bit bigger that you feel can comfortably scale, Braintree is a payment gateway that you’re probably going to want to check out.
It supports 130 different currencies and allows you to customize the payment flow for customers. Like Stripe, it’s gateway can easily integrate to the look and feel of your website. And it also has extensions for all of the top WordPress ecommerce plugins.
Honestly, I haven’t used it before, but I have heard good things about it, especially if you’re expecting to grow your business fairly quickly. If you are looking for the fancy features, it can get kind of pricy. The base transaction fees are 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction, and then features like “Account Updater” and “3D Secure” add on to that cost.
Still, if you’re looking for something that can scale with your business, it’s probably something worth checking out.
Authorize.Net takes the cake as the oldest payment gateway on this list. The gateway has been around since 1996, so they’ve been around the block a bit in this area.
Like Stripe, Authorize.Net allows for easy credit card transactions. In addition, it also allows for e-checks and fraud detection, like Braintree. And there are extensions for it with WooCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads and Give (and likely other e-commerce plugins).
Honestly though, I haven’t worked with this one before, so I can’t personally say how great (or not great) the experience is with the Gateway. But if it’s been around for this long, they are definitely doing something right.
So there you have it. Those are the top payment gateways for small businesses and their websites. If you’re looking to sell products online, I highly suggest these four gateways. They’re built with strong foundations and make selling easy.