A, B, C’s of taking payments online

They say, many roads lead to Rome, but for online payments everyone has to start from the same place before options open up, all sites must have:

SSL page

1)  secure web page to take a payment (you know the little lock and https in the url-known as SSL a secure socket layer),

2) a payment gateway (takes the payment online), and

3) a payment processor the entity that works with the banks and the credit card companies who will in the end deposit the funds to your bank account.

The next step is to decide whether you are building a lemonade stand or a store. If you choose store, big or small doesn’t matter.

For the the sale of just a few items with low volume sales or single donation links, paypal.com will allow you to build a lemonade stand with no set up costs, really you don’t even need a programmer, you don’t even need to worry about a secure web page, all of the transactions happens on the paypal website. You just copy and paste the information they give you to your web page.

The reason why I call this the lemonade stand is because you are dealing with a very limited inventory that does not require a lot of updates or sorting, the volume is low so you don’t need much tracking, and chances are high that a lock box and your receipts that you take home with you when you fold up your table is enough.

To become an online store, following are the ongoing investments that should be taken into consideration and added into your business spreadsheets along with all your other investments and risk:

One Time:

Design and software configuration set up based on your sales needs and tracking.

Ongoing Costs:

  1. Software maintenance: Upgrades to your software as new releases are made available. (prices vary)
  2. Domain registration and hosting: Annual renewal. ($29 for domain, hosting varies annual or monthly)
  3. SSL (Secured Socket Layer): are cryptographic protocols that provide security and data integrity for communications over TCP/IP networks such as the Internet. This socket layer (notice on any secure form url address becomes HTTPS) ensures that any information entered on these pages are encrypted and cannot be viewed by anyone without authorization. These pages require a static ip address as well as a certificate that certifies your web page has been secured. (Annual renewal varies from $125 +)
  4. Additional hosting fees for secure website: SSL monthly hosting and Static IP hosting. Annual or monthly fees.
  5. Feature updates: programming work for changes that may be needed to your website.
  6. Encryption software such as pgp or gpg.

The question that always comes up: “I am a small shop, do I really need all of this ssl and encryption stuff?” Answer: “Yes!”

The larger you get, then, the Credit Card Processing Industry has additional requirements to make sure that you are not exposing them to risk. For over a certain volume in sales you will need to move to closed, single client only server arrangement and third party scanning companies are required to scan your site quarterly and review your security policies and procedures.


When taking sensitive information such as credit card data, security is not an afterthought. ICI web services are compliant with HIPPA, COPPA, Visa CISP, and PCI regulations.

Looking for more information on this topic: Web Hosting, Wikipedia >>

Follow the money: How is money taken and processed online

Merchant Services

To take credit card information online you need a Payment Gateway and a Merchant Account with a Payment Processor. When installling and configuring your software, ICI will link your ecommerce pages to either your Merchant Account or your Payment Gateway. Sometimes a Payment Gateway will offer a merchant account. Regardless, these are two separate entities that make online payments happen.


You apply for Merchant Account through a Payment Processor, which grants you the ability to take credit card information online or offline.

A merchant account is the contract under which an acquiring bank extends a line of credit to a merchant, who wishes to accept payment card transactions of a particular card association brand. Without such a contract, one cannot accept payments by any of the major credit card brands. Applying for a merchant account is similar to a bank application. Please allow time for the process to take place.

A Payment Gateway is an online service that facilitates the transfer of information between a payment portal (such as a website, mobile phone or IVR service) and the payment processor.

Here is how it works: From your secure encrypted payment page, a customer’s sales information is sent encrypted to your Payment Gateway. The Payment Gateway determines whether the payment information is correct. If OK, the Payment Gateway sends the information to your Merchant Account who then deposits the money from the transaction directly to your bank account.

When choosing a Payment Gateway and Merchant Account, you are looking for the lowest transaction and processing fee as well as the how quickly the cash will get to you bank account.

Rates vary, but to give you some notion of the cost as well as the questions to ask:

Setup Fee: Free ~$100 – $500
License Fee: Free ~$199 – $1299
Application Fee: Free ~$50 – $295
Programming Fee: Free ~$50 – $295
Discount Rate: Free ~2.25% – 3.95%
Transaction Fee: $0.30 – $0.50
Statement Fee: Free ~$10.00 – $25.00
Customer Service Fee: Free ~$10.00 – $15.00
Internet Gateway Fee: Free ~$20.00 – $35.00
Check by Phone Software: $195.00 – $295.00
Check Recovery Service: $99.00 – $299.00
Credit Restrictions

Rates are negotiable based on type of industry and volume of sales.


To take payments on your website, your web page must integrate components of your online payment gateway. Paypal is easily configured to a web page, some of the others allow for more complicated configuration with your website ecommerce software and tracking based on your needs.

Popular Merchant Gateways

Looking for more information on this topic: Payment Gateway, Wikipedia >>

Ecommerce Applications


Generating revenue online is a great way to exand and even to start a business. Following is an overview of what is required to perform online sales and options to investigate to see what will work best for your online store

Ecommerce Applications

Software applications provide a variety of tools for the sales of large inventory items that include inventory, tracking, sales, management tools. If you are only selling one or two items, you may not need a software application, but you will need read about hosting and security (or use paypal). The application you choose should be based on the type of sales you are looking to do and which online sales services will enhance sales and generate the most revenue.

Following are some widely available applications. Cost is based on the sophistication of the design, size of inventory, and custom tools and tracking needs for merchants, and the experience of the programmer. I mention this because, while easy to configure, those with more years and knowledge understand the vulnerabilities of working with some of these systems and have the experience to make sure that data is secure. It is the difference between a pilot flying with years of experience versus a pilot who needs a wizard panel to show him step by step what to do.

Questions to ask:

  • Flexibility-when I need to make changes, is it possible?
  • Security-what are the known vulnerabilities of this software package?
  • Usability-can my staff manage this system or is a programmer required to run reports and modify inventory?
  • Design-is this template driven or am I able to custom design the look and feel of the website pages?
  • Availability-can the website perform under high volume of orders?

Common Ecommerce Applications

For high availability, high security, non-php shopping cart solutions, contact ICI.