The decision to accept credit card payments and so increase revenue to your online business brings with it the difficulty in choosing a payment gateway to process sales.

In very simple terms, the gateway processes online payments by connecting your websites order form with the merchant account and returning the answer to the merchant and customer, either approved or declined. Although the gateway itself actually only connects the website to the merchant account, larger payment gateway providers offer additional services, such as merchant accounts and shopping carts.

All payment gateways have standard fees to be aware of. The first of these are setup fees, charged when the gateway is initially established and often non-returnable. There will also be monthly fees to pay for the service and charges for every transaction processed, regardless of whether the transaction has been accepted or denied.

Nowadays, when searching the internet we want everything to be processed quickly and get annoyed if this isn’t the case. If transactions are slow when purchasing or during check out, the customer is likely to leave your website and find another that can process the sale much quicker. You need a reliable gateway provider who can promise a quick efficient service. Gateways offer a range of features that will increase security and revenue. Listed below are several of the more common features to expect.

The most important feature are fraud prevention tools. Merchants continually neglect this part of their business; fraudulent transactions result in loss of revenue, something no merchant wants or needs. Merchants will be aware of chargebacks and the penalties these can incur; credit card fraud is prevalent, increasing daily as hackers come up with advanced methods to obtain card information. Utilising anti-fraud tools will mean less time inspecting suspect transactions and more time generating sales. Basic anti-fraud tools include an Address Verification System (AVS) that checks the customers’ delivery address against the address the card issuing bank has on file, and CVV2, the 3 digit security number printed on the back of credit cards VISA, MasterCard and Discover Card.

Another addition to expect is a recurring billing system, particularly suitable for subscription and membership based businesses. Many merchants have customers that order products on a regular basis, if billing has to be done each month to the same customer using the same details it can waste valuable time and energy. With recurring billing you just supply the gateway with the customers billing information and how regularly to invoice them (this only needs doing once) and the gateway conducts all future transactions.

Some customers will actually prefer to call rather than send an email and wait for a reply, especially if it is a quick query or regarding a refund. Once the query has been dealt with and the customer now wants to make a purchase it would be inconvenient for them to return to the website, they might decide not to bother and so you lose the sale. A virtual terminal means the merchant can take a sale over the phone by processing the customer’s credit card payment manually. Virtual terminals are also used to issue returns and cancel unwanted transactions.

Credit cards have become the most common and convenient way to pay online but there are still people who don’t own one; you don’t want to turn these people away and lose a sale. Whereas written cheques used to be the norm, there are now electronic checks (eChecks) available. No need to write out a cheque, post it, wait for it to arrive and clear, customers can merely enter their bank details by electronic means.

The main headache for online merchants is security. Along with your business information, your customers’ personal information moves through your gateway every day. This information is invaluable to hackers; when choosing a gateway ensure you select one that uses the highest security techniques to keep information safe. These should include security schemes operated by the main credit card providers, such as the Visa Cardholder Information Security Program, MasterCard Site Data Protection, and Discover Information Security and Compliance. If your gateway provider doesn’t comply with these you could end up paying higher fees or your account closed down. Check out the Internet for a quality payment gateway provider that offers a high level of anti-fraud tools to protect you and your customers.