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How to choose a merchant partner? Navigating your way around the third party merchant providers

Taking the plunge into new business waters is always a time for reflection. You need to accept credit cards on line and you have decided, for many good reasons, to go with a third party merchant provider.

So who do you choose?

Should you could go with the mainstream, large providers with familiar names? Should you could go with smaller, more niche oriented providers which may have a better match the way you do business?
If you want to process credit cards on line, and want a third party company to help you, these are not trivial questions.

The time was, some forty years ago, that there was a saying in the U.S. business community:
You will never get fired for buying IBM.

In those days, IBM had such a reputation for reliability and service that they were the safe bet. And for many companies, they were the best bet.

But times changed. As the we progressed towards the twenty first century, margins tightened and profits dwindled. People had to choose not the safe bet but the best fit. The technology partner that could supply products and services that complemented their business models. Those who chose well succeeded. Those who took the easy or the safe or the simplest path often did not fare as well.

So, when it comes to credit card processing on line, you need to make sure that your technology partner is not only reputable and reliable, but one that will help rather than hinder your rise to success.

So what is the solution?

The solution is simple, but simple is seldom easy.
You will need to do your homework.
This decision is just like hiring counter help in a traditional retail or distribution outlet. The third party merchant account provider will provide the interface that allows your customers to buy on credit from your company.
They will be a part of the face of your organization.
Basic points to remember:
There are several general issues that will help trim down the field when choosing your provider:
Where do you do business? Make sure that the provider can cover the part of the world you are selling to.
Don't forget to include your plans for the future as well.
What kind of business to you have?
Make sure that the provider's products match yours.
Some providers are limited to only tangible items that physically are shipped from point to point.
Others specialize in intellectual properties, like software, that are not 'shipped' in the traditional sense of the word.
What kind of customers do you have?
What does it take to make your clients comfortable?
Do they need ease of use or is price the most important consideration.
How does it integrate with your web development software?
Some providers work with a variety of shopping cart and e commerce solutions, while others are not as flexible.
If your web application is not compatible with the offerings of your third party merchant provider, you will need to choose which is more important to the success of your business.
Reviewing the Provider Options
Not too long ago, if you wanted to accept credit cards on line, there were few options.
Today, there are too many to discuss in an article of this nature. However, here is a cross sampling of what is out there.
This article cannot go into enough detail bring you to the point of making the correct decision. However, we will introduce you to several of the best known and lesser known third party merchant account providers and, hopefully give you a few hints for further research. This company offers an on line distribution center for tangible and digital goods and services.
Featuring low setup and no monthly fees, it is marketed as an inexpensive and effective way for a small business to get their products to market. Authorize provides a series of tools designed to integrate all major credit cards and Electronic Check Processing into your web or real world based business via the Internet.
They feature high levels of security and control as well as fraud detection. Bluepay provides turnkey solutions in three levels:
Starter Geared to the small, single product/service business.
Basic For the medium sized business with two or more product/service offerings.
Professional A full featured turnkey system which provides the web site, form templates and all processing requirements.
All levels include the option of using their fully integrated web services to host your site.
A company to consider if you don't have a web technology solution in mind CCBill is a full service turnkey provider specializing in the European Market.
In addition to the common EU Market Countries, their support now includes the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
They process transactions on Master Card, Visa, Discover and JCB cards, as well as Master Card and Visa branded Debit Cards.
Their web site advertises no set up fees and low transaction rates.
A company to consider if most of your sales are in the EU. CCNow is an all in one service that allows you to sell your products using their merchant clearing house application.
Once you are approved to sell, you create a virtual store within their application, connected to your web site by a single link.
All processing is then handled by the tailored CCNow web service.
All of the major credit cards are honored as well as PayPal.
This service is specific to tangible products that are shipped from point to point.
A good company to consider for small, start up firms who cannot or choose not to invest heavily in e-commerce software. Designed as a clearing house for digital products, that is software and other products that can be delivered over the web. Once you sign up, ClickBank, through their affiliates, will market and sell your products to the web community.
They accept the major credit cares, PayPal and e checks. A West Indies based service, E-Gold offers internet transactions backed by gold bullion, making them, according to their web add, a truly global E commerce solution which minimizes exchange risk and meets the demand of Internet payments.
They feature instant settlement of payments and reduced or eliminated chargebacks.
An integrated shopping cart system is available.
A company to consider if your markets have currency exchange issues. PayPal is one of the pioneers in the on line payment processing solutions, oferring a wide range of options and services.
They accept payments using all major US credit and debit cards, as well as their proprietary (and very popular) PayPal account.
Their processing options include:
Link to their web site to complete the transaction.
Tools to integrate their payment service seamlessly into your application.
The ability to bill via email and receive your payments through PayPal.
While they boast an international presence, some of their services are limited to the US market.
Also, many of their payment and processing options require that their customers sign up with PayPal before they can be used.
A good choice for flexibility, reliability, and setup options.
A sister company of Ebay, it is a natural choice if you conduct some or all of your business on this popular auction site. A competitor for PayPal that accepts credit cards on line for North American and European business.
They advertise low set up costs and consultation on the best gateway interface for your companies needs. A service designed for software and shareware vendors which allows users to pay for registration on line with a credit card.
This service features low costs and the ability to access funds from your account via a special ATM card. Specific to the sale and registration of software and shareware, this company boasts client authors from over 150 countries around the world.


So, now the fun begins. Dust off your mouse and check out those web sites.
This list is just a start. There are hundreds of third party merchant providers out there and more springing up all of the time.
Each one ready to help you add on line credit card processing to your web based business.

Good hunting.

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