How to Accept Payments Online: 7 Methods

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By the end of 2020, it’s estimated there will be approximately 2.05 billion global online shoppers. That’s about 25% of the world’s population. Such figures show that we’re moving ever closer to a cashless society, but is your business prepared for the rise of ecommerce shopping? 

When it comes to earning money for your business, we know it pays to carry out your research. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best ways to take payments online for 2020, covering everything from credit cards and payment gateways to eChecks and recurring billing software. 

You’ll also learn about the nitty-gritty payment parts like transaction fees, receive advice on best software, and enjoy tips on how to implement each method into your website. Check out our list below for a quick overview of what you’ll learn.

The best ways to take payments online are:

  1. Accept credit and debit cards
  2. Add a payment gateway
  3. Set up a Direct Debit
  4. Use eChecks
  5. Integrate mobile wallet payments
  6. Send click-to-pay invoices
  7. Install recurring billing software

Anyway, enough talk. Let’s get your business paid…

1

Accept Credit and Debit Cards

In 2019, approximately 1.06 billion credit cards were used throughout North America – hardly surprising, given that Americans own an average of four credit cards each. 

If you’re wondering how to accept payments online, the first place you should look is to the humble duo of credit and debit cards, no matter which type of ecommerce business you own.

how to accept payments online credit cards
Accepting credit card payments is a simple to do and vital for growing your business

Before you start accepting credit cards online, however, you’ll need a merchant account.

Also known as credit card processing, a merchant account is a type of bank account which enables your store to accept online payments.

(Psst! If you were already accepting credit and debit card payment in your brick-and-mortar store, then you’ll already have a merchant account, so you can skip to the next section if you like.)

Once a customer has tried to purchase something from your website, the merchant account holds the funds temporarily while certain monetary checks are made. The process usually goes like this:

  1. Customer makes a purchase
  2. Merchant account checks whether funds are available
  3. Transaction verified by card association (Visa or Mastercard etc.)
  4. Money enters your business bank account

Usually, the money is held within the merchant account for a couple of working days while the payment is verified, authorized, and deemed secure. 

As we said, a merchant account is a type of bank account, so you would connect your merchant account to your website as you would with any other type of bank account. You can easily open a merchant account through almost any bank, and you’ll usually be charged a flat fee of $10 to $30 per month for the service. As for the types of credit cards you should accept, the most widely used include Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.

2

Add a Payment Gateway to Your Website

Simply put, a payment gateway connects your website to a checkout system. It links your website to the likes of Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, either embedding a checkout to your website or redirecting your customers to the payment gateway’s own website to complete the purchase. 

Payment gateways are simple to set up, and offer a variety of services tailored to different industries. Below are some of our favourite options which are easy to use, accept all major credit cards, and offer zero setup fees…

Stripe

Best for subscription-based businesses

how to accept payments online stripe

Stripe is one of the most customizable payment gateways out there, enabling you to fully customize and embed a sleek checkout into your website. Most alternatives either require you to use their own checkout template, or force your customers to leave your site and use the payment gateway’s website in order to checkout. 

Stripe’s top feature is Stripe Billing, which lets you set up recurring bills or one-off invoices quickly and easily.

Stripe fees:

  • Monthly fee: $0
  • Setup fee: $0
  • Online transaction fee: 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction
  • Stripe Billing costs: Free for first $1 million in revenue, then 0.4% afterwards

PayPal

Best for adding a checkout for free

accept payments online with paypal

As a household name, PayPal’s checkouts provide trust signals to your customers, letting them know their money is in safe hands. While PayPal’s checkouts are quite basic, they can be easily added at no cost. PayPal’s top feature is One-Touch checkout, creating a sleek experience for your customers. 

PayPal fees:

  • Monthly fee: $0
  • Setup fee: $0
  • Online transaction fee: 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction
  • Invoice payments: 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction

Square

Best for small businesses

take payments online with square

The best option if you’re starting from ‘square one’, this payment gateway is simple and affordable for small businesses looking to accept payments online. You can even build a website for free using Square Online.

Square fees:

  • Monthly fee: $0
  • Setup fee: $0
  • Online transaction fee: 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction
  • Invoice payments: 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction

All-in-One Ecommerce Platform

While we’ve only mentioned three payment gateways, there are hundreds out there. The sheer choice can be overwhelming, what with all the different transaction fees and credit card processing features to consider. 

With that in mind, you might want to consider using an ecommerce website builder. These offer an ‘all-in-one’ solution, combining easy-to-use website builder tools with the world’s leading payment gateway integrations.

Shopify is the best all-around ecommerce platform on the market, combining awesome sales tools with an intuitive functionality that you’ll love to use. Meanwhile, Wix Ecommerce is a good option if you’re looking to build a beautiful website and sell a few items on the side. 

Shopify even offers its own payment gateway, Shopify Payments, which comes with zero transaction fees! However, Shopify also integrates with over 100 different payment gateways –  including PayPal, Square, and Stripe – so you can keep your options open.

take payments online with shopify
Shopify's own payment gateway applies zero transaction fees

Further information:

3

Set up a Direct Debit

Before we start, you should know that using a direct debit is not suitable for ecommerce payments. It’s a slow process. Direct debit requires the payer to authorize a business to withdraw money directly from their own account, which is why online store owners should stick to credit cards and payment gateways.

Having said that, direct debits are useful for websites that need to accept payments very rarely, such as local government websites receiving money from fines or penalties, or websites that use a subscription-based fee.

Direct debits for your business can be set up easily via the Automated Clearing House (ACH), the network in charge of direct debits in the US. In 2015, over 25 billion transactions were made on the ACH network, with direct debits making up 62% of those transactions.

4

Use eChecks

Wondering how to accept payments online without dealing with cards or cash? Then check out eChecks. A type of EFT (electronic funds transfer), eChecks works just like a paper check, but online!

Much like their paper counterparts, eChecks will deposit money from the customer’s bank account to your business’ bank account, via an ACH (Automated Clearing House) software. All the customer needs to do is add some banking details into the online payment form, which is then processed by the ACH. Using eChecks allows your business to earn money and save trees – hooray!

5

Integrate Mobile Wallet Payments

By 2023, it’s predicted that over 1.31 billion people worldwide will have used mobile payment apps over the course of at least six months. Clearly, if you’re mapping out how to take payments online for your long term strategy, you probably need to start accepting mobile payments. 

Also known as mobile wallets, these apps store your bank card details on your smartphone, enabling you to make quick payments online (if the online store accepts mobile app payments, that is!)

You’ll recognize the mobile wallets widely used in America, such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay, but there are some hugely popular alternatives in China – including AliPay and WeChat Pay – which you should consider if you’re looking to sell to the Chinese market.

how to accept payments online mobile wallets
Mobile wallets are the future of online payments

The majority of ecommerce platforms – including Squarespace Ecommerce, BigCommerce – will provide your website with the ability to accept digital wallet payments within their most basic price plans.

6

Send Click-to-Pay Email Invoices

This one’s quite self-explanatory. You can send invoices to your customers via email, who can then pay within a few clicks. It’s one of the most time-efficient ways for your business to accept payments online, while reducing your company’s use of paper. Everyone’s a winner!

You can use automated invoicing software to send out numerous invoices quickly and without a fuss. Some of the most popular automated invoice software include:

These types of software will integrate your website, the invoice payment form, and your customer database all in one place, letting you see who’s paid and how much you’ve earned from invoices so far.

7

Install Recurring Billing Software

You may remember that the payment gateway Stripe allows you to send recurring bills as part of its package. While Stripe offers many different features that allow you take payments online, you can choose to invest in software that specializes in sending bills to your customers automatically.

While they are very similar, invoices and bills are quite different. An invoice contains a list of goods or services that are yet to be delivered, with a statement of the sum owed, while a bill indicates a receipt of payment for goods already used. 

Think of it like this. A carpentry business would send an invoice containing the equipment and services that’ll be required for the job, while an online streaming service would send a monthly bill.

Recurring billing software – also called automated billing software – is ideal for subscription-based businesses because it allows your customers to pay automatically each time the payment is due, making your customers’ lives easier – and ensuring you get paid on time! Just think, happy customers means happy profits.

If you want to build an online store, then you should know that ecommerce website builders, such as Shopify, support the ability to send recurring orders, invoices, and subscriptions through third party apps. 

How to Accept Payments Online: Summary

With ecommerce spending expected to soar over the next few months, it’s vital that your business is ready to handle the surge in demand. In other words, your business needs to be ready to accept payments online in a variety of ways, with fewer consumers shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.

It’s also worth noting that how you accept payments depends on where you’re selling your products. For example, if you’re selling through an online marketplace, you’ll need to abide by the payment options rules, while setting up an ecommerce store gives you free reign on how you take payments online. But let’s quickly recap what we covered to jog our memories…

The best ways to take payments online are:

  1. Accept credit and debit cards
  2. Add a payment gateway
  3. Set up a Direct Debit
  4. Use eChecks
  5. Integrate mobile wallet payments
  6. Send click-to-pay invoices
  7. Install recurring billing software

Remember, in order to accept credit and debit card payments, you’ll need to set up a merchant account via your chosen bank – but that’s really easy to do. In fact, all of the methods mentioned above are quite seamless to implement. Having read this article, it should now no longer be a question of how to accept payments online, but when.

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About Dan Barraclough

Dan Barraclough

I used to think website design was just for professionals. Because maybe like you, I have no coding or design experience. But, with the help of our expert researchers (and after testing every website builder myself), I can confidently guide you through on how to get the most out of each one.

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