Accept Payments Online: 8 Ways to Take Payments Online

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When it comes to earning money for your business, we know it pays to carry out your research. You’ve built your online store, and now you need to accept payments online from your customers. But where to start?

Some ecommerce website builders, like Shopify, offer hundreds of payment options – while other website builders, such as Wix, also allow you to get paid online in a way that’s quick, seamless, and suits your business’s unique needs to a tee.

There’s plenty to choose from, but don’t let that daunt you – we’ve done the research for you, and are walking you through three of the most popular payment gateways below! We’ll cover everything you need to know about how to take payments online: from credit cards and payment gateways to eChecks and accepting Bitcoin.

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

1. Accept Credit and Debit Cards

Forbes Advisor published a survey showing that only 9% of Americans use cash as their predominant payment method. What they are using? Debit and credit cards – with 54% of consumers using a debit card, and 36% using a credit card (physical or virtual).

That’s why, if you’re wondering how to accept payments online, the first place you should look is to debit and credit  cards – no matter which type of ecommerce business you own.

checkout page example screenshot
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 favorite options which are easy to use, accept all major credit cards, and offer zero setup fees…

Stripe

Best for subscription-based businesses

Stripe homepage screenshot

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: 0.5-0.8%, depending on plan

PayPal

Best for adding a checkout for free

PayPal homepage screenshot

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:

PayPal’s fees differ based on the type of transactions you’re accepting, and the countries they’re coming from. For the full rundown, check out PayPal’s merchant fees.

Square

Best for small businesses

Square payment gateway website page screenshot

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: 3.3% 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. 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!

eChecks example
eChecks deposit money from the customer’s bank account to your business’ bank account, via an ACH (Automated Clearing House) software

4. Integrate Digital Wallet Payments

The data tells us that over 1.31 billion people worldwide are expected to be using mobile payment apps in 2023. 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. The big perk of digital wallets is that they enable you to make quick payments online (if the online store accepts mobile app payments, that is!) Other benefits include built-in security features such as tokenization, encryption, and passwords.

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

So, how can you accept digital wallet payments? Well, one route is to use API integrations, but that can sound daunting if you’re a tech beginner. Luckily, the majority of ecommerce platforms – including Squarespace Ecommerce and BigCommerce – will provide your website with the ability to accept digital wallet payments within their most basic price plans.

Further information:

5. 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.

6. 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. 

7. Accept Cryptocurrencies

The 2020s have seen cryptocurrencies – like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin – move from the realm of the unknown (and the vaguely dangerous) to the status of more widely used, and accepted, payment method.

And why not? Accepting cryptocurrencies can have serious drawcards for your business. Crypto payments transcend geographical boundaries – allowing your business to reach customers all over the world, without having to work within the constraints of traditional banking systems.

You’ll also pay less fees – especially for international transactions – and benefit from crypto’s advanced cryptographic security features, which defend you against fraud and chargebacks.

That said, cryptocurrencies are known for their price volatility – which poses a challenge if your business requires stable pricing. You’ll also need to ensure your business is remaining compliant with your jurisdiction’s crypto regulations – which differ around the world.

To start taking cryptocurrency payments, you’ll need to partner with a reputable cryptocurrency payment processor. Choose one with a user-friendly interface, real-time conversion to flat currencies, and robust security measures.

You’ll also need a digital wallet to store, and manage, your business’s crypto funds – as well as a payment gateway that supports cryptocurrency.

If that sounds like a lot of work, well – it is. But trust us – in a few years, accepting payments online via cryptocurrency won’t be a ‘nice to have’ for businesses. But a must have. So why not get ahead of the curve – and steal a march on your rivals?

8. Take In-App and In-Game Payments

In-app purchases allow users to buy additional content, features, or functionality within a mobile app or game. This model is commonly used to offer premium versions, subscriptions, or access to exclusive content.

By offering in-app purchases, you can leverage the value of microtransactions. These are small, incremental purchases made within an app or game – and can include buying in-game currency, power-ups, cosmetic items, or other virtual goods. Microtransactions are generally low-value, but can accumulate to generate big money.

How do you make money from within an app? Well, many apps and games implement virtual currency systems that allow their users to buy a digital currency to use within the app or game ecosystem. Virtual currency simplifies transactions and provides flexibility for users to make multiple purchases – without having to enter their payment details over and over again.

You can also offer digital goods – including character skins, level packs, and other bonus content – available for the user to purchase.

To accept in-app payments, you’ll need to ensure your app is working with the app stores – either Apple, or Google Play. For both, you’ll need to register as a developer to configure in-app products, and get onto each store’s payment processing infrastructure.

To simplify the whole shebang, you can also utilise in-app SDKs – such as Apple’s StoreKit for iOS or Google Play Billing Library for Android. These provide pre-built libraries and tools – and handle the communication between your app and the app store – to make accepting in-app payments much easier.

Simpsons Tapped Out screenshot
City-building freemium game The Simpsons: Tapped Out allows users to make in-app purchases via a virtual currency called 'Donuts' – which then enable exclusive additions, such as buildings and characters, to the player's town.

How to Accept Payments Online: Summary

One important thing to remember when it comes to taking payments online? 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 your memory…

The best ways to take payments online are:

  1. Accept credit and debit cards
  2. Add a payment gateway
  3. Use eChecks
  4. Integrate digital wallet payments
  5. Send click-to-pay email invoices
  6. Install recurring billing software
  7. Accept cryptocurrencies
  8. Take in-app and in-game payments

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, most 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.

FAQs

To safeguard sensitive data in the payments process:
  • Ensure your website has a valid SSL certificate
  • Utilize a secure payment gateway
  • Follow PCI DSS compliance standards to protect customer data
  • Regularly update your website
  • Monitor transactions for suspicious activity
  • Educate your customers about secure online practices

For more information, explore our complete guide to ecommerce security.

How long it takes for you to receive the money after your customer makes a purchase from your business online depends on various factors.

These include the payment method, the settlement period, and the policies of your payment processor or bank. Generally, though, you should see the funds in your account within a few business days. (Some payment methods, however, offer faster transfers – albeit at a higher cost!)

Written by:
I’ve written for brands and businesses all over the world – empowering everyone from solopreneurs and micro-businesses to enterprises to some of the ecommerce industry’s best-known brands: including Yahoo!, Ecwid, and Entrepreneur. My commitment for the future is to empower my audience to make better, more effective decisions: whether that’s helping you pick the right platform to build your website with, the best hosting provider for your needs, or offering recommendations as to what – and how – to sell.

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