In this section I’m not really talking about your ordinary online banking – the kind that your bank probably provides, where you can check your balance, etc. Here, we’re looking at the most convenient ways to collect payments on the web.
There are many good services out there, and they differ not so much in the quality or scope of their service as, simply, in their popularity. Today, by far the most popular such service is PayPal. A word of caution: as we’ve seen from the recent WikiLeaks fiasco, PayPal is not loyal to their customers and will play ball with anyone in government who has enough clout. With this in mind, you’d be crazy to put your eggs in just this one basket. Ideally, provide multiple payment options. In this manner, another market leader will eventually emerge, and sellouts won’t be rewarded. (Sorry, I had to rant at this point!)
PayPal allows you to create 3 types of accounts, a personal one and two business types (one for a one-man business and one for a company). In all cases, you have certain hoops to jump through, and in the case of a personal account, you can’t do more than a couple of thousands US$ before they stop you cold. In case of the business accounts, they require you provide all the valid tax documentation – once you reach around $2k in turnover.
PayPal accepts all the major cards as well as, of course, other PayPal accounts, and it also allows you to create payment buttons and shooping carts, etc, and is generally a decent-enough (if rather difficult to navigate) a service. Note: PayPal is notoriously bad when it comes to user support. This alone is reason enough to not limit yourself to just this one service.
A few viable alternatives to PayPal include
- Google Checkout
- Crystal Umbrella
- VeriFone VX510 Credit Card Terminal
- … and here’s one final link, which I personally found rather amusing, particularly in light of the recent disloyalty PayPal has shown to WikiLeaks: http://www.screw-paypal.com/alternatives/top_pick.html
But note that if you don’t have PayPal in your portfolio, you’ll miss out on over 50% of all web surfers who ONLY have PayPal. I haven’t checked all of the above, but it’s not impossible that some of them do accept payments from PayPal accounts. I’ll post an update once I’ve had time to check. Or – perhaps you’ll post a comment?