Explain credit card processing
January 18, 2006 11:53 AM   Subscribe

How does my client accept credit cards online?

I'm a web designer, and I'm building a book site for an author. She would like to sell her books through the website. I don't know how to set up online credit card processing.

She definitely doesn't want to use Paypal or any other service where we have to send people to another domain for processing. She'd like for the entire thing to happen on her site, and she will ship out the books. Whatever I set up, it needs to be fairly inexpensive.

I figure we need a secure certificate, a credit card processor and some sort of database to store the transactions and keep track of purchasing/shipping. Does that sound about right?

I've looked at shopping cart software (OSCommerce, Zen Cart, etc.) and I understand basically how it works. I don't understand how the live online processing works. Is this some software the cc processor provides?

So here are the questions: how does it work? What do I need? Who do you suggest?
posted by letitrain to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
The CC processor will probably provide either code to do the work or else they'll provide a Web services or REST API and you'll be expected to have or write the code. (Your shopping cart software might have code or modules for popular payment processors.)
posted by kindall at 12:01 PM on January 18, 2006


The magic words you're looking for are Merchant Card Services.

"Is this some software the cc processor provides?"

Chances are the merchant card service will provide you an API to code against, an account on a transaction server, and a pushy sales job for their integration consulting.
posted by majick at 12:34 PM on January 18, 2006


Whatever I set up, it needs to be fairly inexpensive.

Unfortunately, that's not realistic. But you may be better off with open-source options in that regard. The thread I linked to has a lot of information from others as well.
posted by Rothko at 1:08 PM on January 18, 2006


OK, so I understand the cc processing process now (thank you). Now I need to choose vendors and price it out.

Unfortunately, that's not realistic.

That's what I'm afraid of, especially looking through majick's Merchant Card Services search results.

I'm thinking there has to be a simplified service out there for small businesses that won't break the bank, no?
posted by letitrain at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2006


It sounds like you might be in over your head. You may want to take on a project management role, and hire a developer with e-commerce experience.

I'm saying this to be helpful, not snarky. Someone who has done this before should be able to put a working site together in well under a week (possibly as quickly as 48 hours, but that is going to cost) and will build a fairly secure site. If you don't understand the security issues down to the last detail, you are simply building an invitation for credit card theft.

After hiring a real e-commerce web developer, and comparing his work with what I would have cobbled together, there is no chance that I would ever trust myself to go near e-commerce alone again.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:19 PM on January 18, 2006


I'm thinking there has to be a simplified service out there for small businesses that won't break the bank, no?

unfortunately, it is paypal, which violates your stay on the website requirement.
posted by b1tr0t at 1:20 PM on January 18, 2006


If your client wants to run her own site from top to bottom, the merchant services are an unavoidable fact of life.

If it's her money, let her make the choice: Show her these merchant services, show her PayPal, and then show established sellers, like Amazon, who can manage customer orders for third-party book stores.
posted by Rothko at 1:22 PM on January 18, 2006


You can use paypal seamlessly.

https://www.paypal.com/us/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=xpt/cps/developer/ProCarts-outside
posted by phearlez at 1:27 PM on January 18, 2006


It sounds like you might be in over your head.

No doubt I'm over my head, but this is how I've learned everything I know - by doing it. If I can't do it well after giving it a try, then I'll look into handing it off.

I found this: Simple Integration Method (SIM) Implementation Guide Card-Not-Present Transactions (PDF) on the authorize.net site that explains their process in-depth.
posted by letitrain at 1:34 PM on January 18, 2006 [1 favorite]


If it's her money, let her make the choice: Show her these merchant services, show her PayPal, and then show established sellers, like Amazon, who can manage customer orders for third-party book stores.

She will be listed on Amazon and B&N also, but they take a large commission. She believes that she might be better off with selling on her own site - that's why I need to figure out costs.

At first blush, Paypal's Website Payments Pro might be what we're looking for!
posted by letitrain at 1:40 PM on January 18, 2006


Speaking as someone who managed web development for a little non-profit that wanted to accept donations online and wanted to do it from scratch rather than through an established middle-man, I can tell you it is not worth it.

Unless your author is going to be selling thousands of books through her site, she should just go the Paypal route, or Yahoo Stores, or something similar. It's not worth the headache. Does she want to be a writer, or does she want to be an online store manager?
posted by alms at 1:44 PM on January 18, 2006


CubeCart may be an option. I gave it a test install recently, it went very smoothly (I'm not a server admin, mostly a client-side developer).
posted by o2b at 1:59 PM on January 18, 2006


I'd recommend authorize.net for your payment processor- I've used them in the past and would use them again. It'll cost something like $300 a year total, but you probably wouldn't be able to beat that by much anywhere else. They do the billing and tell you that you just got some money, you do whatever on the backend you need to to keep track of the new customers and the shipments.
posted by pwb503 at 2:41 PM on January 18, 2006


Though PayPal doesn't have the best reputation, I appreciate it when online sellers have the PayPal option because that means as a buyer I don't have to get off my lazy ass and grab my credit card. PayPal actually makes it easier for me to buy things, as I usually have to fill out less info (for example, shipping address, which PayPal already has), and since I set it up to use a credit card, I'm as protected via the credit card's chargeback policy as using the card itself on the merchant's site.

So you might want to introduce the PayPal Pro dealie with some annecdotes of buyers preferring the ease of it.
posted by lychee at 4:25 PM on January 18, 2006


No doubt I'm over my head, but this is how I've learned everything I know - by doing it. If I can't do it well after giving it a try, then I'll look into handing it off.

Trust me, you don't want to try this. You'll fail, and you're going to cost her a lot of money in the process, and potentially land her in a lot of legal trouble with banks for violating the merchant card agreement. Let someone else do it this time and show you how, and you can do it the next time.

Just ask me, I almost lost an entire company before I figured it out and got my shit in order. And it took me four months to figure it out.

What language are you writing the backend in? Are you using a shopping cart that's already made, or making your own? If it's PHP, I have code I can give you for FastTransact. I'm a referral partner for them. OSCommerce integrates with them. They're great for small businesses, and I can give you the phone # of a sales rep that I've been working with for two years. She will help take care of you (she's from the customer support side and just recently moved into sales.)
posted by SpecialK at 4:40 PM on January 18, 2006


Does anyone know of a site that is using Paypal Pro? I want to see how it works on an actual live site.
posted by letitrain at 10:44 PM on January 18, 2006


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