Credit Cards and Merchant Accounts

If you have a paysite, then you need to have a way for your members to automatically pay to join AND a built in way for your members to pay their membership on a recurring basis (generally every month or every 30 days) until they cancel. Of course accepting credit cards is the best way to accomplish this. Your paysite should at a minimum accept MasterCard and Visa. Your payment processing system should be able to automatically allow your members to sign-up and automatically re-bill your customers without you or your members doing taking any extra steps. The best way to accept credit cards for your membership site is to have your own merchant account that allows you to process major credit cards. To open a merchant account you need an established bank account and reasonable credit. A merchant account is issued by a merchant bank and it is the account that all credit card transactions are deposited into. When money from credit card transactions are deposited into your merchant account, they are then transferred (minus any transaction fees) into your bank account.

Payment Gateways

If you use your own merchant account, you will also need a payment gateway. A payment gateway is a separate service that authorizes the sale and encrypts the sensitive data (like credit card numbers) and passes the data to merchant bank. It’s like an online cash register that rings up and processes the sale between your website and your merchant account. The most popular gateway is AuthorizeNet. When you apply for a merchant account, you should be sure that it works with AuthorizeNet, and when if you purchase any membership site software you should also make sure that it works with AuthorizeNet. To make things easy, it’s best to get a merchant account that has AuthorizeNet already built in. Here is a list of companies that offer merchant accounts with an AuthorizeNet payment gateway:

By getting a merchant account with AuthorizeNet, your credit card transactions will seamlessly integrate with any of the password management systems or membership site software packages recommended in this book.

Processing Payments without a Merchant Account

Not everyone has the ability to qualify for a merchant account. Requirements can be very stringent. However there are solutions for people with little to no credit, bad credit, or non U.S. citizens that sometimes have problems establishing a merchant account.

PayPal (www.paypal.com) is the world’s leader in 3rd party credit card billing. However, there are some people that can’t get a PayPal account or have had their PayPal account shut down. The major disadvantage to using PayPal is that many people view sites that accept only PayPal as “fly-by-night” or not a real business. This perception however is shrinking since more and more large corporations have started using PayPal.

ClickBank (www.clickbank.com) is an option for people that can’t get a merchant account or a PayPal account. There is a $49 charge to become a vendor. Some password maintenance packages work with ClickBank. If you process your credit card transactions with ClickBank, then you will get a check twice a month for your sales. ClickBank, like PayPal, also has the perception by some as a service that is used by websites that can’t get a real merchant account. However, one HUGE advantage is that by using ClickBank, you can open your membership up to their large base of affiliates that can promote your site. Check out ClickBank Explosion (www.cbexplosion.com) for more details.

CC-Bill (www.ccbill.com) is an excellent option for accepting payments without a merchant account. I have several merchant accounts, but I use CC-Bill for most of my membership sites because they handle everything for me. CC-Bill will install a password maintenance system (at no charge) on your site and handle all credit card processing. The obvious advantages of using CC-Bill are that you don’t need to purchase a password maintenance system and there is not setup charge. Another advantage of using CC-Bill is that they also take care of all billing, password, and cancellation issues. If a member has a question about their bill, needs to find their password or wants to cancel, then CC-Bill takes care of it. This makes them an excellent option for anyone that wants to operate a site without doing a lot of routine and ongoing maintenance.