What you are looking for are secure, e-payment services (3rd party
credit card processing), of which there many on the web. It is best
that you utilize these services as writing a payment solution by
yourself is both costly and non-secure. Using an e-payment service
will allow you to collect credit card details of clients in a manner
that the client trusts.
Essentially, to collect credit card information from your clients, you will need:
- An electronic shopping cart system.
- A payment gateway service.
- A credit card processor.
- An Internet merchant account issued by a bank or other financial
institution or service bureau.
Some e-payment companies will take care of all of this for you.
Credit card collection works by retrieving customer information at the
checkout of the shopping cart. This transaction information is then
sent the gateway service, which routes it to the processor who then
contacts the bank of the customer's card who then approves/declines
the transaction. This information is then sent back to the gateway
which routes it back to the shopping cart system where the results are
First off, what is a merchant account?
"A merchant account is a commercial bank account established by
contractual agreement between your business and the banks we
represent. A merchant account enables your business to accept credit
card payments from your customers."
What is a payment gateway service ?
"The payment gateway service comes into play when a customer submits
his or her credit card information to the Web page form. Think of the
gateway service as the middleman in the process. The Web site's
shopping cart checkout system electronically submits the credit card
to the gateway service, which then routes the information to the
processor for approval."
However, obtaining a merchant account from a bank for an online
company is especially difficult as they label such ventures as "high
risk". Fortunately, many e-payment services will offer third-party
merchant accounts, though with some small fees. Despite these fees,
they are your best shot at a succesful online payment system. Possible
e-payment services that you could use are as follows:
Secure Trading (http://www.securetrading.ne)
Secure Trading is "global e-commerce payment solutions" company
providing many features, including support for numerous credit cards,
security and fraud control, SSL web hosting for your payment page as
well as support for almost every shopping cart program available
(http://www.securetrading.net/services-features.htm). They merely
require a small monthly fee and small percentage of goods sold. The
best thing about Secure Trading is that they do not charge extra for
different types of credit cards, something that many merchants do.
Secure Trading has many success stories to its name (an example can be
found at http://www.officinado.com/your-comments/128.html). I have a
friend who uses the company to process his company's online
transactions and he has had barely any problems. When he did have
problems, he tells me that Secure Trading's customer service was
Process54 is a well established UK-based company which also offers
extensive credit card (and even debit card) support. They also have an
American partner, http://www.avpsolutions.com/. They have no monthly
fees, rates from 3.5% and accepts transactions from all over the
world. They also offer 3rd party solutions for payment interfaces. as
well as step-by-step instructions on how to get your business up and
running with credit card payments. You can obtain a merchant account
with them from their parent company, AVP Solutions
(http://www.avpsolutions.com/). They have garnered many positive
reviews for their service
Geared specifically towards smaller merchants PaySystems boasts one of
the lowest rates available. They provide a simple, fast and easy setup
and turns setting up an e-business from a hassle into a breeze. They
too have received good reviews
With these 3rd party solutions, you generally need to consider very
little else. However, if you are looking for full service consultation
and are willing to pay for it, companies such as Web-Merchan Services
(http://www.web-merchant.co.uk/ecommercebuilder.asp) provide solutions
such as E-Commerce Builder which sets everything up for you. Be warned
however, these solutions are generally more expensive.
Also probably uneccesary are shopping cart systems. Since it does not
appear that you will be selling very many products (as a consultation
company), applications such as MIVA Merchant
(http://www.miva.com/products/merchant/) would probably be a waste of
your money. You'd be better off using the 3rd party solutions.
increase customer confidence.
http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/0,4621,274325,00.html details ways
of doing that.
I hope this helps. Feel free to ask for clarification if you require
Clarification of Answer by
14 Jun 2004 10:29 PDT
I'd just like to add that I am willing to continue working
on your question until you are satisfied. If you have any questions
or if this doesn't satisfy your request, please post a clarification
request before rating my answer.
Other e-payment companies you may also want to look into are:
Echo Credit Card Processing (http://www.echo-inc.com/)
Echo is not a 3rd party merchant account solution. They are their own
bank and consequently, they process their own merchant accounts when
payments are made. They can thus accept almost any merchant,
regardless of credit rating. They also have their own, secure,
Internet Payment gateway, similar to verisign and authorize.net and do
not charge extra for monthly gateway fees. This makes them a very
economical alternative to the above three.
Credit Card Processor (http://www.creditcardprocessor.com/)
As one of the largest processing companies, they guarantee the lowest
rates. They require you to have a merchant account.
Total Merchant Services (http://www.totalmerchantservices.com/)
They offer total payment solutions in quick and easy manner. They
require you to have a merchant account.
The PayPal payment system has recieved a variety of reviews, ranging
from extremely satisfied to angry and disgruntled. The disadvantage
to their systems it that clients must have a PayPal account of their
own, something that clients might find annoying. They do however,
offer very low rates as well as a huge user base.
Referenced from another answer, you may also want to look at the
The Best Merchant Account for Your Business ? Kurt Thumlert
Guide to Online Payment Acceptance - Part 1 - Matt Mickiewicz and Jim
Guide to Online Payment Acceptance - Part 2 - Matt Mickiewicz and Jim
Guide to Online Payment Acceptance - Part 3 - Matt Mickiewicz and Jim
Guide to Online Payment Acceptance - Part 4 - Matt Mickiewicz and Jim
You may also find a compiled list of Merchant Banks/Merchant Account
Providers/Third Party Processors useful (courtesy of cartack-ga),
located in the comments section.
Request for Answer Clarification by
17 Jun 2004 07:03 PDT
I still would require more direct clarification and to enable you get
a better understanding of my question,allow me to put it this way back
1) How do I go about getting a Website for my Remote African
2) How can I from my Remote African Information Consultant
Website,Print Out Completed Online Consultation Form for Requested
Service and Credit Card Details of the Payment of Fee Submitted by
Clients from the UK,Canada and US?
3) How can I Charge the Collected Credit Cards Manually Offline?
Clarification of Answer by
17 Jun 2004 11:52 PDT
Sorry about the misunderstanding, I will now attempt to clarify my answer. Feel
free to continue to ask for clarifications if you are not completely satisfied.
The information regarding collecting credit card information is still valid. You
still need a merchant account to credit to/debit from. If you are collecting
credit card information from a webpage, you still need a secure gateway system
to ensure that the client's credit card information is protected.
To setup a website, you can either build it yourself, or hire one of the many
web developers offering their services on the net. I will not elaborate too much
on the mechanics of hosting and web building as they are not the focus of your
question. You may however, wish to take a look at the following sites:
For website hosting, I highly recomment OLM.net (http://www.olm.net/). I have
personally been with this hosting company for two years and I have had no
problems. They offer excellent support and competitive rates. They also offer an
e-commerce hosting solution with Miva Merchant, which can connect to various
secure gateways and credit card processing companies. The other option for
hosting is having a link to the credit card processing company of your choice
(they typically offer hosting for your online shop, or in your case,
consultation request form). Your last option would be to simple have a pdf file
or html form they could print out and mail to you. The latter is probably least
desireable as it requires your clients to physically mail their order forms to
you (costing them time and money). For more information regarding PDF forms, see
To open a merchant account, you have a few options. You can either go to your
local bank (for example: http://www.absa.co.za/Individual/0,2999,2563,00.html is
a very large, respectable African bank) or you can open a merchant account
through 3rd party processing companies.
To process credit cards offline, like I mentioned before, you still need the
secure payment gateways. After your client has submitted their credit card
information, you can then download the purchase information and key in the
payment information yourself into terminal software. This can also be done with
mail in forms.
I think the easiest way to do this would be the following:
First, you need to set up a merchant account. As a consulting company (and not a
pure internet company, which are labelled as "high risk") you should be able to
obtain one with minimal difficulty. I have already listed Absa
(http://www.absa.co.za) as one of the larger banks. Others you might want to try
are the South African Reserve Bank (http://www.reservebank.co.za/) or other such
local banks. The bank you are currently using, if you have maintained a good
credit rating is probably a good idea too. Make sure that your merchant account
accepts Virtual Terminal Transactions.
After obtaining your merchant account, you need to purchase Virtual Terminal
Software. Either ICVerify
(http://www.icverify.com/icverify/products.asp) or GOSoftware
(http://www.gosoftware.com/products/index.htm), depending on your operating system,
provides the functionality you require. Your transaction volume will
version of the software to get. Once you decide, you need to contact a
reseller such as
MerchantWarehouse (http://www.merchantwarehouse.com/software.shtml) to
actually buy the
software. Through this Virtual Terminal software, you can input
transaction data from any
computer equipped with an internet connection, as long as you have a
(which you should have gotten already)
Once that is done, you need to setup a website to retrieve payment
information from your
clients. While you could setup a simple e-mail form, this is not
secure at all. Instead,
I recommend a company like QCommerce which provides custom e-commerce solutions
This way, you can forgo the costs involved in setting up automated
and simply retrieve order information from the website, print them
out, and process it yourself
QCommerce also offers hosting. OLM.net offers similar e-commerce
solutions, though you'll
have to talk with their sales department to tailor a solution to your needs.
Another route you could go would be to sign up with WorldPay
(http://www.worldpay.com/southafrica/index.html) which provides a
global credit card
processing service. They have their own propriety Virtual Terminal
which is web-based so
you do not need to install any software
They would be an "all-in-one" solution, providing you with a merchant account and
anything else you may need (including an online solution if you decide to expand).
QCommerce also connects to WorldPay.
I hope this better answers your question.
Clarification of Answer by
17 Jun 2004 12:10 PDT
I forgot to mention that http://www.loita.com/afrcbnk.htm has a list
of the African Central banks, which you may find useful when looking
for a bank to open your merchant account with.
Request for Answer Clarification by
28 Jun 2004 07:36 PDT
Please I would like you to kindly clarify in an itemised number number
manner,the following points:
1) Is it likely possible that all merchant account accepts Virtual
2) What is Virtual Terminal Software,its functions and how is it use
with computers specifically and generally?
3) How do I manually by myself input transaction data from an Internet
connected computer into Terminal Software?
4) How do the combination of the website page form,Terminal Software
and the computer works to retrieve and print out payment information
5) If I retrieve order information from the website,print them
out,Where and through what process manually myself do I go about
getting the credit card payments charge to receive the money?
6) As a possible options for my clients,how do I sep-up a simple
e-mails on the web?
7) Compared to Online,what are the advantage,disadvantage and
security risk involved in the sending and receiving of credit card
details of payments by e-mail,fax and for mail orders?
8) Do the credit card details of payments that are sent and received
by e-mail,fax and for mail order can also be input into Virtual
Terminal Software if so,how and if not,how do you charge these credit
card payment methods?
9) Are all credit card payments refundable? How and to whom?
10) Apart from Amex,Visa and MasterCard,what other credit cards are
mostly use On and Offline?
Clarification of Answer by
28 Jun 2004 16:55 PDT
Here are the answers to your questions. Feel free to continue asking
1) Since virtual terminal transactions (through hardware) are a
mainstay of merchant accounts, software virtual terminal transactions
are likely accepted by all merchant accounts. However, simply because
something should happen, does not mean it does, and you should still
ask when opening your merchant account.
2) "A virtual terminal can be used to perform all of the same
functions of a physical credit card terminal. Through Internet access
and a secure website, you'll be able to manually process credit card
transactions from orders received offline, issue credits, void
transactions, and view your online list of transactions, from any
computer in the world."
A good flowchart diagramming the process can be found at
(note: this is for the authorize.net payment system specifically,
though the general idea is there).
3) Manual entry is simple. All you require is the credit card
information of your client (#, name and expiry date) which you type
into the virtual terminal software. A sample interface can be found at
Note that the interface also allows credit card checking and
4) The webpage form, if setup correctly in a secure manner, captures
credit card payments into a retrievable list. You then download (or
print out) the list and manually input the transactions into the
virtual terminal software. The virtual terminal software itself allows
you to track your transactions, and printouts of your clients
purchases can be done through the software as well.
5) To retrieve the credit card payments, you input the credit card
information into the virtual terminal. The terminal software passes
the information to the merchant account provider, which sends an
authorization request to the credit card processing service. The
credit card processing service checks the credit card's validity
(limit, if it has been stolen, etc.) and then sends the information to
your client's bank. At this point, you would receive an authorization
number to track the transaction. Your client's bank debits the correct
amount from their bank account and deposits that amount into your
6) This is best done through a web hosting company. Your best bet
would be to hire a person who is technically skilled in this field to
do it for you. I have browsed through various sites with freelancers
and have dealt/communicated with many of them in the past and for your
purposes, I recommend Mr. Peak whose published e-mail is at:
7) E-mail is highly insecure and I discourage you from using that
method to transmit credit card payments. Your clients would be
hesitant to do so as well as everything is transmitted in plain-text
and e-mails can be stored and cached in the many mail servers along
the way, giving almost anybody access to the highly sensitive
Mail orders have a lower initial cost than internet payment solutions,
but your rate of sale will probably decrease drastically. Mail orders
require people to have stamps, envelopes as well as physically going
to mail them. For your business (which seems to cater to international
customers) this is not ideal as postage fees are a huge hassle. In
addition, mail orders take much longer to process as international
mail can take up to two weeks and clients may not wish to wait that
long (and I'm sure, neither do you).
Fax is similar to online form filling, except that customers require a
fax machine. If you are catering to businesses, this is a definite
possibility. However, online form filling is probably your best bet
since (set up correctly) it is extremely secure, and essentially
8) The alternative payment methods can be inputted in the exact same
way into virtual terminal software. However, once again, I discourage
you from using e-mail as it is very unsecure.
9) Credit card payments are refundable by you through the virtual
terminal software. The amount would be debited from your merchant
account and back into your client's account. Also, the client may take
action through their bank if they believe the transaction is a fraud.
For more information, consult
10) Essentially all of the credit cards available are covered by Visa,
Mastercard or Amex. Discover has some, but not many. There are
however, thousands of other credit card providers, such as Delta, Euro
Once again, I emphasize that finding a professional to help you set up
this system would probably be for the best. I recommend that you
contact Mr. Peak for a more personalized/specific help.
I hope this helps.
Request for Answer Clarification by
02 Jul 2004 06:02 PDT
Let me thank you for tackling my several clarification questions so
far.Please do the same again on the following points in an itemised
1) If I decide to single handedly build my website,how and what tools do I use?
2) Is it possible for me to single handedly buy and install the
Virtual Terminal Software myself? If so,how and what are the tools to
3) What do you actually mean by wedsite hosting in relation to my
4) What and who is a reseller?
5)What is a Secure Server in relation to Online Credit Card Payments
and my consulting company?
6) What are the meanings of these displayed symbols on the
web:"Trust.Site Privacy Statements" and Privacy BBE Online?"
7) Who are the Merchant Providers,Online Gateways and 3rd Party
Providers in the UK and Canada?
8) Which Banks and Financial Institutions in the UK and Canada are
Clarification of Answer by
02 Jul 2004 22:47 PDT
1) To single-handedly build a website, technically all you need is
Notepad and Paint (both which are supplied with any Windows O/S), or
their Mac/Linux equivalents. However, to simplify the process, many
programs have been developed to aid the web design process, notably
(http://www.macromedia.com/software/dreamweaver/) and Microsoft
FrontPage (http://www.microsoft.com/frontpage/). While a demo is
available from Macromedia, to use them for commercial purposes
requires you to license it, costing around $399 US for Dreamweaver and
$180 US for FrontPage. These two are the biggest WYSIWYG (what you see
is what you get) editors available. Other free ones are also an
option, including AceHTML (http://freeware.acehtml.com/), but do not
have as extensive a feature set as the two big ones. On top of HTML
editing, you'll probably need a graphics editing program. Adobe
products are excellent for this task, either Photoshop CS
(http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop/main.html) or its more
economic Photoshop Elements
(http://www.adobe.com/products/photoshopel/main.html) are great
choices with a very powerful feature set. Photoshop CS costs about
$640 US and Elements costs around $99. There are also free tools on
the net, such as PhotoFiltre (http://www.photofiltre.com/) which may
be adequate for your needs.
However, in light of the cost of purchasing software and the time
required to learn how to use the software, I highly recommend you hire
a website designer who has experience with it already. A website is
your online presence and the image it projects is an important factor
when clients are deciding whether or not to go with your services. A
professional web designer can guarantee a website with a clean
interface, compelling visuals and meticulously placed content, all
important factors in enticing customers. Once again, I have browsed
through many sites designed by freelancers and have determined that
Mr. Peak (email@example.com) is probably the best suited for
If you do consider doing the website yourself, there are many tutorial
sites online to get you started. I suggest you read through the answer
I provided another client regarding learning website design at
http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=236401. You may also
want to consult http://www.tamingthebeast.net/articles/ecommerce-site-s1p1.htm.
2) All virtual terminal software available comes with a simple
installer and generally, no other tools are necessary. Simply follow
the step-by-step instructions that come with the software. If you are
in doubt, you can have an experienced person walk you through it.
Again, Mr. Peak has a lot of experience with setting up e-commerce
sites, and would probably agree to help you through the installation
3) Websites required to be hosted on a server connected to the
internet in order for the world to see them. Website hosting companies
provide servers on which your websites reside. In your case, your
webpage needs to be hosted on one of these servers in order for the
world to see them.
Some of these hosting companies provide important e-commerce features,
such as secure connections (through gateways, explained above),
transaction applications and client records (such as the one I
recommended in my first answer). Your consulting company requires
these features in order to securely process credit card transactions
and in your case, store them for offline processing.
4) A reseller is somebody who purchases software or services from a
dealer in bulk and sells them to customers. For example,
http://www.authorizenet.com/reseller/directory.php is a list of all
the resellers of the authorize.net service. Resellers reduce the need
for the company in question to advertise its services. Instead, the
company sells to resellers, who in turn market these purchased
services and sell them at a marked up price. Virtual terminal software
resellers are people who have purchased a quantity of the software in
bulk and are now selling them to the public. Resellers allow customers
the option of choosing which piece of virtual terminal software they
wish to purchase as they often carry products from a few different
5) A secure server is a server which has been protected against
undesired intrusion by foreign agents through implementation of
various security devices (firewalls, anti-virus software, physical
protection, patches, etc.). Credit card information must be protected
and thus, the server which your clients' credit card information
resides on must be secured to prevent theft. A secure connection is
also vital to your consulting company's transactions. These
connections generally are taken care of by the webhosting company if
they provide e-commerce services. An article on securing transactions
and secure servers (which is directly related to the online credit
card acceptance of your company) can be found at
6) They relate to the privacy statement for the website. A privacy
statement is a declaration to your visitors about what your site
contains. It also declares what type of information you gather from
your visitors and how you use it. Typically, privacy statements
document the following information:
- Type of data collected from hit counters and server logs (and why)
- How you secure the information that you gather (is it stored on the server etc.)
- Public forums and discussion boards (warn visitors about revealing
- Whether you have external linkages from your site (many visitors
don't realize that they are clicking on an external link until they
have been redirected)
- Options for visitors to unsubscribe from lists.
- How visitors can contact you
(courtesy of http://www.tamingthebeast.net/articles/reassurance.htm)
The privacy statement puts your customers mind at ease and add
professionalism to your site. It can also be protection for both you
and your customer. Since it is a legal document, it is advisable you
let your web designer (or a lawyer) handle it.
7) Here is a list which you may find of use (some links courtesy of cartack-ga):
Merchant Accounts http://www.merchant-accounts.ca/
Psi Gate http://www.psigate.com/merchantaccount.asp
Canadian Merchant Solutions http://www.canadianmerchantsolutions.com/
Business America http://www.businessamerica1.com/
Charge Gateway http://www.chargegateway.com/
Caledon Card Services http://www.ccsinc.on.ca/
First Data http://www.firstdata.com/svcs_intl.jsp
E-Commerce Services UK http://www.international-merchant-accounts.co.uk/
Total Merchant Services http://www.takecreditcardsonline.com
National Card Systems http://www.natlcardsys.com
E-Commerce Exchange http://www.eccx.com/html/content/international.shtml
Cardservice International http://www.expandyourbusiness.com
3rd Party Providers
8) All of the major banks and financial institutions in UK and Canada
are Visa/MasterCard acquirers, including Royal Bank, Bank of Montreal
(http://www.cibc.com/ca/lrg-corporate/merchant-services.html), TD Bank
Alliance Leicester (http://www.alliance-leicestercommercialbank.co.uk/pages/SB04002.asp),
Allied Irish Bank (http://www.aib.ie/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=AIB_BusinessPortal%2FBP_Homepage&channel=MTS)
Bank of Scotland (http://www.bankofscotland.co.uk/business/as/creditcards/index.html)
and more (http://www.uknetguide.co.uk/Finance/Banks_and_Banking/).
Virtually every merchant account provider in Canada and UK will accept
Visa and MasterCard.
I hope this clarifies my answer.