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Do You Need A Merchant Account?

By Jim Hoffman
Posted Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Deciding when to get your own merchant account for internet sales can be a confusing and expensive venture. If you have a small to medium sized business and only sell a small amount of products then having your own merchant account may not be the answer for you. Some of the costs involved include. Monthly fees. Anywhere between $25-$50 for statements and minimum fees. Per transaction and charges fees. Usually between 2%-3.5 % in fees and .30-.50 per transaction. Gateway fees. $10-$30 per month SSL certificate. Can be as much as $250 Shopping cart fee or software purchase. Monthly can range $20-$70 and software purchase can be as much as $1400. In addition to the cost is the technical aspect of setting up your site to use a shopping cart and real-time processing. Not all gateways, merchant accounts and shopping carts play well together. You must make sure that each can work with each other. Plus be prepared to properly set up your web server to use all this nice technical information the accounts give you.

Now, if you are a larger business or do a lot of sales each month perhaps your own merchant account is the answer for you. It can save you money in the long run. But if you are just starting out with an online business, then a third party merchant may be the answer for you. Third party merchants handle all the background details, pay the monthly fees, assume the risks of fraud and charge backs, and handle all the secure shopping your customers will expect when shopping online. While the monthly fees may be a bit higher, there usually isn't a set up charge, gateway fees, SSL charges and shopping cart set up. Depending on the service you choose, they can give you simple HTML code to add to your site or allow you to use "buy buttons" or both. Fees range anywhere from 5% to 13.5%. Some companies charge a set up fee and a per transaction fee.
Then there is always Paypal. A useful service for new comers to the online payment arena but it has its drawbacks. With Paypal:

Your customer must set up an account with them
They can FREEZE your account
They can set limits on monthly transactions

I suggest you explore all your options and decide what is best for you financially and technically. A little research online can save you money and time in the long run.

About the Author
Jim Hoffman is the co-founder of Inet Goodies. An internet resource group, focusing on SEO, Hosting, Billing solutions and Traffic.


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