Payment gateways are an essential tool for processing e-commerce transactions securely. That’s why you need to understand how they work and what sets the best ones apart from the glut of options on the market. As businesses undergo exponential growth, many finance teams require help to manage the sheer volume of invoices. Without a solution to augment their productivity, bottlenecks form and errors creep in, damaging overall efficiency and leading to customer churn.
Empowering your customers to take ownership of their payment details allows them to play an active role in transactions. This takes some of the heat off accountants and enables them to focus on more strategic roles while building customer trust. Payment gateways also provide an extra layer of data protection, establishing a secure environment to process payments without compromising customer experience.
If you’re interested in a specific question about payment gateways, skip ahead by clicking on the topic below.
- What is a payment gateway?
- What are the three types of payment gateways?
- What is a merchant account?
- What is a payment service provider (PSP)?
- What is the difference between a payment gateway vs payment portal?
- What is the difference between a payment gateway vs payment processor?
- How do payment gateways work?
- What happens if the payment is unsuccessful?
- Why do payments fail?
- What are the benefits of payment gateways?
- Which security features should you prioritize?
- What is the PCI DSS?
- What are the key considerations when choosing payment gateway software?
- When should you invest in multiple payment gateways?
A payment gateway is an online payment solution that verifies credit card details and transfers funds for e-commerce transactions. It acts as an intermediary between the customer and the merchant, creating a secure environment to send and receive payment details between the merchant’s website, the customer’s financial institution, and the merchant’s financial institution.
There are three types of payment gateways:
3.) On-site checkout and off-site payment
Redirect, or hosted, payment gateways forward the customer to a different website to complete their purchase. Therefore, the payment gateway does not integrate into the merchant’s website, which can result in fewer conversions.
On-site payment gateways mean the merchant’s server completes the payment process. Large enterprises typically implement these because they offer maximal control over the process and have the resources to manage higher complexity and responsibility.
Finally, some payment gateways offer a hybrid approach where the customer completes checkout on the merchant’s website, but a third-party redirect website processes the payment. This type of gateway is convenient and straightforward, like redirect gateways, but lacks the total control offered by on-site gateways.
A registered merchant account is a type of bank account required of all businesses to accept debit or credit cards and receive payment. Payment service providers typically provide these accounts for merchants.
A payment service provider (PSP) is a third-party company that offers payment services, including payment gateways. These businesses allow companies to accept online payment methods and remain compliant with industry security standards. You’ve probably already heard of some prominent companies, like PayPal or Stripe. SK Global Software offers a premier add-on solution facilitating payments through Microsoft Dynamics 365.
A payment portal refers to the front-end technology that collects customer payment information. Some common types of payment portals include:
- An e-commerce website
- A mobile app
- An interactive voice response service
A payment gateway will transfer data retrieved from the payment portal during a transaction.
A payment processor transfers a customer’s credit card information between the merchant’s point-of-sale system and the customer’s card network or bank. A payment gateway will request authorization of sensitive information from a payment processor during a transaction.
Payment gateways process transactions by following a five-step approach:
1.) The customer enters their payment information on the payment portal.
2.) The payment gateway encrypts their payment details and secures the connection between the portal, gateway, and processor.
3.) The payment gateway sends a transaction authorization request to the payment processor.
4.) The credit card company reviews and verifies credit availability. If sufficient funds exist, the payment processor authorizes the transaction request.
5.) Once the payment gateway receives authorization, the payment can be fulfilled, transferring funds to the merchant account.
Failed online payments are an unfortunate but relatively common occurrence. FlexPay research revealed that nearly half of all subscriber churn is due to failed payments. Therefore, make sure to carefully read the agreement with your provider, as it will include several warranties for the merchant (and sometimes the customer!), as well as a detailed breakdown of the liability of the payment gateway.
Depending on the agreement, PSPs may assume partial to full responsibility for failed transactions, owing the merchant compensation for financial damage. Nevertheless, PSPs are not liable for damages caused by third-party services.
In the event of a failed payment best practice is to directly communicate the error to the customer, then follow up with dunning email automation and payment retry cycles.
The three most common reasons payments fail include system downtime, payment technology errors, and compromised security. However, the transaction can also be unsuccessful because,
- the payment card is expired or cancelled
- the merchant account prevents the transaction
- the bank suspended the cardholder’s account
- the customer lacks sufficient available funds
- the customer information is invalid
- the payment gateway configuration is incorrect
- the payment gateway does not support the payment method chosen by the customer
Some payment gateways route transactions to multiple payment processors to avoid these issues. With more options available, the system can attempt to resolve errors and downtime before sending the customer a failed payment notification.
Payment gateways are the perfect tool to help manage e-commerce transactions and receive payments online. While finance teams might keep up with a reasonable number of monthly payments, it’s common for workloads to spiral out of control as your customer base expands.
The right payment gateway seamlessly fits into your everyday business operations to support exponential growth while protecting brand reputation and revenue. Modern customers crave convenience and a user-friendly payment process that they can trust. Empowering them to take an active role will build their confidence in online purchases with your company.
If you want more information, check out this blog for an in-depth look at five of the biggest benefits of payment gateways.
Providing a secure shopping experience is a non-negotiable component of successful e-commerce. Breaches could endanger your brand’s reputation and lead to costly fees. PSPs can fine companies $5,000–$100,000 monthly for non-compliance with the PCI DSS.
That’s why it’s vital to maximize the tools and protocols in place that are safeguarding customer information. Below lists five must-have security features for your payment gateway:
- PCI DSS compliance
- SSL and TLS protocols
- 3D Secure
- Address Verification Service (AVS)
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of international standards advising businesses on best practices for processing payments securely. The volume of annual transactions your company achieves determines which level of compliance you must meet. The PCI DSS uses a four-level scale to classify businesses:
- Level 1: >6 million card transactions annually
- Level 2: 1–6 million card transactions annually
- Level 3: 20,000–1 million card transactions annually
- Level 4: <20,000 card transactions annually
However, any company that accepts credit or debit card purchases must satisfy twelve essential requirements. While all products and services offered by PSPs must comply with the PCI DSS, understanding the basics will help to protect your company against fees and infractions.
There are many factors to consider when determining which payment gateway is the best fit for your business. While payment gateways tend to follow the same five-step approach, they each have limitations. Investing in software that meets all your business requirements is vital.
The following seven questions can help you narrow your search and define the hallmarks of a top-notch payment gateway:
1.) How many types of cards and payment methods does it support?
2.) Can it handle multiple currencies?
3.) Does it offer advanced security protocols, covering encryption and fraud protection?
4.) Is there clear and transparent communication around vendor fees?
5.) Does it integrate with your payment portal and e-commerce software?
6.) Is the front-end convenient and user-friendly?
7.) Will customers have access to 24/7 comprehensive customer support?
It depends. Using multiple payment gateways is more expensive and can muddle an otherwise clean UX, but there are some instances where it’s a beneficial strategy. Implementing more than one gateway expands customer payment options and allows you to assess whether one generates more conversions.
Finding one solution that meets all your business requirements and adequately addresses customer concerns can be tricky, especially for companies growing into international markets. Ultimately, you’ll likely need to experiment to determine the optimal arrangement for your business.
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