Accepting Online Payments Part Three: So Which Payment Gateway Should I Choose?
Last part of a three part series – Accepting Online Payments: the Ultimate Guide. Part one covered Why You Want to Accept Online Payment. In part two, we discussed How Do Payment Gateways Work and How To Choose One?
If you’ve read the first two posts, you might be asking yourself, “great, thanks for all the information, but I’m still confused. Which gateway should I pick?”
To give you a better idea of the online payment gateways that integrate with FreshBooks, this last post in the series is a summary of the various options. If you have any specific questions about which one to choose, please feel free to contact us directly.
The big daddy of them all. PayPal has the advantage of being both incredibly useful and powerful while being easy to set up, all at the same time. The standard PayPal offering is free to use and it offers most very small businesses exactly what they need to start accepting payments online. It’s a great place to start if you are just doing a few credit card transactions a month. As your business grows, your PayPal account can be upgraded to add more features (for a monthly cost). There are three different flavours of PayPal that integrate with FreshBooks:
(Link: PayPal Standard)
PayPal Standard is the basic PayPal account and a great entry-level solution if you’re just considering online payments. It is easy to set up and does not charge a monthly fee. For larger payments, PayPal Standard’s discount rate (see pricing) lowers to give you a bit of a break. One thing to note: as this is PayPal’s entry-level solution, when your clients click to pay an invoice, they’ll be taken from your FreshBooks account out to PayPal’s interface. It’s not entirely seamless, but it works. If you’re only doing a few credit card transactions a month, I highly recommend this option. Also, if your clients also have PayPal accounts, they can pay via PayPal-to-PayPal transfers, which are virtually free.
(Link: PayPal Website Payments Pro)
This is essentially a higher-level version of PayPal Standard, with a cleaner interface and your own personalized branding. Unlike many other payment gateways, this version of the PayPal gateway does not require a merchant account. This is advantageous if you don’t like paperwork and/or your business is fairly new. Getting a merchant account can sometimes take some time and it can prove more difficult if you are just starting out. The downside with this gateway is that you won’t be able to set it up for recurring transactions (auto-bills), to automatically charge your customers’ credit cards on a regular basis.
(Link: PayPal Payflow Pro)
This is a further step-up from PayPal Website Payment Pro. PayPal Payflow Pro is a fully functional payment gateway that you can use to automatically charge your customers’ credit cards as well as process one-time fees very seamlessly. Payflow Pro requires you to obtain an Internet merchant account, although they will provide some assistance to help you get set up. Payflow Pro has proven to be a very flexible solution; giving most small to mid-sized businesses all the features they’ll ever need in a payment gateway.
PayPal’s support: PayPal has a full customer support system: FAQ, online knowledge base, live chat, support tickets, and also a US-based phone number (not toll-free) that is open during most North American daylight hours, including weekends.
Here are full details on PayPal’s Pricing.
Authorize.Net has built a very good reputation as one of the leaders in online payment gateways for small businesses since 1996. They have a great solution, with a no-nonsense gateway that just works and is nice and fast. Authorize.Net’s prices are very reasonable and, from what we have experienced, their customer service is good too. We’ve received largely positive feedback from new customers getting going with Authorize.Net and existing customers continuing to use the service. If you do not have a merchant account, they can set you up with one at no charge.
Authorize.Net also offers an eCheck service, using the U.S.-based ACH (Automated Clearing House) network. This is a neat idea for small businesses in the U.S., it’s a pity there isn’t a good international equivalent.
If you choose to go the eCheck route, you should know that they will insist on holding back a certain amount of money for a designated time period, until you build up a reputation as a trusted merchant. This is because the funds come directly out of a checking account, so they need to be available from your buyer. Sometimes these funds can be held for weeks. The primary advantage of ACH is that it is based on a flat fee per transaction, instead of a discount rate. This can make ACH a good choice for larger transactions (over $1000).
They also have a great support resource center, support tickets, and a business hours toll free line (like FreshBooks!).
FreshBooks customers can get a discount on Authorize.Net services by signing up through our site, and we recommend them if you plan to do a lot of credit card transactions. You’ll find pricing details at that link as well.
Authorize.net announced in late April, 2010, that Visa is set to acquire Cybersource, Authorize.net’s parent company. The deal is expected to close later this year.
For Canadians (and Americans)…
Yes! A Canadian payment gateway! PSiGate has been offering Canadians (and Americans) payment gateway services since 1998, and the customers we know who use it seem to like it a lot. PSiGate are based in Mississauga, Ontario, and they know a great deal about the unique challenges of Canadian small businesses. If you are interested in billing both USD and CAD, PSiGate offers this as well.
We’ve never heard any complaints, and their support is great (kind of like someone else I know…). They use support tickets, as well as a toll-free line that is open during normal business hours.
As a Canadian service, of course, PSiGate also offer their service in French.
Full Merchant Service Solutions (not just online based)
(Link: BluePayGo Formerly LANDMARK Merchant Solutions)
LANDMARK (Now BluePayGo) is a full merchant services provider that is not as specifically focused on online transactions as other payment gateway companies. It was recently acquired by BluePay but has essentially remained the same for FreshBooks users. A big part of their business is POS (Point Of Sale) services for brick and mortar businesses, including clients such as Subway Sandwiches and Dominos Pizza. This is worth knowing – if you have a storefront or are traveling to clients, LANDMARK can set you up with a credit card terminal so you can have clients pay right on the spot. Note that these types of payments are not automatically updated in FreshBooks.
If you need to get a merchant account, they state they have a high approval rating and can get you set up in about two days. However, they only work with US-based companies and provide USD currency transactions.
They do offer 24/7 customer service, which is important for any client-facing activities.
iTransact is similar to BluePayGo, in some ways, although they provide even more services. Established in 1994 and based near Salt Lake City, Utah, they are a larger gateway with a solid reputation from our standpoint. We haven’t received any complaints. They also differ from BluePayGo, in that they offer both Canadian and American merchant accounts and currencies.
Like most full merchant service providers, iTransact offers online payment, “bricks-and-clicks,” and traditional brick-and-mortar merchants the ability to accept payments via credit, debit, and gift cards, as well as electronic checks (online payments are the only option that will integrate directly with FreshBooks, of course).
One downside to iTransact is that they only offer support tickets and self-help resources,
with no toll-free helpline.
Updated: Like FreshBooks, iTransact does offer a toll free number: 1-855-881-7481. They offer full in house support for both their Gateway and Merchant accounts.
First Data is based in Simi Valley, California. They offer very similar services to BluePayGo and iTransact, covering everything from POS terminals, through online payment gateways, to ATMs. If you’re running an online business, I’m sure you’re asking yourself why on earth you’d need an ATM. You don’t, but hey — it’s neat to know you could get one if you wanted to!
First Data also have a great industry blog, which they call “Insights” – worth checking out.
These guys only operate for US-based business. Their support consists of support tickets and self-help resources, with a variety of toll free lines depending on the product you choose.
Simpler Gateways (No Merchant Account Required)
If you really just want to get going quickly and easily, are based internationally, or want to accept payments in a variety of currencies, then 2Checkout.com is a great gateway for you.
They do not require a merchant account and you can use them no matter where your company is based. Plus, the set up is simple, painless and takes just a few minutes. You’ll be able to start accepting your first payments right away.
They have 24-hour support, and toll free lines for North America and the UK, so feel free to give them a shout.
(Link: Google Checkout)
Last, but certainly not least, is Google Checkout. Google’s service is also really easy to get setup. However, they’re only offering coverage in the United States and UK right now. Knowing Google, this will likely expand in the future. You are also not required to get or have a Merchant Account for Google Checkout.
Two important things to note: Google Checkout cannot process auto-bills with FreshBooks and they also require your client to set up a free Google account (if they don’t already have one) before they can pay you.
What about Multi Currency payment gateways and FreshBooks?
If you would like to invoice with multiple currencies in FreshBooks, unfortunately, you only have one option, and that’s PayPal. You can check out their full currency listing here. Having said that, you can always bill people in your usual “home” currency and let your buyer’s credit card provider apply an exchange rate to the transaction. This also makes your accounting simpler.
Summary of Payment Gateways
To give you a quick recap:
If you are interested in using FreshBooks with an online payment gateway and need or want even more info, you can check out our Online Payments FAQ or give us a call at FreshBooks support (1 866 303 6061). We’ll be happy to talk you through it, help you get set up, or answer any other questions you might have.
When you pick an online payment gateway for your business there are quite a few options. Always make a list of what you actually need, ask why you need it, and go from there, so you can quickly evaluate, make a decision, and get back to your business.
Update: FreshBooks now integrates with the online payment gateway BeanSteam as well, a great gateway for North American business.
Update: You might want to explore PayPal Business Payments. It is a flat fee option for $0.50 using PayPal eChecks and Balances (no credit cards). It is currently only available in the United States.