If you do business online, an online payment system is as necessary as a computer. Whether it’s an online terminal or a third-party payment gateway like PayPal, accepting payments online is no longer a novelty, but an absolute must. There are an overwhelming number of options of companies that provide this service.

Follow this guide to getting the system that works best for you.

Online Payment Services
Accepting online payments is a must in modern business.

Merchant Accounts

A merchant account is essentially a bank account that allows a proprietor to both send and accept payments. An online merchant account simply takes that concept to the Web. Most major banking institutions offer online merchant accounts, which allow your business to process credit card transactions. A fee is usually charged per swipe, although some banks offer monthly unlimited plans.

Payment Gateways

Payment gateways are third-party companies that act as a middleman between the buyer and seller. The largest and best known is PayPal. Companies such as PayPal provide an extra layer of security for both parties by vetting both of them and completing the transaction without the purchaser having to trust the seller with any of their personal information. The gateway holds the sensitive data from both parties and acts as a secure buffer.

Virtual Terminals

Virtual terminals are more comprehensive than both merchant accounts and payment gateways. These applications, such as WePay and PaySimple, not only process payments, but can set up recurring billing for repeat customers as well as process invoices.


One of the best advantages about accepting payments online is that it can make other aspects of your business easier. Bookkeeping and accounting headaches can be reduced when your software connects the payment to your bookkeeping program.

Intuit, for example, provides the virtual terminal through which your customers will pay, as well as the software that allows you to keep track of money coming in and going out, as well as keeping track of invoices. When you make a sale, the customer pays and your integrated software is instantly updated.

Online Payment Services
Online payment systems allow your customers to pay safely, securely and conveniently.

You got into business to make money. Getting paid is great, and it’s easier than ever to accept payments. Your customers want to pay you; don’t make it difficult. Accepting online payments says to your customers that you’re a legitimate, modern operation they can trust with their money. You’re in business online – get paid online.

Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about small business finance and online technology.