How to Sell Online / Payments

How To Accept Credit Card Payments Online in 2020: What Are Your Best Options?

Chase Jones / 27 min read

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Payment Gateways 101: What to Know Before Choosing a Payment Provider Chapter 2 How to Protect Your Ecommerce Store from Payment Fraud
Chapter 3 How to Prevent, Dispute and Reconcile Chargebacks for Online Businesses Chapter 4 International Ecommerce: 3 Steps to Global Expansion
Table of Contents


    Figuring out the best ways to accept credit cards online and choosing the right payment processor can be overwhelming at the beginning. It is the lifeblood of your ecommerce operation and a necessary cost to consider when selling online.

    If you can not properly take payments online, you have no business.

    Before we dive into your payment options and how to get started, did you know:

    5%average revenue loss

    The average business loses a 5% of revenue to fraud every year. Resolving fraud costs more than $114,000.

    Beyond fees, fraud and conversion, your brand’s ability to expand internationally can be squandered by your credit card processing choice. Do international buyers trust your chosen solution? Does that solution work cross-borders?

    Throw in each provider’s fees, contracts and fine print, and you have a wildly complex decision in front of you. You need to consider a myriad of factors, and how they affect your business. There is no right or wrong answer — only what works best for your unique set of circumstances.

    Take the time to do some comparison shopping before choosing a solution to accept debit and credit card payments. This guide will walk you through the process, giving you all the information you need to find the right match for your business, including:

    • How exactly your brand gets paid and how to get started
    • How MasterCard, American Express and Discover handle fees –– and how much you can expect to pay
    • The two types of fraud activity, and how a payment processor can help prevent the issue
    • How to handle disputes, and why lowering your risk of fraud reduces your chances of chargebacks
    • How consumer financing can increase conversion –– and which payment gateways offer it
    • Tips to expanding and selling internationally and selecting a payment provider that is globally recognized

    Before we begin, know that there are three types of payment processors: merchant account + payment gateway, all-in-one solutions and simplified credit card processors. Here’s a quick overview of each.

    Merchant Account + Payment Gateway

    The traditional method for accepting payments online has been a combination of a merchant account and a payment gateway. Providers like SecureNet (USA), Authorize.Net (USA) and eWay (Australia and UK) fall into this category.

    A merchant account is a special kind of business bank account that lets you accept credit card payments.

    An online payment gateway connects your store and your merchant service account, and facilitates the processing of the payment transaction between the various parties involved, including your bank and the card issuer’s bank. Think of it as the digital version of a POS card swipe machine used in brick-and-mortar stores.

    There are fees associated with both the merchant account and payment gateway, but there are a lot of options out there, and some have more competitive transaction fees or don’t charge setup fees.

    Payment gateways can also offer greater control over security rules and customization; they may be a better fit for large businesses needing a more tailored solution.

    One thing to note about using a merchant account/payment gateway combo is that you’ll need to apply for both, usually filling out forms and providing some financial information. Processing your applications can take a few days, so you won’t be able to jump right into accepting payments. After both have been approved, you’ll need to connect your account to the gateway and then your gateway to your store. Usually this involves configuring your store with API keys, shared secrets and tokens.

    The benefits to using a payment gateway are that you usually have more handholding and personalized customer service along the way because the providers are large companies with big support organizations. Often you’ll be able to get a person on the phone to answer your questions.

    Payment gateways can also offer greater control over security rules and customization; they may be a better fit for large businesses needing a more tailored solution.

    All-in-One Solutions

    These services, including PayPal and 2Checkout, combine an account and gateway into one solution, which can make setup quicker and easier.

    They allow you to take all major credit cards and usually have favorable transaction rates. Plus most don’t charge monthly or setup fees for basic accounts, although you do have to pay a monthly fee for certain added features on some services.

    Services like PayPal make setup quicker and easier. They also allow you to take all major credit cards and usually have favorable transaction rates.

    In the past, one potential downside was that they didn’t always offer a seamless checkout experience. Depending on how your solution was set up, your customers may have been redirected off your site to pay for an order. This is no longer true. With PayPal powered by Braintree and One-Touch technology, you, the business owner, get to decide what your customer’s checkout experience is like.

    And this is important, because PayPal is incredibly popular. It has more than 100 million users and powers 60% of online transactions. We recommend combining PayPal with another service — that way shoppers who prefer it can choose it, and those who don’t can have another option.

    Credit Card Payment Processing, Simplified

    Services like Stripe have removed much of the complexity out of taking payments online.

    From a merchant’s perspective, these are very similar to the all-in-one solutions, but they usually integrate seamlessly with your store’s checkout, meaning the shopper never leaves your site. And they can be much quicker to set up — you can start taking various payment methods in a matter of minutes.

    With these simplified payment processors, there’s no need for a merchant service account or payment gateway, and that translates to fewer fees.

    With these simplified payment processors, there’s no need for a merchant account or payment gateway, and that translates to fewer fees. Rates are competitive with the all-in-one solutions, and most of these new processors also don’t charge setup or monthly fees. The experience is straightforward: the customer credit card is entered, and the payment processed — simple as that.

    One thing to consider before choosing a simplified processor is that you usually don’t get quite the same level of traditional support. They tend to be very easy to use, so you may not need it. But if you do run into a problem with your credit card processing company, most support is done as self service via articles or through email — many of these providers don’t even staff a call center.

    How Modern Consumers Shop Across Channels

    Consumers shop on their own time, in their preferred channels and compare across stores and prices. Here’s everything you need to know from demographic shopping habits to how folks in the cities versus rural areas differ.

    Build your omnichannel strategy for your target customer right now.

    Get the study now.

    10 Questions All Businesses Should Ask a Payment Provider

    For those looking for a top-level view of the issue, and a speedier read, here are the most important questions to ask a potential payments processing provider before you choose to use their services.

    1. Are there different rates or fees associated with different types of cards?

    Some services charge different fees to process different types of card transactions –– e.g. personal, business, debit and rewards cards –– as well as for different transaction amounts. Make sure you know exactly what you’ll be paying to process each type of transaction.

    2. Do you charge “billbacks,” or are all charges related to a transaction billed in the same month?

    It’s not unusual for a payment processor to entice you by quoting low rates. But sometimes that low rate only applies to certain types of cards (see question one). You may only find out after the fact that many of your transactions during the month didn’t qualify for that low rate.

    For example, in January, you think you’re getting a 1.7% rate on your credit card transactions, but you processed several rewards cards. Even though you processed the transactions in January, come February, your processor charges you back, or bills you back, a higher rate. Now you have two different statements with two different rates for the same transaction, which makes it much harder to figure out the actual rate you’re paying.

    3. What rates or fees do you charge when I swipe credit cards, enter them manually (key-enter) or accept them online?

    To compensate for the risk of fraud, processors charge different rates depending on how you process a payment. Because there is less fraud associated with  cards that are physically swiped in a terminal (after all, you check IDs, right?), there is usually a lower rate. If someone calls you to buy something and gives you their number over the phone, the chance of foul play goes up a bit, as does the processing fee.

    Online purchases have the highest incidence of fraud, so payment processors cover their risk by charging a higher rate. Make sure you know what those rates are and then figure out how much of each type of processing you’ll do to get a rough blended rate.

    4. Do you charge a separate fee for your gateway?

    It’s pretty common for processors to charge a separate fee for their payment gateway, usually on a per-transaction basis. So in addition to the standard transaction fee –– say 2.9% + $0.30 –– you’ll pay a gateway fee for each transaction.

    5. When I refund a transaction, do I get back any of the initial fees?

    Most credit card processors keep all of the fees for return transactions, and will most likely even charge an additional fee to process the refund. That means you can lose money every time a customer returns something. Be sure you are clear on how this process works, as it should inform your return policy. Many merchants sidestep this cost by issuing store credit for a returned item, rather than a refund.

    6. What are the contract terms and are there early termination fees?

    Most credit card processors impose a contract term for a specific amount of time, often one or two years. Many times, early termination or cancellation fees are part of the agreement. That’ll make it difficult for you to switch processors if you’re unhappy with how your account is handled.

    7. What fees do you charge each month?

    This question is deceptively simple since some processors might provide you with a seemingly small upfront monthly fee. But be sure to dig deeper — some additional fees might be hidden in the fine print. These can include fees for batch processing or fund transfers from a merchant account to your bank account, as well as statement fees. Processors might “waive” some of these fees to get your business, but could add them back in after a promotional period.

    8. Is there a monthly minimum processing requirement or fee?

    Some processors charge a monthly minimum fee, which you’ll pay if your monthly transaction volume falls below a certain amount. This can be a significant financial pain for early-stage businesses with few monthly credit card transactions.

    9. Is there a limit on how much I can process?

    Many processors limit the amount you can process based on your initial approval with them. Obviously, this can be frustrating if your business grows quickly or has a busy season — not to mention the negative impact that turning down orders will have on your business.

    10. What type of support is offered?

    When your payments hit a snag, will the processor be there to support you until you’re back up and running? Further, an automated phone system isn’t the same as speaking to a live person, so make sure to ask if they have live customer support. Low rate processing fees don’t mean much if you can’t reach someone to help when you need it most.

    BigCommerce Payment Processing Partners

    BigCommerce offers multiple payment gateways so you can choose which is right for your business. Learn more about the most commonly used:

    From who is involved in every transaction to how payments are processed to fees and policies, discover everything you need to know to get started taking payments online.

    Want more insights like this?

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    Table of Contents


      Chase Jones

      Chase Jones

      Chase Jones is a marketing manager at PayPal, where he leads a team creating payments-related content for small businesses. A grammar and technology geek, Chase holds a Master’s Degree in Communication and has spent over a decade bringing innovative technologies to market for businesses of all sizes.

      View all posts by Chase Jones

      83 comments on “How To Accept Credit Card Payments Online in 2020: What Are Your Best Options?

      1. Lucky isis Spica on

        Hello i need help in finding a bank account for my ecommerce start up business, i will have to withdrawal quantities up to one million pounds, which bank account do you recommend me to apply for? thank you

      2. haris8 on

        We understand that it’s not just about the financial transaction – it’s about your company’s reputation on the line. That’s why PayCanada is diligent about safeguarding your merchant service account and the POS payment processing.

      3. Mythic on

        Hi, have 2 questions regarding payment in big commerce (BC from hereafter), can the BC apps be run from stores in asia? e.g.: Malaysia, China, Japan, Hong Kong?

        if BC can be used by companies in Asia, what payment gateway (options?) can be used?
        Say a generic visa / paypal?

        Thanks in advance.

      4. Tracey Wallace
      5. Debby Mercury on

        Hi, I want to open a merchant account for online pharma processes, my company is registered in the US, where I can find general information and requirements to do that, and what bank do you recommend. Thanks for your help.

      6. merchant account services on

        Online shopping, PayPal, and online payments are on the rise. Providing safe Merchant Account Services that are efficient should be a first priority for any savvy company that wants to not only stay on the pulse of the industry, but also forge ahead.

      7. Audio Shop on

        Hi there – Thanks ,

        BigCommerce have sent us a few emails
        confirming that Stripe is a valid payment provider. We were concerned
        about using them due to the many complaints about them “holding” funds –
        Paypal do not hold our funds , our first 2 transactions with Stripe
        resulted in them biling customers’ cards and holding onto their payments
        – which was a bad first impression. BigCommerce have put us at ease
        regarding Stripe’s practices.

      8. Tracey Wallace
      9. AudioShop Australia on

        We’ve used Paypal for years but are looking to open a secondary processor “STRIPE”.

        Stripe , so far , have been very difficult to deal with – the BigCommerce connected successfully with Stripe and their Photo ID verification was completed. We then took 2 test payments and were about to ship them when Stripe “HELD” the payments re-requesting the previous ID verification.

        Why does Stripe bill customers’ cards when an account is not verified – I do not know. I’m currently waiting for Stripe to reply , at this point we are hesitant to add Stripe to our payment options because we have no way of knowing if Stripe can process payments correctly.

        I googled Stripe reviews following this and alot of people are complaining about a huge spike in chargebacks because , apparently , Stripe is very open to fraud etc. Is this true? Our thoughts , if Stripe turns out to process correctly , was to do a small deposit refund for all Stripe transactions and have the figure confirmed before shipping any Stripe transactions. Paypal have the seller protection which is of course a huge advantage.

        Does anyone have any experience with Stripe working correctly and any advice , pros , cons , etc?

        The payment processor “PIN” – Pin payments? – Have offered us a secondary facility but we are currently more interested in pursuing what Stripe have to offer – despite their 7 day settlement timeframe. This 7 day timeframe is actually quite helpful in our case because :

        1. It gives us time to investigate for fradulent transactions
        2. It gives us time to process the small refund to confirm the card holder is the one making the payment.
        3. Allows enough time to refund any suspicious payment without the payment being settled first.

      10. Emily Mainzer on

        Information provided in this page is very informative.Secured credit or debit card payments will make customer’s more happy and also these online payment gateways help merchants expand their business by globally.It is an online payments scenario a Payment Gateway is the software that processes the transaction on behalf of the merchant.Found some of the best payment gateways to help your business.

      11. Tracey Wallace
        Tracey Wallace on

        Hey Iwein,

        Most payment gateways impose these kinds of limits as a safety measure to prevent fraud orders. So, ifyou’re trying to accept payments of $10k from international countries, that’s a heavy fraud risk.

        You may want to look at one of our high risk payment gateways. And, potentially a fraud app such as Subuno.

        In short, you can’t control your customer’s credit card company. Something like PayPal Bill Me Later would allow them to pay in installments. Or you can accept checks/bank transfers.

      12. Iwein Fuld on

        For, I’m searching for a solution that allows me to accept large payments (often more than €10.000) from international customers across the globe. CC companies impose limits that are frustrating my customers in non US or EU territory, and that is costly for us.

        Is there even any solution?

      13. James Murray on

        for sharing this with us and giving us all the information. I think everyone
        information really Very nice post.

      14. James Murray on

        Nice post. I like the way you start and then conclude your thoughts. Thanks for this information….

      15. Jessica Malnik
      16. flexsin on

        Once we identify the top traffic-driving organic keywords, we test them out in our paid search campaigns (if we aren’t already bidding on them). The same practice can be done from PPC to SEO– identify revenue-generating keywords and then incorporate them into SEO efforts. Great article!

      17. Jessica Malnik
        Jessica Malnik on

        To enable Stripe, just go to Store Setup and Tools–> Payment. Click the “on” button. Then, you should receive an email confirmation.

      18. Bill Hoyos on

        It sounds great I’ve done my homework I would use google checkout PayPal and stripe but it doesn’t sound like stipe has I am very frustrated that stripe would not offer mobile card swiping like square or intuit etc does why would they NOT want all the mobile off site sales out there…..ITS IN THE BILLIONS OF TRANSACTIONS. ………WHEN THEY DO I’LL SIGN UP……UNTIL THEN ITS A DEAL BREAKER=NO SALE…….sorry:(

      19. Jessica Malnik
      20. Jessica Malnik
      21. Jessica Malnik
      22. John Shannon on

        Hi there, is Stripe available in Latvia? Now there is the most popular this Payment Service Provider and it’s pretty comfy and secure. But sometimes I think it would be great if we had a choice in payment providers. Thanks in advance for the answer.

      23. Troy Cox
      24. Troy Cox
      25. Troy Cox
        Troy Cox on

        Hi Alberto,

        I’m sorry to hear about your experience. I can’t really comment on Stripe’s policy but if you are still looking for a payment solution and you are in the US, I recommend looking at SecureNet, which is available now as an option in your store’s admin.

      26. Troy Cox
        Troy Cox on

        Hi David, the rates quoted are for US and Canadian merchants. Stripe isn’t yet available in Australia and so the comparison might not be relevant.

      27. Troy Cox
        Troy Cox on

        Hi Diane,

        With Stripe (and many of our integrated gateways) your store’s checkout is guaranteed secure and guaranteed to use SSL security. Any of your shoppers can click on the padlock icon in their browser and verify the encryption security.

        Re the seal, you’re welcome to display (and in fact we recommend it!) the ‘Powered by Stripe’ badge on your site and in your checkout. There’s more information on Stripe’s website here:

      28. Troy Cox
      29. Troy Cox
        Troy Cox on

        Hi Jimmy,

        No, Bigcommerce doesn’t charge you any extra to use Stripe.

        You’re welcome to purchase an SSL certificate for your own domain name but if you don’t, your store will automatically use the Bigcommerce shared SSL certificate. Using the shared certificate however means that the URL of your checkout will look something like

        Re currency, based on what you specify as your store’s default currency, all transactions are processed in that currency. With Stripe, US merchants must use USD and Canadian merchants have a choice between USD and CAD. Having said that, we have a free feature that allows you to display your products prices in any number of currencies and it can detect the shopper’s IP address (and hence country) and then automatically display prices in that country’s currency. However, as mentioned, the transaction in the checkout will be in the store’s default currency.

        I hope that helps.

      30. Troy Cox
        Troy Cox on

        Hi, in fact Stripe does support Discover (and JCB and Diners Club) for US merchants. Discover Card is not supported however in Canada.

      31. Jimmy on

        Hi guys,
        Thanks for offering this service and all the work you’ve put in to Stripe! It looks very tempting.

        I’m a start-up and paying $10/m, 20¢ per transaction, where security and Amex are extras; so it would make sense to go with Stripe.

        I would like to know if:
        – you charge extra for security or any other features for Stripe?
        – you’d be offering an SSL certificate to coincide with secure payment pages, similar to a major competitor of yours?
        – you accept payments in any currency?

        I’m looking forward to your response!

      32. Ousmane Dal on

        Hello I have Stripe and I love it my customers that are mostly in Brazil pay so quickly and easily. Most people don’t know or Care to know Paypal. It’s easy no questions about paying. If you dont need Cash Flow for 7 days for your business you will never regret this. Former: Paypal, Authorize, Payleap customer! Try it you can always change over.

      33. Diane on

        Does Stripe offer a clickable verification seal?
        I briefly switched to Securenet, but because they offer no way for customers to verify that I am a secure merchant during checkout, I went back to

      34. Jessica Malnik
      35. Jessica Malnik
        Jessica Malnik on

        Hi Kurt, that’s a great question. The answer is it really depends on your specific business. In general, or Securenet is your best bet for high-traffic stores that are bringing 100,000s in revenue.

      36. David on

        2.9% + 30c per transaction is double what it should be. In Australia 1.5% is where I would be simon for new businesses. With CBA, ANZ, Bendigo banks being directly supported with BigCommerce these rates are achievable.

      37. Alberto Rodriguez on

        We tried to use Stripe and were turned down by them. We are a health food store that includes health supplements as you would find in any Main St., USA health food store. Stipe considers such a store a “pseudo-pharmaceutical” store and will not provide service. When a service company starts to apply its own legal definitions outside of the real legal system, store owners need to be very concerned about what other unreasonable policies lie out there.

        This policy has nothing to do with pharmacies that are in conflict between federal and state laws. After having discussed this absurd policy with their support group, I strongly suggest that stores stay away from this service.

      38. eWAY Partner Team on

        Hi all,

        eWAY here, we link to Australian, UK and NZ acquiring banks and we’d love to get full BigCommerce integration. Overnight settlements are standard and we offer enterprise fraud prevention through our new API. Help us get the new API integrated by letting BigCommerce know you want it!

        eWAY Partner Team.

      39. Karl on


        I ran my store for a while with just PayPal and added a payment processor and now 50% of my sales are not through PayPal and my sales have went up dramatically. While PayPal is popular, not everyone uses it.

      40. Jessica Malnik
        Jessica Malnik on

        Hi Nor, we recommend you use Securenet if you are bringing in more than 100k in revenue.

      41. Troy Cox
        Troy Cox on

        Hi Curtis,

        There are many studies which show that you can increase conversion by offering multiple ways for your shoppers to pay. In your favorite search engine, just enter ‘ecommerce multiple payment methods’ to get a selection of studies. As well there are differences between PayPal and Stripe. With PayPal, your shoppers are redirected off site to make payment whereas with a processor like Stripe, you’re not. With PayPal, there is less friction, particularly on mobile, because the shopper doesn’t need to manually enter shipping and payment details. There are pros and cons to both.

      42. Troy Cox
      43. Troy Cox
        Troy Cox on

        Hi Charles,

        It’s completely safe to agree to the permissions when prompted. Stripe is a new breed of payment processor where the payment is processed by Bigcommerce on your behalf. By doing it this way, it’s much easier to start accepting credit cards. You’re right that traditional processors require you to supply API keys and token to get them working. Both work well but Stripe is much easier to get going.

      44. Curtis on

        I signed up for Stripe earlier today, but then realized that there isn’t really any advantage of offering both PayPal and Stripe, and so I turned it back off. PayPal seems to be way more flexible. I’m curious to know why Big Commerce has invested in this partnership when it doesn’t seem all that necessary.

      45. Troy Cox
        Troy Cox on

        Hi Tim,

        Stripe are currently working on support for UK and Ireland and they expect it to be available very soon. As soon as it’s available, we’ll email all of our merchants in the UK and Ireland.

      46. Troy Cox
        Troy Cox on

        Unfortunately, Stripe is only available in the US and Canada at this time. When Stripe comes to Australia we will notify all of our Australian merchants by email.

      47. Troy Cox
        Troy Cox on

        Hi Jon,

        Stripe are currently working on support for UK and Ireland and they expect it to be available very soon. As soon as it’s available, we’ll email all of our merchants in the UK and Ireland.

      48. Troy Cox
        Troy Cox on

        Hi Jordan,

        Stripe are currently working on support for UK and Ireland and they expect it to be available very soon. As soon as it’s available, we’ll email all of our merchants in the UK and Ireland.

      49. Troy Cox
        Troy Cox on

        Hi Michael,

        Stripe are currently working on support for UK and Ireland and they expect it to be available very soon. As soon as it’s available, we’ll email all of our merchants in the UK and Ireland.

      50. Charles on

        When you go to the sign up link for Stripe, it says “Bigcommerce will have access to your data, and can create payments and customers on your behalf”. I’m not sure what exactly this means, but it seems different from SecureNet, unless I’m mistaken.

      51. casey on

        which payment gateway should I use for my client who also has a retail store so it is all in one account?

      52. AllofUs on

        I agree the information is pretty vague. I noticed that Stripe does not accept Discover. I’ll stick with SecureNet.

      53. Tracy on

        Have you had any feedback from Stripe users regarding problems they or their customers have encountered when using Stripe? That would be helpful to me in making a decision to change or not.

      54. Charles on

        Hi Jessica- You should add Stripe to the linked Knowledge Base article. How does Stripe differ from Big Commerce Payments (powered by Secure.Net)? Both appear to cost 2.9% + $.30 per transaction fee. I assume they are similar, but Stripe is much quicker to set up with less paperwork and hoops to jump through.

      55. Jessica Malnik
      56. Jessica Malnik
      57. Jessica Malnik
      58. Jessica Malnik
        Jessica Malnik on

        Hi Caroline,

        Unfortunately, Stripe is only available in the US and Canada at this time. Theyy are slowly expanding to the UK and Ireland next. But, you can sign up here to be notified when they expand to Australia.

      59. Jessica Malnik
      60. Alex on

        Stripe sounds like an reasonable choice, rates appear to be the same as what we currently have with paypal. I can not say I’m very fond of the seven day waiting period for funds to transfer.
        7 days is abnormally long. I would sign on right now if it wasn’t for the fact funds won’t transfer for a whole week.

      61. Tiger Lee on

        The article was very general,but not any good for making any kind of decision. What we store owners really need to see is a comparison chart with real figures of the different payment options that big commerce has to offer.

      62. Lea on

        How long does Stripe take to fund an account after processing a payment? Our current processor takes 2 business days.

      63. Jordan on

        We need a UK Version of this – It takes ages to work through Sage Paperwork and get it integrated seamlessly so having one for us would be a huge benefit.

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