Accepting payment online is one of the best things you can do for your business. It is almost vital to the survival of any online business, as well as offline businesses.
We will not discuss the ongoing battle as to whether or not a merchant account is vital or not...we are simply going to give you information, and let you make your own decisions.
There are two common ways to accept payment from your site...you can accept checks, or you can accept credit cards...or both.
You do not need a merchant account to accept checks. The only thing required here is that you have a form, on a secured server, where people can enter the information you need to process their checks. Once you receive an order in your e-mail box, you simply use software that will help you print out checks on special check paper. Versacheck is a good program for this, and costs around $50.00. You can either order the blank checks online, or your can buy them at your local office supply store. The usual cost is about 5 cents per check.
So, you would enter the information from the form that was submitted to you into your check software, and print out a draft, which can be deposited into your bank account. These drafts do not require a signature, they are pre-authorized.
To accept credit cards online, you do indeed need a merchant account. This can be arranged through a variety of companies online, and a varying degree of prices. We suggest that you go to a search engine, do a search for merchant accounts, and start checking out your options and the prices on this.
With either or both methods, you will need to have a secure server, and a form. With merchant accounts, it is possible that the service you use will set everything up for you...you just have to ask them.
You can also find companies who will process checks for you online. Simply do a search for "Automated Check Transfers" or "ACT".