[ glossary ]


Processing credit card payments on your web site is a critical requirement for most e-commerce sites. Its use is so widespread that it's easy to assume that the whole process is very straightforward. Actually, this is not exactly the case.

In order to be able to process credit card transactions, your site will need to interact with several separate entities. Generally, accepting credit card payments on your web site requires the following:

  • Opening a Merchant Account at a bank.
  • Establishing a link with a "Processor Company". Processor companies provide a link between your web site, a credit card network (e.g. Visa, Mastercard, American Express) and your bank.
  • Setting Up Your Web Site to communicate with your Processor. This requires configuring your web site for secure communication with your visitors - that is to say, a way for your web site to work via SSL (note that your site secure URL's will start with "https://" and not "http://") and establishing a secure link to the processor company.
Here's a detailed step-by-step look at how a typical Typical Credit Card Transaction actually works.

If your site has a relatively low volume of transactions and you are willing to to pay higher fees there are some providers that can do most of the mentioned tasks for you. The most popular options here are described in these two articles: Payments via Third Party Processors and Payments via PayPal. While we would like to stress that these organizations provide convenience at a price (read the articles for details), working through them is often the best choice for beginners.