Online payment processing requires coordinating the flow of transactions amonga complex network of financial institutions and processors. Fortunately, technology has simplified this process so that, with the right solution, payment processing is easy, secure, and seamless for both you and your customers.
Online Payment Processing Basics
Purchasing online may seem to be quick and easy, but most consumers give little thought to the process that appears to work instantaneously. For it to work correctly, merchants must connect to a network of banks (both acquiring and issuing banks), processors, and other financial institutions so that payment information provided by the customer can be routed securely and reliably.
The solution is a payment gateway that connects your online store to these institutions and processors. Because payment information is highly sensitive, trust and confidence are essential elements of any payment transaction. This means the gateway should be provided by a company with in-depth experience in payment processing and security.
The Payment Processing Network
Here’s a breakdown of the participants and elements involved in processing payments:
Acquiring bank: In the online payment processing world, an acquiring bank provides Internet merchant accounts. A merchant must open an Internet merchant account with an acquiring bank to enable online credit card authorization and payment processing. Examples of acquiring banks include Merchant eSolutions and most major banks.
Authorization: The process by which a customer’s credit card is verified as active and that they have the credit available to make a transaction. In the online payment processing world, an authorization also verifies that the billing information the customer has provided matches up with the information on record with their credit card company.
Credit card association: A financial institution that provides credit card services that are branded and distributed by customer issuing banks. Examples include Visa® and MasterCard®
Customer: The holder of the payment instrument—such as a credit card, debit card, or electronic check.
Customer issuing bank: A financial institution that provides a customer with a credit card or other payment instrument. Examples include Citibank and Suntrust. During a purchase, the customer issuing bank verifies that the payment information submitted to the merchant is valid and that the customer has the funds or credit limit to make the proposed purchase.
Internet merchant account: A special account with an acquiring bank that allows the merchant to accept credit cards over the Internet. The merchant typically pays a processing fee for each transaction processed, also known as the discount rate. A merchant applies for an Internet merchant account in a process similar to applying for a commercial loan. The fees charged by the acquiring bank will vary.
Merchant: Someone who owns a company that sells products or services.
Payment gateway: A service that provides connectivity among merchants, customers, and financial networks to process authorizations and payments. The service is usually operated by a third-party provider such as VeriSign.
Processor: A large data center that processes credit card transactions and settles funds to merchants. The processor is connected to a merchant’s site on behalf of an acquiring bank via a payment gateway.
Settlement: The process by which transactions with authorization codes are sent to the processor for payment to the merchant. Settlement is a sort of electronic bookkeeping procedure that causes all funds from captured transactions to be routed to the merchant’s acquiring bank for deposit