IT intelligence: Website payment mechanisms

Sue Fidler explains how to pick a suitable payment mechanism for your website.

However you try to raise money through your website, it is critical that the payment mechanism works.

The most common payment mechanisms are cards and paperless direct debits. Many charities now also offer PayPal as a method of secure payment. Some companies offer online payment processing, and the Charities Aid Foundation and the Charity Technology Trust offer charity-specific services that are set up to deal with both data protection and Gift Aid payment options.

All commercial payment processors can be used for charity donations and payment. Some of the best known include WorldPay, Secpay (now PayPoint.net) and SecureTrading.

Some database providers will recommend a payment processor they have a relationship with, and some may even offer processing services through their databases.

When choosing a secure payment processor, first make sure it is Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS)-compliant. Consider whether it offers card and direct debit processing and whether you need them now or in the future.

If you are offering direct debits, think about whether you will manage them in-house or need a bureau to process them. And if you need a shop, look at whether the payment processor offers an online shop or a 'shopping basket' service.

The service should be flexible and allow you to retain control, integrate easily with your website and brand it to make it look like your own page.

Check also whether you can have multiple pages for multiple appeals and look at set-up costs and 'per-payment' costs, which can range from 1 to 7 per cent of each transaction.

Lastly, make sure you have used the process on another site to see how easy it is, and remember to offer offline payment alternatives such as a phone number and postal address.

- Sue Fidler is an independent charity ICT and internet consultant.

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