Hosted Payment Gateway Options for WordPress E-commerce

Of the many WordPress websites I’ve worked on over the past 5+ years, some have needed a very basic form of e-commerce functionality.

For example, most non-profits need a donations option on their website. Other organizations need a sign-up form for a workshop that requires either an online deposit or full payment. Some small businesses like to sell a few featured items online.

To date, I have found that the easiest way to do accommodate WordPress websites with low volume online transaction is to link the final checkout to PayPal, one of the most popular hosted payment gateways. Most consumers (at least in North America) are comfortable with PayPal since it’s been around for so long. Although many people have a PayPal account, you don’t need one to pay online. This makes it easier for smaller organizations to accept multiple forms of payment for products and services.

Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed that some website owners are moving away from PayPal. I’m not sure exactly why this is happening. Perhaps PayPal has been changing since it became independent of eBay. Maybe they’ve changed their policies or procedures and users are reluctant to change with them.

Whatever the reason, I have been asked a few times recently to help set up alternate hosted payment gateways. Before I outline which options I have been exploring, let me explain what I mean by hosted payment gateway (you can read the wikipedia definition here).

Hosted Payment Gateway – Simplified Explanation

When you visit a website and want to buy something online or register for a workshop, the checkout experience will vary depending on the needs and resources of the organization. Generally speaking, website owners who want to sell online have two options:

  1. Create a shopping cart system so customers enter all their order and credit card information without ever leaving the website.
  2. List the product or service on the website and then re-direct the customer to another secure site where they can enter credit card information.

The first option may take a wide variety of forms. If you order items from large online retailers like Amazon, you’re familiar with their checkout system. You stay on the Amazon website because they have a proprietary checkout function. They’re a large company with their own merchant accounts with various credit card companies. They have their own IT and legal departments which can handle the details of hosting their own shopping cart.

The second option describes the essence of a hosted payment gateway.

Experts generally agree that the first option results in the highest level of conversions. Because people tend to become uncomfortable about moving to another website for payment, they often change their minds and cancel the order.

But I think this is changing. These days, PayPal is so familiar to online shoppers that being re-directed to a secure hosted payment gateway is not only acceptable; it makes for a more comfortable shopping experience. Most people trust that PayPal is a secure method of purchasing online.

PCI Compliance

There are two main reasons I recommend a hosted payment gateway for small business and non-profits. First, it saves them money on web development. Yes, that means I make less money, but it fits their budget. Secondly (and more importantly), a hosted payment gateway reduces responsibility for PCI compliance. What does that mean?

According to the Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance guide:

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of requirements designed to ensure that ALL companies that process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.

If you have a merchant ID and process credit card information online, you need to meet PCI guidelines. That means making sure you start with a secure web server, but that’s just the beginning. You can read the details on the PCI website.

If you find that PCI compliance is beyond your needs, you need to consider a hosted payment gateway. Let a dedicated company like PayPal assume all the compliance burden for you.

But for small businesses and non-profits, PayPal is no longer the only trusted hosted payment gateway. There are many options available now. I have narrowed down two that I would recommend to small businesses and non-profits. Both of these can be integrated with existing WordPress websites.

Bambora

Until recently, Victoria, BC-based Bambora was owned by Beanstream. If you have purchased virtual products or software online, you might have been re-directed to Digital River for payment processing. Over the years, they have expanded their services and now own various companies that provide payment processing services for a wide range of needs.

Beanstream is was Digital River’s solution for businesses and non-profits in Canada, the UK, and the US that have low monthly transactions. I say it was Digital River’s solution because Beanstream has recently been acquired by Sweden-based Bambora. This new relationship opens up new opportunities for Beanstream merchants and provides expansion opportunities for Beanstream.

Once you sign up and establish your new Bambora account, you can choose to add your products and create a checkout template that resembles the look of your website. Depending on your website design, your Bambora page might not look exactly the same, but you can get it pretty close. You’ll just need some basic HTML experience.

Personally, I’m not too worried about getting the Bambora checkout page to look exactly like the website. Customers will know they are on a different, secure site anyway. You don’t want to hide the fact; you want them to be reassured that the credit card transaction will be secure.

Key Features of Bambora

  • Bank neutral – works with a wide range of financial institutions.
  • Accept multiple payment forms including:
    • Credit cards
    • Debit cards
    • Digital e-wallets (MasterPass)
  • Bank-to-bank direct payments
  • Automated recurring billing
  • PCI Level 1 certified

2Checkout

The second hosted payment gateway I am currently recommending to small businesses and non-profits is Columbus, Ohio-based 2Checkout. Because it’s an American company, some non-US organizations may deal with customers who are uncomfortable sending sensitive financial information through U.S. servers.

But the feature set of 2Checkout is definitely worth looking at. And I find the design of their checkout system much nicer looking than Beanstream’s (see the 2Checkout demo).

Key Features of 2Checkout

  • Accept multiple payment forms including:
    • Credit cards
    • Debit cards
    • PayPal
  • Advanced Fraud Protection
  • Integrates with numerous shopping carts
  • Automated recurring billing
  • PCI Level 1 certified

As with most web development and e-commerce options, you will need to do some research and decide which is best for you. Personally, I still recommend PayPal as the first choice for hosted payment gateway. It’s widely accepted by online consumers in North America and it integrates very well with many WordPress plugins.

But for clients who do not want to use PayPal I suggest taking a serious look at Beanstream or 2Checkout.

Other Hosted Payment Gateway Options

Of course, I’m open to considering other hosted payment gateways that people might be using with their WordPress websites. Any suggestions?


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