Five things web developers need to know about payment gateways

Businesses are moving at least some of their sales online – which means more and more web developers are needing to become familiar with the online payments process.

June 20, 2013

More and more businesses are moving at least some of their sales online – which means more and more web developers are needing to become familiar with the online payments process, says Peter Harvey of PayGate.

“If you’re building an e-commerce site for a client, they will probably look to you as the developer for advice on which shopping cart and which payment gateway to choose,” says Harvey. “This is not an area where many web developers feel particularly comfortable – they are coders and designers, not financial consultants – so it helps to have a checklist of questions that the client should ask.”

1. What’s their uptime record like?
When gateways go down, businesses lose sales – it’s that simple. Ask to see uptime records for at least the past year, and check the ratio of planned to unplanned downtime.

2. How many banks do they connect to?
More flexibility is always better. A gateway that has exclusive relationships with one or two banks may be able to offer superficially attractive deals in the short term – but in the long term, all they’re doing is locking your client in to a relationship that may or may not work out.

3. How many payment methods do they accept?
Again, the more flexibility the better. The number of ways that consumers like to pay is large, and growing. Credit cards, debit cards, Paypal, mobile payments, stored value cards – the more payment methods your gateway accepts, the broader the pool of potential customers. Ask about the process for adding new methods, and how long it takes.

4. Do they support tokenisation?
This is a big deal. Tokenisation means a retailer can offer convenient one-click payments to returning customers without ever storing card details. Instead of the card number, the retailer stores an encrypted token, issued by the gateway, that can be used for repeat transactions. With the card associations getting ever more strict about security standards, and the potential liability to merchants should details be leaked from their servers, this should be high on the priority list.

5. What other security do they offer?
Merchants need protection from fraudulent transactions just as much as consumers do. Check that the gateway offers easy 3D Secure integration, and preferably at least one other form of security as well.

It’s natural to go for the gateway that offers the best pricing deal, says Harvey – “but price alone should only be the deciding factor once you have a shortlist of gateways that offer the right answers to all these questions. Otherwise, the merchant may be exposed to unacceptable risk.”