Accepting Credit Cards online is not as hard as you may think

When someone comes to me with a website that needs e-commerce, one of the first few questions I ask them is, “How would you like to accept payments?”

One of the answers I get a lot is PayPal. I get why. It’s easy and people are already familiar with it. They are usually already using it to send and receive money, so it makes sense that they would be ready to get started there.

And PayPal is fine. I’m a longtime PayPal user, having opened my PayPal account in 2000 so that I could shop on Ebay. (I feel ancient right now.)

Anyway, I’ll never tell a business they should not use PayPal, but I will always tell a business that PayPal should not be the only payment method, and here’s why. For those of us that like and use PayPal, we’re more than happy to pay that way. But for people who don’t already use, they are much, much less likely to complete the checkout if it means creating an account or jumping to another site.

“But they can pay with PayPal without an account!” they tell me.

Yes, they can. But they won’t. Either they won’t realize that they don’t have to have an account, or they won’t want to check out that way.

Online payments aren’t about what’s best for you, they are about what’s best for your customers. And some of them will not want to use PayPal.

Case Study

I have a pretty good example of this. My client Joan Price is a prolific author. You can buy her books on Amazon, but she also wanted to sell them on her website. Any author will tell you that selling on your own is going to be more profitable than selling through another vendor.

When we started working together, Joan’s existing site had her books available to purchase using PayPal’s Buy Now buttons. You could pick a book, click on the button, and checkout. It wasn’t that difficult, but it was only through PayPal.

I asked if she had a lot of sales that way, and while she had some, it wasn’t a lot. I suggested we add a real shopping cart that took both PayPal and credit cards right on her site. The difference in sales was night and day. Almost immediately the orders starting coming in. She’s now seeing sales on her site almost daily, with more than half of the payments being made right on her site with a credit card.

To date, around 55% of all orders coming through her site are paid via credit card. Would some of those have checked out with PayPal if that was the only option? I’m sure they would have. But some wouldn’t have.

“When Amy first suggested accepting credit cards as well as PayPal, I resisted the monthly charge plus a percentage of each sale that would go to the credit card company. I figured that my customers could use PayPal so easily that it wouldn’t be a gain for me. Was I wrong! My sales increased immediately. Most of my customers prefer to use credit cards, and I shudder to think about all the sales I lost in the past and would have lost without Amy’s wise advice.”

Joan Price

Is it complicated? Is it secure?

It’s really not that complicated to take credit cards on your site, and it’s secure as well depending on what method you use. I’ll start by saying that when it comes to accepting credit cards online, I’m a big fan of Stripe. The reason is that it’s super easy to integrate, and that it’s secure.

Here’s how it works when you integrate Stripe into your website. Whether you are using WooCommerce (like on our Support site) or taking payments through an online form like ours here, it works fairly similarly. You add the needed plugin (Stripe for WooCommerce or Stripe for Gravity Forms are the ones I use) and it walks you through the settings. Of all the payment gateways I’ve set up, it’s one of the easiest.

When it comes to security, there are a few things to note. Number one, your site must be encrypted with SSL in order to accept credit cards. If you are using PayPal and the user is jumping to the PayPal site to complete payment you can get around it. But for online payments right on your site, it must be encrypted. Luckily, most web hosts include SSL with your site, so you just have to make sure you are using it.

When someone enters their credit card number into your site, it’s not recorded anyone on your site. It’s not stored in a database anywhere. It’s encrypted and processed through Stripe. You will never be able to login to your site and see someone’s credit card number.

What about the fees? Are they high?

You can’t accept credit cards without fees, that’s true. However, accepting credit cards is no more expensive than using PayPal in most cases. The Stripe fee is 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction. So for a $50 charge, you’ll lose $1.75.

The PayPal fee is exactly the same rate. In fact, if you do some researching, you’ll find that most of them are nearly the same rate.

If you have a high volume of transactions or you are a non-profit, you can sometimes negotiate a lower rate, but for the most part they are very similar.

We all like to grouse about the cost of credit card fees, but processing credit cards is a service. For me, it’s well worth the cost when in return I get faster payments and it eliminates the work of manual payments.

What if I don’t want to use Stripe?

That’s a good question. Stripe is a great option, but it’s not right for every business because they do have some conditions on the types of business they’ll allow to process through their service. Another great option that many of my clients use is Authorize.net. I typically start with Stripe because it’s the easiest to integrate, however Authorize.net isn’t much more complicated, and will work with a broader array of businesses. The downside, there is a monthly fee ($25) on top of the 2.9% plus $0.30 transaction fees.

It is pretty widely able to be integrated, there are plugins for it available for most types of e-commerce and it’s secure. Definitely a great option.

You might also want to checkout 2Checkout or Square as well. 2Checkout has a higher rate (3.5% plus $0.35 per transaction – so for a $50 charge you’ll lose $2.05) but has a broader global reach and works instantly in 200 countries.

Square was started as an in-person credit card processing app. You get a little dongle, attach it to your phone, download the app, and voila, you can take credit cards. They’ve since added online payments via API to their offerings, I assume since so many of their clients want to take in-person and online payments. The online rate for Square transactions is the same as Stripe and PayPal, 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction, although if you run cards in person with their reader it is much less. If you’d like to use the same merchant account for all your transactions though, this certainly fits the bill.


In conclusion, it’s not that hard to take credit cards on your site, it’s not more expensive than PayPal, it’s secure, and there’s a good chance you’ll get more sales/payments if you do.

Need help setting up your online payment portal? Request a quote today.

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Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

2 Comments

  1. Joan Price on October 16, 2020 at 3:40 am

    I really appreciate how hard Amy worked to create everything I needed to increase sales and create a good customer experience, while still making it simple for me. I’m so glad I took her advice about credit cards. Stripe did not work out for me (they had subject-matter restrictions that I couldn’t live with), but Authorize.net has been great, and the payment is in my bank account within 3 days. The fees hurt a little, but the increased sales are worth it.

    • Amy Masson on October 16, 2020 at 7:50 am

      Thanks, Joan! It thrills me to see so many sales coming in through your site!

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