Back in the bad old days, economies of scale and the crushingly uncaring realities of business logistics meant that small businesses had to be much more careful about picking their battles with the established “big boys” in their industries. Overmatched, outsized, and out-resourced, small businesses had a much more difficult time competing.
Limited in their offerings and prices by the constraints of supply chain logistics, upstart companies often found themselves handcuffed. Worse still, many small businesses could not reach the volume thresholds required to make accepting alternative payment options like credit card payments a financial feasibility.
Not anymore, though. Today, thanks to the rise of the internet and the modern, digital global economy, small businesses have a whole plethora of online payment options available to them that not only open up a world of new revenue streams and opportunities, but make it possible to truly compete with, and beat, the Goliaths of their industries.
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular online payment systems for small business, and why not all online payment methods for small business are created equal.
Online payment systems for small business
When choosing small business payment solutions, there are several important factors to consider that go well beyond “Can I accept credit cards?” and “What does it cost per transaction?” These are obviously crucial questions to answer, but they’re not as simple as they seem, and they don’t tell the whole story.
Here are some of the most important aspects to consider when choosing the best online payment system for your small business.
Transaction speed and online payment systems for small business
Unlike much larger businesses like General Motors and IKEA, small business streams tend to be much tighter, smaller, and more in need of careful monitoring and management to ensure they don’t drift into the red or run out altogether.
That’s why it’s so important to choose an online payment system that gives you total control over your money, and isn’t bogged down in delays and unpredictability.
Some small business online payment solutions take longer than others to seek permissions from their partner banks and merchants; others are processed in large batches, and may take anywhere from 12 to 48 hours to fully process payments.
This is problematic for small business for a couple reasons. First and foremost, it delays your ability to realise payment and bolster your business’ liquidity. If you have upcoming bill, invoice, or tax payment deadlines rapidly approaching, this hiccup in your cash flow can be disastrous.
What’s more, and perhaps even worse, is the operational insecurity and instability this creates for your company. Cash flow, to whatever extent possible, should be predictable, regular, and ironclad. Unpredictable revenue streams create unacceptable risks in every aspect of your business, from purchasing and acquiring inventory and/or supplies, to payment of bills and expenses, to payroll, to marketing and advertising activities.
Choose an online payment method that gives you security, predictability, and minimises operational risks.
Security and online payment systems for small business
Before the internet helped bring about the digital global economy, the biggest security concerns businesses faced were physical “smash-and-grab” robberies, and “damage control” and “cleanup” merely involved sweeping up broken glass and repairing the wallpaper.
Today, security means fraud prevention and identity protection first and foremost. The best payment systems for small businesses will offer both. Whether these services are provided in the form of 24/7 fraud monitoring, two-factor authentication for users, HTTPS secure payment portals, or something else entirely, your online payment method must remain secure. In fact, it should be the very first box your solution checks.
According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, nearly 50% of small businesses will fall victim to fraud over the course of their lifecycles, and that risk is higher for online small businesses. To help prevent occurrences of fraud, consider taking the following steps to secure your online small business.
- Monitor your transactions for irregularities. If the same account keeps showing inconsistent or frequently changing billing and/or shipping information, or you observe a glut of accounts created whose IP addresses are in areas known for being hotbeds for fraud, watch them closely and consider proactively alerting your bank to your observations.
- Set spending limits on suspicious accounts. Whether you choose to single out suspicious accounts or apply this rule broadly to your entire business, setting purchase quantity and value limits on the amount a single account can buy in a given day, week, or month can help limit your exposure to fraud. You can choose whatever exposure you are comfortable with, and you can change the amount as your revenue streams fluctuate, giving you more control over your business.
- Verify account addresses. If your objective is accepting credit cards online (more on that below), use the Address Verification System included in many payment processing solutions. It compares the billing address that the account provided with the address on file at the credit card company, and alerts you or halts the sale if there are any inconsistencies.
- Check the CVV number. If accepting a credit card payment online, require that the purchaser enter the Card Verification Value (CVV), usually hidden on the back of the credit card. Regulations set by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council forbid online retailers from storing the CVV number along with the credit card information. Thus, requiring the CVV helps protect you from fraud in the event of hacking or customer credit cards being compromised.
Your online payment solution should offer robust security measures that mitigate risks for your business.
Flexible control and online payment systems for small business
Ultimately, the best payment system for small business is the one that gives you the greatest control of the operations of your company.
Online payment methods should offer you, the business owner, plenty of options to best suit your needs. Many online payment systems offer flexible tiered processing fees that adjust up or down according to the volume of payments you process through them. This is excellent for small businesses with aggressive growth models that plan to do significant online sales.
What’s more, if you’re looking for an online payment system to accept credit cards, you can mitigate undue business risks by opting for one that provides tools like automated recurring billing, on-demand depositing to your bank account, and integration with your accounting software.
The more control you have over the financial operations of your business, the better able you are to weather market fluctuations, changes in pricing, and unforeseen auxiliary concerns that can call your attention away from payment processing.
If you want to run your payment processing on auto-pilot, you should be able to. If you want to micromanage specific, special transactions when they occur, you should be able to do that, as well.
Best online payment methods for small businesses
Ever heard of it? Of course you have – PayPal is currently one of the most popular online payment platforms in the world. PayPal lets you accept PayPal payments (obviously), as well as credit and debit card payments. It was one of the first globally popular payment platforms for freelancers and small businesses, and was more affordable than the fees charged by most high street banks.
However, that doesn’t mean PayPal comes cheap, especially if you’re accepting international payments online. PayPal charges a steep 4.4% of the total transaction amount on international purchases, plus a fixed fee based on the foreign currency being accepted.
More on a smarter way to beat PayPal’s international fees below!
Ah, Square! The company with the magic little white squares that turn iPads and smartphones at fairs and boutique shops into robust credit card readers. While Square has fairly well revolutionised the Point of Sale hardware industry, it also enables its customers to accept online credit card payments.
Square offers powerful e-commerce APIs that developers can use to build out customer checkout and payment capabilities directly into your online store. Square also lets you accept credit cards both at the POS, and online. Online fees are higher, and run at 2.9% + $ 0.30 USD per transaction.
Square also negotiates custom rate packages for small businesses, giving you more flexibility and control. If your business does over $250,000 USD in annual sales, at an average sales price of more than $15 USD per purchase, Square’s sales team will work with you to create a more affordable rate package that makes better business sense for your bottom line.
Stripe, and its online e-commerce payment platform Checkout, are designed to make accepting international payments online a snap. Er, a Stripe, we mean.
Checkout is an embeddable payment form that can be inserted directly into your website, so customers don’t need to be redirected away from your page to checkout and complete a sale. Checkout is available in 12 languages (Chinese, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Spanish, and Swedish), and auto-detects your customer’s language based on their location and browser information. It can also accept ACH payments within the United States at a rate of 0.8%.
For accepting online credit card payments, Checkout by Stripe charges 2.9% + $0.30 USD per transaction. They, too, offer volume discounts for online retailers.
Stripe pays out its customers every two days on a rolling schedule, or at longer, scheduled intervals that you determine (like weekly or monthly). Some merchants are put off by this two-day schedule; others like the control provided by the longer scheduled periods.
If you are accepting foreign currency payments, Stripe charges 2.0% above the current exchange rate per transaction, so beware: for every $100k of sales, that’s $2000 going to Stripe, plus their fee.
Like Stripe, Due is designed to provide simple, transparent pricing for accepting international credit card payments online.
Due offers credit card processing at one fixed rate – 2.8 % – whether the payment is coming from a domestic buyer or an international buyer. It also offers services like fraud prevention, live account monitoring, and chargeback protection to bolster your operational security as a small business.
Like many of its competitors, Due does offer volume discounts for small businesses that do at least $250,000 USD in annual sales through the app.
PayStand also allows small businesses to accept online payments, but with a slightly different model that is more beneficial to large volume sellers.
PayStand does not charge transaction fees for most online payment methods, and instead charges a single flat, monthly fee based on the subscription model you choose. PayStand calls this “Payment as a Service.” Vendors that use PayStand can offer their customers payments by eCheck (direct bank account debit) or eCash (branded e-currencies like Bitcoin and Dogecoin) with no transaction fees whatsoever. PayStand does charge the exact same credit card processing fees that they themselves are charged by the banks (a claimed $2.49% + $0.30 USD) but no greater, and it gives you the option to pass these transaction fees on to your customers via your pricing.
PayStand also lets you embed their checkout widget directly into your website, so customers don’t need to leave your page to complete their purchase.
PayStand’s monthly pricing plans range from $19 USD per month to $299 USD per month, depending on the features and tools included in the plan. PayStand also offers discounts when plans are paid one year in full.
Instead of getting dinged with a fee for each transaction, PayStand lets you scale confidently and reliably predict your operating expenditures with a known, flat fee.
How to save money selling online internationally
When it comes to online payment systems for small business, they all have one key area where their customers still get slammed: foreign currency conversion.
If you’re looking to sell products online internationally, chances are very good that you and your customer will not be using the same currency. That isn’t a problem, except that the above-mentioned payment processing platforms, as well as the high street banks they deal with, charge sky-high fees for converting the buyer’s currency into your home currency when you deposit your revenue into your bank account.
Fortunately, OFX offers online seller accounts that give you more control and save you money on foreign currency conversions and transfers. OFX lets you establish local receiving accounts in seven different global currencies (USD, CAD, EUR, AUD, GBP and HKD), so you can receive payment in your customer’s native currency.
Then, when you’re ready to transfer the money home, OFX charges 1.5% or less to convert the currency and deliver it to your bank account. Compare that to the high street banks and Amazon who charge as much as 4% per transfer, and you’ve just saved $2500 on every $100,000 of international business you close. That’s $2500 back in your pocket where it belongs.
What’s more, OFX gives you greater control of your business finances with tools like Limit Orders and Forward Contracts. Limit Orders allow you to set a pre-determined market exchange rate with which you are comfortable, and when that rate is triggered, you will be automatically alerted and have the opportunity to initiate a transfer, protecting you from unacceptably high rates. Forward Contracts, for their part, let you lock-in the current market exchange rate for up to twelve months, giving you security, predictability, and clarity in the long-term planning of your business finances despite the normal (and not-so-normal, like Brexit) fluctuations and undulations of the global market. But there are some risks you should be aware of. Read more here.
Ultimately, OFX not only saves you money over other online payment systems when selling online internationally, it gives you far greater control and mitigates risk far better.
So it’s not only cheaper, it’s more valuable.
There are lots of options for online payment methods for small business. Choose the right one, and you unlock a literal world of possibilities.