In simple terms a payment gateway is the online equivalent of a credit card processing (EFTPOS) facility that you would find in a physical store. If you are running any kind of online store or donation facility then a payment gateway will be required to process credit card transactions.
To your customers the interaction of your website with the payment gateway appears seamless, but in actual fact it is one of the most important aspects in the security of their transaction. We've already talked about the importance of SSL certificates so let's jump in and find out more about the role of the payment gateway.
When a customer creates an order on an online store, such as one powered by Ubercart, his or her credit card details are sent encrypted from your website to the designated payment gateway. By offloading this information straight away there is no need to store the details anymore and therefore you have instantly reduced the risk of a hacker obtaining access to this extremely sensitive information. Your bank will have a payment processor set up to retrieve this information from the payment gateway and then communicate with the card company (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) to perform all the behind-the-scenes checks and eventually will pass an approved notification back to the payment gateway and finally back to your website. This whole process only takes a few seconds.
Advantages of payment gateways
This method of payment has many advantages over other methods, such as:
- Much faster (and easier) than cheques or manual credit card processing
- Much more secure than manual credit card processing
- No need for the customer to jump between your site and a third-party site (such as PayPal) to perform a transaction
Choosing a payment gateway
There are several factors to consider when choosing a payment gateway, including price, features, integration and support.
All payment gateways will have fees associated with them, but in the long run they are generally worthwhile as they will save you time and provide extra security. Make sure you compare gateways to see what will be best for you, for example one gateway might be cheaper for small customers with only a few sales a year, whereas another might be better for larger customers with thousands of sales per year.
Don't assume that Paypal is going to be cheaper than other options. For a small turnover it probably will be, but for larger turnovers it can be significantly more expensive.
Make a decision based on the features that are important to you. Features you might look out for include reporting, processing refunds, multiple user accounts and recurring transacations.
Integration and support
Most payment gateways provide an API for developers to build websites that can interact with the gateway, but sometimes when using open source content management systems such as Drupal the hard work is done for you. If you are using Drupal we recommend finding out if a module has been built for your preferred payment gateway. If a module is not available, it can be developed, but be prepared for additional development time.
As well as this it is vital to check that your bank is supported by the payment gateway, otherwise you won't get paid! In general the four major banks in Australia are usually supported, but make sure you check first.
We usually build e-commerce sites on Ubercart, an open source Drupal-based shopping cart system. The three major gateways in Australia with Ubercart support are eWay, SecurePay and Camtech, in order of size. While eWay and SecurePay are more well known, we have found Camtech, a business unit of SecurePay, to provide the best value for money.
You can get a reduced annual fee for Camtech's Post Paid Plan 1 by signing up here: