How can I research online payment providers?

What should a small business look for in an online payment provider?

In expanding globally, my online business has experienced a major problem with the payment provider we signed with, as it couldn’t process payment from certain cards. This has caused much headache and loss of business.  What kind of research should I be doing payment providers before signing up with them to avoid a similar issue in future?

Paul Burdin writes:

To date, we have taken orders from over 170 countries – and correspondingly made deliveries of our product (photo based greeting cards) to over 170 different countries. Fortunately, we have not encountered the kind of problem you mention ourselves. There are a number of questions that we believe are key to ask in each of the countries/regions which you think are key to your business’ future.

1. How are people paying for things?  Find out what the most popular payment solutions in each key region are.  Does your potential partner support them? Remember, it might not be the well-known debit/credit card providers that you are used to.

2. How well-known/trusted is their brand?  Ask your potential partner for a list of well-known or respected companies they work with in each key region.  If there is no-one of note or you have heard of, you should beware. Customers need to trust the company taking their credit and debit card details.

3. Eat your own dog food.  Try paying for things on websites or apps that use your potential partner.  Assess the experience.  Would you be happy with the same experience on your website or app? Usability is absolutely crucial.

4. What are people saying?  Ask your potential partner for references.  What do the people they work with say about them?  Equally, what are consumers saying about them on internet forums?  It is very easy to discover bad customer experiences and unhappy customers. An easy one is to type in “I hate” and then the brand name. If it’s consumer facing and apparently well-known, this will make for insightful reading.

Unsatisfactory answers for any of these questions should trigger alarm bells.  No payment solution is perfect, but why risk undoing all the hard work of finding customers and convincing them to pay for your product at the last hurdle?

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Paul Burdin is the chief financial officer of Touchnote


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  1. If you are a small business looking for an online payment provider, you will need to put into consideration the following:

    1. Your target market. The location of your target markets play a big role in your decision making. You will want to have the popular payment options in your target countries to be available on your payment gateway. You should avoid limiting your payment method to credit card processing just because it’s what seems to be widely used.

    2. Rates and fees. If you could find a payment gateway that provides the same service, processes the same payments but costs less than the others in the market, then you should go for it. In the long run, it will save you money and you can use those for your other business expenses.

    3. Services provided. Let’s say you now have integrated a payment gateway to your site, what’s next? A payment provider’s services should not stop in processing payments. It should be available to you and to your customers whenever you need to check on something related to the payments made. Customer service comes along with any business, and you would want your payment gateway to also provide that same level of service to your customers.

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