Ways to Accept Payment and Money Online (and Beyond)

The following services are commonly used by our friends and colleagues online for accepting payments from customers and clients:

  • PayPal: An informal standard; seen by many as the default online payment solution with numerous features and shopping cart tools
  • WePay: A simple alternative to PayPal
  • Amazon WebPay and Amazon Payments: A well-branded payment option with powerful shopping cart tools
  • Dwolla: Best when one REALLY wants to minimize fees and clients/customers are likely to have Dwolla accounts
  • Square: A great lightweight payment system for people who mostly accept in-person payments
  • Checks: An option if one's clients prefer analog payment options
  • Bitcoin: Ideal if one or one's clients are unable (due to location or other restrictions) to use the same currency or mainstream payment solutions
  • Popmoney by Citibank: Ideal if you work directly with a small handful of clients who also use Citibank (or financial institutions that support Popmoney financial services) and prefer to pay via online banking transfers
  • DeviantART Points: An option for those who would like to avoid using real currency and are happy to spend earnings commissioning art or buying prints from other artists on DeviantART

You will find additional detail on each service's functionalities, advantages, disadvantages, and requirements in the summaries below.

PayPal

PayPal Online SalesFunctionalities:

  • Enables customers to pay you using a trusted, free, convenient, secure, and simple service
  • Enables customers to pay you using a PayPal account or a credit card
  • Enables you to send money or buy products without ever touching a credit card or bank account by using funds in one's PayPal account
  • Gives you the ability to quickly transfer money to others online
  • Gives you the ability to send invoices that lead directly to your PayPal account
  • Offers a mobile app and card reader to facilitate transactions in physical spaces

Advantages:

  • Widespread use
  • Can be used in many countries
  • Integration with many, many sites
  • Ability to pay via debit card, credit card, or PayPal account for transactions
  • Good security with both purchase and seller protection features
  • No fees for people purchasing products via PayPal (i.e. not using credit or debit cards)
  • PayPal's mobile card reader and app are free

PayPal FeesDisadvantages:

  • Transaction fee of 2.9% + $0.30 for domestic sales (3.9% for international transfers, 2.2% for bulk business transactions and eligible nonprofits, 2.7% for payments accepted via card reader, 3.5% + $0.15 for card reader transactions that are manually entered and not swiped)
  • Debit/credit card fee of 2.9% + $0.30 for domestic transfers
  • International transfer fee ranging from 0.5% to 3.9% depending on the country and whether the transfer was direct or facilitated by a debit/credit card
  • It may take around three days for transfers to arrive in your bank account
  • There have been various complaints about the service over the years

Requirements:

  • Name, address, phone number or email (to create an account that can receive money)
  • Bank account or credit card (to send money)

WePay

Functionalities

  • Simple payment buttons that can be added to your website
  • Ability to send online invoices with added options for itemization and recurring invoices
  • A Virtual Terminal that enables you to accept credit card payments online, in person, or over the phone
  • A mobile app
  • Ability to grant WePay business account access to multiple people
  • Ability to create a store page on WePay
  • Option to integrate directly with the WePay API

WePay Payment ButtonsAdvantages

  • Simple
  • No hardware is required
  • Payment buttons (checkout, register, donate) do not redirect customers do another site
  • Payment buttons can be cut and pasted into your site's HTML

Disadvantages

  • 2.9% + $0.30 for all credit card transactions
  • 1% + $0.30 for all bank account transactions
  • No mobile card reader
  • Non-US citizens and minors cannot accept payments

Requirements

  • Name, email address, password, name and type of your business, phone number, and bank account
  • You must be a US citizen
  • You must be 18 years or older

Amazon WebPay / Amazon Payments

Amazon Payment Functions Amazon Payments Option

Functionalities

  • Ability to send and request money using your Amazon account's payment information
  • Ability to send funds from one's Amazon Payments account or from a verified credit card or bank account
  • Ability to request payments (by visiting the "Send Money" section of your Amazon Payment account and selecting "Request Payment")
  • Amazon Checkout, a complete checkout and payments system by Amazon that can be incorporated into your site
  • Amazon Simple Pay, which enables you to copy and paste HTML into your site that can be used by visitors to pay for digital goods or services, donate money, purchase subscriptions, or complete transactions within a gaming marketplace

Standard Amazon CheckoutAdvantages

  • No fee for simple transfers of money
  • Recipients of cash do not have to have an Amazon Payments account (though funds may not be withdrawn until one creates an Amazon Payment account)
  • Funds can be withdrawn to a bank account or used to purchase other Amazon products, send funds to another person, or purchase Amazon Gift Cards
  • Amazon branding on your services might put customers (who are quite likely to be familiar with Amazon) at ease
  • Amazon Checkout has a powerful mobile variation

Disadvantages

  • Funds cannot be withdrawn until one creates an Amazon Payments account
  • Micropayments (purchases under $10.00) have a 5% + $0.05 transaction fee
  • Purchases over $10 made using Amazon Payments tools have a 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee (the percentage falls to 2.5% for purchases over $3,000, 2.2% for purchases over $10,000, and 1.9% for purchases over $100,000)

Requirements

  • An account with Amazon.com with a verified email address and valid credit card account (should you want to be able to receive money)
  • The email address or alias of any recipient to whom money should be sent (should you choose to send money as well as receive it)

Dwolla

Dwolla Features

Functionalities

  • Ability to have funds sent to your Dwolla account automatically transfered to your bank account
  • Dwolla Payment ButtonsAbility to automatically maintain a minimum balance in your Dwolla account (funds will be automatically transferred from your bank account should your Dwolla account go below the desired minimum)
  • Ability to send money directly from your bank account (not just from your Dwolla account balance, though using your Dwolla account enables the transaction to take place more quickly)
  • Dwolla Spots: a location-based payment service that enables customers to pay using a mobile app in a manner similar to checking in
  • Option to send customers to your Dwolla Hub Page to accept single or recurring payments
  • Dwolla payment buttons that can be integrated into your site
  • An external checkout flow enabling customers to make purchases using Dwolla's API as the processing platform (this takes people to Dwolla to make a purchase, then redirects them to your website)
  • Can be used with point of sale software in brick and mortar stores
  • Both iPhone and Android apps are available

Advantages

  • No fees for transactions under $10
  • Much lower fees when there are any: $0.25 per transaction
  • Can be used with many shopping cart plugins
  • A promotion waiving your first 40 transaction fees if you invite a friend to the service

Disadvantages

  • Customers and clients can only pay you using a Dwolla account; not a credit card
  • Dwolla is less well known as a payment brand
  • Customers are taken to Dwolla to complete checkout (one cannot purchase products or services using Dwolla while remaining on your site)

Requirements

  • Email, password, valid U.S. phone number, address, social security number, and a verified, authorized representative (if you have a business account)
  • You may need to jump through additional hoops to verify your identity, such as upload a scan of your driver's license
  • You must be over 18 years of age
  • You must be authorized to use a valid United States bank account

Square

Functionalities

  • Checkout interface for mobile devices
  • Reward loyalty features
  • Customized digital receipts
  • Simple, touch-based signing functionality
  • Helpful tracking and analytic tools for shopkeepers
  • Square Wallet, which enables customers to automatically pay for products and services (at compatible stores) by checking in using a mobile app stating their names
  • Mobile app and card reader for accepting payments via Credit Card in physical situations
  • Integration with specific hardware (such as receipt printers, kitchen ticket printers, barcode readers, and cash drawers), which enables one to create a simple, fully functional register

Square Checkout InterfaceAdvantages

  • Mobile app and card reader are free
  • Payments make it into your account within 1-2 days
  • Optimized for iPads (the Square iPad app offers in-app data reporting, the ability to print kitchen tickets and receipts [when connected to compatible hardware], and the ability to operate cash drawers)
  • Personal data is not stored on mobile apps, sparing you some trouble should your mobile device be stolen

Disadvantages

  • Not designed for online transactions
  • 2.75% transaction fee (or a flat fee of $275 per month)

Requirements

Checks

Functionalities

  • Ability to transfer money from one bank account to another

Advantages

  • Well known
  • Can be completely analog (from a user perspective)

Disadvantages

  • Less commonly used by younger generations
  • Slow

Requirements

  • Both seller and customer must have bank accounts
  • Customer must have a bank account that issues checks

Bitcoins


Functionalities

  • Ability to send and receive coins to different bitcoin addresses using a Bitcoin wallet
  • Ability to use wallets in software, mobile, or web form
  • Various national currencies can be converted into Bitcoins and vice versa

Bitcoin Wallet OptionsAdvantages

  • Transactions are instant
  • Can be used in every country
  • No spending limits
  • No prerequisites for having an account
  • Accounts cannot be frozen
  • Transactions go from person to person (there is no middleman, like a bank or PayPal)
  • Relatively lower processing fees

Disadvantages

  • Both parties in a transaction must have Bitcoin addresses
  • Very few people are actually comfortable using Bitcoin
  • Getting started with Bitcoin usage is not easy (there is quite a learning curve)
  • There are no password recovery options; if you forget your password, your funds are lost
  • Bitcoin is an experimental currency
  • Even though Bitcoin is an experimental currency, you'll still have to pay taxes on your earnings
  • The value of the currency fluctuates
  • Transactions cannot be reversed unless the person receiving payment chooses to return your money (in other words, there is no middleman to protect you)
  • Anyone can see the balance and transactions of any Bitcoin address (so you may wish to create a new anonymous address for each new transaction and complete transactions using Tor; for more advice on carrying on activities anonymously online, see our guide to anonymous publishing)
  • Instant transactions (in which one does not wait for confirmations or use a detection system for unsafe transactions) are less secure; one runs the risk of the other party reversing the transaction

For a more thorough look at potential disadvantages that accompany Bitcoin use, visit Bitcoin.org's "Some things you need to know" page.

Requirements

  • Currency to exchange into bitcoins (BitPayCoinbase, and MtGox Merchant offer USD exchange as well as merchant tools)
  • A Bitcoin wallet (there is no single provider of Bitcoin wallets; you have to choose one that works well for you)
  • Parties willing to use bitcoins for transactions

Popmoney by Citibank

Popmoney FeaturesFunctionalities

  • Ability to send payments to individuals or vendors
  • Ability to send invoices to clients (should one have a business account)

Advantages

  • Convenient for someone who has a Citibank account
  • Payments from clients who receive your Popmoney invoices will go straight to your banking account
  • Works with personal checking, savings, and money market accounts
  • Works with business checking, savings, and money market accounts

Disadvantages

  • Limited in functionality and scope
  • Fees are referred to in Popmoney's Terms & Conditions but not clearly outlined in the general service description
  • You cannot send invoices unless you have a business account with Citibank
  • It is more complicated to use Popmoney if a client's financial institution does not participate in the Popmoney financial service
  • Clients may feel less comfortable making payments directly from their financial institutions

Requirements

  • You must have a personal or business account with Citibank
  • To be able to send invoices, you must have a business account

Points on DeviantART

DeviantART Points

Functionalities

  • Ability to purchase prints and other services using Points
  • Ability to purchase Points using U.S. currency
  • Ability to request points by sending the following URL to others: http://[YOURUSERNAME].deviantart.com/?givepoints

Advantages

  • Enables one to complete transactions without using a formal currency
  • Does not require that different parties use the same national currency

Disadvantages

  • Points cannot be converted back into dollars

Requirements

  • A DeviantART account