The Internet has brought with it a new set of security risks and although the banks aren't as cautious as some of the alarmists will tell you, it can be worth looking at some of the online brokers who will process your transactions whether or not you're already a merchant.
Phil Battison, European managing director of WorldPay, points to the steady charges that apply as one of the benefits: 'The 4.5 per cent we charge is the whole thing,' he says.
You can opt to pay more of course. Integration of the facility into your website and full web hosting, comes in at £145 per annum and other services are available. These extra benefits can be very important because they accept payments internationally and handle all of the currency processing for you, and some of the cultural issues too. For example, 'It would open up the opportunity to reach 60 million-odd customers in Germany, who don't typically use credit cards,' notes Battison.
Numerous companies already use the WorldPay system. Internet Service Provider E-Live in Ireland wanted to offer an international payment system which had already done the work on branding so that customers were reassured about their security. The company chose WorldPay. 'Since teaming up with WorldPay, the most noticeable benefit has been the number of new customers that have come on board,' says Seanie Ryan, MD of E-live. He estimates that the company has increased its business by £30-40,000 per annum because of the WorldPay partnership, and notes quick resolution of any problems as a plus point.
There are undoubtedly drawbacks to becoming a credit card merchant. If sales underperform at the start-up phase, you can end up with a steady drain on the accounts for rental of the swipe machines of which you're making little use, and the charges on some of the more specialist cards can be high. But the bottom line remains that if a customer walks into your premises with five quid and a credit card and you're not a merchant, they can spend five quid. If you've got merchant status they can spend hundreds.