How to Choose the Best Free Website Builder for Your Website

This post originally appeared at How to Choose the Best Free Website Builder for Your Website via ShivarWeb

How to Choose the Best Free Website Builder

Thanks to free website builders, creating a webpage has become something that almost anyone can do. Because there are so many options out there when it comes to finding a website builder, though, it can be challenging to know which one is the best choice for your future website.

Because different websites need different things, there is no “one size” fits all for website builders. Different products offer various features, especially when working on their free plans. Since the free option of a service can have limitations, you want to make an informed decision before starting work on your site.

Summary – Best Free Website Builder Options

Based on my experience working with many website builders, there are a few that are a good fit for most people. They all have free plans available with a variety of limits.

  • Google Product
  • Easy Setup
  • Focus on Simplicity
  • Quick Site Appeal

Google Sites

View Plans
  • Built-in Features
  • Drag + Drop Design
  • Focus on Usability
  • Growing Site Appeal

Wix

Wix
View Plans
  • Lots of Options
  • Future-proofing
  • Focus on Versatility
  • Content Site Appeal

WordPress

WordPress.com
View Plans

Focused on other free options?

MailChimp is email & digital marketing software with a bundled website builder that’s free up to 2,000 contacts (see review). View plans.

And Weebly has the best ecommerce options with their free plans (see review). View Plans.

To help you learn how to choose the best free website builder, we’ve gathered together the factors you should consider when comparing your options.

Primary Considerations

With so many free website builders out there, it’s not so surprising that some are of better quality than others. No matter what you plan to do with your site, here are some things that you’ll want to look for in your options.

Ads

Some free website builders keep themselves operating through the income of paid membership users. However, a much more common approach is for them to place ads on free plan users’ sites.

That said, these advertisements come in many forms. Some are obtrusive and distract visitors from your content, while others are much more subtle. The less space a required ad takes up on your webpage, the better it will be for you.

Domain Name

The domain name is the part of the URL that indicates your website. Having a custom domain name makes it easier for potential visitors to navigate to your webpage—which is essential if you want to attract business and hits.

Many free website builders will give you a customizable section that is part of your larger domain name—take yoursite.wix.com, for example. This structure is most common and is simple enough that it won’t get in the way of visitors remembering your site.

On the flip side, some free website builders have complicated domain names that aren’t very user friendly. While rare, some products will allow you a wholly unique domain for free, though you will still need to pay to obtain your custom domain.

Upgrade Cost

For some people, a free plan will be all they ever need. Much more likely, though, is that an upgrade will be necessary for the future. Though you may not be starting with a paid plan, it’s good to consider the cost of upgrading—and the features that are available for the price.

With this bit of groundwork, you can save yourself the hassle of moving your site to another builder if you don’t like the upgrade options.

Security (SSL Certificate)

Cybersecurity is essential, and an SSL certificate is a part of what keeps your website safe. Unfortunately, not all free website builders have this feature as a part of their free plan.

Without an SSL certificate, your website may be left open to attacks that can impact you and your visitors. While you don’t want to go without one generally, you should always have an SSL certificate if you plan to conduct ecommerce on your site.

Storage and Size

The amount of storage on your website will ultimately impact how large your site can be. In particular, sites that plan to host a lot of videos or photos will need high amounts of storage space.

You should also consider how many pages your site needs, as some free plans put limits on this capability. If you only need a one-page website (and there are some excellent options explicitly geared towards this out there), it won’t be an issue. If you want a large site with multiple pages, check these limitations before you commit.

Bandwidth

Similarly, bandwidth refers to how much data your site can transmit over a given amount of time. In the context of a free website builder, you don’t want this number to be too low. If it is, it can potentially impact the amount of traffic that your site can handle, impacting your visitor’s experience.

Mobile Responsiveness

Computers are not the only way that we access the internet anymore—a majority of activity comes from mobile phones, tablets, and other devices. For your webpage to operate well between these different devices, it will need to have a responsive design—and this capability shouldn’t be optional.

Confirm that your website builder of choice allows for the creation of a mobile responsive page before committing. If not, you’ll be better off with another product.

Ease of Use

Even if a free website builder has a lot of promising back end features, it’s still critical to pay attention to what it’s like to use.

The entire point of using one of these platforms is that you don’t have to build a website from scratch, so you want the process of creating your desired site to be simple.

Many free website builders will use a drag and drop approach, making it easy to put everything in its place—though some are more beginner-friendly than others.

If nothing else, one of the benefits of a free plan is that you don’t need to pay any money upfront, so you can try different options to see which one is the most intuitive for you to use.

Customization Level

When considering design aspects, you will want your website to have enough creative freedom to stand out online. One area to pay close attention to when looking at website builders is to see how many templates you have access to on the free plan.

Some will let you access the complete library, while others will only give you a partial selection. Also, check the available designs. An outdated looking template can reduce the traffic that comes to your site and stays there.

While you can customize a lot with website builders, there are some restrictions. Some platforms will allow you to have higher levels of customization, though you’ll need some coding knowledge to pull it off. Consider what skills you’re willing to learn before you make your final selection.

Features

Some free website builders are flexible, while other brands have specialized in providing for a specific audience. If you’re planning to set up a blog, for example, you want to ensure that the website builder you choose can set up a blog.

Ecommerce (Optional)

Ecommerce functionality will allow you to accept payments through your site and to set up an online store.

In comparison to a paid plan, though, ecommerce features will generally be on the limited side with a free option. That doesn’t mean you can’t find some good options out there, just that they’re hard to come by.

If you don’t plan to build an ecommerce-capable website, you don’t need to worry about these features.

However, if this is your focus, starting out searching for worthwhile free ecommerce plans will save you a lot of hassle and significantly narrow down your options.

Support

In case you run into a technical issue, you’ll want to have support to help. Some website builders will have libraries of videos and articles on how to work the platform, while others will provide live support.

Note that if a website builder is popular, you may be able to find help from the community as well.

Secondary Considerations

While we’ve covered the basics of what to look for in free website builders, you’ll also want to make specific decisions depending on the type of site you plan to use. It’s always best to understand what tools and features you’ll need, then narrow your search down to the website builders that offer those features on their free plans.

For Photographers & Artists

If you plan to use your site to promote your photography or art, you’ll need a lot of media space available. While lower quality images take up less space, they’re not the best decision for promoting yourself.

To ensure you can keep a high-quality archive, your website builder should have a high data limit. While rare, some free plans will allow for unlimited storage space.

For Nonprofits

When setting up a nonprofit organization website, you’ll need a website that can accept donations directly or direct visitors to the appropriate donation links.

Even if they don’t have a built-in donation function, see if you can embed codes on the site (like a PayPal button).

For Classrooms & Teachers

Building educational websites can require some specific features, but you can get a lot of use from free website builders.

Factor in features like templates, site designs, forums, and log-in features for students in your search. Privacy functionality is also essential for protecting the information of any students

For Small Businesses

Some small business sites will focus on promoting their services, but you can also set up a website to sell products. For those who wish to do so, having ecommerce functionality is going to be an essential feature.

Free ecommerce features tend to have strict limits on how many products you can sell at a time, while other free plans may not include any ecommerce functionality. Know that, in time, you will likely need to upgrade to a paid plan to take full advantage of ecommerce tools for your business.

General Tips

Want some extra tips? Consider these before you start your free website builder hunt:

  • Plan your site before you search. If you know what you want your website to be like, you can make a more informed decision when comparing options.
  • Consider if you need third-party extensions. If you want to connect content from YouTube onto your site, can the builder handle it?
  • Think forward. A successful website will eventually grow. If you foresee yourself ultimately growing out of the free plan, do you like the options that the paid plan offers?
  • Make sure there’s a free plan and not just a free trial. Some popular website builders, like Squarespace, only have a free trial in place, and you’ll have to pay to maintain service. If keeping things free is your goal, then confirm the service plans before you commit.

Next Steps

Now that you know how to choose the best free website builder to meet your needs, you may be wondering what comes next. Naturally, you’ll need to compare free website builders and pick the one that meets your needs. After that, follow these steps to get your website off the ground!

  1. Sign up – Go to your builder of choice’s website and follow the steps to sign up. You’ll need to provide an email and a password. The platform may also ask you to create a username.
  2. Begin the design process – What this looks like can vary between website builders. Some will have you fill in a design quiz to make a starting point for you, while others will drop you straight into selecting a template.
  3. Add your content – After you have a base to work with, you can begin updating any placeholder content (such as text or photos) to your site’s information. As you go, you can tweak elements of the already existing design, such as colors, layouts, and more, depending on what’s available.
  4. Go live! – After you’ve completed all the design work, you can press “Publish” and let your site out into the world for people to visit. Note that some website builders won’t allow you to update your site after it’s gone live, so be careful once you’ve chosen to do so.

Wrap Up

Since different websites have different needs, there’s no “one size fits all” solution available. Here’s a summary of the best options that I’ve found for most readers.

  • Google Product
  • Easy Setup
  • Focus on Simplicity
  • Quick Site Appeal

Google Sites

View Plans
  • Built-in Features
  • Drag + Drop Design
  • Focus on Usability
  • Growing Site Appeal

Wix

Wix
View Plans
  • Lots of Options
  • Future-proofing
  • Focus on Versatility
  • Content Site Appeal

WordPress

WordPress.com
View Plans

Focused on other free options?

MailChimp is email & digital marketing software with a bundled website builder that’s free up to 2,000 contacts (see review). View plans.

And Weebly has the best ecommerce options with their free plans (see review). View Plans.

With the variety of options out there, there’s a free website builder that’s perfect for your needs. All you need to do is use the factors and tips we’ve provided to find which one is best for you!

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The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business

Selecting the best ecommerce platform for building your online store can be tough. I find it helpful to keep in mind that shopping for this type of software is similar to shopping for any other product (you just happen to be shopping for shopping cart software, which I’ll grant is slightly strange). You ultimately need your ecommerce software to do two primary things: to serve your particular online selling needs, and to accomplish this for an affordable price.

If you’ve heard of any ecommerce software up to this point, you’ve probably heard of a platform called Shopify. Shopify often receives top billing in this category, and with good reason. Still, it’s by no means the perfect solution for everyone. Along with Shopify, we’ve compiled a few other great options worth considering in your search for an online home for your store.

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

From a bird’s-eye view, our main reasons for recommending these platforms are user-friendliness, a solid feature set, and an accessible price. Notice that they’re also all SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms, meaning you are not responsible for downloading, installing, and hosting the shopping cart on your own server. Instead, you subscribe to the service (most often for a monthly fee), and all the hosting and software updates that underpin your online store are automatically handled for you. Easy! eCommerce software has been trending in this direction over the past several years, and the available SaaS options have only become more robust and customizable over time.

What To Look For In An Ecommerce Platform

Before we discuss the individual recommendations further, here’s a quick overview of the key factors we consider when evaluating ecommerce software:

  • Pricing: How does the monthly subscription system work (what factors determine the different pricing levels), and what are the options/costs associated with accepting payments from shoppers?
  • Features & Add-ons: How strong is the core feature set of the software, and how well can these features be expanded upon using the platform’s associated app marketplace?
  • Ease Of Use: How steep is the learning curve for ecommerce beginners (particularly those without any coding experience)? What is the balance between user-friendliness and the capability of the platform to accomplish both basic and advanced tasks?
  • Web Design: How attractive, modern, and functional are the available theme templates for designing storefronts? What customization options are available, and how robust/flexible are these tools?
  • Customer Support: What is the availability and quality of email, live chat, and phone support for the software, along with any other self-help resources provided by the company and user community?

And, of course…

  • User Reviews: What are real store owners (like you!) saying about the software, both good and bad?

That’s our basic guideline. Now, we’ll take a closer look at each platform, highlighting the main benefits and drawbacks of each one, along with the types of online sellers we think the software typically suits best. We’d definitely recommend reading our full review of each platform before making your final choice. We’ve also posted one-on-one comparisons for several of the platforms if you’d like to check out those in-depth articles as well.

1. Shopify

As mentioned, Shopify is our most commonly recommended ecommerce platform. The combination of strong core features, an exhaustive app marketplace, and high ease-of-use put Shopify at or near the top of most SaaS ecommerce platform rankings.

Pricing

There are technically five Shopify plans, but the three subscription levels in the middle are considered the standard options for most SMB owners needing an online store. The price jumps between the three middle plans are based primarily on additional features and the ability to set up more staff accounts. Here are all five levels:

  • Shopify Lite: $9/mo. Embeddable cart, but no standalone store website.
  • Basic Shopify: $29/mo.
  • Shopify: $79/mo.
  • Advanced Shopify: 299/mo.
  • Shopify Plus: Custom pricing. Reserved for enterprise-level customers.

When it comes to accepting payment from your customers, you should note that this is the only platform on our list that charges an extra commission per sale. This goes above and beyond the normal processing fees you’ll need to pay to your credit card processor. Shopify’s commission decreases incrementally as you climb the subscription ladder: 2% on Basic, 1% on Shopify, 0.5% on Advanced.

You can avoid these extra Shopify transaction fees if you sign up for the in-house payment processor — Shopify Payments (powered by Stripe) — but this gateway is only available in 10 countries. In addition to eliminating the extra transaction fee, Shopify struck a deal with Stripe to offer lower payment processing fees with Shopify Payments than if you were to use Stripe (or a similar processor) by itself. These discounts apply to your processing if you’re on the Shopify Plan or the Advanced Shopify Plan.

Shopify does provide over 100 alternative gateway options. You’ll just be saddled with that extra percentage Shopify charges per sale when you stray from Shopify Payments.

Features & Add-Ons

Shopify is defined by a quality core feature set that works well for a wide variety of sellers. Moreover, Shopify has a very large app marketplace (of around 2500 apps) that will provide virtually any additional feature you might need. If there is one disadvantage to this system, it is that these integrations can add to your monthly operating costs. Meanwhile, merchants appreciate how many of Shopify’s third-party apps are fully-fledged software platforms that are commonly used to support ecommerce, rather than just simple extensions that add a small feature or two (the app store does have those as well, though!)

Here are a few Shopify features we like:

  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Built-in shipping software (Shopify Shipping)
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Manual order creation (virtual terminal)
  • Automatic tax calculation
  • Shopify POS & other POS integrations
  • Extensive order fulfillment & dropshipping integrations
  • Coupons, discounts & gift cards

Ease Of Use

Shopify has one of the easiest learning curves in the ecommerce software market. Simplicity is the name of the game for Shopify — it’s clear they’d rather offer the ability to expand the platform’s capability with optional add-ons than to overwhelm the newbie with a complicated dashboard or intricate customization options from the get-go.

The Shopify dashboard is clear and well-organized, and any built-in feature can be manipulated easily with zero coding knowledge.

Web Design

Shopify offers 10 free themes (made by Shopify), as well as 67 paid themes (made by third-parties) that range in price from $140-$180. Technically, the total theme count is a bit higher, because each theme has multiple style variations that swap out colors and whatnot. Shopify themes are some of the more elegant and functional options we’ve seen. As a nice bonus, the theme marketplace can be searched by desired theme features.

While the Shopify theme editor may not be as flexible as that of a top-notch website builder (like Wix), the drag-and-drop editor makes it easy to stack and rearrange page elements, called “Sections.” (Perhaps don’t go quite as far as I did with awkward colors and fonts — just showing you what can be changed):

Beyond the theme editor, you also have the opportunity for more customization with a combination of HTML, CSS, and Shopify’s own theme templating language (called Liquid). Most novices won’t open that coding can of worms straight away, but it’s good to know it’s there.

Customer Support

Shopify offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support at all subscription levels. Although no customer support system is perfect, we’ve found Shopify’s responses helpful and timely in the grand scheme. On top of this, the strong community of users and developers currently working with Shopify makes finding resources, reviews, and feedback a breeze. The library of self-help articles, tutorials, courses, and videos produced by Shopify is also impressive.

Who Is Shopify Best For?

If this were a little kids’ recreational sports league, Shopify would receive the “Most Well-Rounded Player” award, if not the full MVP as well. Shopify is suited to the widest variety of store types and sizes. When Shopify works for merchants, it works really well. Store owners who benefit the most from Shopify will most likely be based in one of the 10 countries in which Shopify Payments is available, because that’s the only way Shopify’s extra commission per sale is avoided. However, the quality of Shopify’s platform is strong enough overall that many merchants are willing to accept those extra transaction fees, even if they can’t (or won’t) use Shopify Payments.

Of course, we can’t mention Shopify without also mentioning one type of merchant in particular: dropshippers. Shopify is definitely the dropshipper’s go-to platform.

2. BigCommerce

If you asked most experts at large, they’d probably tell you that BigCommerce is Shopify’s most direct ecommerce SaaS competitor. BigCommerce also has an enterprise solution (BigCommerce Enterprise) that’s comparable with Shopify Plus.

Pricing

Subscription levels with BigCommerce are organized by added features at each level, but also annual revenue caps. This means you’re automatically bumped to a higher subscription once you reach a cap. Here are the plans and their associated sales limits:

  • Standard: $29.95/month (sell up to $50K/yr.)
  • Plus: $79.95/month (sell up to $150K/yr.)
  • Pro: $249.95/month (sell up to $400K/yr.)
    • add $150/mo. for every additional $200K/yr. in sales, up to $3M
  • Enterprise: Custom pricing

Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce never charges an additional commission per sale. For payment processing gateways, you have about 60 options. One of these is Braintree (a division of PayPal), which gives access to discounted processing rates as you move up the BigCommerce subscription ladder.

Features & Add-Ons

BigCommerce has a particularly strong set of native features, while also maintaining a sizable app marketplace for optional add-ons (ballpark 600 in total). The balance of out-of-the-box features versus add-on apps leans more toward the former, especially when compared to Shopify. Offered features include:

  • Faceted (filtered) search
  • Single-page checkout
  • Customer groups & segmentation
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Product ratings & reviews
  • Up to 600 product options/variants
  • Coupons, discounts, & gift certificates
  • Square POS integration

Ease Of Use

Some may argue that the balance toward more features included from the get-go can make BigCommerce harder to use at first. Personally, I wouldn’t let fears about user-friendliness stop a beginner from using this software. Extensive out-of-the-box features don’t complicate BigCommerce dashboard beyond reason, and the included features are intuitively configurable without any coding knowledge.

Web Design

BigCommerce offers around 125 themes, along with close to 500 total variations (or “styles”) of those themes. Seven of these themes (25 styles) are free; the rest are available for $145–$235. Quality of design is always subjective, but BigCommerce definitely has a wide variety of elegant templates from which to choose.

It’s a good thing this variety and quality of templates pre-exists, because customization options without coding knowledge or adding a separate integration are somewhat limited with BigCommerce. The theme editor lacks a drag-and-drop element, and you’ll be stuck with the theme’s fonts and colors for the most part.

Customer Support

Like Shopify, BigCommerce offers 24/7 phone, email, and live chat support at all plan levels. We’ve had mixed experiences with BigCommerce’s support, but find that more users praise the service than knock it. You can definitely make the argument (and we have) that BigCommerce support is just as good or better than Shopify’s. There are also active community forums and plenty of BigCommerce-produced support materials available online.

Who Is BigCommerce Best For?

The target market for BigCommerce overlaps significantly with Shopify’s. Much of your decision will come down to the appeal and specific fit-to-business of the extra features that come built-in with BigCommerce at your targeted subscription level. For example, I think B2B and wholesale merchants would do well to take close look at BigCommerce’s feature set. Support for more product variants or discount types will be interesting to other sellers. If you’re confident you’ll actually use most of the native features BigCommerce offers, you could definitely end up saving money and headaches. You’ll just need to be prepared for the automatic subscription bumps as your revenue grows.

Perhaps the most obvious appeal for BigCommerce is the freedom to choose your payment processor with no penalty of an extra transaction fee. That extra cut Shopify takes from your sales feels especially unfair if you’re not even based in one of the 10 countries where Shopify Payments is supported.

By the same token, maybe you already have a merchant account and/or payment processor that you like, or are looking for a specialized payment processor for your particular sales volume and/or risk profile. We often recommend merchants processing over around $100K per year look into credit card processors that offer your own dedicated merchant account with interchange-plus pricing. These accounts can provide more transparency and account stability (and often cost savings) than a standard flat-rate processor like Shopify Payments, PayPal or Square. With BigCommerce, your payment acceptance options are quite open.

3. 3dcart

3dcart

This platform has been around longer than any other on our list, and I’d actually heard of it before I’d even heard of Shopify. Over the years, 3dcart has developed a substantial and nuanced core feature set and continues to add and improve features at a steady clip. The software’s low monthly cost, extensive features, and plentiful payment gateway options make it worth a look when opening an online store.

Pricing

Subscription packages with 3dcart are delineated mainly by annual online revenue, number of staff accounts, and available features. You can sell up to 100 products on the Startup plan, while the other plans allow you to list unlimited items.

  • Startup: $19/month (sell up to $50K/yr.)
  • Basic: $29/month (sell up to $100K/yr.)
  • Plus: $79/month (sell up to $200K/yr.)
  • Pro: $229/month (sell up to $400K/yr.)
  • Enterprise: Custom

3dcart comes in at a lower starting price than BigCommerce or Shopify (if you exclude the Shopify Lite plan that doesn’t let you build a standalone store website). At the same time, the $29 plan level with 3dcart accommodates twice the annual store revenue of the $29.95 plan on BigCommerce.

On top of this, 3dcart never charges its own fee per sale, regardless which of the over 160 compatible payment gateways you select. For US merchants, there also are several “preferred” processor options (e.g., Square, Stripe, PayPal, and FattMerchant) that may give you access to discounted processing rates at the Plus and Pro subscription level.

Features & Add-Ons

3dcart prides itself on a rich supply of native, built-in features. We can vouch that the feature set is robust, especially for the price. And, while it’s true that 3dcart has managed to avoid some of the excessive “app creep” from which Shopify suffers, you can still connect with lots of useful third-party software via the app store.

We’ve mentioned that packed-in features can result in sacrificed user-friendliness. 3dcart keeps some of its complexity at bay by offering advanced features and modules that can simply be turned on and off depending on whether you need them.

Here are just a few of 3dcart’s noteworthy features:

  • Unlimited product options/variants
  • Single-page checkout
  • Robust discount/coupon engine
  • Real-time shipping calculations
  • Create/print shipping labels in-dashboard
  • Gift certificates on all plans
  • Wish lists & gift registries
  • Customer reviews & product Q&A
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Waiting list & pre-orders

Ease Of Use

When it comes to actually working with all of 3dcart’s plentiful features, we’re still looking at a user-friendly platform overall. You should just be aware that the learning curve you encounter may be slightly steeper than it is for Shopify (and perhaps BigCommerce as well) depending on your experience.

Like many worthwhile endeavors, 3dcart simply requires you put in a bit more effort in order to get more out of it in the end. The menus go a little deeper, the dashboard screens are more complex, and some advanced functions can be a little tricky to locate and use at first. Still, the basic setup and navigation are comparable to the ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed so far. You won’t need coding knowledge to operate your store.

Web Design

3dcart recently streamlined its entire theme marketplace, resulting in less quantity and more quality. The revamp brought 3dcart into better stylistic alignment with the ecommerce competitors we’ve discussed so far, but we’re still missing a bit of variety and uniqueness amongst the remaining options.

Of the 45 total themes available, about half are free, and more than half were created by 3dcart. Premium themes range from $149-$249.

With 3dcart, you get a very basic theme editor to change out photos and font colors, but you can’t rearrange any page elements:

Beyond these simple changes, you must use HTML and CSS inside the template editor:

Customer Support

Another key reason 3dcart makes our “best” list is the availability of 24/7 phone, live chat, email support. The only subscription that doesn’t offer phone support is the $19/month plan, but you still have the ability to talk to someone in real time with live chat. Support quality and responsiveness receive mixed reviews, but this is typical of all the software apps on our list. No ecommerce solution has cracked the code for keeping 100% of customers satisfied, but we’ll let you know if any of them do!

You’ll also have access to plenty of online resources produced by 3dcart, as well as an active community forum. Just note that while the knowledgebase articles are helpful, they’re sometimes low on screenshots and high on text.

Who Is 3dcart Best For?

We think 3dcart is a solid option for small-to-midsize businesses owners on a budget who still appreciate lots of built-in features. If you’ve experimented with Shopify or BigCommerce and felt a little boxed in when it came to flexibility and customization, and as long as you’re not intimidated by a relatively detail-oriented system, 3dcart opens up options for you. Or, if you’re skeptical of jumping on the Shopify bandwagon just because “everybody’s doing it,” and you balk at feeling hemmed into Shopify Payments lest you pay a penalty, 3dcart may be just the alternative you seek. Not to mention, we appreciate your Maverick spirit!

3dcart has a tried-and-true and even somewhat old school vibe, but without feeling clunky or inflexible. It has managed to stick around amongst an onslaught of newer competitors by quietly improving the quantity and quality of its core offerings over time. Meanwhile, you can still add on plenty of extra features via the app market, or do a bit of template tinkering on your own with basic coding knowledge.

4. Ecwid

Ecwid diverges the most from the software options we’ve discussed so far. At its core, Ecwid is an ecommerce shopping cart plugin (or “widget,” as the name implies) you can embed into an existing website. In this way, Ecwid is similar to WordPress’ WooCommerce, except you can add Ecwid to any website, not just WordPress sites. Ecwid also allows you to create a very basic standalone website and sell up to 10 products — for free! The company claims over 1.5 million users, which is significantly more than Shopify’s 600,ooo. The availability of a free plan likely has a lot to do with that!

Pricing

Subscription levels are organized by several aspects: available features, number of listed products, file storage, customer service access, and number of staff accounts. We’ve described the details of each level in our main Ecwid review, but here’s a quick summary:

  • Free: $0/mo. (10 Products)
  • Venture: $15/mo. (100 Products)
  • Business: $35/mo. (2500 Products)
  • Unlimited: $99/mo. (Unlimited products)

Happily, Ecwid does not charge an additional commission per sale. Along with offering around 50 payment gateway options for your store, Ecwid also has a special partnership with a payments provider called WePay. Together, they created Ecwid Payments, which offers discounted payment processing rates for merchants in the US, UK, and Canada. And, if you accept ACH or direct bank payments at your store (which is cheaper than accepting credit cards), you also qualify for discounted rates on those transactions with Ecwid Payments.

Features & Add-Ons

With Ecwid’s freemium pricing model, you can expect several new features unlocked at each subscription level. The free plan will definitely get you started with a small online store, but we don’t see most serious sellers staying on this plan for long. Fairly basic features such as inventory management, discounts, SEO tools, and access to the Ecwid app store require a paid plan. The Ecwid app store is on the smaller side, but you’ll still find several ecommerce staples in the shipping, tax, and accounting categories. And, don’t forget that if you’re embedding the Ecwid shop widget into another website, you’ll have access to that sitebuilder’s integrations as well.

Noteworthy Ecwid features include:

  • Create & edit orders
  • Several POS integration options, including mobile POS
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Branded shopping app for your store
  • Automatic tax calculations
  • Wholesale pricing groups
  • Mobile store management app

Ease Of Use

Intuitive dashboard navigation and foolproof feature manipulation make Ecwid an extremely user-friendly platform. Ecwid’s ease of use closely rivals Shopify’s. The Ecwid backend was clearly designed with the ecommerce beginner in mind.

Web Design

Remember that Ecwid’s main purpose is to act as a shopping cart plugin for an existing website that already has an established look and feel. That said, Ecwid does provide one theme template for a standalone online store. Here’s my in-progress edit of the starter template:

There aren’t a lot of customizations you can make to this starter website besides adding your own main image, your store name, and your 10 products. If your store is embedded into an existing website, you can purchase a third-party theme that helps your shop tie in with the rest of the site. Basically, unless you’re using the Ecwid Starter Site, web design for your storefront is largely dependent upon whatever existing sitebuilder you’re using.

Customer Support

Availability of customer support with Ecwid depends on which plan you have:

  • Free: Email only
  • Venture: Email & live chat
  • Business: Email, live chat, & phone; 2 hours of custom development (annual plan)
  • Unlimited: Email, live chat, & priority phone support; 12 hours of custom development (annual plan)

Also, note that email and live chat are not open on the weekends, and phone support is on a callback system. Despite these limitations, most users rate the actual quality of Ecwid’s support quite highly. Knowledgebase articles and video tutorials are also good quality.

Who Is Ecwid Best For?

Generally, we think Ecwid is a great option for small-to-midsize sellers. We highly recommend Ecwid for newcomers to online selling — particularly those with an established online presence who simply need to add a store component. If you love the platform your current website is built upon, and you’re already nailing your brand’s image and following, there may be no need to rush off and migrate to an all-in-one “website + ecommerce” system like the ones we’ve covered so far.

If you don’t have a website but would like to dabble in selling a few products online, you could also get an Ecwid starter site going for free while you develop a full-blown website on the side. It’s hard to argue with free! If you’re really on a shoestring budget or you’re just starting out with ecommerce, I’d encourage you to compare Ecwid’s free plan to Shopify Lite (at $9/mo.) to see which system might work best for your needs.

5. Wix

So, Ecwid built an ecommerce shopping cart widget that goes inside other website builders, but Wix is a website builder that actually built its own ecommerce widget (called Wix Stores) to go inside itself. I know, it’s a bit confusing! The point is that Wix began as a traditional sitebuilder, but now has ecommerce capability built in as well. Combining new ecommerce tools with its existing popularity in the no-coding-required-website-design niche, Wix presents quite an attractive (both figuratively and literally) option for online sellers.

Pricing

You may have heard that Wix lets you create a website for free. While this is true, you need a paid plan to use Wix’s ecommerce features. Below are your ecommerce subscription options, defined by file storage, customer support, and whether or not email marketing campaigns are included:

  • Business Basic: $25/month (20GB storage)
  • Business Unlimited: $30/month (35GB storage)
  • Business VIP: $40/month (50GB storage)

We’ve listed the true month-to-month price here, even though Wix advertises its monthly price if you pay for a full year. This drops the prices to $20, $30, and $35, respectively. All of the other platforms we’ve highlighted also offer discounts when paying annually — Wix just leads with these discounted figures in its advertising.

Regardless of which payment processor you choose (there are currently close to 20 options), Wix never charges an extra commission per sale.

Features & Add-Ons

If you choose to build an ecommerce website with Wix from scratch, the core of your site will be built upon the Wix Stores app. If, however, you already have a different type of Wix website (e.g., restaurant, hotel, photography site, etc.) and want to add an online shop, you simply switch to a Business subscription plan and add the Wix Stores app to your dashboard.

Wix is still working on adding some features that are becoming more standard amongst ecommerce platforms (like abandoned cart recovery), but we like a lot of what it has on offer so far:

  • Email marketing
  • Integrate with Square POS
  • Mobile app for store management
  • Send & manage invoices
  • Checkout on your own domain
  • SEO Tools
  • Create discounts & coupons
  • Inventory & order management
  • Library of stock photos for your site

The Wix app marketplace includes hundreds of apps, but not all are ecommerce-specific. You may also notice limited pre-built connections to third-party integrations (shipping and accounting software, for example). These sorts of apps become more indispensable as a store grows, but are not as critical for a store that manages fewer products and orders.

Ease Of Use

Wix Stores integrates seamlessly with the rest of the Wix dashboard. eCommerce features and settings are simply added to the left sidebar menu, like in any other ecommerce platform. Further dashboards open as you explore each individual feature (like adding a product or creating a coupon). Wix is defined in the DIY web design market by its ease-of-use, and this extends to its ecommerce functionality as well.

Web Design

There are actually two ways to design an ecommerce storefront in Wix. The first begins in a familiar fashion — selecting a template.

Wix offers over 500 templates to choose from, with over 70 of these already built upon the Wix Stores app (although you can easily add the app to any template). A nice perk of Wix’s template system is that all are included free with a Business subscription to Wix. The only tricky part is that you can’t switch templates once get your store up and running!

Wix provides the most flexible no-coding-required theme editor of any ecommerce platform we’ve covered here. Rather than simply dragging and dropping elements up and down your pages, you can adjust and place page elements virtually anywhere.

The second (and even easier) method of creating an ecommerce website with Wix is via Wix ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence). If you choose this option, you’ll be asked a series of detailed questions about your business, and Wix will use this information to draft a storefront for you.

Sites created with Wix ADI also have a theme editor available, but this editor’s flexibility is more limited than the standard WIX editor. Nevertheless, it’s comparable to Shopify’s drag-and-drop editor. You can stack and arrange elements up and down your pages.

If you decide you’d like to micromanage your design a bit more after creating your Wix ADI site, you’re welcome to switch over to the more advanced theme editor. You just can’t switch back to Wix ADI without losing your changes.

Customer Support

Here’s a quick rundown of Wix’s customer support channels:

  • Phone: Callback service open Monday-Friday, 5AM-5PM Pacific
  • Email: 24/7
  • Live Chat: None

As you can see, the phone channel is somewhat limited, but we like that you have access to this channel of support on all plans. The Business VIP plan also offers priority support, meaning your emails and callback requests jump to the front of the queue. Wix doesn’t have as thorough a set of self-help resources specifically for ecommerce as some of the other platforms, but the resources it does maintain are well done and useful.

Who is Wix Best For?

Wix may differ from the other ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed, but we see this variety as a very good thing. This platform is a great option for merchants who need a multifunctional (but still user-friendly) website — not just an online store. The way native apps like Wix Stores, Wix Bookings, Wix Restaurants, Wix Hotels, and others weave together to form a seamless dashboard on the backend, plus an elegant web presence on the front end, is really slick.

Speaking of elegance, the other (sometimes overlapping) group of store owners Wix works nicely for are those with a smaller number of visually-detailed products. You’re probably not going to want to run a massive fulfillment and shipping operation with Wix, but small shops with aesthetic priorities are perfect for Wix.

Quick Pricing Comparison

We’ve covered a lot of ground in our comparison of these five good options for building an online store. Before we wrap this baby up, let’s recap the subscription plans for each one, along with the main ways the levels are distinguished from one another. As you’ve clearly seen, pricing is just one component of your final choice, but it’s usually where people start.

eCommerce Platforms Pricing Summary

Pricing Levels Differences Btwn. Levels

Shopify

Lite: $9/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Shopify: $79/mo.

Advanced $299/mo.

Plus: Custom

  • Available features
  • Number of staff accounts
  • Payment processing discounts
  • Shopify’s commission per sale

BigCommerce

Standard: $29.95/mo.

Plus: $79.95/mo.

Pro: 249.95/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue

3dcart

Startup: $19/mo.

Basic: $29/mo.

Plus: $79/mo.

Pro: $229/mo.

Enterprise: Custom

  • Available features
  • Annual store revenue
  • Number of products
  • Number of staff accounts

Ecwid

Free: $0/mo.

Venture: $15/mo.

Business: $35/mo.

Unlimited: $99/mo.

  • Available features
  • Number of products
  • Storage
  • Number of staff accounts
  • Customer service

Wix

Business Basic: $25/mo.

Business Unlimited: $30/mo.

Business VIP: $40/mo.

  • Storage
  • Customer service
  • Available features

Final Thoughts

Did you find your ecommerce match? We know it’s a lot to take in at once. The great news is that all of these platforms allow you to test the software before you buy. We’d suggest narrowing down our five suggestions to a couple that look like strong candidates for your store and starting a free trial of each. Test drive all the features you possibly can, work on customizing your storefront, and pepper customer support with questions at all hours. That’s the only way you’ll know which is the best fit, even with our attempts to simplify the decision-making process for you.

Generally speaking, the first three platforms we mentioned (Shopify, BigCommerce, and 3dcart) are quite similar and will work for a lot of the same types and sizes of stores. 3dcart is probably the most complicated and detailed of the three out-of-the-box, and typically requires a bit more out of the user. This is not necessarily bad, though. BigCommerce may be a good middle ground between 3dcart and Shopify, combining ease-of-use with a dense set of out-of-the-box features. And, even with Shopify’s super annoying transaction fees (if you don’t use Shopify Payments), Shopify is still a very solid recommendation — it’s just good software.

Ecwid and Wix each have their own advantages as well, especially for smaller stores. Both are well-designed and user-friendly. Ecwid has an enticing free plan and can be embedded in any existing website, while Wix allows you to develop a particularly elegant and multifunctional storefront using your choice of not one, but two different methods.

We think most small business owners will find a good solution from among these five options. And, we’ll let you in on a rather little-known secret: it’s not the end of the world if you end up needing to migrate platforms. That goes for right now if you’re looking to make a switch, or later if you decide your software isn’t working for you anymore. Nevertheless, you can still head into your decision with the confidence that you’ve done your research and tested the software thoroughly before handing over your credit card. (You’re going to test them first, right? Promise? Good.)

Do you have experience with one or more of these ecommerce platforms? Let us know how you think they compare in the comments. We love feedback from real users like you!

Shopify BigCommerce 3dcart Ecwid Wix

3dcart

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Review Visit Site

Monthly Cost

$9 – $299

$29.95 – $249.95

$19 – $229

Free – $99

$25 – $40

Core Features

Great

Excellent

Excellent

Good

Good

App Store

Very Large

Large

Moderate

Moderate

Small/Moderate

Ease Of Use

Very Easy

Easy

Moderate

Very Easy

Easy

Web Design

Great

Good

Good

OK

Excellent

Customer Support

Great

Great

Good

Good

Good

The post The Best eCommerce Platforms For Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Accept Credit Card Payments For Your Small Business

Whether you’ve been in business for a while or are just starting out, you know how important it is to be able to accept credit and debit cards as payment from your customers. Credit card usage has soared over the past twenty years or so, while the use of traditional payment methods such as cash and paper checks has dwindled. Put simply, accepting credit cards will lead to increased sales and happier customers.

Unfortunately, adding credit card acceptance to your suite of business tools is neither easy nor inexpensive. The credit card associations (i.e., MasterCard, Visa, etc.) charge a fee known as interchange every time their cards are used, and you’ll need to sign up with a credit card processor to process your transactions and pay those fees for you. Your processor will, in turn, add a markup to your processing charges to cover their costs, and – in most cases – also charge you a bewildering variety of fees for maintaining your account.

In this article, we’ll provide a brief overview of the requirements you’ll need to meet to set up credit and debit card processing for your small business. There are a huge number of providers out there on the market, all offering different variations on the same basic services that most companies need. We’ll give you a quick and dirty explanation of how credit card processing works, what a merchant account is, and whether you need one to accept credit or debit cards. We’ll explain the various options for taking card payments, including the required hardware and software you’ll need to get started. Finally, we’ll give you some tips to help you avoid having your account suddenly frozen or terminated – a situation you can and should avoid.

If you’re looking for the best credit card processing companies for your business, you should take a look at our favorite payment processor shortlist to get you headed in the right direction.

How Credit Card Processing Works

You don’t need to be familiar with all the intimate details of processing a credit card transaction, but it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of the steps involved and how they go together. A little knowledge of how processing works can help you avoid some of the common problems that can result when a transaction doesn’t go smoothly.

First, you’re going to need a way to accept your customer’s card data. This can be accomplished using either a traditional credit card terminal or a payment gateway in the case of online transactions. Another option is a software service known as a virtual terminal, which turns your computer into a credit card terminal and allows you to either input the card data manually or read it using a compatible card reader.

Once you’ve input your customer’s card data, it’s sent to your provider’s processing system for approval. Your provider’s network will check with the cardholder’s issuing bank to confirm that funds are available to cover the transaction. For debit cards, this is a simple check of the remaining balance on the banking account linked to the card. Credit cards require that the cardholder won’t exceed their available credit if the transaction is approved. The processing networks will also run a few anti-fraud checks to (hopefully) detect a suspicious transaction. If sufficient funds are available and there aren’t any clear indications of fraud, the transaction is approved, and you can complete the sale.

At the end of the day, you’ll upload all completed credit/debit transactions to your processor’s network for processing. This usually occurs automatically if you’re using a payment gateway or a modern credit card terminal. For each transaction, your processor will deduct both the applicable interchange (which is then forwarded to the cardholder’s issuing bank) and their markup. You’ll receive whatever is left over after these fees have been deducted. It usually takes another two to three days for these funds to be transferred back to your bank account.

From our payment processing infographic:

Do You Need A Merchant Account To Accept Credit Cards?

For many years, the only way to accept credit cards was to open a merchant account. At its most basic, a merchant account is simply an account to deposit funds into from processed credit/debit card transactions. Of course, maintaining a merchant account also requires transaction processing services, equipment and software to process the transactions, security features, and numerous other services, depending on the needs of your business. Traditional merchant accounts tend to end up being rather expensive, and merchant services providers often require that you agree to a long-term contract with a hefty early termination fee in case you close your account before the contract expires. As a result, traditional merchant accounts tend to be expensive, especially for a small business that’s trying to minimize their expenses.

In recent years, an alternative has become available that lowers costs for small businesses while still providing most of the essential features available with a full-service merchant account. Payment service providers (PSPs) allow you to accept credit and debit card transactions without a traditional merchant account. PSPs such as Square (see our review) and PayPal (see our review) have revolutionized the processing industry by offering simple, flat-rate pricing, no fees for basic services, and month-to-month billing that eliminates long-term contracts. They’re able to do this by aggregating accounts together, so you won’t have a unique merchant identification number for your business. PSP accounts are easier to set up, but they’re also vulnerable to sudden account freezes or terminations which can make them a risky proposition for businesses that depend on being able to accept cards without interruption.

Cheapest & Easiest Ways To Accept Credit Cards Without A Merchant Account

There are now quite a few well-known PSPs on the market, each one specializing in providing credit card processing services to particular segments of the business community. Here’s a brief overview of each of the most popular options:

Square:

This is the best all-in-one solution for low-volume users, especially those in the retail sector. Square also supports eCommerce businesses, but doesn’t have quite as many features for online enterprises as its competitors. Square features a mobile processing system that uses a new, EMV-compliant card reader, no monthly fees, month-to-month billing, and a simple flat-rate pricing system that’s more affordable for a small business than a traditional merchant account. See our review for complete details.

Shopify:

This is the best option for eCommerce merchants looking to easily set up a fully-featured webstore. While Shopify has better eCommerce tools than Square, it’s also more expensive. Pricing starts at $29.00 per month for the Basic Shopify Plan, with a flat-rate processing fee of 2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction. Billing is month-to-month, but you can receive a discount if you pay for a year (or two) in advance. See our review for more specifics.

 

PayPal:

Easily the oldest and best-known option for online credit card acceptance, PayPal is now available for retail merchants also. While a standard PayPal account comes with no monthly fee, you’ll have to pay $30.00 per month for the PayPal Payments Pro Plan. This upgraded plan includes a virtual terminal and a hosted payments page. PayPal uses a flat-rate pricing plan for processing fees that’s nearly identical to what Square charges. See our review for details about PayPal’s services.

Stripe Payments:

Stripe logo

Very tech-oriented, Stripe only supports eCommerce businesses. They don’t charge any monthly fees and have no long-term contracts. All transactions are processed at a fixed rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. Stripe offers a huge library of APIs that allow you to customize your eCommerce website just about any way you like. However, utilizing these features will require either extensive coding experience or the services of a developer. Check out our full review for more details about what Stripe has to offer.

Braintree Payment Solutions:

Braintree Payment Solutions logo

Another eCommerce-only provider, Braintree is very similar to Stripe in terms of features and pricing. The primary distinction is that, unlike Stripe, Braintree is a direct processor. This translates to increased account stability, which is very important for an online business where credit and debit cards are just about the only forms of payment you can accept. Braintree charges 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, but doesn’t require a monthly fee or a long-term contract. They also offer a variety of developer tools to help you customize your website any way you like. For more details, check out our complete review.

When & How To Set Up A Merchant Account

With so many low-cost alternatives available, you may be wondering why you would ever consider the added expense and complication of a full-service merchant account. The primary reason that merchant accounts are still alive and well today is that for many businesses the overall cost of a merchant account is actually lower – sometimes much lower – than using a payment services provider. How is this possible? It primarily comes down to processing rates and how your monthly volume and average ticket size affect them. With a full-service merchant account, you can obtain interchange-plus processing rates that are significantly lower than the flat rates charged by PSPs. Providers such as Square (see our review) have to charge an inflated processing rate to pay for all the ancillary services they aren’t charging you for with a monthly fee. A traditional merchant account provider bills for those services separately, so they can afford to offer a lower per-transaction markup.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to determine the point at which it’s more cost-effective to upgrade to a full-service merchant account. The primary factor you’ll want to look at is your monthly processing volume. Your average ticket size is also important, but to a lesser extent. We’ve seen providers recommend merchant accounts for businesses processing anywhere from $1500 to $10,000 per month at a minimum, and sometimes even more. Where to draw the line will ultimately depend on the unique needs of your business, and what options for upgrading are available to you. You’ll want to compare your current processing costs with an estimate based on a quote from a merchant account provider to see which option is cheaper. Be sure to factor in all the hidden costs that come with merchant accounts. You can usually uncover these in the fine print of your proposed contract.

For more, see our complete guide to credit card processing rates and fees.

Account stability is also an important factor. With a PSP, a single unusually high transaction can be enough to have your account suspended or even terminated. For some businesses, particularly eCommerce merchants, this can be catastrophic. While this situation can still happen with a traditional merchant account also, it’s far less likely and you’ll have better access to customer service to get your account working again if it does occur.

Setting up an account with a PSP is usually very easy. Most PSPs have online application forms that you can fill out and submit without ever having to talk to a sales agent. If you need a card reader, your PSP will mail it to you. Account activation is usually also accomplished online.

Traditional merchant accounts are more complicated to set up. You’ll need to contact the sales team at the provider you’re interested in and negotiate the terms of your agreement. There’s also a lot more paperwork, although some providers now offer you the opportunity to complete your merchant application online. Beware that automation can sometimes work against you when setting up a merchant account, as some sales agents are now using tablet devices to get your electronic signature. This practice often locks you into a long-term contract before you’ve had any chance to review your contract terms and conditions. Insist on a paper copy of all contract documents and study them very carefully before you sign anything. For some suggestions on making this process go more smoothly, please see our article How to Negotiate the Perfect Credit Card Processing Deal.

How To Accept In-Store Credit Card Payments

For retail merchants, you’re going to need at least one credit card machine per location. These days, you have a choice between a traditional countertop credit card terminal and a point of sale (POS) system. Countertop terminals can process transactions, but most models offer little or no other functionality. A POS system, on the other hand, can handle things like inventory management, employee scheduling, and a host of other features to help you run your business. Naturally, POS systems cost more than most countertop terminals, although tablet-based systems such as ShopKeep (see our review) are more affordable (and mobile) than a standalone POS terminal.

Whatever type of equipment you decide to purchase, make sure it’s EMV-compatible. EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) is now the standard method for accepting credit and debit cards in the United States, and since the EMV liability shift in October 2015, you can be held responsible for a fraudulent transaction if you accept an EMV-enabled card using the magstripe instead of the chip. EMV-compatible terminals are widely available and less expensive than ever. With most customers now carrying EMV cards, there’s really no good reason to continue using a magstripe-only card reader.

If you want the latest and greatest in card acceptance technology, it’s pretty easy to find a terminal or POS system that accepts NFC-based payment methods. NFC stands for near-field communications, and it’s found on payment systems such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. NFC technology is built into most modern smartphones, tablets, and even smartwatches. While it hasn’t seen widespread adoption by the general public yet, it’s gaining in use as more people become aware of its availability and convenience.

Regardless of what type of terminal or POS system you decide to get for your business, we highly encourage you to buy your equipment outright rather than signing up for a lease. Equipment leasing is still being pushed by sales agents, who cite misleading arguments about the low up-front cost and the possibility of writing off the lease payments on your taxes. While these arguments are technically true, they mask the reality that leasing a terminal or POS system will cost you far more in the long run than buying. Equipment leases typically come with four-year contracts that are completely noncancelable. The monthly lease payments will, over the term of the lease, far exceed the cost to simply buy the equipment. Adding insult to injury, you won’t even own your equipment when the lease finally expires. Instead, you’ll either have to continue making monthly lease payments or buy the equipment (often at an inflated price). For more details on why leasing is such a bad idea, see our article Why You Shouldn’t Lease A Credit Card Machine.

How To Accept Credit Card Payments Online

If your business is eCommerce-only, you’ll have it a little easier because you won’t need a credit card terminal or POS system. However, you will need either a payment gateway or at least a virtual terminal to accept payments from your customers. A virtual terminal is simply a software application that turns your computer into a credit card terminal. Mail order and telephone order businesses use them to enter their customers’ credit card data manually. They can also be combined with a card reader (usually USB-connected) to accept card-present transactions. For retail merchants, a virtual terminal can replace a dedicated countertop terminal if you add a card reader. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen many EMV-capable card readers that are compatible with virtual terminals yet.

A payment gateway is a web-based software service that connects your eCommerce website with your processor’s payment networks. Payment gateways allow customers to enter credit card data from wherever they are, as long as they have access to the internet. Most merchant services providers charge a monthly fee (usually around $25.00) for the use of a payment gateway. You might also have to pay an additional $0.05 – $0.10 per transaction for the use of the gateway in some cases. Authorize.Net (see our review) is one of the most popular payment gateway providers, but there are many others today as well. Many of the larger processors now offer their own proprietary gateways that include the same security and ease-of-use features that you’d find in a more well-known gateway. For more information on payment gateways, see our article The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway.

Depending on how many products you sell on your website and the options you want to give your customers, you may or may not need to use an online shopping cart in conjunction with your payment gateway. Shopping carts allow you to feature products, conduct secure transactions online, and perform a variety of other functions related to running your business. You’ll want to ensure that your chosen shopping cart is compatible with your payment gateway before you set up your site. Most of the popular shopping carts today are compatible with almost all of the more well-known payment gateways. For more information on online shopping carts, see our article Shopping Carts 101: How to Choose a Shopping Cart for Your Business.

How To Accept Credit Card Payments With Your Mobile Phone

When Square (see our review) first introduced their original card reader in 2009, it was revolutionary. For the first time, merchants could accept credit or debit cards using their smartphones or tablets. Square was (and still is) a great choice for very small businesses, startups, and merchants who operate seasonally. Naturally, they’ve spawned a lot of competitors, and today almost all merchant services providers offer some type of mobile payment system.

Visit Square

These systems inevitably include both an app for your smart device and a card reader. Unfortunately, many of the apps are very basic and don’t offer the depth of features that Square does. Card readers have lagged behind current technology, with many providers still offering magstripe-only readers. The current trend among smartphone manufacturers to remove the headphone jack has also caused problems, as most mobile card readers use a plug that fits into the jack to connect to the device. Today, Square and a few other providers now offer upgraded card readers that feature both EMV compatibility and Bluetooth connectivity. These card readers are significantly more expensive than the older models, but they’re still cheaper than a traditional countertop terminal. For businesses that need to accept transactions out in the field, they’re lighter and far less costly than wireless terminals, which usually run at least twice as much as their wired brethren and require a separate wireless data plan. For more information on mobile payment systems, please see our article on why accepting credit cards with your phone is the easiest option.

Can You Accept Credit Card Payments For Free?

Whether you ultimately use a PSP or a traditional merchant account, you’re still going to pay several percent from every sale to cover your processing costs. While there are many ways to get this percentage down to a reasonable level and avoid overpaying, at some point you’re going to ask yourself why you have to pay for processing instead of your customers. After all, they’re the ones who consciously choose to pay with credit and debit cards rather than cash or a paper check. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to transfer this expense to your customers rather than having it come out of your profits?

In fact, there is a way to do this. Transferring the cost of processing onto your customers, also known as surcharging, is allowed in 41 states. However, the practice is currently going through a series of legal challenges that will ultimately either lead to it being banned or expanded into all jurisdictions. With surcharging, your processor will calculate the processing charge when a transaction is submitted for approval and add it to your customer’s bill.

Needless to say, your customers aren’t going to like unexpectedly having a few percentage points added to their bill just for using a credit card. For this reason, surcharging isn’t popular with most merchants, and you’ll usually only encounter it in certain industries where it’s become an accepted practice, such as taxi cabs and busses. For most merchants, it’s much easier to “adjust” your prices to cover your anticipated processing costs rather than passing those costs directly onto your customers. For a more in-depth look at surcharging, check out our article The Truth Behind Free Credit Card Processing.

How To Avoid Account Terminations & Funding Holds

Once you’ve got your merchant account up and running, you’ll naturally want it to be available and fully functional every day. While this isn’t normally a problem, account holds, freezes, and terminations sometimes occur. You’ll want to understand how this happens, and what you can do to prevent it from happening to you.

An account hold usually occurs when a single transaction is held up, and you don’t receive the funds you were expecting. In most cases, your processor’s risk department has flagged the transaction as suspicious, and you won’t get your funds until they can investigate and confirm that the transaction is legitimate. A single transaction that’s for much more money than your average ticket size is most likely to trigger a hold. Fortunately, you should still be able to process other transactions while the matter is being resolved.

This isn’t the case with an account freeze, unfortunately. Your processor can and will freeze your account – preventing you from getting paid for previous transactions or processing new ones – if fraud is suspected that would affect your entire account. While the wait can be excruciating, account freezes are usually temporary unless your processor decides to terminate your account.

As the name implies, an account termination is final. Your account is shut down, and you won’t be able to reopen it. The risk of an account termination is higher with a PSP than a traditional merchant account. Account terminations usually occur when your processor determines that you’ve misrepresented your business and the type of goods you’re selling. It doesn’t matter if this was intentional or just an honest mistake on your part. If your business type is one that usually falls into the high-risk category, save yourself the aggravation and get a high-risk merchant account from a provider who specializes in these kinds of accounts. It will cost you more, but you’ll have a much more stable account. For more information on the various hiccups that can affect your merchant account, please see our article How to Avoid Merchant Account Holds, Freezes, and Terminations.

Final Thoughts

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking that merchant accounts and credit card processing are pretty complicated. You’re right! There’s a lot to know, and unfortunately, there’s also a lot of misinformation out there. The credit card processing industry has a lousy reputation for misleading sales practices, high costs, hidden charges, and long-term contracts that are very difficult to get out of. The main reason that PSPs like Square (see our review) have become so popular is that they offer a simpler, more transparent alternative to traditional merchant account providers, both in terms of costs and contract requirements.

For many businesses, however, Square can actually be more expensive than signing up for a traditional merchant account, even when factoring in the various account fees and the cost of buying processing equipment. While we heartily recommend Square for very small businesses and startups, realize that if your business grows large enough, you’ll eventually want to switch to a full-service merchant account. You’ll enjoy lower costs, improved account stability and (hopefully) better customer support. PayPal is also a great choice for eCommerce businesses that are just starting out. Again, if your business grows large enough, a full-service merchant account with a fully-featured payment gateway will be a better choice.

Note that this article only provides a relatively brief overview of the significant factors that affect credit card processing for small businesses. For more information, please take a look at the other articles we’ve linked to above for a deeper dive into subjects you aren’t already familiar with. For an overview of several highly recommended providers, please see our article The 5 Best Small Business Credit Card Processing Companies. You can also compare several excellent providers side-by-side using our Merchant Account Comparison Chart.

The post How To Accept Credit Card Payments For Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Credit Card Processing Apps For Mobile And Service Businesses

mobile-card-payment-app-service

Being able to take payments on the go without having to jump through five million hoops is crucial for mobile businesses, whether you’re a service business that visits customers at home or just a small business without a permanent storefront. That’s where credit card processing apps come in: Combining integrated payments and feature-rich POS systems that run on smartphones and tablets, they’re designed to operate anywhere you can get a cellular or Wi-Fi signal.

We took a look at the most promising credit card processing apps for mobile and service businesses, comparing their features as well as their processing rates. Then, we compiled the best options into a list!

Choosing the Best App Features for Mobile & Service Businesses

If your business is primarily service-based or you tend to do more pop-up sales and events than deal with retail storefronts, you probably don’t need (or want) a whole lot of hardware. What you do need is an EMV-friendly reader and a smartphone or tablet to run the system from.

We used two primary criteria in deciding this list: first, the product has to have integrated payment processing, and the app must be available on a tablet (preferably a smartphone as well).

While hardware may not be a priority, knowing which systems can work as a countertop system as well as mobile is helpful. Invoicing, virtual terminals, solid sales tax management, and decent item libraries were also factors. Take a look at our comprehensive comparison chart to figure out which system might work best for your particular needs.

Square for retail review logo imageSquare PayPal Here Shopify Payline Mobile SumUp
BASICS
Integrated Processing Yes Yes Yes (Other options available) Yes Yes
Processing Rates (for most swiped/dipped transactions) 2.75% 2.70% 2.70% Interchange + 0.5% or 0.3% 2.75%
Monthly Fee $0 $0 Plans start at $9/month $0 / $9.95 $0
Number of Devices Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 1
Tablet Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple, Android Apple, Android
Smartphone Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple, Android Apple, Android
Email/SMS Receipts Email/SMS Email/SMS Email Only Yes Email/SMS
Receipt Printer Connectivity Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless Bluetooth, USB, LAN No Bluetooth, LAN
Cash Drawer Connectivity Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity) Yes (iPad Only, with Printer Connectivity) No Yes (with Printer Connectivity)
FEATURES
Split Tender Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Offline Processing Mode Yes No Very Limited No No
Full and Partial Returns Yes Yes Yes (including store credit) Yes Full Only
Sub-User/Employee Accounts Yes (monthly fee) Yes (free) Yes (PINS/accounts) Yes Yes (Limited)
Discounts by $ or % Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Tipping by $ or % Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Multiple Tax Rates Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Adjust Tax Rates In-App Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Customizable Receipts Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Generate Invoices Yes Yes Yes No No
Virtual Terminal Yes Yes (monthly fee) No Yes Yes
INVENTORY
Bulk Item Upload Yes No Yes No No
Item Counts Yes No Yes No No
Item Variants Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Item Add-ons Yes Yes No No No
Item Categories Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Item Photo Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Create Item from App or Dashboard Yes Yes Yes Yes No (App Only)

You can check out our reviews of each service for more information about features, user experience, and more.

Square

Square business model and mobile credit card processingSquare made its name with a mobile processing service that anyone could use, and while the company is definitely catering to larger entities these days, small and mobile businesses still make up a good portion of Square’s merchants. Square’s totally free processing app makes it easy to create an item library of physical products as well as services.

Square’s tax rate settings are easily adjustable from within the mobile app and you can pre-program different rates if you find yourself flipping between different locations often.

In addition, Square offers invoicing, recurring invoicing/storing cards on file, and a free virtual terminal. You can even integrate Square’s appointment booking software seamlessly.

Square will charge you 2.75% per swiped transaction, but invoicing will run you 2.9% + $0.30, and virtual terminal transactions will cost you 3.5% + $0.15.

PayPal Here

PayPal Here review: One of the top Square alternativesPayPal Here is another staple of mobile businesses with a free mobile app. PayPal has the advantage of massive eCommerce support as well as a solid mPOS so you can seamlessly blend different aspects of your business. Plus, your funds are available almost instantly in your PayPal account, and with the PayPal debit card, you can spend them anywhere. The free mobile app isn’t quite as feature-rich as Square’s, but it’s highly capable.

You’ll also find PayPal Here’s tax settings are adjustable within the app and you can easily accommodate different sales tax rates. Like Square, you get free in-app invoicing. However, if you are looking for a virtual terminal or recurring billing, they’re going to run you an additional $30 and $10 per month, respectively, which is a fairly high price tag.

You’ll pay 2.7% per transaction in the app, whereas invoices will run you 2.9% + $0.30. Virtual terminal transactions (not counting the monthly fee) cost 3.1% + $0.15.

Shopify

Shopify started out as just an eCommerce offering but it’s expanded into a multi-channel solution for business. You can get Shopify’s Point of Sale app for as little as $9/month with the Lite plan, or you can upgrade to a countertop-friendly version with the Retail package, and even add on integrations for appointment booking. However, if you don’t /need/ a receipt printer or cash drawer and don’t sell through your own site online, the Lite plan will absolutely get you through.

Shopify isn’t the most advanced credit card processing app out there — for example, it doesn’t support tipping — but overall it has most of the features mobile and service-based businesses need, and its integration with the eCommerce tools is definitely an asset. It even allows invoicing.

Shopify allows you to set a tax rate for a shop location and create overrides and exemptions. One thing I do like that I don’t often see in these sorts of apps is tax rates based on GPS location, which eases the burden on you considerably.

For Shopify Payments (the default processing method), you’re going to pay 2.7% per transaction to start out, though if you opt for the higher-tiered plans you’ll see some savings.

Payline Mobile

Payline is one of our favorite merchant account providers, and we like their mobile solution because it’s available independently of the other offerings and suitable for low-volume businesses, which isn’t common with traditional merchant accounts.

The app is overall solid, with inventory features, tipping, and discounts. While there’s no invoicing feature, the mobile plans do offer access to a virtual terminal. The app is also designed for mobile use only: it doesn’t support retail/countertop processing features like cash drawers or receipt printers. However, Payline supports multiple tax rates for different items as well as a master tax rate for checkout, depending on your needs.

Payline’s mobile products offer interchange-plus pricing, too: the Start plan (formerly Spark Plan) will charge you 0.5% over interchange plus $0.20 per transaction with no monthly fee; the Surge plan charges a 0.3% markup plus $0.20, with a $9.95 monthly fee. The $0.20 per-transaction fee is a little high, but doesn’t put Payline Mobile in the realm of unreasonable pricing. However, it does mean businesses with larger ticket sizes will feel the effects of that per-transaction fee less.

Spark Pay

Capital One’s mobile processing solution Spark Pay is part of the larger “Spark” line of businesses solutions, which includes a fairly advanced online store. However, despite that, Spark Pay the mobile app stands alone, with no integrations.

It has all the major features a merchant would need — tipping, custom discounts, an item library, and support for a countertop setup. Unfortunately, there’s no invoicing, and Spark Pay’s virtual terminal is only in beta mode. You can only set one tax rate in the app as well. However, the major shortcoming is simply that while Spark Pay does offer EMV terminals, there’s not currently an EMV-compliant mobile reader, something that all the other options here do offer.

That said, Spark Pay does offer great customer service, and its pricing is competitive. On the Go plan, there’s no monthly fee and transactions cost 2.65% + $0.05. The Pro plan has a $19 monthly fee, but your rates drop to 1.99% + $0.05.

SumUp

SumUp has been operating in Europe for several years now, but it’s only reached the US in the past year, which definitely makes it the newcomer. The app is overall solid, though more limited than the others on this list.

You do get a free mobile app and free virtual terminal, as well as a fairly unique tool: SMS payments where customers can complete a transaction by opening a link sent through text message.

However, you can only process on one device at a time, so while you can create sub-user accounts, there’s not much of a benefit. SumUp does support multiple tax rates, but tax rates can’t be deleted when they are associated with an item. You’ll have to delete the item first.

The lack of discounts and the ability to make some changes through the dashboard are a bit disappointing — but the fact that you can manage everything from within the app is a major improvement over a platform like Clover Go, which requires you to make many adjustments in the web dashboard.

There are no recurring billing or card-on-file options, though, and no invoicing, either. That said, SumUp charges a simple 2.75% per transaction, and 2.9% + $0.15 for virtual terminal and SMS payments, with no monthly fee.

Final Thoughts

I’m usually pretty hesitant to recommend one product above all others without consideration of the differences from one business to the next. And that’s true here. If you really only have simple needs, any of the options on this list will serve you well. As your needs get more advanced, it’s definitely worth looking at more advanced setups such as Square or PayPal Here. And as always, the price is a major consideration. Make sure you run the numbers and are confident the rates you will pay are competitive.

The good news is that all of these services have a no-monthly-fee option so you can try them out with no risk. I encourage you to check out our complete reviews of any credit card processing app you’re interested in pursuing. And if you have questions, I encourage you to reach out. We’re always here to help, so feel free to leave us a comment!

The post The Best Credit Card Processing Apps For Mobile And Service Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Essential Help Guide To Selecting An Ecommerce Platform

Choosing An Ecommerce Platform

Overwhelmed attempting to choose just how to produce your web store?

Wish someone would explain in plain British what all of the options to really run your web store?

I authored this glorious help guide to selecting an ecommerce platforms in 2012. But a great deal has altered previously four years. Online storeowners have better options in virtually every respect.

However that doesn&#8217t result in the choice less daunting. Most ecommerce companies sell with features and cost. But like purchasing a house &#8211 cost featuring don’t tell the entire story.

They don&#8217t let you know if miracle traffic bot is a great choice for your store. There’s no such factor because the &#8220best ecommerce platform&#8221 or even the &#8220best ecommerce software.&#8221 There&#8217s only the best option according to your objectives, sources and preferences.

Here&#8217s my guide &#8211 updated for 2016 &#8211 to what you ought to know to create an educated choice when selecting a ecommerce software for the online shop &#8211 to be able to get the best choice for your store.

Quick Aside &#8211 if you would like something simple and quick, I invest these 4 elements right into a Buzzfeed style Ecommerce Platform Quiz. You should check it here. Otherwise, let&#8217s continue reading!

Disclosure &#8211 I receive referral charges from companies pointed out on this web site. All data and opinion is dependant on my experience like a having to pay customer or consultant to some having to pay customer.

What You Ought To Know Before Selecting Ecommerce Software

Much like looking for a house, vehicle or business location &#8211 you need to take a look at what you’re searching for, what you would like, the thing you need and just what the tradeoffs are of all your alternatives.

Obtaining The Features You’ll Need

In internet marketing&#8217s core &#8211 &#8220ecommerce&#8221 software is only a bundle of very specific website features. They’re &#8211

  • Listing &amp displaying products.
  • Allowing people to place products inside a shopping cart software.
  • Allowing people to make an order using the products within their shopping cart software.
  • Collecting payment safely for that order.
  • Supplying the storeowner with order information.

But usually you&#8217ll want features far above. You may want design features, better security, marketing tools, and perhaps the opportunity to sync together with your inventory system.

Or otherwise &#8211 you may have just one product and wish ultimate convenience and cheapest cost.

However that&#8217s the purpose &#8211 you will see tradeoffs that might or might not matter. The finish goal would be to figure the thing you need, what you would like &#8211 and what you would like to cover individuals features.

Evaluating Core Tradeoffs

The very first, and many important, tradeoff is between maximum convenience and maximum control. When you choose to, we are able to start searching at tradeoffs among different choices.

The tradeoff between convenience and control is typical in software. Software becomes &#8220easier&#8221 if this has less options. The more options a person has &#8211 the less convenient software becomes.

Consider it like buying somewhere to reside.

The complete easiest place is hotels. It&#8217s safe and furnished with room service. But could you repaint the area? Not a chance.

Alternatively extreme is raw land. You’ve limitless control to complete anything you want. But could it be convenient? Not a chance.

And in the centre, you’ve got a mix. A condo has some freedom &#8211 however, you have landlord. A flat has more freedom&#8230but you’ve got a HOA and shared property.

A home has more freedom&#8230but you’ve more responsibility and also you suffer from a current building.

Here&#8217s a picture as one example of &#8211

Ecommerce Real Estate Tradeoffs

Now that you’ve got a feeling of the thing you need and a feeling of the main tradeoffs &#8211 let&#8217s take a look at some specific providers to help narrow your research.

Ecommerce Platform Choices

Aside &#8211 like every simplification, this breakdown removes some nuance. But, I believe the general tradeoff stands up well. Here&#8217s an array of specific providers for every bucket together with the things they’re doing well and what you need to search for.

100% Convenience // % Control

This area of the spectrum enables you to definitely list your product or service and take orders and payment. But you’ll be able to control hardly any of the customers&#8217 experience. You’re also unlikely to possess your personal website name or perhaps your own brand.

However, you usually can list your product or service without any complications &#8211 in most cases without any upfront charges. Furthermore, normally the software provider may also provide customers. It&#8217ll be considered a place where customers arrived at the woking platform and discover you &#8211 which means you (ideally) need to do less marketing.

Aside &#8211 observe that many storeowners commence with these platforms and keep a name in it even after they&#8217ve launched an outlet on another platform.

Amazon . com

Amazon Seller

Despite the fact that Amazon . com did away using their Online Store program &#8211 you may still sell on Amazon . com. The register process is easy and economical. You control hardly any except your products as well as your cost however, you also make use of Amazon . com&#8217s enormous audience. Browse the Amazon . com Sellers program here.

eBay

eBay may be the original ecommerce marketplace. While they don&#8217t possess the hip-liness of the couple of years back, they permit a really convenient platform for online storeowners. And like Amazon . com, they are able to bring lots of people to your page as you take presctiption their platform. Take a look at eBay here&#8230

Etsy

Etsy

Etsy is restricted to artisans instead of traders however they make setting ready to go an outlet very simple. You are able to personalize your page somewhat &#8211 but it’s and try to is going to be &#8220an Etsy page&#8221 rather that the store. Take a look at Etsy here&#8230

70% Convenience // 30% Control

Next around the spectrum are providers that provide additional control &#8211 particularly with getting your personal website name. However, as an apartment, you’re still living on another person&#8217s space and also have to ultimately play inside their rules.

Squarespace

Squarespace

Squarespace is best-noted for enabling you to build websites. But &#8211 they’ve ecommerce functionality too. They provide some versatility with limits. You could have ecommerce functionality seamlessly built-into an internet site.

However, Squarespace doesn’t have lots of advanced marketing tools and places &#8220soft&#8221 limits on you skill together with your website. I reviewed Squarespace here. You should check out Squarespace here.

Weebly

Weebly

Weebly is really a direct competitor to Squarespace and it has an identical setup. You are able to change your account to incorporate ecommerce functionality. There is a decent set of features with drag functionality too.

But like Squarespace, they ultimately limit many advanced ecommerce features that some growing storeowners will need. I reviewed Weebly here. You should check out Weebly here&#8230

PayPal Button

PayPal Buy Button

If you have an internet site, but recycle for cash a couple of products there’s also &#8220bolt-on&#8221 solutions that offer ordering and payment functionality.

PayPal has already established a Buy Now button for some time. Shopify, which is pointed out within the 50% // 50% section, offers a control button for purchasers using only their inventory/repayment plan.

All of these permit you to paste a snippet of code in your existing website which reroutes your clients through their payment systems.

It&#8217s super-convenient and offers control button for you personally (since it is by yourself website). However, additionally you don&#8217t control the checkout experience. You can also&#8217t build out a shopping cart software or perhaps a true product catalog.

50% Convenience // 50% Control

This group (usually referred to as &#8220hosted ecommerce platforms&#8221) provides just as much control as possible have before you need your personal server. The greatest advantage here is you have customer care, seamless &#8220onboarding&#8221 and advanced tools.

However, you have to abide by the company&#8217s rules &#8211 plus they could possibly get a little pricey.

Managing a store using these providers is much like having a condominium or leasing a store inside a mall. The plumbing and &#8220big stuff&#8221 is taken proper care of. You are able to virtually do what you would like because you do fully own your home. However, you&#8217re likely to encounter condo association rules and charges.

Shopify

Shopify

Shopify is easily the most well-known located ecommerce platform. I reviewed Shopify here. There is a very robust product having a large application store together with advanced marketing and ecommerce tools.

They&#8217re affordable and also have the infrastructure for small shops to worldwide brands. They likewise have features for retailers who sell both on and offline. However &#8211 you won&#8217t have root server use of make any change imaginable. Take a look at Shopify here&#8230

BigCommerce

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is Shopify&#8217s smaller sized direct competitor. I reviewed BigCommerce here. They’re focused on online-only retailers than Shopify.

Their setup is another little more intuitive than Shopify and they’ve a strong set of features &#8211 even when their application and theme store is smaller sized. Like Shopify, they are doing have limits like a located ecommerce platform. Take a look at BigCommerce here&#8230

Volusion

Volusion

Volusion is yet another well-known located ecommerce platform. I reviewed Volusion here. There is a large following among designers and developers with a few notable features.

However, they likewise have additional parameters and additional charges when compared with Shopify / BigCommerce. Take a look at Volusion here&#8230

30% Convenience // 70% Control

Within this group, we encounter the field of running your personal website by yourself server. It’s not as complicated or as daunting as it might seem. Buying hosting implies that, yes, you possess an additional item to bother with.

However, you’ve considerably additional control over your costs as well as your features.

Options within this group are just like having a house. You have the effect of everything, but you may also do anything you like. You will find the option to call a plumber or take proper care of the issue yourself. You can include on, remove or change anything. Really the only constraint is the budget.

Self-Located WordPress

WordPress

WordPress is easily the most versatile website software on the web. You can also add functionality into it through &#8220plugins&#8221 &#8211 including ecommerce functionality.

I authored a complete guide on creating an ecommerce website with WordPress + WooCommerce here. It&#8217s simple to install and employ (for beginners). It may be as cheap or as costly as you would like so that it is. Take a look at my guide here&#8230

Magento

Magento

Magento is among the most used ecommerce platforms available. It&#8217s free for small stores, but compensated for enterprise customers (like North Face).

It’s a lot of features &#8211 but in my opinion, it requires a great designer/programmer to obtain the most from it. They provide a little compensated hosting plan where use a &#8220lite&#8221 form of this program. Take a look at Magento here&#8230

Other &#8220Plugin&#8221 Shopping Carts

There’s a myriad other &#8220bolt-on&#8221 solutions that you could increase a current website. These solutions are dying out simply because they don&#8217t possess the ease of the PayPal button plus they still don&#8217t integrate completely to your existing website.

That stated, that you can do anything you want together. Here&#8217s a few options.

OpenCart is probably the simplest (that&#8217s negative and positive) of all of the shopping carts. It&#8217s free, and it is a course that you simply install in your hosting company. It&#8217s based on a wide open-source community, meaning it will likely be around as lengthy as people lead. It’s lots of easy-to-implement templates for that actual website.

Zen Cart is among the earliest and well-supported eCommerce platforms on the web. It&#8217s free, and it has plenty of features, but can also be viewed as quite complicated for somebody without any programming experience.

% Convenience // 100% Control

What for those who have an enormous budget and incredibly specific needs? Well, which will mean getting a developer (or learning code yourself) and leasing a passionate server.

Within our example &#8211 you&#8217ll buy land and building even your home on your own. This is actually the route of some ecommerce startups that possess a specific set of features and vision in your mind. Additionally towards the cost, you&#8217ll in addition have a myriad other factors. However this continues to be a route some companies take.

It&#8217s common in the Enterprise ecommerce level, though even at this level, you’ve still got choices &amp tradeoffs to create.

Next Steps

  1. Define what you’re searching for.
  2. Consider what tradeoffs you are prepared to make.
  3. Evaluate specific providers.
  4. Perform a free trial.
  5. Launch your store!

Make sure to take a look at my ecommerce quiz which supports sort your choices.

Once you launch your store, take a look at my marketing guide for ecommerce websites here.

The publish Essential Help Guide To Selecting An Ecommerce Platform made an appearance first on ShivarWeb.

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PayPal Versus Credit Card Merchant Account

Whenever you&#8217re just beginning a company, or switch from cash-simply to also accepting charge cards, you have to think about your payment processor. There&#8217s an abundance of possibilities, however your narrow your search will most likely include a free account and also the juggernaut of commerce, PayPal.

Surely they&#8217re not every that different, could they be? Isn&#8217t PayPal yet another credit card merchant account provider?

Really&#8230 no. PayPal isn&#8217t a free account provider. It&#8217s another-party processor, also it aggregates all its seller accounts into one large credit card merchant account. This can be a not unusual practice, and something that&#8217s utilized by Square and Stripe (which forces solutions for example Shopify Payments). Although it&#8217s all completely above-board, aggregating does have a tendency to result in a greater quantity of risk for retailers.

PayPal doesn&#8217t spend just as much time vetting applicants as a free account provider does. Which means it&#8217s more prone to terminate your bank account later, once the risk department flags something as high-risk or notes a suspicious transaction. It&#8217s this practice (together with PayPal&#8217s status because the default eBay payment option) that have a tendency to leave lots of users very unhappy.

A free account is exclusive for you. Whenever you apply, the organization&#8217s underwriting department will review your industry, your processing history (or no), your individual credit, your company&#8217 creditworthiness, along with other factors. The procedure isn&#8217t as complicated as it was once simply a couple of years back, but when compared with third-party aggregators such as PayPal, it&#8217s much more intensive.

During theory a free account will result in greater stability, not every merchant services are produced equal &#8212 not with a lengthy shot. Your processing rates, your car loan terms, the additional services you receive &#8212 even the caliber of the client give you support get &#8212 will be different pretty considerably.

However, there’s a method to lessen the inconsistencies you may encounter: choose a trustworthy processor. While you still see some variance in car loan terms and also the extra services you can get, you&#8217ll see much more consistency in prices terms and-quality customer care. Frequently, which comes by means of a passionate account representative who’s your go-to make contact with.

It&#8217s time for you to dive in to the many variations you&#8217ll encounter within the Paypal versus. credit card merchant account debate. However, please be aware that our claims about merchant services are generalized and according to probably the most affordable and many ethical credit card merchant account providers available.

You should check out our full PayPal review here, or compare our top-rated merchant services here.

PayPal versus. Credit Card Merchant Account: Cost

Wooden Blocks with the text: Fees

The very first factor many retailers consider charge card processing (and even most services) is, &#8220how expensive is this likely to require me to pay?&#8221 &#8212 that is a wholly reasonable and incredibly real question to inquire about.

PayPal has generated its status (a minimum of among retailers) like a provider of obvious, transparent, flat-rate prices:

  • Online transactions: 2.9% + $.30
  • Swiped transaction: 2.7%
  • Keyed transactions: 3.5% + $.15
  •  Invoices: 2.9% + $.30

That&#8217s it, for that fundamental package. But PayPal also provides nonprofit and volume reduced prices for prices, along with a micro-transaction repayment plan that may really save retailers cash on transactions which are under $5 typically.

There aren’t any PCI compliance charges with no statement charges. PayPal does assess a charge for chargebacks, and so will many credit card merchant account providers. However, beyond that, you won&#8217t encounter any hidden costs

However, credit card merchant account prices varies considerably. The less-trustworthy processors frequently provide a tiered (or &#8220qualified&#8221) prices plan. Tiered prices plans are confusing and hard to check due to massive inconsistency in one processor to another.

A high-tier credit card merchant account provider will offer you flat-rate processing or perhaps an interchange-plus plan. Interchange-plus may be the defacto standard for processing rates since it&#8217s so transparent. Additionally towards the interchange charges assessed through the card systems, your processor charges you a markup &#8212 a portion from the transaction in addition to a flat per-transaction fee (between $.05 and $.30 usually). Interchange plus may be the easiest prices plan to create direct comparisons for.

It’s also important to note that some credit card merchant account providers will also assess monthly charges, PCI compliance charges, statement charges, along with other charges that add up with time and supplment your total cost. Actually, monthly charges could eat away at any savings which come from the lower processing rate. So please think about these costs in deciding which processor offers the most cost effective solution for you personally.

A lot of our favorite credit card merchant account providers by having an interchange-plus plan include:

  • Dharma A Merchant Account
  • Helcim
  • PayJunction (particularly, PayJunction provides extensive eCommerce tools)
  • CDG Commerce

Some of the best-rated processors that provide membership packages with flat monthly charges include:

  • Payment Depot
  • Fattmerchant

Want to understand more about charge card processing rates? Take a look at our articles, How Much In The Event You Purchase Charge Card Processing?

Value-Added Services

Here&#8217s where thinking about cost could possibly get tricky when searching at PayPal versus. a free account. Some merchant providers may have optional services that you could add-on (just like an eCommerce suite, an mPOS application, an online terminal or recurring billing). So while evaluating processing rates is a great start, you have to consider the need for these extra services. Prices varies significantly, from &#8220absolutely free&#8221 to $80 or even more monthly.

PayPal provides a virtual terminal and located payment page ($30/month) in addition to recurring billing ($10/month). Beyond that, most anything else PayPal offers at no additional charge, including its mPOS. It&#8217s also important to note that PayPal has partnerships having a large range of software vendors too, and also you might be able to make the most of special promotions every so often.

One factor you will be thinking about is the need for customer support. It&#8217s not a secret that PayPal&#8217s services are, well, spotty at the best. As well as in theory, a trustworthy credit card merchant account provider will frequently assign a dedicated representative to become your reason for contact, meaning you&#8217ll get personalized attention.

Reliability

Merchant services are unique for your business, and also the car loan terms derive from your conditions and credit history. Which means, when you purchase a trustworthy processor, you&#8217re going to get a high amount of reliability. Unfortunately, it doesn&#8217t imply that you&#8217re totally safe from a hold or termination if their risk department suspects something odd.

Additionally, not every credit card merchant account providers may approve the application. Your approval depends upon your processing history, your company&#8217 creditworthiness, as well as your industry or products. Some might approve it on the health of applying a reserve fund.

I’m able to&#8217t stress enough it&#8217s vital that you research a business before you decide to apply, after which read car loan terms and get questions. Most of the bigger processors frequently use systems of resellers who advertise retailers the planet to encourage them to sign that sheet of paper. They discover they&#8217re locked into multi-year contracts with pricey early termination charges (ETFs) &#8212 or worse, a liquidated damages provision.

Additionally, should you fall under the &#8220high risk&#8221 category, you&#8217re likely going to need to get yourself a high-risk credit card merchant account. Included in this are industries for example multi-level marketing (Multilevel marketing), estate sales and antiques, and a number of financial services, to begin with. You&#8217re getting a far more stable account, but pay greater processing rates consequently.

In comparison, PayPal is definitely an aggregator, meaning there&#8217s an natural, inevitable fluctuations. Some retailers will, regrettably, get their accounts ended or encounter holds or perhaps a reserve account. The consumer agreement clearly states that you simply accept these terms whenever you register, incidentally.

This won&#8217t occur to every merchant. I understand lots of retailers which use PayPal and also have no problems PayPal states that its merchant users list is much more than 8 million &#8212 that is four occasions Square&#8217s users list. That&#8217s no minor quantity of retailers.

Frequently what triggers a free account hold is definitely an abnormally large transaction or perhaps a much-greater-than-average monthly volume, a lot of chargebacks (particularly in a brief time period) or perhaps a very suspicious transaction. You clearly should also make certain your organization as well as your business design don&#8217t violate PayPal&#8217s relation to use, and don’t forget that it’s not great for high-risk companies.

Learn know how you can minimize chargebacks, account holds and freezes.

In-Person Sales

Illustration of Credit Card Terminal and Receipt Printer

Next, we&#8217re treading into POS territory. It&#8217s not at all something all retailers will consider until afterwards, but which point-of-purchase software you should use (or desire to use) may affect the selection of charge card processor.

Many POS systems are established to use specific processors. They are known as &#8220integrated&#8221 solutions. However, you are able to sometimes select a non-integrated solution. The only real major difference backward and forward is really a couple of extra stages in the checkout process. Which POS systems you are able to integrate with depends upon the credit card merchant account provider you select. There’s a many, several choices.

PayPal has additionally selected to accept direct integration approach via partnerships with Lavu and TouchBistro for restaurants, and Vend and Erply for retail. That&#8217s a little pool, only one full of industry-leading names which should be beneficial.

Honestly, if you’re dead-focused on a specific POS, you need to contact the organization and get which merchant services integrate by using it (or look into the website).

Mobile Support

Among the greatest benefits of selecting PayPal is its mPOS service, PayPal Here. Although it&#8217s and not the most full-featured option available on the market, it&#8217s certainly a competent option. It’s among the best EMV readers available today.  You&#8217ll pay just 2.7% per swipe, with no additional charges on the top of this.

Better still, while PayPal Here doesn&#8217t have advanced inventory management, it will support cash drawers, receipt printers, and bar code scanners. You are able to operate a functional &#8212 if no-frills &#8212 register by doing this. And PayPal does integrate with Shopventory for additional advanced inventory (although it&#8217ll set you back more, clearly).

In comparison, most credit card merchant account providers uses a reseller&#8217s mobile solution. Clover Go (beginning with Data) is a very common one, but you could also encounter Vantiv Mobile, Authorize.internet, Converge, or anything else entirely. Features and price will be different pretty considerably. While generally your rates is going to be similar to your standard rates, you could also pay a regular monthly fee for using the service, plus the price of hardware. You need to ask your credit card merchant account provider regarding their mobile solution.

eCommerce Support

Ecommerce word on wooden table

Should you don&#8217t ever intend to sell online, solid eCommerce features will not be considered a concern for you personally whatsoever. However if you simply do, ensuring your card processor is friendly to internet sales is essential.

With a free account, you can find a built-in eCommerce package, or at best one for any low fee every month. At least, to simply accept payments online, you&#8217ll require a gateway (usually for any fee every month and/or perhaps a per-transaction fee, typically on the top of the setup fee). Its keep&#8217s the web site and shopping cart software or eCommerce wordpress plugin, obviously. Your eCommerce package could start adding some or many of these a gateway package (usually for a cheap price) is rather common.

Gateways can differ within their compatibility typically your credit card merchant account provider will explain which gateways you should use. If little else, Authorize.internet established fact, very recognizable, suitable for just about everything, and fairly affordable.

With PayPal, the gateway is incorporated. However, unless you go searching for the greater costly pro plan, PayPal directs your clients towards the PayPal web site to complete the acquisition. And also you&#8217ll still your personal website and to locate a compatible shopping cart software. The good thing is that many shopping cart software choices are suitable for PayPal. You can completely construct your own custom website should you wanted, too. PayPal also offers the type of ubiquity and consumer recognition couple of other payments solutions possess, which matches a lengthy way toward creating trust.

All that sounds very good, right? Well, you most likely wish to look harder at processing rates. Online transactions are thought &#8220card not present&#8221 and therefore are therefore more costly than &#8220card present&#8221 transactions.

PayPal charges 2.9% + $.30 per transaction (that is a not unusual rate). Your credit card merchant account rates will be different. And don&#8217t forget to check the price of the eCommerce package to something place together by yourself with a lot of third-party services.

Your final thought: Online selling is certainly where PayPal shines &#8212 however that doesn&#8217t mean you need to instantly choose a free account simply because you don&#8217t need eCommerce. You&#8217ll get lots of support for in-person ad mobile transactions via PayPal. And, if you would like the advantages of PayPal with increased account stability, there&#8217s always Braintree, which has merchant services but is a member of PayPal.

You should check out our list of the greatest online charge card processors here.

Final Verdict: PayPal versus. Credit Card Merchant Account

Around I love to give obvious solutions, there&#8217s simplye no definitive reaction to the PayPal versus. Credit card merchant account debate. The best option is definitely the one which meets your requirements.

PayPal, like every third-party processor, is inherently unstable. That doesn&#8217t mean your bank account is going to be ended, but there’s an opportunity it may be. Warning flags just like an abnormally busy month or perhaps an very large and unparalleled purchase would mean that PayPal will set a hold. The next thing is to request additional verification (usually by means of invoices, bank statements, etc.). This would make retailers understandably unhappy.

That&#8217s no minor consideration, however it shouldn&#8217t become your just one. Many retailers use PayPal his or her processor (especially through PayPal Here or Vend or among the other POS partnerships). It&#8217s convenient also it&#8217s simple to get began. You’ll have a low processing volume to begin and make your company with time.

A free account will typically provide you with more account stability. But to have it, you&#8217ll likely need to have a recognised processing background and generate a minimum of $5,000 monthly in charge card transactions. (However, $10,000/month is much more appropriate.) Fall below that volume and you’ll pay more per transaction or perhaps be susceptible to monthly minimum charges. Individuals fees can rapidly compare and eat into profits.

Not just that, however, many processors will lock you into multi-year contracts rich in charges connected. Less-than-trustworthy credit card merchant account providers makes it very hard to get away from individuals contracts even inside the cancellation home windows. A higher-quality merchant provider may have more flexible terms, including month-to-month options. PayPal is entirely pay-as-you-go, without any hidden charges or car loan terms.

But when you are past all that, you have to just how you intend to process transactions. It’s also wise to assess what your software/technology needs, are because that’ll be the deciding factor. Like a merchant, you ought to be thinking about your arrange for POS equipment, an mPOS system, and eCommerce. Are you going to use one of these? Two? The 3? Compare features as well as your abilities, and do a price comparison to make certain you&#8217re getting the best offer.

Should you mainly sell online, there&#8217s an absolute benefit to PayPal: its eCommerce suite is extremely, tough to beat, though some premium features can cost you more. However, additionally, it has partnerships with a few very solid POS systems within the retail and hospitality worlds. When you purchase a free account, you can see lower rates and reliability. You&#8217ll also potentially get access to a significantly bigger pool of POS systems, a far more diverse choice of rates, and an array of additional tools. However, it depends positioned on the credit card merchant account provider you select, as merchant providers are most certainly not produced equal.

I actually do feel at ease recommending PayPal being an option, though it isn&#8217t a free account provider. It’s in no way an ideal solution &#8212 but couple of charge card processors available are. I&#8217d go to date regarding say they are not perfect, actually. Nonetheless, PayPal is really a respectable choice,  especially for online sellers or individuals who mainly require an mPOS.

If you like the soundness of a free account and also have a high monthly volume, please seek information before you decide to apply. Start by looking into our top-rated processors, all whom have earned their rankings for transparent prices, quality service, and exceptional reliability. Make certain that you simply compare the benefits and features, not only the cost, inside your evaluation.

Still want to understand more about payment processing? Take a look at our ebook, &#8220The Beginner&#8217s Help guide to Payment Processing.&#8221 If you want help and have additional questions, please don&#8217t hesitate to achieve out! We’re always here to assist!

The publish PayPal Versus Credit Card Merchant Account made an appearance first on Merchant Maverick.

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