Merchant Account
Date: 25/9/2007
People often ask why I only offer the PayPal payment method for InScribe. So I thought I'd share a little on why that is so and my recent travels.

A long time ago people buying InScribe would pay through Kagi, which accepted credit card details, collect the money and sent me a cheque every so often. This was a bit painful in that I didn't have ready access to the funds and the level of fraud kept going up and up. So I looked around for an alternative with better fees and better management.

Enter PayPal, which some deem to be evil. So PayPal accepts credit cards too, but the fee is $0.98 instead of $1.50. And I can pull the funds out anytime I like for free and the level of fraud is tiny compared to Kagi. I can buy other things directly from my PayPal balance (Ebay!!!). So it's cheap and flexible, and you don't even need to sign up to use it. But some people don't like it (I'm still yet to get a good reason).

So I'm looking around for a cheap low volume alternative for accepting credit/debit cards over the internet. The local banks usually quote you $250 setup + excessive transaction/yearly fees for a merchant account. Which clearly would be a losing proposition for the odd transaction here or there. But recently I bumped into this page which claims that you can get a low volume batched interface with merchant account for $29/year. Which is starting to sound more like it. More investigation required!

First I get my lil browser over to the Commonwealth bank and fill in their contact form with my details. Click the submit button... and... it just reloads the form. No error message, no message sent. Their contact page is broken. Hmmm clearly they don't want my business.

So try again, off to ANZ this time. From their merchant options page I click the "Request a quote" link (which gives me a queasy feeling already) and fill out their form. Click "Submit" and... I get "All mandatory fields need to be completed. Please enter your details in fields marked with a red cross." Of course the field in question IS filled in. Maybe they didn't like the answer I gave? So I try a different value. Nope still no good. So they don't want my business either?

Seems that putting the fees for your product in black and white on your website for people to make a educated decision about a banking product is just too hard for the banks. They want you to wade through the steaming bog of their sales lines or broken websites to find out that the product is over-priced, for what? Getting your contacts details exposed to their marketing dept.? Having your details on-sold to every low brow financial scammer this side of the equator?

Anyone else? Oh look here, NAB. So apparently they have a product called "Direct Auth Plus". But there website doesn't have any information whatsoever on it. So it must be super secret! Can't have potential customers finding out about our super secret products? I mean why even have a website? Our potential customers might Google us?

Am I missing anyone? Is there a cheap merchant account in Australia? I think not.

(And before you go suggesting Google checkout (US + UK only), or some other overseas payment system, consider the ease of getting money out, converted to AUD and deposited into an Australian account, and the fees which have to be competitive... not more than about 7% for a $20usd transaction)
25/09/2007 3:08am
Hmm, you could always set up a secure HTTP page on your site that allows people to enter their credit card information, billing and shipping information. Then have this information transmitted, securely, to you where you, at you leisure (or via an automated script) process the credit card information through a third party that is able to process credit card transactions. I would choose Pay Pal as your third party. This means that "they" are not using paypal, it's just "you" using paypal to process the information that they sent to "you". Problem solved. :P
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