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Accept Credit Card Payments on Your Own Website with PayPal

PayPal isn't just for eBay auctions; it's a quick and easy payments processor

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Accept Credit Card Payments on Your Own Website with PayPal

PayPal offers tools to help you to accept credit card payments on your own website, and without having to hold a merchant account or pay up-front fees

Image: Visualalive / Dreamstime

While eBay Stores is a great option for small business owners looking to establish an online web store with a minimum of fuss, it isn't the right choice for everybody. For example:

  • You may already have a longstanding website and just want to add ecommerce (selling your goods and accepting online payments) capabilities to it
     
  • You may want to have more control over the design of your website than eBay stores allows
     
  • You may want to sell in ways that aren't allowed by eBay rules
     
  • You may not want to pay eBay listing and final value fees when customers shop on your site
     
  • You may simply want to be independent and not have to have an eBay logo, or link, anywhere on your site

All of these cases can disqualify eBay Stores as a candidate for your own selling website. It's certainly true that eBay stores isn't for everyone. But did you know that PayPal can be?

What PayPal Can Do that eBay Stores Can't

Most people have the vague idea that PayPal can be used to send and receive money for purposes beyond eBay buying and selling, but many haven't ever looked into just what it is that PayPal offers. In fact, PayPal offers you:

  • The ability to accept credit card, bank account, and PayPal payments on your own website, without having to deal with the eBay website or eBay listings at all
     
  • The ability to accept real-life, face-to-face credit card and check payments in your business (soon)
     
  • Tools for managing one-time sales, shopping cart selling, subscription-based (ongoing periodic billing, installments, etc.) selling, and accepting donations

Most importantly for many small business owners, PayPal does most of these things for free and the rest for very low costs compared to what banks traditionally charge, both up-front and on an ongoing basis, for merchant accounts, payment processing equipment, and access to payment processing systems that allow you to accept credit card and bank account payments as a business.

On the Cheap-and-Easy

For those that are looking for the absolute easiest way to design and run an independent selling website that can accept credit card payments for goods, and the ability to accomplish this without knowing much either about how the web works, HTML and all that "coding" stuff, or how payments work, follow these steps:

  1. Make a free website. Open an account for a free website at a service like Weebly or a competitor offering simple, drag-and-drop tools for website creation. This way, you can create a site using user-friendly tools and your own text, images, and design instincts, without having to know any coding.
     
  2. Create a selling-friendly PayPal account. Open a PayPal account, add a bank account to your profile (after all, you'll need somewhere to put the money that PayPal accepts for you), and click the prominent "Upgrade Account" link if you haven't already done so to upgrade to a Business or Premier account, both of which will charge slightly higher fees per transaction in exchange for removing limits on the payment volume you can receive.
     
  3. Create selling button(s) for the stuff you want to sell. On your PayPal home page after logging in, click on the "Merchant Services" tab. You'll see a prominent button on the upper-left of the page that says "Create payment buttons for your website." Click it and fill out the form for item(s) that you're selling—you'll provide details like the item name, a price, shipping amount, and so on. Notice all of the different kinds of buttons you can make (each of which will have you fill out a different set of options)—everything from Buy Now buttons, subscriptions, and installment plan purchases to gift certificates that you can sell for purchases at your business.
     
  4. Click "Create Button" to have PayPal make some HTML code for you. PayPal will use the options that you've entered to create a bunch of HTML code that represents a button that users can click to buy something.
     
  5. Copy and paste the code into your free website. Using the tools offered by your free website platform, pick a place on your site, add an element that accepts HTML code, and paste in the code that PayPal gave you. It will magically turn into a button that users can click to make purchases. When your users click the button, PayPal will collect their address and payment details, charge their credit card or bank account, then email you with the order details and the shipping address and deposit the funds (minus PayPal's couple of percentage points fee) into your PayPal account. Many of free web design services have their own instructions that detail adding the HTML code to your site.
     
  6. Repeat steps 3-5 for each kind of item you want to sell on your website. Selling 10 different things? Make 10 different buttons and design your free website around them.

And there you have it—you're in business with your own no-cost ecommerce website in an afternoon or less.

Getting Fancy

Of course, if you've got web skills and are building more complicated and customized site using HTML, CSS, PHP, Javascript, Ruby on Rails, or some other combination of platforms, you can do much more with PayPal's payments infrastructure, including using PayPal to manage an entire shopping cart-based ecommerce experience complete with things like inventory management. Visit the PayPal Developer Network for more details on the plans offered to website developers for payments processing.

Handling Card Swipes

PayPal's card swipe infrastructure—consisting of an app and a headphone jack plug-in for either iPhone or Android—is in the process of launching now. Get the details and get on the list now and you'll be ready to use PayPal for in-person card swipes and accept printed checks using your smartphone camera at your place of business, all without any up-front or monthly costs, once the service launches.

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