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Using PayPal as a Small Business Tool

PayPal offers features to earn you money outside of eBay as well


PayPal is a popular system for making eBay auction payments, but if you're a small business owner with a PayPal account, PayPal may offer you more than just a way to get paid for your eBay listings. Two of the most useful and popular beyond-eBay tools offered by PayPal are the virtual terminal service and the automated shopping cart building and management system.

Virtual Terminal

PayPal's Virtual Terminal service gives any PayPal member the ability to accept credit cards either online or offline. It does this by providing you with a "virtual" terminal—essentially an onscreen version of the little credit card swiping machine that you see at many retail establishments. By joining PayPal's tirtual terminal program, you can accept credit card payments from anyone—just input their credit card number, expiration date, and the amount of the transaction and their card will be charged and the funds deposited into your PayPal account.

Fess for the virtual terminal program begin at $30.00 per month for membership, followed by a per-transaction fee of 3.1 percent of the transaction value plus 30 cents for each transaction. Higher volume users may qualify for lower rates.

For information on the virtual terminal program and to apply to participate, visit the virtual terminal hub inside PayPal (you'll have to log in first), or click on the “Products and Services” tab in your PayPal account, followed by the "Virtual Terminal" link at the lower-right of the page.

Automated Shopping Carts

If selling on eBay is a small business proposition for you, you may have considered the prospect of opening an online storefront from time to time outside of eBay. Most of the time when small sellers reject such an idea, it's because of the cost and technical expertise required to set up a viable online store—in the past it's been no small task to create and manage an online store.

Though PayPal doesn't solve all of the logistical and technical difficulties related to electronic storefronts, it does provide one significant feature that can be of tremendous use to anyone with a knowledge of basic web design—anyone who can make their own simple website. PayPal offers the ability to manage your shopping cart and checkout process for you, automatically, in easy click-to-design fashion.

To see how this works, visit the PayPal shopping cart builder (again, you'll have to log in first). The process is deceptively simple:

  1. Create your own website using simple, basic HTML or tools—no need to bother with forms or other more complex tools. Leave space in your design for "Add to cart" and "View cart/Checkout" buttons.

  2. Fill out the PayPal shopping cart builder form for each kind of item you sell. The form asks you for the item name, price, and shipping information. When you submit the form, PayPal gives you a snippet of HTML code that you can paste into your own website next to the item in question. Paste it in and violà—an "Add to cart" button appears next to the item in question on your web page. When visitors click on this button, PayPal automatically “opens” a cart for them and places the item into the cart. Submit the form once for each type of item in your inventory, each time pasting the HTML snippet that PayPal generates for you into your own web page(s).

  3. Once you create your "Add to cart" buttons, PayPal also gives you a snippet of code for a "View Cart/Checkout" button that visitors to your website can use to view everything they've placed into their cart and to make the purchase in question using their PayPal account or any major credit card.

  4. When they place their order, you'll receive an email from PayPal enumerating the items and quantities they've bought and your receipt of their payment.

  5. The payment and purchase(s) will of course also be added to your PayPal account history, meaning that this aspect of bookkeeping for your business will be virtually automatic as well.

Thanks to virtual terminal and PayPal's automatic shopping cart system, PayPal can be a powerful equalizing tool for the small businessperson, who can leverage the tools offered by PayPal to compete on a level playing field with much larger businesses having more traditional resources and relationships.

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