Understanding Merchant Services
So, you want to set up your website to start accepting payment by credit card? The following will help you with the process.
First, you need a merchant account.
A merchant account is a bridge to links your bank account and your online gateway together.
A merchant account is used to process Credit Card authorizations. Your merchant account allows you access to the credit card clearing system used by banks to validate credit cards, and to transfer money to you when a credit card transaction is completed.
A merchant account will have specific fees connected to it for processing transactions.
You can often obtain a merchant account at the same time as signing up for a gateway (see below).
Your bank may already offer merchant services for a nominal increased monthly fee, meaning you would not need to set up a separate account just for collecting credit card payments.
Most banks will work with various merchant account providers, allowing you to deposit to your existing account.
Sometimes it may be desirable to have a separate account dedicated to credit card processing. Talk to your bank more about this.
To accept online payments, you need a gateway. Your website will talk to the gateway, sending credit card numbers and customer information as criteria used to authorize a credit card transaction. The gateway is basically the communication channel used to bridge your website and your merchant account.
There is usually a monthly or annualy fee charged for use of a gateway.
LinkPoint is one of many gateways.
Configuring Zen Cart to Use a Gateway
In Zen Cart, you will use what's called a Payment Module. This is basically just the interface between Zen Cart and the Gateway. In the Zen Cart admin area, you will supply the required configuration settings for communicating to your subscribed gateway. Sometimes this means supplying your Zen Cart with your specific Store Name/Number, an API Login ID, sometimes a Transaction Key, and other optional settings.
To access this area, you go to Admin->Modules->Payment
In this area, you will see a list of gateways or payment methods that have been installed.
If you need a gateway that's not listed, you may try to find a compatible one in the Zen Cart downloads area, and install it by following the instructions inside the downloadable zip file. Sometimes you may have to hire someone to convert or write a module for you, or perhaps your gateway service may have a module you can download from their website. You should check for available payment modules and compatibility prior to signing up for a particular gateway.
Configuring your Merchant Account and/or Gateway
Your merchant account and/or gateway service will have a web-based interface where you can select your payment-collection options, as well as view/edit payment transactions.
You should work with their online or telephone support team to become familiar with their supplied interface.
Authorize vs Capture
With most merchants/gateways, you have the option to pre-authorize a transaction or to capture its charges directly.
To pre-authorize a transaction is to obtain permission from the merchant provider for collecting payment from a particular credit card. It simply validates the card to ensure it's legitimate, and sets up a "possible payment" authorization on their end. If you complete the sale with your customer, you must then separately go and "capture" the payment before you will receive any money for it.
You have probably seen this sort of thing when renting a Hotel room or a Car. You swipe your card for authorization, and once the rental is completed, the company "captures" the final payment amount from your card. The concept is similar here.
This method is commonly used if shipping charges will be calculated after the order is taken, and added to the credit card before the "capture" takes place.
To capture charges directly is to do an immediate capture of the transaction amount. There is no opportunity to change the amount unless you do a refund (full or partial).
You may usually use your merchant/gateway web site to do a partial or full refund of a particular transaction. In the case of a same-day full refund, you can usually "void" the transaction completely and not incur any service charges.
If you need to do a partial refund, you must locate the original transaction and make the required adjustments. Your merchant/gateway technical support team can assist you with this.
Credit Card Service Vendors
Zen Cart occasionally recommends various merchant/gateway vendors based on technical capability and reciprocal agreements which help fund the Zen Cart project. Selecting one of our Recommended Services helps keep the Zen Cart project going.