i use a merchant account. you have to ship a fair few orders to make it worth while.
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We use a third party merchant, 2checkout and are very satisfied with the service. I think the key though is for you to find which solution is more practical for your business and the better option for your particular needs.
It all depends on the volume you're transacting and where you're located at. We have used numerous 3rd parth processor like 2Co, HostCharge, and WorldPay. And we've also used full blow Merchant Accounts. If you're located outside of the US, your choices are most likely quite limited to 3rd party processors only
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We have used Paysystems.com in the past but just acquired a true merchant account. Our fees include a 15 dollar a month gateway fee for Authorize.net, and 10 dollar "statement" fee from NPC (merchant bank), and a 25 dollar monthly minimum. The monthly minimum means that if we don't have 25 dollars worth of fees for that month we are charged up to the 25 dollars.
However in return for the above fees, are discount and transaction fees are much much lower than Paysystems.com, ProPay, 2Checkout, and other 3rd party companies. Plus it looks much more professional for our name to appear on our customers credit statements instead of Paysystem's.
The gateway for is for Authorize.net. In order to use their gateway to accept the cards they charge me 15 dollars. I pay 25 a month plus my transaction fees which are:
.25 per transaction
Feel free to PM me and I'll tell you who I went though.