Merchant Account Services

Six Payment Gateways Reviewed

Offerings from Authorize.net, Verisign, Plug 'n Pay, and LinkPoint are compared.

 

Author: Jim Conners

Rating: 10.0

Pages: 1|2|3|4|5|6

Verisign Payflow Pro

The Verisign name is well-known, and carries a reputation for security and trust. It has carried its reputation for security from its SSL certificate issuing to its gateway services.

Features

Recurring Billing

The Payflow Pro recurring billing feature is pretty standard, but does offer a very useful feature: an API (application programming interface) from which a recurring billing profile can be created. So, for example, you can have your Website automatically create a recurring billing profile for you during a customer's online registration. For Web hosting or other subscription-type services where new users sign up through your site, this can be quite a time-saver.

The Payflow Pro gateway also is capable of sending out automated custom emails. You can send your customers email receipts for their records or send them a notice that their card was declined and that they need to make new payment arrangements for failed transactions. Reporting is also available for billing transactions and individual customer profiles.

Fraud Prevention

Verisign breaks its fraud prevention services into two different packages; each has add-on features that enhance the level of protection.

The Basic Package includes seven basic filters that help reduce a merchant's exposure to fraud. The filters included are:

  • High dollar value filter
  • High item number filter
  • Shipping/billing mismatch filter
  • AVS failure filter
  • CSC failure filter
  • High risk zip code filter
  • Freight forwarder filter

You can also restrict sales to certain IP addresses. In essence, you create a whitelist of valid IP addresses from which purchases are permitted.

The Advanced Package includes all of the Basic Package's filters, plus another fifteen filters that increase protection:

  • Product watch list filter
  • High risk BIN filter
  • Account number velocity filter
  • US Postal Service address validation filter
  • IP address risk list match
  • Email service provider risk list match
  • Geo location failure
  • Bad list filter (credit card and e-mail address)
  • High risk country filter
  • International shipping/billing address filter
  • International IP address filter
  • International AVS filter
  • Good email list filter
  • Good credit card list filter
  • Total purchase price floor filter

Verisign offers an interesting feature in Account Monitoring. Essentially Verisign employees monitor your sales looking for suspicious transactions. If they notice one, they investigate it to determine whether the sale is truly legitimate or fraudulent. If the sale appears to be fraudulent, they prevent that sale from being settled, and contact you to discuss the transaction further. To use this feature, you must already be registered with the Basic or Advanced Fraud Prevention Packages.

Lastly, Verisign offers a Buyer Authentication program for merchants who wish to utilize Visa's Verified by Visa and/or MasterCard's SecureCode technologies. To use this feature, you must already be registered with the Basic or Advanced Fraud Prevention Packages.

Cost

  • Setup Fee: Verisign charges a one-time fee of $249 before account setup.
  • Monthly Fee: Verisign charges a hefty $59.95 monthly for the service.
  • Transaction Fee: Each transaction run through Payflow Pro costs 10 in addition to your merchant account fees. However, the first 1,000 transactions each month are free. Since the vast majority of merchants don't do that kind of volume, this pricing structure virtually eliminates transaction fees for most merchants.
  • Recurring Billing: If you decide to use Payflow Pro's recurring billing feature, you'll incur a $39.95 setup fee, and a recurring $29.95 monthly fee.
  • Fraud Protection: As described above, Verisign offers quite a few tools for fraud detection and prevention, but charges separately for them. The basic package costs $29.95 to set up, and an additional $19.95 per month plus 5 per transaction (these charges are not included in the free transactions). The advanced package costs $89.95 to set up, plus $49.95 per month and 10 per transaction (these charges are not included in the free transactions). Account monitoring costs $29.95 to set up and $19.95 per month. If you wish to use Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode, you'll incur a $150 setup fee, as well as a $9.95 monthly fee plus 10cents per transaction. In summary, if you wish to use all fraud prevention tools provided by Verisign, you will incur $260.90 in setup fees, $79.85 in monthly fees, and at least an additional 20 cents per transaction.

Strengths

Verisign's fraud prevention tools are second to none in terms of flexibility and power. With so many ways to review transactions for potential fraud in one system, it's hard to imagine many fraudulent transactions slipping through. Merchants who have been troubled by chargebacks and fraud in the past would find these tools a great relief.

As an ecommerce merchant, if your Website is down -- even for a minute or two -- your nearest competitor is only a click away. While other gateways have experienced issues with datacenter moves and hacker attacks, the Verisign gateway has been consistently reliable, with only one outage in recent memory.

Thanks to the SSL certificate business from which this gateway started, the Verisign name has been known for years as the secure and reliable brand on the Internet. At the very least, merchants feel comfortable using Verisign's services, and customers feel reassured by the Verisign logo. Although it's debatable whether Verisign is more secure then other gateways, many Webmasters and customers trust this brand.

Weaknesses

As I mentioned, the Verisign name is well known and carries with it a reputation of security and trust. And they make you pay for it. Payflow Pro is easily the most expensive gateway available. With a $249 setup fee, you could pay more to become a Payflow Pro customer (before you even receive your login information or make a sale) than you would for an entire year with other gateways, setup fee included! Verisign's $59.95 monthly fee for basic features would buy you every available feature on many other gateways.

Although Verisign's fraud detection tools are robust, they're also expensive. I found it disappointing that this provider broke its features down into four different categories and charged for each of them separately. Each one costs a significant amount, and combining them would double the cost of an already expensive gateway.

Verisign Payflow Link

The little brother of Payflow Pro, this gateway still carries Verisign's reputation for security and reliability.

Features

Recurring Billing

Unlike its more robust Payflow Pro brother, Payflow Link does not offer an API through which you can set up new recurring billing profiles. All recurring billing profiles must be set up manually through a control panel.

Payflow Link includes the same email and reporting capabilities as Payflow Pro. See Payflow Pro for more information.

Fraud Protection

The fraud protection tools available for Payflow Link are the same as for Payflow Pro. See above for more information.

Cost

  • Setup Fee: Verisign charges a one time fee of $179 before account setup.
  • Monthly Fee: Verisign charges a reasonable $19.95 per month for service provision.
  • Transaction Fee: Just like Payflow Pro, each transaction run through Payflow Link costs an additional 10 on top of your merchant account fees. However, the first 500 transactions each month are free. Few merchants will process more than 500 transactions per month, so this structure virtually eliminates the transaction fee.
  • Recurring Billing: If you decide to use Payflow Pro's recurring billing feature, you'll incur a $14.95 setup fee, and a recurring $9.95 monthly fee.
  • Fraud Protection: The fraud protection tools available for Payflow Link are the same as for Payflow Pro. See above for more information.

Strengths

See the strengths of Payflow Pro above.

Weaknesses

Like its big brother, Payflow Link is expensive. Considering its limited integration capabilities (detailed below), you can end up paying a lot of money for relatively little service. In this case, I believe that you're almost certainly paying for the Verisign name.

Unlike Payflow Pro, Payflow Link does not allow you to make the checkout process transparent for your customers. You must send all customers to Verisign's Website, where your secure order form resides. Although this will save you money on an SSL certificate -- as you don't have to host the secure order page -- the Web address shown in your customer's Web browser will not be your own. This can be seen as a negative factor by customers deciding whether or not to complete a purchase, and can result in abandoned shopping carts.

A "hidden" weakness that most merchants don't notice is that Payflow Link does not support Level two or three business cards. When a merchant accepts certain special credit cards, additional information about that card needs to be sent to the processor. If you fail to send these details, higher fees are usually charged for that sale. If your business were to use Payflow Link and accepted business credit cards through its Website, you'd pay the highest possible fees for those sales, as Payflow Link doesn't support those types of cards. Verisign does specify the lack of support for level two and three business cards on its Website, but, due to most merchants' lack of merchant account knowledge on the topic, this fact usually goes by unnoticed.

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