Merchant Account Services

Six Payment Gateways Reviewed

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


Author: Jim Conners

Rating: 10.0

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

LinkPoint API

LinkPoint International is a wholly owned subsidiary of First Data Corporation, the giant in the merchant services industry. The LinkPoint brand is the gateway arm of the First Data merchant services portfolio. Their LinkPoint gateway comes in two flavors: LinkPoint API and LinkPoint Connect. The LinkPoint API is the "advanced" way to process sales through LinkPoint.


Recurring Billing

LinkPoint API provides recurring billing; billing periods can be set to daily, weekly, monthly, and custom intervals.

Fraud Protection

LinkShield, LinkPoint's fraud protection service, uses a feature called "risk rating" to determine if a sale is potentially fraudulent. There are three options for implementing LinkShield. Option 1 uses a behavioral approach: it learns from transactions and makes predictions based on what it has learned over time. Option 2 uses statistical data: it basically compares the sale against a database of previous successful and fraudulent sales, and tries to determine which it kind of transaction it resembles most. Option 3 uses a combination of both methods.

Note: At the time this article was written, this service was only in a Beta testing phase.

Tax Calculation

An interesting feature of the LinkPoint API is its tax calculator, which calculates sales tax by state and municipality. It allows merchants to determine how or when customers are charged sales tax for products and services they've ordered.

Shipping Calculation

A common need for merchants who ship tangible products is the calculation of shipping costs for each order. This feature will calculate shipping costs based on zones, or the type of shipping used. It can provide flat rate pricing, or base shipping costs on the total value of the sale.


LinkPoint's version of eChecks, called VirtualCheck, is feature-rich and should satisfy the vast majority of merchants. Funds are deposited directly into a merchant's business checking account within five to seven business days. Merchants are notified of returned checks within two to four business days, and those checks are automatically resubmitted. Email notifications and real-time reporting are also included.


LinkPoint does not sell its services directly to merchants. A merchant who wishes to utilize the LinkPoint API payment gateway will need to contact one of its authorized resellers. As a result, pricing will vary by reseller.

Since definitive pricing cannot be given, I'll provide here the general price ranges you can expect.

  • Setup Fee: Establishing a LinkPoint API gateway costs anywhere from $75 to $300; $295 is average. It is possible to get a reduced setup fee by paying a higher monthly fee, but this offer varies by reseller.
  • Monthly Fee: Monthly costs for the LinkPoint API will run anywhere from $15 to $25, with $20 being average.
  • Transaction Fee: The LinkPoint API does not charge a transaction fee.
  • Recurring Billing: Unlike the other major gateway providers, the recurring billing feature is included with the LinkPoint API at no extra charge. There is no additional setup fee, monthly fee, or transaction fee.
  • Fraud Protection: When LinkShield goes gold it should cost approximately $25 per month.
  • eCheck: VirtualCheck has no setup fee, a $10.00 monthly fee, 2.00% discount rate and a 25 cent transaction rate.


The LinkPoint API's greatest strength is, clearly, its pricing. Although some resellers do charge a fairly high setup fee, that charge can be recouped if you never pay transaction fees. That extra five or ten cents per transaction can add up quickly, and the lack of transaction fees with this offering can easily more then compensate for the high setup fee. If a merchant plans to use the recurring billing feature, the costs saved just in monthly fees alone can tip the scale for a price-conscious merchant.

With the exception of its recent move to a new datacenter, the LinkPoint API has experienced virtually no downtime in recent years. Eventually, LinkPoint plans to have a backup datacenter in place for redundancy.


The biggest drawback to the LinkPoint API is that it's proprietary to one processing platform: First Data. The best way to explain this is to compare it with computer operating systems. Software written for Windows won't work on Mac or Linux. They use different architectures and therefore communication with each OS is handled differently. The same concept applies to Visa and MasterCard processing networks. There are over a dozen in existence, and they each have a different API with which they communicate with gateways (and credit card terminals).

LinkPoint, which is owned by First Data, communicates only with First Data's platforms, so you must sign up with a merchant provider who has access to the First Data platforms. Many do; many don't. Limited choices mean that you have a limited opportunity to find a program that best suits your business. This can get really ugly if you're using the LinkPoint API, and try to leave your current provider. If you choose a new provider that doesn't have access to the First Data platform, you will need to learn a new API for your new gateway, then reintegrate it into your shopping cart (not to mention that you will have to learn your way around your new gateway). The purpose of this approach, as with any proprietary software, is to "lock" a merchant in.

Another big drawback of LinkPoint is its lack of a powerful anti-fraud offering. With fraud being a huge concern for every online merchant, you'd expect that fraud-prevention tools would be an essential feature for any gateway. Although an anti-fraud solution is in development, it's not here now, and, when it does launch, will possibly be limited in comparison to the anti-fraud tools already in existence with the other gateway providers.

LinkPoint Connect

The LinkPoint Connect gateway essentially is a stripped-down version of the LinkPoint API. It's similar to's SIM and Verisign's Payflow Link in terms of the way it's integrated with your site.


LinkPoint Connect does not offer any special features such as recurring billing or fraud prevention.


  • Setup Fee: Establishing a LinkPoint Connect gateway costs between $75 and $300, with $295 being average.
  • Monthly Fee: LinkPoint Connect will run anywhere from $15 to $25; $20 is average.
  • Transaction Fee: LinkPoint Connect does not charge a transaction fee.


Just like the LinkPoint API, LinkPoint Connect charges no transaction fees.

The lack of features of LinkPoint Connect, while listed as a weakness below, can also be considered an advantage. Many merchants do not want bells and whistles, or functionality other than the ability to accept credit cards online through a secure order form. The simplicity of LinkPoint Connect removes the distractions that additional functionality may provide some merchants.


LinkPoint Connect is proprietary to the First Data platform. See the downsides of the LinkPoint API for more information.

As with Verisign's Payflow Link, LinkPoint Connect merchants cannot make the checkout process transparent for customers: they must send customers to LinkPoint's Website, where the secure order form resides. See Payflow Link for information.

LinkPoint Connect offers no built-in anti-fraud tools. See the downsides of the LinkPoint API for more information.

Although the functionality of LinkPoint Connect is limited, its price tag is not. Most resellers charge the same price for LinkPoint Connect as they do for the LinkPoint API. While LinkPoint Connect customers can switch to the LinkPoint API at any time, and at no cost, if they don't plan to take advantage of its additional functionality, you're basically paying for gateway services you'll never use.

While ideal for very small businesses with no plans to grow or expand, LinkPoint Connect's lack of features limits its appeal. Any business wishing to start with LinkPoint Connect's basic card processing functionality, then grow to include other services, will need to switch to the LinkPoint API first before they can take advantage of those services. If Webmasters have limited programming skills, they may find this is not possible, or can only be done with great difficulty or expense.

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