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

Plug 'n Pay

Plug 'n Pay attempts to take the gateway to the next level by positioning its services as a complete business management system. Indeed, Plug 'n Pay offers many services to compliment the basic gateway service.

Features

Fraud Prevention

Plug 'n Pay offers two different levels of fraud protection. The first level is called FraudTrak, which offers a feature called Negative Database: an in-house database of known fraudulent customers and credit card numbers. As Plug 'n Pay members report violators, the database continues to grow.

The second level of fraud protection is called FraudTrak2. It offers more advanced features for reducing fraud, including:

  • IP Blocking
  • Block Email Domains Many fraudsters use free email providers (e.g. Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL) as their email for fraudulent purchases. You can block users from making a purchase using free email addresses from these domains.
  • Bounced Emails If your customer's order confirmation email bounces, you'll know before you ship your product.
  • Block Country Some countries are hotbeds of fraudulent activity. You can block purchases from such countries with the click of the mouse.
  • IP Address Frequency Check Sometimes fraudsters will repeatedly enter credit card numbers into your system until they find one that works. This tool will place a limit on how many purchase attempts a user can make from one location.
  • Credit Card Number Frequency Check Once a fraudster finds a successful stolen credit card number, they will use it until it is finally exhausted. This service will identify a card that has been used repeatedly, and block it from use.

eCheck Processing

Plug 'n Pay's eCheck processing handled by a third party, so customer billing is separate from your regular billing through Plug 'n Pay. However, all eCheck reporting is done through the Plug 'n Pay control panel, which makes organizing your online sales easier.

Recurring Billing

Recurring billing is limited. Recurring billing accounts can only be set up manually, and only for monthly increments. Managing accounts is easy to do through the recurring billing interface.

Membership Management

Membership management takes recurring billing to the next level. This feature allows you to offer a "members only" section to your Website, manage the access levels, password protect it, manage those passwords, manage the length of subscriptions, and automatically create a recurring billing account. It also allows monitoring of the content within your members' area. If someone is determined to download an excessive amount of content, you will be notified. Security measures, such as IP monitoring, are in place to prevent users from sharing accounts.

Digital Downloads

Managing digital downloads is a headache for ebook authors. How can you provide a link to your product without having your customers email it to everyone they know? How do you verify that your customer did actually download the entire ebook? With Digital Download Delivery of course! With Digital Download Delivery you get:

  • Vanishing URLs access to the URL disappears after a set period of time (usually two hours)
  • Download Verification confirm your product has been delivered successfully to your customer (very helpful in reducing chargebacks)
  • Virtually any file format is supported

Affiliate Management

The Plug 'n Pay affiliate management tool enables merchants to sign up and manage a network of affiliates. The tools offered to help make affiliate management easier include:

  • Separation of shipping and tax from the total sale, to make commission calculation easier
  • Tracking of banner impressions, click throughs, and sales to determine which banners work best
  • Allowance for affiliates to track their own results
  • Provision for affiliates to sign up directly

Coupon Management

An interesting feature offered by Plug 'n Pay is the ability to issue and track coupons. You determine the offer you want to make and, when your customers make a purchase, they enter the code you've supplied, and your special offer is redeemed right then and there. The Plug 'n Pay system knows the discount you have offered, and will apply it when your customer submits their order. You can run multiple promotions simultaneously, and set an expiration date as you would for a paper coupon.

Shopping Cart

If you are having difficulty finding a shopping cart that supports Plug 'n Pay (which isn't likely, since the largest shopping cart providers support Plug 'n Pay either by default or with a plugin), simply use the Plug 'n Pay shopping cart. The cart is hosted by Plug 'n Pay, so no SSL certificate is required. Additionally, the gateway is automatically integrated into the shopping cart. You can even customize the HTML template to have the shopping cart more closely match your Website.

QuickBooks Integration

As any QuickBooks user can tell you, getting data from your online sales into QuickBooks is quite a chore. Unless you establish a merchant account through QuickBooks, you're forced to enter your daily sales manually, one at a time. That is, unless you use the Plug 'n Pay gateway. It offers an automated process to import your sales directly into QuickBooks as either Invoices or Cash Sale receipts.

Choice of APIs

Plug 'n Pay provides a choice of integration methods. You can choose to the simple WebXpress HTML method, which utilizes a form on the Plug 'n Pay server, so you don't need to worry about installing your own SSL or communicating with their gateway. Or, you can use the Plug 'n Pay API, which provides complete control over the checkout process. You can switch back and forth between these methods at any time, and every feature that's available through the API is also available through WebXpress HTML.

Training

Not really a feature per se, but still worth noting, is the fact that Plug 'n Pay holds merchant training every Monday through Friday to teach new merchants how to integrate their new gateways into their Websites. The staff member walks you through the process step by step, from beginning to end. Best of all, they do it for free.

Cost

The Plug 'n Pay gateway can be purchased directly through Plug 'n Pay, or from an authorized reseller. The figures below outline the Plug 'n Pay direct pricing. Except where noted, it's safe to assume that reseller pricing will be equal or higher than the figures provided.

  • Setup Fee: To start using Plug 'n Pay, you must first pay a $295 set up fee. Some resellers do offer lower pricing for this: it can cost anywhere from $50 to $295 to sign up through a reseller.
  • Monthly Fe: On a monthly basis, it costs $20 to maintain the gateway; this is on par with other providers.
  • Transaction Fee: Each transaction processed through the gateway costs10 cents. However, the first 200 transactions are free.
  • Fraud Prevention: Plug 'n Pay's basic FraudTrak fraud prevention is free and included with the basic service. FraudTrak2 is optional and costs $195 to set up, an additional $15 per month, plus 15 cents per transaction.
  • Digital Downloads: The handy digital download feature is as pricy as it is effective. It costs $490 to set up and 25 cents per transaction, although the first 100 transactions are included. However, there is a $25 monthly minimum, which means that if you don't incur at least $25 in transaction fees through the recurring billing feature, Plug 'n Pay will charge you up to $25 to make up the difference between the monthly minimum and your actual incurred fees.
  • Recurring Billing: Automatic recurring billing is costs a whopping $590 to set up, incurs a $30 monthly minimum, and 30 cents per transaction. However, the first 100 transactions are included, and there is no monthly fee.
  • Membership Management: Plug 'n Pay continues its theme of high set up fees by charging a $690 set up fee for membership management, along with a $35 monthly minimum, and 35 cents per transaction (the first 100 transactions are included).
  • eCheck Processing: To accept online checks through Plug 'n Pay costs $145.00 up-front, plus $12.50 per month. The company will also take a small percentage of each check's value. Your cost will be 1.50% of the face value of the check, plus a 45 cents transaction fee. Returned checks cost $4.00 each.
  • Affiliate Management: To manage your affiliates, you'll incur a $195 set up fee, plus an additional $25 per month.
  • Coupon Management: To offer coupons to your visitors, you will incur a $195 charge upon set up, plus $20 per month.
  • Shopping Cart: Use of the Plug 'n Pay shopping cart will cost you an additional $15 per month. However, some resellers avoid charges to set up their merchants with the shopping cart, and may pass that saving on to you. Shop around!

Strengths

The sheer number of available services offered through Plug 'n Pay is astonishing. With features such as digital download management, membership management, and affiliate management built in to the Plug 'n Pay system, it's easy for merchants to find a tool that will benefit their businesses. There's no need to use a third party and, because it's already integrated into the gateway, no extra work is required to implement the feature into your store.

Plug 'n Pay gives merchants two methods by which they can integrate the gateway into their sites. You can choose from their easy-to-implement WebXpress HTML option, or the more advanced API. Either way, you get the same feature set and availability of services, and can switch your implementation at any time.

Weaknesses

Although Plug 'n Pay offers a robust selection of services, the functionality comes at a steep cost. The digital download service is exactly what ebook authors need to manage their sales and reduce theft, but unfortunately, the $490 setup fee is often prohibitive to would-be Plug 'n Pay customers. The $590 setup fee for recurring billing eliminates any benefit the service might have offered. Although the other services average $200 to establish, combined with the $295 setup fee Plug 'n Pay charges to establish the gateway, a merchant is looking at spending at least $500 before they can accept a single credit card.

LinkPoint | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | Choosing Your Gateway