Who's Your Buddy? PayPal

By Valle Dwight | Posted August 17, 2006

With all the buzz about Google Checkout, PayPal is still the king of payment processing, especially for small online merchants who rely on its full array of tools and services to boost sales.

For Web store owners without expertise in online selling or for those who have less sophisticated sites, PayPal can fill the gaps and put them in a position to compete with larger retailers. "The greatest thing about PayPal is the way it processes credit card transactions," according to Barak Haimoff, whose company UtopiaDiamonds.com got its start on eBay.

Haimoff said that he can take credit card payments over the phone, through e-mail or through his site. He also particularly appreciates the fact that PayPal charges the same transaction fee regardless of what kind of credit card his customer uses. "That's unheard of in the industry," he said.

But if you still think of PayPal as a simple service for handling cash, you're missing out. Here's a quick roundup of the top tools and services for small online merchants:

  1. Low Cost. PayPal has a tiered system for its transaction fees, based on a merchant's monthly volume. The fees range from 1.9 to 2.9 percent, plus 30 cents per transaction. There are no additional monthly, start-up or cancellation fees.
  2. Paper work. PayPal offers a number of reporting and management tools for small business and integrates with the leading accounting software tools from Intuit and Microsoft, as well as with the U.S. Postal Service and UPS.
  3. Ship Shape. Figure out costs with the shipping calculator. You can also pay for shipping and insurance with your PayPal account, with no monthly fees. Track and confirm arrivals, create and print packing slips, void your shipping labels and get a refund for misprints canceled within 24 hours.
  4. A Purchase Present. You can offer customized gift certificates through PayPal, which can help increase sales and attract new buyers to your site.
  5. Getting Paid. PayPal lets you send professional line-item invoices to your customers.
  6. Choices, choices. With PayPal your customers can pay you using credit card, bank accounts or cash from their own PayPal accounts.
  7. World View. PayPal is available in 55 markets worldwide and lets you handle payments from six currencies, including Yen and Euros.
  8. Interesting. PayPal has a money market account for members, so you can earn interest on your money. Merchants can also earn one percent cash back with the PayPal ATM/Debit MasterCard.
  9. Store Bound. PayPal lets customers stay on your site during the checkout process, which gives you an opportunity to cross-sell and up-sell during checkout. So if your customer is buying a pair of shoes, for instance, you can offer them socks before the checkout process is completed.
  10. Buyers' Choice. You can take payments over the phone, in person, or via fax, using the Virtual Terminal feature.
  11. No Account Necessary. Your customers don't have to have a PayPal account to pay you; they can use the "guest checkout" feature for one-time payments without saving their information.
  12. Better Safe Than Sorry. PayPal has a sophisticated fraud prevention system that helps protect merchants from bogus payments resulting in less loss due to payment problems.
  13. Storage Solution. PayPal stores customers' financial data on its own secure servers, so you don't have to worry about encrypting or otherwise securing the information.
  14. Time's Up. For eBay sellers, there is the handy get end-of-auction e-mails that notifies the winning buyer and provides him or her with a link back to the eBay payment page and your instructions for shipping, handling and payment. These can be customized with your logo and a personal message.
  15. Pay It Back. Anytime you receive a payment, you can easily refund it by clicking a button up to 60 days after the sale.
  16. Protection. If you have a dispute over a transaction and qualify for the seller protection policy, you're covered for up to $5,000 a year and PayPal will work with you to resolve the matter, often absorbing the chargeback cost.
  17. Many Monies. Enables the sending of one or more payments at a time. This is a fast, flexible and automated method to send out multiple payments.
  18. Play Nice with Others. In the aptly named "Sandbox," small online store owners can try out payment applications, such as instant-payment notifications, in this self-contained testing environment.
  19. Cash Quest. This nifty tool lets you search across a range of transactions for certain criteria, such as payment status.
  20. Taxing Situations. Use the sales tax calculator to automatically collect sales tax for PayPal Shopping Cart, Donations and Buy Now buttons.

Adapted from ECommerce-Guide.com, part of Internet.com's Small Business Channel.

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