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During the past week I have had about four inquiries about adding shopping carts to websites. Now I know that in the past I have talked to some web designers who all said that shopping carts were a pain to deal with, so I was somewhat hesitant to dive into shopping carts. What I found in my research was both encouraging and not so.

With my clients I tend to host their sites on servers. I’ve used IPower for over 7 years and, for the most part, I’ve been very happy with them. I noticed that they have a ShopSite shopping cart already available with their accounts. And, it is free of charge with the ipower hosting for up to fifteen items. But of course nothing is free as I found out as I researched a little further.

In order process credit cards on your shopping cart orders, you must have a merchant account and a payment gateway account. Luckily ShopSite has a list of preferred providers that can set up these accounts. The merchant account transfers money to your bank account. The gateway account processes credit card transactions. Most of the companies I researched were charging $15 – $25 per month for a merchant account and $10 and up for a gateway account. Some companies also charged additional fees. And then there are the transaction fees for credit cards. Some of the companies charge 2.2% and $0.20 and up per transaction.

Beware of companies that charge set-up fees, annual fees, cancellation fees and long-term contract fees!

Of course there are other options to sell items online. I often see sites that use PayPal. PayPal offers no monthly fees, no set-up fees and no cancellation fees and their transaction fees range from 1.9% to 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.

Google also offers their Google Checkout option which charges 2% + $0.20 per transaction. If you have a AdWords account, for every $1 you spend on AdWords each month, you can process $10 in sales the following month for free through Google Checkout

So, should you set up a shopping cart to accept credit cards or use a service like PayPal or Google CheckOut? One consideration is the processing time. If you set up a gateway account the processing is usually completed immediately. With PayPal and Google CheckOut, the order is placed while the customer is online, but the processing happens afterwards meaning there is a delay before the process is complete. Also, using one of these options requires that both you and the customer open an account to use these services. Some customers may not want to open accounts so this should be a consideration when weighing your options.

If you are thinking about selling items online there are many ways to do so. If you want to set up a shopping cart on your site, first make sure that your server is set up to do so. Does your hosting company already have a shopping cart option? If not, can you integrate a third party software solution into your account. Do you have a merchant acccount or do you need to open one along with a gateway account? Or could you use PayPal or Google CheckOut? And, can you afford the cost of online transactions?

Whichever option you choose, make sure that it is the best choice for selling your product.